The year was 1923 and Universal Pictures made the silent film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s gothic novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. With its amazing sets of fifteen hundreds Paris and starring the makeup genius Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, the film was a huge success and is the most successful silent film. Chaney, a pioneer of make up effects brought on his A game to the film, setting him apart from most actors.
Two years later Universal releases 1925’s The Phantom Of The Opera. Another silent film featuring Chaney as the phantom and another role that would established his reputation into legendary status. As Chaney would go on as a dominant name in make up effects and Hollywood, Universal Pictures was merely making a small crack in cinema history.
In 1931 Universal begins the very first cinematic universe featuring popular monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. Universal also released Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat and The Raven. Three films based upon the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. This was the first age of horror known as the golden age. It would last for nearly ten years up until 1941’s The Wolf Man.
Eventually the fear factor of the monster began to diminish and what once used to terrify the audiences became more like Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes with films like like 1943’s Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. The movies were cheaper and the quality was lessened. 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein marked an end to the monster universe.
With the atomic age rushing in, outer space and sci-fi horror was the main pull. It wasn’t until 1954 where a film would bring back the love of monsters.
Creature From The Black Lagoon
Creature From The Black Lagoon, first titled just Black Lagoon; is a 1954 horror film by Universal Pictures. It was directed by Jack Arnold who would go on to make other awesome features like 1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man and 1955’s Tarantula. The film stars Julie Adams, Richard Carlson who would go on to star in The Incredible Shrinking Man, Antonio Moreno and then Richard Denning who also starred in 1957’s The Black Scorpion.
Ricou Browning was cast to wear the creature costume for all underwater shots and Ben Chapman for any shots of the creature outside of land. The film was the first Universal monster to be shot in 3D with scenes shot completely underwater. Since the design of the creature was designed to model the Oscar statue, it couldn’t have an oxygen tank so Browning had to breathe through an oxygen tube and then proceed to hold his breath while swimming during the filming.
In the end Creature From The Black Lagoon was a commercial success. Fans were new to the three dimensional gimmick and to see it on display in a theater took their breathes away. The movie would go on to spawn two sequels titled Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Since then the movie has garnered a cult following of grand stature. The creature, or gillman; is an icon for horror fanatics everywhere. He is a favorite among all monster lovers and has been modeled in many films like 1987’s The Monster Squad and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
Creature From The Black Lagoon is a movie that helped bring back the normal monster to the big screen. Since monster movies were out and everyone wanted sci-fi thrillers or scary aliens, the Creature is a monster that brought a society invested in outer space and all things nuclear, right back to earth.
A group of scientist embark through the rivers of the Amazon looking for what they believe may be an ancient species of a bipedal fish that vaguely resembles humans. Soon they discover a single living remnant of the species but at a perilous cost. The creature reeks a terrible havoc on anyone brave enough to enter its domain!
The movie is a beautifully shot piece of work and stands as one of Universals all time greatest horror films. The underwater scenes are absolutely stunning and have a romantic dance to them as our character Kay Lawrence unknowingly swims above the creature. The entire movie, the creature is intrigued and drawn to Kay. Something that was very peculiar for a monster movie. Although there are rumors that the entire premise is meant to be sexual, I see it as a message about man vs nature.
Man Vs. Nature
There is no doubt that Creature From The Black Lagoon represents mans ferocity over nature and how it will always have adverse consequences to us. If you analyze the film you will notice the group of scientists are actually the ones that cause the most damage. The creature is merely spectating them and never actually is the aggressor. It’s not until the creature is threatened and harmed that it actually resorts to violence. They come in to his domain, his personal home and try conquering it. So the creature may be a monster but not really. He’s merely defending his place! How would you feel if someone walked into your house and decided to catch you in a net and then shoot at you with guns whenever you tried talking to them? Well I bet you’d be pretty pissed off as well.
The creature represents mans relationship to nature and never more than during the swimming scene with Kay. As she swims, the creature seems to be menacingly getting closer. He’s so close that if she were to look down then she would look into his eyes. He seems to grab for her but never does. It’s a representation that at times, we as humans can be one with nature. That nature and man doesn’t always have to be a conflict. It can be a beautiful thing in which we as humans can have a symbiotic relation with. It’s only through our anger and greed that our accords can be turned into chaos.
I absolutely love this movie and proudly praise it for day nine of my Horror Movie Marathon. The acting is spot and the creature is perfect. I love the swimming scenes because most of the time you would never see such a physically demanding task from the lead monster in any film. To me, I see it as a clone of 1933’s King Kong. The humans come in and piss this king of the domain off. But in King Kong, the monster dies. He’s defeated by man and our technology. In Creature From the Black Lagoon, after being riddled with bullets; the creature swims down to the mirky depths. Back to slumber and repair itself to one day come back and seek its revenge! Proving in the fight of man vs. nature, nature will always win.