Written by Harry Essex & Arthur A. Ross. Directed by Jack Arnold. A prehistoric creature lurks in the Black Lagoon and a group of marine scientists travel to the Amazon jungle to capture it. Running time 1 hour 19 minutes.
The beginning starts with a weird history lesson of how the earth was created and then finally gets to the Amazon where Geologist Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) stumbles upon a fossilized webbed hand stuck in the side of a rocky hill. He decides to take it to his marine scientist friends to see if they can identify it. The marine scientists all agree they’ve never seen anything like it and create a plan for an expedition to find the origin of the fossil and possibly another creature just like still alive. Led by the science team’s marketing master and money man–Mark Williams (Richard Denning), lead scientist David Reed (Richard Carlson), researcher Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) and Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell) head to Carl’s geology site where the fossil was found.
When they arrive, they find Carl’s geology site helpers dead from a grisly attack! Unbeknownst to them, they are being observed by the creature itself (well, its hand at least…)! Determined more than ever to find the creature, the group boards the fishing boat RITA, captained by Lucas (Nestor Paiva), and head off to the Black Lagoon where local legend claims it lives. The Black Lagoon is lush with Amazonian vegetation and sounds of the wildlife. With the anchor set, Mark and David put on their diving gear and jump straight into the lagoon to search the lagoon floor for more fossil remnants of the creature. Still unbeknownst to them, the creature lurks among the seaweed following and watching them. Mark and David find some interesting rocks and take them back to the boat.
While the men study the rocks below, Kay decides to take a swim in the lagoon–by herself without telling anyone. She has a leisurely swim for quite awhile not knowing the creature was swimming directly below her the WHOLE TIME. The ship’s captain sees Kay in the water and shouts for her to come back.
The creature is obviously upset about the group invading his space, so it goes aboard the boat numerous times to attack the boat’s crew and scientists. The scientists and boat captain devise a plan to poison the water to bring the creature to the surface where they can kill it to take it back for research. This plan doesn’t go quite the way they were expecting or hoping. Dr. Thompson gets severely injured and Kay gets kidnapped by the creature causing Mark and David to follow the creature to its grotto and rescue her.
David wants to take the boat and get out of the Lagoon, Mark wants to stay and capture the creature. Since everyone aboard sides with David, the plan is to leave the lagoon; except, the creature has blocked the river leading out with branches and logs! David gets into the water to move the debris out of the way while Mark gets in to distract the creature. Mark, unfortunately, meets his fate at the hands of the creature during his underwater battle. David manages to free the boat and they all leave the lagoon and the creature behind.
What I Liked
I love black and white films ( I think I write that every time I write about one…) Aside from that, this genre of sci-fi creatures is so much fun to watch. The creature is super cool with the gills on the side of its face opening a closing just like a real underwater creature and creepy looking fish eyes and open mouth. I know it’s a guy in a suit but the make-up doesn’t look cheap or thrown together and the mechanics of the gills are fluid and not mechanical. Btw, there are two creatures. One for the land scenes (Ben Chapman) and one for the water scenes (Ricou Browning), both of whom were UNCREDITED in the film. The underwater scenes were super neat with the creature lurking in the seaweed as well as the dual swimming scenes with Kay as those must have been choreographed specifically to be able to capture the creature directly below her without the actors accidentally touching. Plus, the underwater fight scenes weren’t the typical struggle, they looked more like a human fighting an alligator where the gator rolls its prey over and over. I loved the creature more than anything and was fascinated by how long it could stay underwater. I’m sure there was a tank under the creature suit, but then again, the creature suit was not very bulky in the back so…(*see fun facts at the bottom.)
What I Wished Was Better
It’s superficial and common in this genre, but the female character is silly. She is supposedly a super smart researcher; however, she’s never doing science. She spends the movie standing by herself looking at nothing or swimming alone putting her right within reach of the creature OR she’s gazing into David’s eyes and saying witty phrases. The female character has no real depth except for the character title (researcher), sex appeal (wearing a bathing suit and super short shorts), and as bait for the creature.
It’s obvious the creature is lonely or angry about something but the movie doesn’t give any time to it. It’s a monster and that’s that. No need for understanding or empathy. I would’ve liked some insight into the creature, some kind of evidence in the grotto or underwater that it has or had a family and was trying to protect his Lagoon from poachers or something. The emotion is one-sided and, as the viewer, I’m asked to side with the humans when the humans are the ones invading the creature’s lagoon. The creature only comes out when he feels revealed, attacked, or invaded.
I could have done without the weird beginning of time intro.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is a classic! The special effects for the creature are super and should not be missed 🙂 Available on Amazon and other streaming services. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: According to trivia, Ricou Browning, the underwater creature, had no air tank and held his breath for up to FOUR minutes during underwater scenes. The director didn’t want to see the air bubbles coming from the suit thinking the air in a real creature would pass through the gills. WOW. The eyes of the creature where thick plastic which made it difficult for the creature actors to see.
The story is loosely based on a myth of a half-man, half- fish creature from South America which was told to Producer William Alland at a dinner party. He later wrote some notes about the myth and the story was then developed by Maurice Zimm which became The Black Lagoon written by Essex and Ross.