Creature from the Black Lagoon is currently available on instant Netflix.
“A legend in the history of B-movie fare. How many female scientists travel the Amazon bedecked in bikini-wear calculated to charm an anaconda off a branch? That’s what happens when Julie Adams and fellow scientist Richard Carlson happen upon the black lagoon and the amphibious creature inhabiting it. Casting a gimlet eye on Adams in backstroke, it’s love at first sight for the scaly beast.”
“We didn’t come here to fight monsters, we’re not equipped for it. “
What was Universal to do? They had made a series of iconic monsters in the 1930s and then proceeded to milk them to death in the 1940s with various match-ups and finally making them the butt of Abbott & Costello’s jokes. Not only the monsters but the horror icons themselves had been used up.
Thank goodness for science! In addition to the Creature series, Universal made Tarantula (1955), Cult of the Cobra (1955), The Mole People (1956), The Deadly Mantis (1957), Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Monolith Monsters (1957), The Land Unknown (1957) and Monster on the Campus (1958). Perhaps because none of these spawned sequels, they are not as celebrated today.
Director Jack Arnold did a fabulous job keeping Creature from the Black Lagoon tight and exciting while also exploiting the 3-D and underwater sequences. The previous year, he had directed the 3-D movie, It Came from Outer Space and the following year he would direct the 3-D Creature sequel, Revenge of the Creature. He would go on to direct Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Monster on the Campus.
The Netflix version of Creature is not in 3-D. The restored version on Universal’s pricey Blu-Ray horror collection does have a 3-D option but I am not sure it adds much to the experience. Arnold gets things moving swiftly. No sooner do we see the remains of a creature’s hand then we see the hand of the titular creature while experiencing the familiar theme music. While it is just a tease, that occurs at the three minute mark.
Kudos to Milicent Patrick for her design of the eponymous creature. Ricou Browning does a fantastic job in the suit underwater and Ben Chapman does a good job on land. Chapman gets a little less kudos as he did not have to hold his breath for up to four minutes while acting. They did correct this design defect for the next film.
Richard Carlson and Julie Adams are just fine here as the romantic leads. Genre stalwart Whit Bissel (I was a Teenage Werewolf, Target Earth, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) plays his usual scientist self. Nestor Paiva has a fun time playing Lucas.
Sequel-itis: As with most of the Universal monsters, Creature from the Black Lagoon spawned some sequels. Revenge of the Creature came out in 1955 and The Creature Walks Among us in 1956. Revenge of the Creature is notable for being the debut of noted chair-whisperer Clint Eastwood as Jennings. The Creature Walks Among Us not only drops the 3-D but also changes the suit.