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Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26- Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

With the onset of the 1950's, horror movies became more predominantly science fiction. In 1954, Universal would release a film that mixes the monster/sci-fi horror genres. Creature From the Black Lagoon features an amphibious humanoid named the Gill-man, who was so popular, he is often included with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolf Man as one of the classic monsters. This would also make him the last. Gill-man was played by two people. On land, Ben Chapman played the part on land, while Ricou Browning played Gill-man in the underwater scenes.

Ben Chapman as the Gill-man
The movie begins with a very interesting opening sequence, explaining the origin of the earth and the evolution of creatures from the ocean onto the land. The Amazon Rainforest is then presented as the backdrop for where unknown creatures still live, just waiting to be found. In the Amazon is an expedition led by Dr. Carl Maia (played by Antonio Moreno), and one of the scientists on the expedition, ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (played by Richard Carlson) finds a skeletal hand that has webbed fingers. Intrigued by the find, the scientists return to the biological institute to secure funding from their financial backer Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) for a return trip. After convincing Williams, the group returns to the site, which they discover had been attacked while they were gone.

Finding nothing further at the site, the team decides to venture to the end of the tributary to the Black Lagoon, where the fragments could have washed down to. Meanwhile, Gill-man has become interested in Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), a scientist and Reed's girlfriend. Gill-man stalks Kay while she is on a swim in the Lagoon and becomes trapped in the ship's line. He manages to escape, but leaves behind a claw, proof of his existence.

Mark Williams, Kay Lawrence, and Dr. David Reed

After a few encounters with Gill-man, the team manages to capture him, but he escapes and terrorizes the group further, even going so far as to block the team's escape route from the Lagoon. While the men try to clear the river, Gill-man kidnaps Kay and takes her to his underwater cave lair. What happens next? Well... you'll have to watch it to find out.

Gill-man attempting to kidnap Kay Lawrence

I found this movie to be very well done. The story is nearly flawless, providing just enough information to keep the viewer interested and has the perfect amount of action to keep the story flowing along nicely. In terms of visuals, I thought the the underwater scenes were done very well, looking so clear that you would suspect that the shots weren't actually filmed underwater. Gill-man takes the cake here, though. In the end, you feel sorry for him, and begin to see that he is just confused and the team is invading his habitat, which his is trying desperately to defend. Also, Gill-man only attacks when provoked or attacked first. Nonetheless, Gill-man is presented as the quintessential monster.

Ricou Browning as the Gill-man
For about half of the 79 minute-long movie, Gill-man is never in the shot for more than a few seconds at a time. You can't even see Gill-man's face until 25 minutes, only being shown the creature's hand or shadow. Added to this, the soundtrack creates the perfect atmosphere of suspense, terror, and intrigue; and manages to accompany the events of the movie very well. Another interesting fact is that this movie was originally filmed and shown in  3-D, being one of the first Universal movies of its kind. Overall, this is a fantastic movie with an amazing cast and an incredible place in horror movie history.

I give it 5 claws out of 5.

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