Creature from the Black Lagoon

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) movie poster

(1954) dir. Jack Arnold
viewed: 08/15/09 at the Red Vic Movie House, SF, CA

As I’ve oft-noted, I grew up loving “monster movies”, as I called them as a kid.  So, when I saw that Creature from the Black Lagoon was playing in 3-D at the Red Vic, I put it on my calendar and was eager to revisit it.

This is 3-D in the original, with the red lens and blue lens in a light card frame shaped into “glasses”.  I am not really a fan of 3-D, but this is 3-D from the original 3-D era and seems an appropriate way to go.  The effects are more akin to showing vague depth-of-field, rather than feeling a real sense of the creature’s claw reaching out for you.  Maybe it’s my eyes and the best tricks don’t work so well on me.

Directed by Jack Arnold, a true quality name among the lesser-known B-movie makers, Creature is a good romp, if not a great romp, a sort of subgenre of its own, that of The Lost World (1925), an image of the Amazon jungle, of South America and its rainforests, hiding the last unknowns of the Earth.  Even Anaconda (1997) in the modern sense, and even Pixar’s latest Up (2009) seeks the “lost” and living fragments of the yet undiscovered.  Perhaps it’s one of those increasingly dated images, that “out there” lives something great and tremendous that humans have yet to classify.  Because while new species are discovered quite a bit, it’s very unusual to discover anything of great size or significance.  We’ve just covered most of the globe by now.  But even so, the fantasies persist.

Oddly enough, my last trip to the Red Vic Movie House was to see Arnold’s It Came from Outer Space (1953), also shown in old-fashioned 3-D.  Kinda ashamed I don’t make it there more often.   It’s a great place, with the benches and the re-usable plastic glassware and popcorn bowls.  It’s a co-op and it’s unique in this city.  And if you live here, you should go there when you can.  One of my favorite films, Dead Man (1995) is playing there this week.  I am hoping to figure out how to get there for that.

For Creature, I think that the best thing about the movie is “the creature” himself.  Now, this may be debateable to a modern audience, but I think you have to look at the pervassiveness of his image among the other classic monsters of the Hollywood classics to say what an impression his image has made.  I personally think the design is quite cool, and they must have thought so at the time too because he gets a lot of screen time compared to some beasties of the movies, hidden a lot so that you can’t see the flaws in their effects and design.

Additionally, I always had a crush on Julia Adams, the damsel in the film who fills out her one-piece bathing costume with great flair.  I had this Creature Features board game, which played like Monopoly, but instead of properties, you bought movies, and instead of houses, you bought the monster and the stars.  I often bought Creature from the Black Lagoon so that I could have Julia Adams to look longingly at.

But the Creature is an icon, and I think rightfully so.  And I think Jack Arnold and Julia Adams have earned their respectful places in my subjective and seemingly-random heart.

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