Movie Review: Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

You know that Universal Monsters box set I’ve been going through this month? Yeah, this is the last one in that. I decided to skip reviewing “Phantom of the Opera”, because I had nothing interesting to say about that boring movie. But I am dedicated to at least cover this here. The last one. The big shebang. The one with all the water.

Mermaids and mermen… “Creature From the Black Lagoon”.

A group of scientists are deep within the Amazonian jungle, studying Devonian fossils. What they don’t know however is that there is a living prehistoric creature roaming the area, about to cause them a lot of grief. What I appreciate about the story of this movie is that there are no lofty ambitions, no aim to make it a thoughtful experience. It’s justa simple creature feature, a fun popcorn flick. Don’t get me wrong, I love the contemplative tone of the two “Frankenstein” movies, and I do love me some  depth in my fiction… but sometimes you just need to see a strange amphibian messing with some people. This does however come with the backside of it feeling very disposable. It’s an easy watch that one can easily enjoy on a slow evening, but it’s also very surface level. It’s basic entertainment, never engaged beyond a “I enjoyed that, that was alright”.

The characters in this are alright, they’re nothing special. They serve the story just fine. And Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Whit Bissell, Richard Denning, and Antonio Moreno all do very well in their respective roles. For fans of this movie, I did indeed leave out Nestor Paiva as Lucas, the boat captain. And that’s because he deseved his own little section, because he’s a ton of fun to watch. By far the most entertaining character/performance. And then there’s the double act of Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning as the titular creature, with either actor used depending on if the creature was in the water or on land. They both did a solid enough job with that.

The score for the movie was composed by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, and Herman Stein. And it was pretty good. For a lot of scenes they’ve composed tracks that overall just work decently enough for whatever is going on in the scene, whether that is going on a boat in the jungle or serenely swimming. Then they’ve also composed a leitmotif for the creature, and it awesome. It’s basically just three notes, but the combination of those notes, and the intensity in which they are played makes for a phenomenal little theme that adds a lot to the creature’s appearances.

“Creature From the Black Lagoon” was directed by one Jack Arnold, and I think he did a good enough job. Scenes flow nicely, and he has a good way of shooting both slower talk scenes and more intense monster appearances. But I must also give a lot of credit to James Curtis Havens who helmed the underwater sequences, which are terrifically well made. Speaking of well made, the creature design is iconic as fuck. Eyes look a little wonky, but the suit itself still holds up quite well. The craft in general is just good here.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

“Creature From the Black Lagoon” may not be anything special compared to some of the other movies in the Universal Monsters box set, but it’s still an enjoyable little monster flick. It has a decent story, decent characters, good performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Creature From the Black Lagoon” is a 7.45/10. So it’s certainly worth renting.

My review of “Creature From the Black Lagoon” is now completed.

For other lagoon recommendations, I point you to the anime series “Black Lagoon”. It has nothing to do with the monster, but it’s a damn good show.

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