Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)    1 Stars

“Not since the beginning of time has the world beheld terror like this!


Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)


Director: Jack Arnold

Cast: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning

Synopsis: A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.




In an era of nuclear angst during which every movie monster seemed to be the by-product of experimental nuclear explosions, Jack Arnold’s Creature from the Black Lagoon bucked the trend by having his monster be an evolutionary throwback to primeval times. Half-man. Half-fish, Lagoon’s creature seemed to strike a chord with audiences which most other B-movie monsters never came close to equalling. That’s largely due to the fact that Arnold was at the helm (he also directed The Incredible Shrinking Man and Tarantula), but is also thanks to a reasonably intelligent screenplay from Arthur A. Ross and Harry J. Essex, and some superb underwater cinematography from James C. Havens.

The screenplay sees marine biologist David Reed (Richard Carlson – It Came from Outer Space) getting all worked up over the fossilised remains of some fantastic creature found on the banks of the Amazon. Reed has no trouble persuading his commercially-minded boss, Mark Williams (Richard Denning – The Glass Key) to arrange an expedition, and the very day after receiving the fossil an expedition is on its way to the site of the find, courtesy of the rust-eaten boat of Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva – American Empire). Also along for the ride with Reed and Williams are Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell – Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Warlock) and Reed’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams).   The expedition arrives at the camp to find it deserted, and it’s not long before they realise they’re being stalked by some weird gill man who, along with a small army of schoolboys, grows enamoured with Ms. Adams after seeing her in a cute once-piece bathing costume.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of those schlocky 1950s horrors that wield more influence over the genre than they probably deserve. It’s well made for a cheap B-movie, but at the end of the day it’s just a man in a rubber suit chasing a woman who screams into her knuckles whenever she sees him. Carlson and Denning compare chest hairs in a number of scenes, and illustrate how difficult it is to take seriously a conversation between two men wearing bathing suits. It’s interesting, though, how the screenplay creates a degree of tension between the men without having Williams coming straight out and making a play for Reed’s woman; the tension just simmers under the surface without ever being resolved, and the men have enough strength of character to overcome their differences and work together when the situation calls for it.

The Creature looks undeniably cheesy, but there’s something iconic about him that somehow allows us to overlook the ridiculousness of the costume. The eyes don’t blink, and it has virtually no facial expression, but Arnold was enough of a stickler for detail to ensure that we don’t see air bubbles coming from the gilled creature during the underwater scenes (which meant that Ricou Browning – the man in the suit – had to hold his breath for up to five minutes at a time). And those underwater scenes are especially good, in particular a scene in which Kay swims on the surface of the lagoon, unaware that just a few feet beneath her the creature is following her movements in a bizarre reverse-synchronisation.

(Reviewed 27th June 2015)

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