John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, we follow a scientific expedition that is stalked in the water by a prehistoric humanoid.
Many consider Creature from the Black Lagoon the last of the Universal Monsters. He’s the only one of the group that was never human. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and the Mummy all started out as regular people, turned into horrific creatures. The Gill-Man seems prehistoric, with a giant claws, superior resolve and an above average IQ. He’s not the kind of animal you want to piss off, but that’s what a scientific expedition does while exploring the Amazon in search of fantastic fossils and new geological discoveries.
We meet the team, each with their own reason for being there. There’s the doctor who loves science, his girlfriend that loves him, a scientist who wants to quickly cash in on the discoveries, the old river boat captain and so on. While going for a swim, the gill-man becomes fascinated with the beautiful Julie Adams. That’s when the face off between the humans on the river boat and the creature in the lagoon begins to get interesting.
The film works on several levels. One, it’s technically amazing. Imagine this as a 90-minute James Cameron project, but done in the fifties. The underwater filming is innovative and impressive. The amazing creature design is stunning in cinematographer William E Syder’s beautiful black and white imagery. The way the mouth moves while it walks on land... it’s perfect. It’s well-paced with action and psychology. I love how the monster and the riverboat crew have to not just out muscle each other, but also use their wits to get the advantage. They constantly swap roles between hunter and prey. Also, just like almost every big-budget studio tentpole of today, this film was shot and produced in 3-D. I would have loved to have seen an original print in the theater.
This film would later go on to spawn a couple of sequels and dozens of other man in suit b-movie spectacles. Those films couldn’t match the technical expertise of director Jack Arnold, the resources of Universal Pictures or the way the audience feels about the creature. I could understand why some horror fans look at him as the bad guy. He does kill several innocent people throughout. On the other hand, he’s protecting his habitat. That’s just another reason I think the monster works so well. I cared about him. I wanted him to live. I wanted him to kill the greedy scientist that shot him with a speargun. I wanted to him mate with Julie Adams, have little gill-man babies and live a long happy life in the Black Lagoon. Now that would be a hell of a sequel.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is streaming on Netflix. It’s also available on the new Universal Classic Monsters Blu-ray set here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as the survivors of a crashed starship battle the reanimated corpses of their fallen crewmates.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
#17 Werewolf of London
#18 Tales from the Hood
#19 The Keep
#20 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
#22 Night of the Living Dead
#23 Pit and the Pendulum
#24 Tucker and Dale vs Evil
#25 The Stuff
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