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Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954

From the video case: Scientists drug and capture the creature, who becomes enamored with the head scientist’s female assistant (Julia Adams). The lonely creature, “a living amphibious missing link,” escapes and kidnaps the object of his affection. Chief scientist (Richard Carlson) then launches a crusade to rescue his assistant and cast the ominous creature back to the depths from where he came. Well-acted and directed, and with Bud Westmore’s brilliantly designed monster, Creature From The Black Lagoon remains an enduring tribute to the imaginative genius of its Hollywood creators. (1954, b&w)

Mark says: When I hear the term, “creature feature,” this is the film that comes foremost to my mind. As a boy growing up in the 60s and 70s, there was no scarier monster than the gill-man.

Richard Carlson (It Came from Outer Space) has always been one of my favorite B-movie heroes. In this film he plays the sympathetic scientist who, like us, feels a certain compassion for the monster. His love interest, Julia Adams, has been my favorite “scream queen” since viewing this movie as a preadolescent boy. She is not only lovely, but an intelligent researcher who is both feminine and strong-willed.

The creature itself is probably the most original monster from the Universal collection. Sure, it’s just a guy in a rubber suit, but it is far superior to similar rubber-suited monsters of the time.

As a kid, the gill-man became part of my consciousness. I would imagine him in or near any body of water, a lake, a pond, or even a stream. As an adult, I can still watch this movie and understand why he frightened me so. I don’t think I can say that about any other movie creature up to that time, with the possible exception of the monster in Frankenstein. The Creature was played by Ben Chapman, when on land, and by Ricou Browning while in the water. Mr. Browning’s underwater work is especially impressive.

I would be remiss to finish this review without mentioning how effective the music is in this film. Henry Mancini and Herman Stein wrote many of the themes, however, it is the dramatic three-note progression that plays whenever the Creature appears that is still one of the most recognizable scores of the horror film genre.

Creature has a huge fan base, and much has already been written that I do not wish to repeat. However, I will state that it would be hard to overestimate the effect this movie had on me as a boy. In fact, it is probably one of the primary reasons I collect such films today. You may want to keep my “nostalgic value” in mind when you see my rating below.

Creature from the Black Lagoon was produced by William Alland and directed by Jack Arnold. It also stars B-movie regulars Richard Denning and Whit Bissell.

I highly recommend The Creature from the Black Lagoon Legacy Collection from Universal for those of you interested in this movie.

Scene to watch for: The underwater ballet with Kay and the Creature. I’m sure some Freudian symbolism can be applied here.

Line to listen for: “There are many strange legends in the Amazon. Even I, Lucas, have heard the legend of a man-fish.”

Personal Note: When The Exorcist came out in 1973 (I was 11 years old), I tried to convince my brother-in-law to take me to the drive-in to see it. He told me it was too scary. To prove to him how fright-proof I was, I exclaimed, “I’ve watched the Creature from the Black Lagoon all the way through without closing my eyes!” I did eventually convince him to take me to the movie, but that’s another story.

Bonus: The actor who played the gill-man (on land), Ben Chapman, has his own site. Click here to see it.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! ! out of 5.

IMDB Link

6 Comments

  1. yes, i too once pretended that the creature was lurking in every body of water. harry essex was the father of david essex (‘rock on’). harry was involved in a ‘remake’ of creature in the early 70′s called octaman which featured james dean’s ex-girl friend pier angeli. anaconda is pretty much a rip-off of creature. eric stoltz even ends up in whit bissell’s bandages! the creature is my favorite monster of the 50′s. richard carlson, richard denning and the great whit bissell … what a cast! i think whit should have played whitey whitney’s father on leave it to beaver. julia/julie adams is the perfect woman! john

  2. i wonder if julie adams has a tribute page on myspace???

  3. John: I would have to agree. The Creature probably stands as my favorite 1950s monster, too. I’ve not run across a Julie Adams’ tribute page yet, but I would love to see one. She is undeniably gorgeous and a very competent actress! Richard Carlson was one of my heroes as a boy. Because of him, I really wanted to become a scientist of some sort. Turns out you have to have some aptitude in science to be a scientist, so it never worked out for me.

  4. yes, carlson was great…as were hugh marlowe, john agar, ed kemmer, richard denning, whit bissell. john

  5. I love the pan scene when you can see the telephone pole in the background.
    In the sequels watch for a young Clint Eastwood.

  6. I too, loved this movie! I only spotted a couple of problems. Nestor Paiva’s knife is obviously rubber..and when they enter the underwater cave, oddly enough the path out of the cave is on the level with the jungle above! Go figure.
    will


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