31 Weeks to Halloween: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Not since the beginning of time has the world known terror like this!
With Halloween just five weeks away, one probably wouldn't expect to see any new series pop up in our Universal Monsters 31 Weeks to Halloween countdown. We've seen 'em all: Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy, The Invisible Man - but 23 years after the debut of the first Universal Monsters movie - Dracula in 1931 - we have finally arrived at what is arguably the most terrifying of all the monsters: The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In 1954, Creature from the Black Lagoon hit theaters in black and white 3D, and it shocked and spooked audiences with its terrifying tale of Gill-Man, a half-man, half-sea creature who is capable of living both on land and in the water. He has a humanoid shape and walks on two legs, but has these tremendous hands with webbed fingers and claws. But if you ask me, it's not even the giant claws that make him terrifying - it's his dreadful face and its empty expressions that leave this awful impression burned in my head. Gill-Man is an absolutely horrific creature and the stalking he does in the film only makes it worse; so it comes as no surprise that the film did so well with audiences and to this day, remains a true classic horror masterpiece. While the premise to the film is incredibly basic, director Jack Arnold and his team at Universal did something very unique and special with the film that separates it from the rest of the Universal Monsters line-up: it takes the film down into the depths of the lagoon, with no shortage of underwater scenes and fights. Seeing the Creature in its entirety swimming in the depths as he stalks out his victims is pretty mind blowing when you realize what year it was and how clean some of the underwater shots are (when the actors weren't kicking up the underwater elements in the shot). It wouldn't be Halloween without the Universal Monsters, and it wouldn't be the Universal Monsters without the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The film kicks off with a group of geologists in the Amazon who stumble upon a fossilized, skeletal hand with webbed fingers. The leader of the expedition - Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) - brings the fossil to his former student Dr. David Reed (Dr. David Reed) who works with a marine biology institute to try and figure out what kind of creature the hand could belong to. Eager to figure it out, the duo go to David's boss Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) to ask if he'd be willing to fund an expedition to find the rest of the skeleton. After agreeing, the expedition members - along with David's girlfriend and colleague Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) - return to the base camp where Carl had his team set up only to find the members slaughtered by what they presumed to be a jaguar. So the expedition team hires a ship to take them down the river, convinced that the rest of the skeleton may have broken up and traveled downriver. Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva) warns that the river empties into a lagoon nicknamed the "Black Lagoon" from which no one has ever returned to share of its treasures! So, of course, the expedition team insists on pursuing their quest and they go down into the Black Lagoon where they have no idea that the Gill-Man has been watching and stalking them - but most noticeably the beautiful Kay - from beneath the surface. What follows is an ongoing struggle between the expedition members and the creature, as well as a struggle between David and his boss Mark, who don't see eye to eye on their new findings of a half-man half-creature. David's insists on studying and learning about the creature, while his boss sees dollar signs in it, insisting they must capture it, dead or alive. But all the Gill-Man really seems to want is Kay. Will the expedition members be able to escape the cold, wet clutches of the Creature, or will Kay be enslaved to this Gill-Man thing?! Find out in... THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
This movie is so fucking good, it's not wonder the Creature has become so notorious in pop culture. The suit looks absolutely amazing, and what's even better is the fact that the movie doesn't hide him at all; you get more shots of the Gill-Man than you'd ever expect, and they are some seriously terrifying and action packed scenes at that. The scenes with the expedition crew are cool and all, don't get me wrong, but the real reason we're watching is for the Creature and there is no shortage of him. From his haunting land-walking on two legs to his sick underwater swimming scenes, you get shown how the Creature lives and just what he's capable of... and that there is nowhere that you are safe from his claws. While the movie does have a few scenes that feel like you're seeing the same thing over and over again, the scenes are fun so it's not boring by any means, just repetitive. While there may be a few things here and there in the film that feel a little silly, overall Creature From The Black Lagoon is one of my favorite movies in the entire Universal Monsters catalog, and is an essential viewing for Halloween!