Friday, May 30, 2014

Creature from the Black Lagoon



I can tell you something about this place. The boys around here call it "The Black Lagoon"; a paradise. Only they say nobody has ever come back to prove it.
--Lucas (Nestor Paiva), the boat captain of the Rita regarding the mythos of the lagoon and the danger that exists in paradise.

I think you can see how Creature from the Black Lagoon leaves its definite influence in the structure of the Creature Feature. Not showing the monster completely, but yet establishing the Gillman’s presence and the possible danger involved in “invading” its home uninvited. The Gillman’s webbed, clawed hand emerging from the lake, ever-so-slowly, creeping towards human feet standing close to his reach. That fabulous iconic score that accompanies the hand pronouncing imminent harm. The swimming ballet as the drop-dead gorgeous heroine/damsel-in-distress is enjoying her time underwater as the Gillman follows slightly behind as she unknowingly could be a victim at any moment it might choose. Scientists, athletic and in great shape, in aqua lungs-scuba gear, researching the water for that remarkable find that could lead to great discovery for marine science. The exotic locale, with all its potential life-threatening animal/aquatic specimens, is the ideal place to work as “another world” with a creature that is “out of this world”. Creature from the Black Lagoon is simply a benchmark for how to make a specific kind of monster movie adventure.

*****







I always loved how Jack Arnold conveys the Gillman as this looming probable predator. Swimming just below or around our heroine, we seem him draw close to her and flirt with grabbing her. Dipping down to hide in the flora on the floor of the lagoon. Julie Adams, for my money, is the most beautiful actress of horror. She deserves her place right alongside the oft-mentioned bountiful babes of Hammer and all those beauties that showed up in Europe in the 60s/70s. I just appreciate her character in the film. Not just a pretty face desired by both marine specialist Richard Carlson and money-man Richard Denning, Adams is shown as a colleague on the same intellectual level as the two men attempting to earn her affection.





What I particularly like is how the Gillman continues to outsmart the humans, like when they attempt desperate measures (traps set up such as a net, raft, and paralyzing poison) to catch him. Denning is the “great white hunter” with a significant desire to get the Gillman as proof he can benefit and profit from as the “find of the century” no matter what it takes to do so. He’s always at odds with Carlson who doesn’t want to use any form of harm to it, but rather study him as a scientist. To learn about the Gillman, without killing him or severely harming him, Carlson has a character we can appreciate while Denning’s greed and desperation to capture him solely for financial gain places him in quite the negative light. Adams tries to balance them, keep them on a common goal of providing proof regarding the Gillman for marine research for greater benefit than just monetary for mankind, but serves the film also as an object of lustful desire for the creature of the black lagoon. Certainly if a creature in a jungle were sexually interested in procreation, Julie Adams is an ideal candidate for it.





Costumed monsters have a bad rep with horror fans in general due to lack of authenticity, but the Gillman, to yours truly, is a work of art. I absolutely love its design and the way it seems to have both aquatic and human traits. A merman that is equipped with power and physical features that allow it to have an advantage of a human man…we see this several times to. The distinct advantage of being able to dive into the water and swim to the deep without help from aqua lungs is also well established in the film. The whole idea is to prove that the threat against our heroes is great. Men die, Julie Adams is always in danger of being snatched away, and when a tree of wood is barricaded in the path needed for their boat, the Rita, to drive out of the lagoon (showing a level of intelligence in the Gillman), the foreknowledge that the Gillman could always disrupt escape and prevent freedom from it is always there.






All of this and the wealth of scenes “under water” (and kudos to all involved in creating an elaborate underwater “world” in the black lagoon) where the Gillman and humans spend plenty of time. So Arnold and the Universal Studios delights at his disposal not only credibly create an exotic world above water but also underwater.

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