Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The monster is the hero in 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Antonio Moreno and Richard Denning
Director: Jack Arnold
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A group of scientist travel into the Amazon jungle to retrieve an unusual fossil, but instead find themselves battling a very-much-alive amphibious humanoid.

I don't think I've ever seen a movie where I've been so quickly on the side of the monster, or rooted so strongly for it to kill off the cast of "heroes" as I did when I saw "Creature from the Black Lagoon".

I also don't think I've seen a movie that has irritated me quite so much as this one did.

If the morons we're supposed to be rooting for had behaved like scienstists instead of 1920s big game hunters, they might have learned something about the creature, like, oh, I don't know, that it was intelligent. From beginning to end, the assholes on the good riverboat Rita caused their own troubles, and they are completely unsympathetic as a result. The only member of the expedition with a brain was Richard Carlson's character, and even he seemed awfully slow on the uptake. (When the monster starts laying traps and blocking the river out of the lagoon, it's time to stop treating it like it's a shark with arms and legs, doofus.)

Despite my annoyance with every single character in the film, except the monster, whose initial mistake was one of curiosity and who later is justifiably pissed off at these interlopers who keep shooting sharp sticks and shining blinding lights at him (her?), I was very impressed with the astonishing quality of the underwater action photography and the amazing design of the creature. (And I'm even more amazed at the way the outfit allowed the stuntman wearing it to swim and seem more convincingly real than just about any other "guy in a rubber suit" monsters that have graced the silver screen.)

Unfortunately, the film has a padded feel to it, as there are several drawn-out pointless conversations, and a number of scenes that go on well past the point they should have ended. The film also suffers from a general lack of suspense, although perhaps if I hadn't been wishing for the monster to kill those idiots, maybe I would have felt a little more tension than I did.

Still, the look of the crreature is fantastic, and the underwater sequences are amazingly well done. In fact, every shot of the creature swimming or fighting is a joy to watch, and the film is at its very best during a long sequence where the blonde, looks-great-in-a-bathing-suit marine biologist goes for a swim in the lagoon, and the creature is pacing her under the water, watching her with no menace but obvious curiosity.

The flaws and the strong parts of the film almost balance each other out, but the end result is a movie that's not quite as good as I expected. Maybe I had my expectations set to high, maybe it's a film that doesn't mesh well with modern attitudes--or maybe it just doesn't mesh well with my attitude.

This movie so annoys me that the one Legacy Collection I'm taking a pass on is the "Creature from the Black Lagoon Legacy Collection." I can't imagine the follow-on films are any less annoying than this one.

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