johnlink ranks CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)
I’ve been knocking these sci-fi/horror classics off my list slowly but surely. I don’t always love them, but there is a certain aura around them which makes folks nostalgic for simpler days (or something). CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is, from what I have heard, widely considered a classic. That’s usually enough for me to give something a shot.
I watched CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) on 2.21.13. It was my first viewing of the film.
The film start boldly, with a reading from the bible about the creation of the world. The narration then takes us through the history of Earth, through billions of years until we arrive in 1954 where an expedition finding an odd looking webbed hand in a rock. Like all good men of science, the gentleman merely breaks the hand out of the rock to bring back to some other scientists. Hopefully, they figure, they can rally a crew to come back and dig out the entire skeleton.
Meanwhile, the titular creature creeps around killing people by grabbing hold of them and doing something off screen. These people are your typical victims in a movie of this sort, and we never get to know any of them for very long.
The science team gets built and they head back to find the skeleton. When they can’t, they figure it must have traveled down river to a lagoon. A black lagoon. So, they venture onward, ultimately finding the creature and finding danger. Or, at least, what danger looked like in 1954. I’m usually one who can put movies into the context of time. Even if that does not make them more enjoyable, it at least makes them more understandable. The problem with CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, is that the building of tension happens very ham-handedly. Some beautiful underwater shots provide us with some of the set-up, but the movement of the man in the creature suit just doesn’t come across as scary.
The biggest gripe I have is with the music. The score is dissonant and foreboding. There is no nuance or surprise to be found. Exactly one scene in the movie gets it right. They have caught the creature and secured him in a locked cage. The heroine (Julie Adams) is having a normal conversation with someone else, and the music is your typical light fare. The creature jumps out, forcing a change in the music. Here the action dictates the music rather than feeling like the characters must be in some sort of danger because of the “scary” music.
The acting is average. Nobody shines, though the people they got to play the locals have trouble emoting basic things like fear. There is a lot of snatch-and-grab going on by the creature, and I’ve always thought that an actress having to stand still and scream while some slow moving thing wobbles towards her never made anybody look particularly good.
I didn’t hate this movie. There are some beautiful shots of the natural world, and the underwater camerawork is pretty cool. A nice opening sequence gives the layperson some scientific background about evolution (which must have been fairly necessary back in 1954), though the film starts to get a little heavy-handed with this at it progresses. Julie Adams is simply gorgeous, and the creepiest moments occur with her swimming around as the creature stalks her from below. There is something very voyeuristic and unsafe about his oogling though it never feels truly scary to me.
It’s sort of bad to have to talk about a movie of this sort and never really get to the creature himself. But he just isn’t that impressive. I know he is an icon of the genre, and I know some people love him. The design is fine but not spectacular. I never, however, really empathize with him, or hate him, or have any really strong feeling at all. He’s just sort of there.
And that, in a nutshell, is this movie. For me anyway, this movie is just sort of there. I’m sure there are some huge fans of this who will tell me I am wrong, and please feel free to do so, but I can think of several sci-fi flicks from this era that I enjoyed with much greater vigor.
FILM: 4; MOVIE: 4; ACTING: 5; WRITING: 4; BONUS: -1
The negative bonus point is for the score. I just can’t stop thinking about how silly the music was and how badly it kept dragging down the ability for the movie to be truly frightening. This is not going to go down as one of my favorite film scores, to say the least.
FINAL SCORE: 4