Wednesday, October 23, 2013

REVIEW: Creature from the Black Lagoon

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Director: Jack Arnold
Year 1954

Creature from the Black Lagoon is a beautifully crafted horror classic, which brings into the spotlight one of Universal's most interesting of monsters, the Gill-Man. Heavily atmospheric and tremendously effective, this black and white masterpiece features a strong cast of believable actors and astounding photography, both above and below the surface of the water. Charged with an unsettling tone and as mysterious as they come, Creature from the Black Lagoon is a wonderful adventure film which is laced with enough horror elements and astonishing special effects, to make any lover of classic genre efforts more than happy.

The film follows a group of scientists on an expedition into the Amazon, after hearing news that a previous team had come across a curious fossil of a strange prehistoric beast. Once they arrive at the location of the discovery, along the Amazon River, they come to find that the camp has been destroyed and all evidence of the fossil, along with the workers, have vanished. Deciding to crack the mystery, the scientific group decides to dock their ship in the Black Lagoon in hopes to uncover some more evidence of the prehistoric amphibian creature, but they soon find out that they might actually find some real, living breathing proof, of its existence.

Julie Adams takes on the role of Kay Lawrence, the eventual admirer of Gill-Man's affections. She's a stunning beauty to say the least, but against the black and white photography of the film, she is lifted up to cinematic goddess status. Wholesomely portrayed and as classy as they come, Adams gives the film a great dose of femininity, while genuinely and effortlessly falling into the damsel in distress role. Richard Carlson acts as her hero and constant savior, David Reed. As the central hero of the piece, Carlson does a fantastic job. He earnestly plays the character and gives him enough heart and vigor to allow us to root for him. Richard Denning on the other hand plays the driven and ambitious Mark Williams, whose hunger for fame and recognition proves to be his character's moral downfall. Williams is an interesting character study, because he is mostly likeable in the first half of the film, that is until he begins to obsess over capturing the Gill-Man alive, which drastically changes his personality and personal outlook in the film.

Human characters aside, the real star of the picture is the creature itself. Brought to life by two actors, Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman, who perform the 'in water' and 'on land' portions respectably, and also the outstanding design work for the monster done by Milicent Patrick. Truly original and extremely remarkable, the Gill-Man is a monster effects masterpiece that genuinely stands the test of time. Whether it's Ricou Browning's iconic movements while swimming through the lagoon's dark waters or Ben Chapman's frighteningly creepy motions once on land, there is just something special about this unusual monster that has always intrigued me. After almost 60 years, the collaborated performance of both actors is still as fresh and unsettling as the day it was filmed and that is a testament to the hard work and expert craftsmanship of these two actors.

Like all Universal horror movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon is all about atmosphere. It oozes from every pore of this film and infects every aspect of the production. From the disturbingly calm waters of the Black Lagoon, to the unsettling swamp-like setting, this cinematic gem has got it all. Added on top of that is the extraordinary photography work of James Curtis Havens, who was in charge of all of the underwater sequences within the film. That iconic moment when Julie Adams' character decides to go for a swim in the lagoon and is shadowed underwater by the Gill-Man, would not have been so beautifully crafted if it wasn't for Havens expert eye and tonal sensibility. The underwater photography is simply haunting in this picture and a great deal of credit for the film's hypnotic nature should go to Havens for providing such a potent collection of atmospheric imagery.

Aiding in providing this outstanding tonal ambiance, is the perfect location of the Black Lagoon and all of its surrounding amenities. From above ground to below water, we are given a textual layout of the playground in which these characters perform, and the design work is nothing but exquisite. The cavernous lair of Gill-Man is also an impressive structure, which gives enough gothic flair to this film to sit comfortably against some of the greats in Universal's monster library, like The Wolf Man and Frankenstein. If there is one thing that this film is, it is a succinct and potent experience. One that engages the audience fully as it tells a most engrossing story about a missing link in the amphibian chain. Mystery and horror abound in this indisputable classic.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of my favorites of the Universal monsters. Its got an impressive atmosphere, an engaging story, and a cast of genuine characters, but all of this comes second to the outstanding combined performance of the Gill-Man. Ripe with mystery and filled with tragedy, this iconic character thrives on the screen in this introductory outing. Against the black and white photography, the design of the creature comes to stark life, casting nightmarish visions across the silver screen which will dance in the minds of generations for years to come.

Buoyed by the performances of Julie Adams, Richard Carlson and Richard Denning, this lively story of survival and evolutionary quagmires is one that just can't seem to fade from my memory. The miraculous underwater photography, the astoundingly rich locations, and the unparalleled creature design are just so vivid and plain brilliant, that it can't help but wow the unexpected or ill-prepared. As classic horror movies go, Creature from the Black Lagoon is a must see as it showcases all the things we love about the genre, yet presents it in a classic and refined manner which only magnifies its brilliance. Creature from the Black Lagoon is.....

You better pull my finger mister.

How the hell did Colonel Sanders get on my boat?

How many morons does it take to look at an ancient fossil? Apparently six.

Whatever they're looking at must be bad for Colonel Sanders to take off his hat.

High-five lady...... Don't leave me hanging.

How many times have I told you not to poop in my net.

I told you I wanted to go as Scuba Steve to the costume party Dave!

Everyone look away! Carl is gonna hurl!

Get that light out of my face!

I wonder what Gill-Man is doing now? He's such a dreamboat.

You know it's not polite to stare at a deformed man's face.

Cheer up Richard, things will get better..... but not for you.

Come here you little shit!


So where should I set down this beautiful piece of ass?

Honey! I thought I talked to you about sleeping on strange rocks.

Hey... Can the Gill-Man get in on some of that sweet hugging action?

No comments:

Post a Comment