I don’t know when it became a part of my DNA but somewhere along the line the imagery of the Creature from the Black Lagoon became synonymous with the words “B-movie”, “creature feature” and any subsequent variation. If you said B-movie to me when I was a pre-teen, that image of Gill Man cradling Julia Adams popped into my head. It’s kinda crazy then to think I’m only now getting around to seeing the damn thing.
Following on from other Universal monster classics I’ve recently watched for the first time, Jack Arnold’s seminal “man in a rubber suit” pic definitely stands out as its own thing. Despite being made decades later than the likes of Dracula, The Invisible Man and Frankenstein and achieving only meagre franchise success in comparison to those properties, Creature from the Black Lagoon continues to be included in the same pantheon (the blu I watched is even part of a set containing those other films). Maybe it only feels different because the movie unfolds in a terrain so far removed from those pictures. With the abundance of daytime shocks and swampy underwater photography, it’s a fresh alternative to the gothy nocturnal lab trappings of most Universal horror movies. Instead of thunder and lightning or ominous mist, it’s the sun beating down on our characters that provides most of the atmospheric unease. It’s really effective. The dopey rubber Gill Man even manages to be a worthy antagonist too, eliciting both sympathy and terror to become a downright iconic creation.
The movie begins with a booming voice over and images of the big bang, immediately conjuring thoughts of atomic blasts that dominated America’s subconscious throughout 50s cinema. It’s a striking way to start the movie though not necessarily uncharacteristic of the decade in which is was made. Between this and episode eight of Twin Peaks: The Return it seems that my television is suddenly riddled with imagery of massive explosions. Not complaining though. This was a good movie and fully deserving of the lofty status it has held in my mind’s eye for so long. It also paved the way for an entire sub-genre. Swap Gill-Man with a big snake and you have Anaconda for instance. The lesson? If you gotta go to the swamp, make sure you stay out of the damn water.
Watched on blu-ray