Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), directed by Jack Arnold.

I can't explain my fondness for cheezy science fiction films of the 1950s, other than by admitting I grew up on them, many from Universal and many directed by Jack Arnold! The Creature was the last of the classic monsters and is one of the better rubber suit monsters. The Florida and California locations serve pretty well for the Amazon. The science class intro was a standard feature of the genre.

We always feel sorry for the Creature; didn't Marilyn Monroe say that in The Seven Year Itch (1955)? He's minding his own business when science snoopers intrude on his bit of Paradise. We're kind of with him when he fights back. It's curious that he can be so ugly and sympathetic at the same time. During development of the story the creature design became less and less "human" and more like a walking, gasping, staring fish.

It's another Beauty and the Beast story; he just wants a mate and to be otherwise left alone. Guys sympathize with that, too. Add in the next sequel and it is a rerun of King Kong (1933).

The male leads tend to make speeches, but Julie Adams is very good. I award her Best Intelligent Clean Scrubbed Actress in a Custom Swimsuit for 1954. Not even a living fossil gill-man can resist her. Big wardrobe for the Amazon but it is all pretty sensible. The scene where the Creature secretly swims with her and watches her aquatic ballet is erotically creepy. (That's a double when she is photographed from underwater).

The underwater scenes are remarkably beautiful, like flying. Underwater shooting with a portable camera -- not to mention 3D! -- was an innovation. Ricou Browning shows incredible grace as the swimming Creature, under difficult conditions. But wait, there's more: a burning gill-man scene!

I appreciated the "we are exploring the oceans just as we are beginning to explore outer space" sentiment. At the time it was quite true.

Once upon a time certain actors could play what were called "ethnic" roles, while others could do only white-bread anglo-saxon characters. In a discussion group topic: "Without looking it up, what actor would you think played the greatest number of ethnic parts?" Eli Wallach was a popular pick, but I went with Nestor Paiva, who is Lucas the boat captain here. Coincidentally, we also have Whit Bissell as one of the scientists, who would be my pick for "Least likely to get an ethnic role".

Available on Blu-ray with 2D and 3D on the same disc. This is a worthy upgrade to the DVD, which had cropped the aspect ratio.

Busy commentary track, jam-packed with facts, not all of them very useful, but details of the production are fascinating for a fan.