Liz: The Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of my favorite 1950s sci-fi/horror movies. It is a “must see” along with The War of the World, Forbidden Planet, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. When I say that it’s one of my favorites, it’s not because it’s a movie I want to watch over and over again, but because it’s unique (in my movie watching experience anyway), and memorable, particularly for someone who first saw it as a little girl. With a dangerous creature that comes back to life, a handsome hero and a lovely heroine, and the exotic setting in the Amazon, I couldn’t help but like it as a child. Even the title had a certain something to it. To this day, I think of the movie when I hear the word lagoon, and when I’m swimming, I think of Julie Adams swimming in the muddy Amazon—doing graceful backstrokes to be precise—and of course, the creature who might be lurking beneath her, its long claws reaching out for her.
When I watched the movie as an adult, I still enjoyed it and found it somewhat suspenseful. I was surprised to realize that Richard Carlson was the handsome hero. I’ve always associated with him with the quiet, absent-minded doctor in the Abbot and Costello movie Hold that Ghost. I’ve seen him in several movies in the last few years, and I enjoyed his performances, but it still feels a little strange to see him as the bold, muscular hero instead of the mild-mannered, nearsighted, professor type.
Fun fact I found on IMDB: The creature (Gill Man) appeared in the “Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights” episode of The Munsters as Uncle Gilbert. (I remember seeing this episode now. It was cute. He wore a trench coat and hat.)
There is a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, called The Revenge of the Creature, in which the creature is captured and taken to an aquarium in Florida, but I didn’t care for it. As often happens, the first was better.
Jaz: Picture this: You’re a famed bilingual ichthyologist meandering through Brazil when you come across a human-like fossilized webbed hand sticking out of a rock. This could be a “missing link”! What do you do? Do you:
- Rush back to the Biological Institute and return with research equipment and a team of learned scientists
- Take photos, document, section off the area and report your findings to a scientific organization
- Yank the thing out of the rock with your bare hands and leave unarmed natives as guards in the Amazon jungle
If you guessed c, you’re right! This is correct scientific procedure, people.
Little does Dr. Maia, the famed ichthyologist, know that his discovery will lead to numerous deaths (First four are natives — natives are expendable), and also ruin a perfectly good swimsuit.
Blissfully ignorant, Dr. Maia eventually returns with his former student, Dr. David Reed, and Dr. Reed’s assistant/wannabe fiancé, Kay. Being a beautiful woman, she has no need of a degree, only a little field training and a pair of short shorts. Also, he brings the highly egotistical and mercenary lab head Mark Williams.
There’s some kind of vague love triangle insinuated here: Kay leads on Mark because she feels in his debt for her training, but really wants to marry David because they’ve been together for six whole months. Mark is possessive and David is annoyed. Kay just wants to show off her nice backstroke in her white swimsuit.
The creature is the only one who truly appreciates Kay’s backstroke and kidnaps her. This of course suggests that a female version of the creature exists, but we never see a second creature, which begs the question: is this the last of the species? Or can it reproduce asexually?
Anyway. The creature is smitten and traps them in the lagoon, creating panic on board. How are they to escape?
This film left me with a few unanswered questions as well, such as: how did the actor in the creature suit manage to swim in that thing? Why would anyone swim into creature-infested Amazonian waters in the dead of night wearing only swim trunks? And, where can I buy that white swimsuit?
The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a genuine horror classic. It’s cheesy, suspenseful and quite artistic, especially in the underwater scenes. Along with The Blob, it’s the perfect Halloween film.
And yes, I did draw that header image.