Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

“There are many strange legends in the Amazon.”

Synopsis:
A team of researchers traveling on the Amazon River encounter a mysterious humanoid fish, which clearly has designs on the crew’s sexy female scientist (Julia Adams).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that while this “popular science-fiction film” — with clear thematic parallels to King Kong — is “somewhat overrated”, it’s “still one of the fifties’ best entries in the genre”. He notes that it’s “skillfully directed by Jack Arnold”, features “solid acting”, and possesses “a consistently eerie atmosphere, suspense, and a first-rate monster” (at least for the time in which it was made — though having just rewatched Alien, it’s difficult to argue that the Gill Man is still TRULY frightening to modern audiences). Peary notes that “more than any other fifties science-fiction film, the emphasis is on sex”, given that Adams — a truly stunning B-movie actress, eerily reminiscent of Jennifer Connelly — “always wears revealing shorts or swimsuits”, and “in the sensuous, spooky underwater scene it’s obvious what’s on the creature’s mind”. While the storyline is ultimately too basic to entice me into multiple viewings (it’s essentially an extended cat-and-mouse encounter between the Gill Man and the crew, all taking place within limited confines), it’s all done so well that this remains a seminal “creature feature” of its era — one all film fanatics should at least be familiar with.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Julia Adams as Kay Lawrence
  • Reasonably effective (for the time) monster make-up

Must See?
Yes, as one of the seminal ’50s sci-fi “monster” flicks.

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One Response to “Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)”

  1. Not a must – altho it does still have minimal appeal for its place in cinema history.

    Other than that, I can’t muster much enthusiasm for this ‘classic’. Why? Mostly because it’s dull. (And, tho I can’t swear to this, it’s likely I thought so as a kid. I’ve never really wanted to go back to it.) Just about nothing happens – there’s this creature who makes a slightly terrifying first kill, and then is surprisingly standoffish for a long period of time (when he needn’t be since he’s so powerful). Yes, there are more sporadic killings – and, yes, the creature has some weird longing for the girl – but the picture pretty much remains pedestrian throughout.

    The budget is obviously on the low side. The dialogue leans toward the crappy and often unnatural side. Each time the creature appears and we hear that same blaring, three-note terror music to accompany him, we get closer and closer to a dull headache. (Well, I do.)

    It’s somewhat interesting to realize (perhaps again) how films like this from the ’50s would be re-invented years later by filmmakers who grew up with them (i.e., James Cameron). It also becomes clear – after having just revisited ‘Them!’, made the same year – why some sci-fi films of that period hold up well and others just don’t.

    Sidebar: ‘Creature’ is used peripherally and amusingly in Wilder’s ‘The Seven Year Itch’ when Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe go to the movies and, afterwards, Monroe goes on charmingly about how she feels real sympathy for the poor creature.

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