The Creature stalks Kay (Julia Adams).
By Steve Vivona
Universal, $29.95, Fullscreen, Extras
Release Date: 8/29/00
Although Universal's "Classic Monsters" cycle effectively ended in the mid-forties, giving way to a new breed of monsters spawned by the atomic age, a horrific creation of the fifties would become synonymous with the likes of Dracula, The Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster.
In 1954 Universal unleashed "Creature From the Black Lagoon," on an unsuspecting public. Shot in 3-D and billed as the first underwater film shot in three dimensions, it boasted one of the most elaborate and terrifying creature designs to ever come out of the Universal stable.
Drawing its inspiration from the likes of "King Kong" and "Phantom of the Opera" with its "beauty and the beast" theme, "Creature" now stands proudly with other horror classics and the Creature is perhaps the most recognizable monster this side of Dr. Frankenstein's patchwork creation.
A scientific expedition searching for fossils along the Amazon hears the story of a legendary creature, half-man, half-fish that prowls the "black lagoon," an area undisturbed by man for millions of years. When they discover fossilized remains of such a creature the party led by Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson) sets out to find its descendants.
Before long the Creature finds them and wreaks havoc on their search party killing several of their native guides. Undeterred, the scientists again set out to capture the beast. Enamored of Reed's fiancee Kay (Julia Adams), The Creature kidnaps her and brings her to his underground lair for the film's unforgettable climax.
"Creature From the Black Lagoon" stands as a mixture of Universal's horror classics of the previous two decades and the new breed of horror films spawned by the atomic age. Its theme of a misunderstood, hapless creature is as old as Frankenstein. As many point out the Creature only becomes lethal when his territory, and then his very life, are threatened.
Director Jack Arnold creates a palpable air of suspense and stages the Creature's attacks effectively. Thankfully the film didn't rely on 3-D gimmickry, and succeeds with well-drawn characters, an engaging story, and healthy doses of fright.
Universal keeps churning out terrific special editions of their prized "Classic Horror" collection and "Creature" is no exception. The documentary "Back to the Black Lagoon" is a wonderful trip back to the Creature's roots.
Hosted by horror expert David J. Skal, and including interviews with star Julia Adams and Creature performers Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning, the documentary is a fascinating look behind-the-scenes of all three "Creature" films.
Of special note is the audio commentary by film historian and Universal expert Tom Weaver. Weaver's comments are both engaging and enlightening and he crams as much information as possible into the film's 79-minute running time.
A fun series of theatrical trailers are included as well as hundreds of production photographs, stills, posters and lobby cards.
The transfer for "Creature" is wonderful. The image is sharp and crisp and all areas of the grayscale are well delineated. Transfers for the classic titles only seem to get problematic with films pre-1940 as is the case with "The Invisible Man" and "Bride of Frankenstein."
As many studios ignore their classic titles Universal should be commended for giving their old favorites the red-carpet treatment.
A rare color still of The Creature.