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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 304: Creature From The Black Lagoon

Creature From The Black Lagoon
Apparently, the lagoon gives you soft, pouty lips

Dracula. The Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster (Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, people). The Mummy. These classic movie monsters receive lots of love and attention and rightfully so. They've had countless remakes and adaptations, appeared in video games, comic books, and products. To this day, people still get dressed up as these monsters for Halloween. There is one classic monster that always seems to be left out: The Creature from the Black Lagoon. What is it about the creature that doesn't put it on the same level as the others? Is it because the creature doesn't really come from a well-known novel? Is it a lack of sequels and remakes? Is it because it doesn't actually have a name? It's certainly not because the movie is bad.

Creature From The Black Lagoon is a 1954 monster movie starring Richard Carlson (It Came From Outer Space, The Magnetic Monster) as Dr. David Reed and Julie Adams (The Rifleman, Maverick) as his girlfriend, Kay Lawrence. While on an expedition in the Amazon, Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno, The Searchers, The Spanish Dancer) discovers the skeletal remains of an arm that appears to have a webbed hand. Maia is able to convince his friend Dr. David Reed, an icthyologist, to aid him in the excavation of the skeleton. They are joined by David's girlfriend Kay and Dr. Mark Williams, who funds the expedition. The take the steamer Rita down the Amazon to the camp site, where they find Maia's team brutally murdered by some sort of animal. Unknown to the group, the killer was actually an amphibious humanoid, the same species as the skeleton that Dr. Maia discovered. The group travels into the nearby black lagoon in hopes of finding more of the skeletal remains. The creature, or Gill-man, watches the expedition as the search the lagoon and becomes infatuated with Kay. It eventually kills two of the crew members on the ship. They poison the water and are able to capture the creature for a short time, but it escapes. Will they be able to capture this creature before it takes Kay?

"Has anyone seen my chapstick? I'm feeling chappy."

In classic monster movie fashion, Creature From The Black Lagoon has an equal mixture of mystery, action, romance, and traditional scares. While the movie may be almost 60 years old, it still manages to be quite entertaining. The action starts out almost immediately despite not showing the creature right away. We only see it's amphibious webbed hand, but it's enough to whet the audience's appetite and send imagination's soaring. Gill-man is essentially a man in a rubber suit (technically two different men, one for land shots and one for swimming), it looks far better than other monsters from the same era. Strong detail is given to the suit with authentic looking skin and fins. The face does have some motion to it and actually appears to be breathing when out of water. Many of the underwater scenes look very good, thanks to being shot in a studio rather than an actually body of water.

Originally filmed in 3D, the movie doesn't have the usual hallmarks you see in modern 3D films. There are no blatant scenes where someone is specifically pointing something at the screen for 3D purposes. The horror of the film is helped along thanks to the music in the film, which consisted mostly of blaring trumpets. It serves it's purpose, but tends to be a little grating by the end. Director Jack Arnold has a good eye for capturing both the action and terror in the movie. The acting is good, especially considering the creature is just a guy in a suit. Julie Adams doesn't play the straight damsel in distress role, giving the character more depth. There are just enough characters involved to kill off a few without diluting the story. The movie has a good amount of action, but since it's from the 1950's, of course there is no blood. C'mon, there are kids watching!

"Attica! Attica! Attica!"

Creature From The Black Lagoon is a fun monster movie from an era where a man in a rubber suit was still terrifying. The story movies quickly and has a good amount of action for the time period. The underwater scenes look great and the makeup used for the monster is spot-on. The combination of good acting and directing helps elevate the movie to a better level than other contemporary monster movies. The movie doesn't have the built-in story that other classic monster movies do, but it still manages to be entertaining. Why Gill-man doesn't get as much attention as it deserves, it's still a classic monster from a classic movie. Maybe you should dress up like Gill-man for Halloween tomorrow.


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