Do you want a little monster action with your science? No?
The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) presents a truckload of talking about science and throws in some monster action too. If I wasn’t obvious enough, people talk about science ad nauseam in this movie, like they’re at school or something. They talk about lost species. Some scientists ponder life deep within the Amazon. Yeah, I got the idea after about 5 minutes. It’s a bit overdone.
The movie stars Richard Carlson and Julia Adams, who I’ve never heard of. It begins with an eerie narrator talking about the Big Bang. Talk about starting your science from the top. This is to illustrate the infinite variety of life created on Earth, even 15 million years later. Deep in the Amazon, a scientist unearths an ancient fossil of a claw, but that pisses off something nearby in a black lagoon, which is observing him. That creature is ticked, folks.
After the monster slaughters everybody at the dig, our science-hero Doctor-guy meets up with David and Kay, who are diving for fish. He shares his discovery and David decides to go help out the ole Professor Doctor-guy. They all talk about science. The movie shows some fish. The fish swim. They talk about science some more. I don’t doze off easy, but this movie isn’t helping. Yikes.
The Doctor, David, and Kay take a leisurely barge trip to the dig site, but stop to talk about science. Imagine that. When they arrive, they discover what the Creature did, and blame it on wild animals. They get more uneasy as the film simply moves on. They don’t alert the authorities. They don’t stop to consider why they’re out here. They just hop back on the barge and tally-ho back down the river to find more fossils.
They take the barge back down the river to find a better site. They talk about science and go fishing. At least Kay gets into a bathing suit because this movie needs something more interesting at this point. They find a good spot to explore and dive into the deeper parts of the river basin. The Creature tails them and watches the divers collect some kelp. The thing about this movie is that the underwater parts are silent, except for the endless music, which never stops. Sometimes the music surges, but other times it plays a quiet melody. I guess I didn’t care for the pace, is what I’m saying.
Kay decides to go for a swim and we get some gratuitous female shots. She does the backstroke. The Creature follows her like a stalker and watches her for a while, but gets caught in a net when it swims near the ship. The Creature busts the net and puts a huge hole in it.
David and his pal dive back down into the lagoon to explore the blackness. They swim around. Some fish swim around too. Yay more fish shots. They think they see the Creature, but it swims circles around them. They harpoon it and the Creature makes a break for it, eventually getting away.
The Creature starts picking off the crew one at a time, dragging them into the water. David and his pal stake out the lagoon and wait for the Creature, deciding they’ve had enough of this guy. They pass the time by talking about science. Figures. Everyone is on edge because they don’t know where the Creature is, and I’ll admit, it’s a little tense, so at least that’s something. When the Creature finally appears, they shoot him and it flops over, escaping to his underground crypt.
David and his pal swim to the mysterious crypt and wander around. Meanwhile, the Creature tries to sneak up on Kay, but David traps it. The Creature sulks for a while and starts to get more pissed off. It breaks out of the trap, but Kay lights it on fire, so it has to dive back into the water. That’s a really impressive effect. The guy is completely on fire from head to toe. I couldn’t get a picture of it because it was only a few seconds long and then it’s over. Too bad.
The ship decides to leave, but the Creature barricades the river like a beaver. Smart guy. They try to clear the logs the Creature piled up, but it attacks. The underwater wrestling is pretty decent, but the Creature gets away. Again. The Creature sneaks aboard the ship, grabs Kay and drags her back to his evil lair. David goes to rescue her and is ambushed, but the rest of the crew shoot the creature and save everybody. Roll credits. Yay.
All in all, this movie is your standard monster movie. Everything about it is formulaic. The pace is slow, and because there is so much swimming and chatting about science, it feels even slower. Now I think I know why I prefer Dracula and Frankenstein. Still, this movie is well shot, and has an interesting backdrop. Nothing is generic about the scenery and they went all-out on the costume design. It just needed something more, like a character that left more of an impression, because the ones in the movie seemed generic and interchangeable. The stunts and the monster action are really the highlight of this film, but that’s the only reason I might give it another chance. The environment and the setting is the most impressive thing about it, which will become more unique and stunning through comparison with lower-quality sequels that will come later. They’ll try to carry on, but this is as original as it gets.