Twenty-Three years after Dracula kicked off the Universal Monsters Films, the last major Monster came on screen. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a bit of a mash-up. The Story comes from a story told at a Citizen Kane party, with that Universal Monster factory and the last major push for 3D in theaters.
I’ve got the Universal Classic Set, so hopefully I can get through all these for you, I’ve done most of the Frankenstein ones already, and the Wolfman will be next, since that won the poll.
So lets go through Gill-Man and see if it holds up and is worthy to be included in the set.
An expedition in the Amazon shows there might be a link between land and sea animals, as they found a hand with webbed fingers. Pay no attention the oddity of a skeleton with membranes surviving for thousands of years. Or the fact we got evolution right up here on the big screen in the 1950s. Aint this fun?
We get a fun little group that wants to go back to the Amazon to see what else they can find in the muddy waters of South America. We get Dr Carl Maia, who lead the original expedition, Dr Reed, who works at an aquarium, his boss Dr Williams and of course, the HOT CHICK. This one happens to be Julie Adams, who is Dr Reeds girlfriend. We are joined by yet another Dr when we get to Brazil. Thankfully we have a ships captain to balance out all this brain matter. When we get to the camp, we find out that the rest of the expedition has been killed. The Brains think it was done by a jaguar. Not finding anything at the site, the thinking is that they need to go into one of the rivers that feed into the Amazon to see if that is where the claw came from. This part is called the Black Lagoon- and you aint going to believe this, but the natives have all kinds of superstitious stories about this part of the rainforest. Stunning, I know.
Now we get to the point we all care about. The HOT CHICK going swimming. I do wonder about the placement here, as this came out in 1953, meaning all the 13-16 year old boys would have been born in the Great Depression and the early part of WW2. I don’t think this era of history was known for birthing a whole lot of babies. Anyway, this part is visually stunning. Not just for the HOT CHICK, but the Creature as well who goes swimming along. The water is crystal clear and quite amazing. I do wish this was in color, something that was an option at this time, but this is just fascinating. When the nets are pulled up, the Creature is caught in it for a bit, but is able to get out, but loses a talon in the net. This excites the Brains, as they have proof that the Creature has survived to the present day. We move along to the Creature trying to capture the HOT CHICK, some trying to capture the Gill-man and the rest trying to survive.
So how is the Creature from the Black Lagoon?
First things first. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was originally done in 3D. I do wish that this disk gave the option to see the 3D, of course, it’s possible that the 50s 3D isn’t the same that can be watched with current TVs and the red/blue glasses. I would have liked to have seen it anyway. Universal kind of cheapened out in doing the film in Black and White. I do wonder if they had done the movie in color instead of spending the cash on 3D had it been better off.
Second off. This is a stunningly beautiful movie. The underwater parts are just stunning, and I don’t mean just the lady in distress. I’ve never been a huge fan of underwater action pieces, see my thoughts on when James Bond goes underwater for a good example of it done wrong, but here, it’s done well. It’s a bit slow, of course, but it’s done to create suspense and to be honest, it’s done better by the Creature just swimming around underneath then by the Creature climbing aboard the ship or staggering around.
The question is, how does it hold up? The movie is slow, but that’s normal for this era sad to say, but it’s not SLOW. It’s hard to feel as if the movie is dragging when we get to see just some excellent shots. This director is magnificent. The fun thing is we have one group in California doing all the above water stuff and a group in Florida doing the underwater stuff. I don’t think a lesser director could pull this off and the editing group also deserves a lot of credit. I do think The Creature from the Black Lagoon is well worth the watch, and is a pretty good entry into the Universal Series. I think I’ll give this one an 8. I do think if you have someone that you want to show the Universal Classics to, this is a great gateway, if your company can’t handle this one, then movies like the Wolfman or Frankenstein will be too slow for them. It’s got a better than I thought rewatchability as well, simply because it is a fantastically shot movie.
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