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.