Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/1/13
Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning

An archeological dig in the Amazon Jungle uncovers a strange humanoid claw, which causes the leader of the expedition to rush back to the United States in order to secure funds and resources for a more extensive operation. The new recruits include marine paleontologist David (Richard Carlson), his colleague/girlfriend Kay (Julie Adams), and the greedy and power-mad sponsor, Mark (Richard Denning). When they reach the dig site, they find that the camp has been destroyed and the researchers slaughtered. A quick survey of the nearby "black lagoon" reveals a prehistoric gill-man, who becomes captivated by Kay's beauty. Trapping the humans in the lagoon, the creature attempts to kidnap Kay, while Mark is hell-bent on making a trophy out of him. David provides a sympathetic voice of reason, compassion, and scientific conscience, which belies his desire to capture and study the creature. Eventually our heroes escape, leaving a presumably dead gill-man behind (although he would resurface for two sequels).

"Creature" is a remarkable horror film in many regards, and served as a blueprint for countless films that followed it. It features some of the most frightening and iconic imagery from my childhood, including the impressively creepy gill-man costume and the fantastic underwater play between the creature and the radiantly lovely Julie Adams. The strong music score also stands out, and the brash and discordant creature theme strikes an emotional response whenever the creature appears. The underwater photography is also quite lovely, and overall the film looks great. Even with the chauvinistic attitudes of the time, Kay is presented as a strong, intelligent, and independent woman, and is never degraded. The film also presents some poignant social commentary and forward thinking ecological themes, but they're cleverly subtle and don't detract from the main story. Good classic horror.