I got to revisit one of the classic Universal monsters for the next entry in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, director Jack Arnold, and the monster… the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or as he’s also known… The Gill Man, and I have to say, some 60 years on, this is still one solid piece of filmmaking with a couple of jumps, a surprisingly sexy sequence involving a lady swimmer, and a monster that is still so very cool.
Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) is on an expedition in the Amazon, and has made an amazing discovery, a fossil of a previously undiscovered aquatic creature… He journeys to consult with a couple of ichthyologists David Reed (Richard Carlson), the lovely Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) and Mark Williams (Richard Denning), who join him on his return to South America.
Upon arriving, mystery and danger surrounds them as they discover that the expedition’s camp in disarray, and the men Carl left behind have been brutally killed. Instead of picking up and leaving, they all decide to stay, though relocate to their boat, and journey down the river a ways, to a lagoon, in the hope of finding fossilized remains that may have been swept downriver. This puts them smack dab on the Gill-man’s home turf, and he’s already begun to stalk them… especially Kay.
There is a gorgeous sequence, sexy, unnerving, of Kay swimming across the surface of the lagoon, and through some fantastic underwater camera work, we follow her, and the figure swimming directly beneath her, studying her, tempted by her, the Gill-man, shadowing her swim.
The underwater photography throughout the film is exemplary as Mark and David don aqualungs to investigate the depths, in hopes of fossils, and once they catch a glimpse of the creature itself, perhaps capture it, or as Mark prefers, kill it. These actions start an all out battle, as once threatened, Gill-man will defend itself, trapping the expedition, and starting one by one to eliminate them.
I cannot believe how well this film has stood the test of time, and while I was thinking it’s truly surprising they haven’t hit us with a remake of this film yet, I was wondering how they could possibly top it. It’s fun, enjoyable, and for a monster movie, doesn’t really talk down to its audience.
And of course, there’s the Gill-man costume, which is nothing short of amazing, along with the fact that the stuntman who did the water work as the creature, Ricou Browning, held his breath for four minutes at a time, to properly convey the creature’s movement and living under water.
This was a solid, highly enjoyable film, that I’d only seen once before, over a decade ago, and was absolutely swept up in when I watched it this time around.
If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself to it, and if you have, well, isn’t it time you watched it again? This one would put me off swimming more than Jaws ever would…