Favorite things about… Creature from the Black Lagoon

(Image via filmfanatic.org)

The favorite film:
The “Amazing! Startling! Shocking!” Creature from the Black Lagoon (dir. Jack Arnold), a near-perfect 1954 sci-fi/horror featuring one of the most famous Universal monsters.

The synopsis:
Dr. Carl Maia is doing some exploration in the Amazon when he discovers a fossilized claw unlike anything he’s seen before. Unable to dig out the rest of the fossil on his own, Carl calls in some fellow researchers including Dr. David Reed and David’s lady-friend Kay Lawrence to help him out. After having no luck finding the rest of the fossilized creature, the team finds out that a live specimen is living in the lagoon by the camp. As the team tries to figure out what exactly the “Gill Man” is and attempt to capture it for study, they’re terrorized by the creature, who seems to have an affinity for killing humans.

The cast:

  • Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman as the Gill Man (in water and on land, respectively)
  • Antonio Moreno as Carl Maia
  • Richard Carlson as David Reed
  • Julie Adams as Kay Lawrence
  • Richard Denning as Mark Williams
  • Whit Bissell as Edwin Thompson

Fun facts:

  • Ricou Browning, who portrays the Gill Man in the underwater scenes, was a professional diver and swimmer.
  • The Gill Man costume was designed without an air tank, meaning that Browning had to hold his breath for nearly five minutes at a time while filming the underwater scenes.
  • The film is based on a real legend of a human-like, water-dwelling creature in South America. The creature’s appearance is based on woodcuts of mythical creatures known as the “Sea Monk” and “Sea Bishop.”
  • Zee’s death was originally meant to include him being thrown toward the camera, to work with 3-D effects. However, the wires required for the stunt kept breaking, so director Jack Arnold changed the scene.
  • Before production even began, the decision was made to leave the ending unclear in terms of whether or not the creature dies, in order to leave the possibility for a sequel open. Two sequels were eventually released: Revenge of the Creature in 1955 and The Creature Walks Among Us in 1956.
(Image via Doctor Macro)

Favorite things:

  • The opening sequence is flawless. Chaotic creation of the Earth!
  • The sounds that the creature makes
  • All of the “super-scary” shots of teh creature’s hand coming out of the water. (They’re not actually scary, but they are awesome.)
  • It’s not just a creature feature: it’s legitimate science, y’all. They’ve got the big words, the khaki pants, the safari hats – all of the elements needed to be taken seriously as scientists.
Ricou Browning in his creature costume (Image via icollector – Click on the image for full size)
  • When the creature swims, he sometimes looks like he’s teaching a remedial water aerobics class.
  • So many pretty underwater shots!
  • “What proof do we have if we never find it again?” – AND THEN THE CREATURE ATTACKS!
  • If you’re a “gill man” creature, what’s your best strategy for getting the girl? By choking a dude and attempting to kidnap the lady, of course.
  • The scene where the creature breaks through the trap and hops up on the deck of the boat like a beast… only to get set on fire a few seconds later
  • Black Lagoon Creatures: They’re not mosquitos!
  • Pollution is A-OK if it means killing the creature. (But let’s not kid ourselves – he isn’t going to die! Death by bug repellant would be too easy!)
  • Going into a cave to save a lady from a deadly creature? Just yell her name a bunch of times. She’ll totally be able to free herself from the grasp of the creature and find you.

23 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Creature from the Black Lagoon

  1. I saw this movie for the first time at a 3D screening last week, and it instantly became a favorite of mine as well. The underwater photography and the (somewhat hilarious) shots of the creature’s hand that you mention were especially fantastic in 3D. I love your list of favorite things – pretty much my reactions as well. This movie is campy in all the best ways.


    1. You’re the second person today who has told me they recently saw it in 3D. I’m so jealous! I was stuck with the DVD from the library. (Not sure where I was when these 3D screenings happened – under a rock, apparently!) I couldn’t agree more, though. It is the perfect piece of sci-fi/horror cheese.


      1. Since it was a new 3D restoration (I think), hopefully there will be more screenings of it around the country sometime. I do hope you get the chance to see the 3D version – it really was a lot of fun.


  2. My favourite memory of this film is going to a midnight screening, years ago, with a bunch of friends. In one scene, the monster reaches out of the water to grab Julia Adams’ leg and misses. A friend of mine, in a perfect Homer Simpson voice, yelled, “Doh!” The whole theatre burst out laughing.


    1. Have you seen the awesome Blu-ray set they released earlier this month? Eight freakin’ discs of Universal monsters. I want it SO badly but it’s really expensive. Maybe if I save my pennies I can buy it for my birthday next year, haha. Glad you enjoyed the post!


      1. Yup! I’ve got that sitting on my shelf. I’ve watched Dracula from it, saw Frankenstein and Bride of… in theaters, but plan on watching the extras on the set. It’s going to keep me occupied for quite some time!
        It is a lot of money but I think the production values are worth it.


  3. One of my favorite ‘creature feature’ films of the 1950s! Lots of fun! If you ever get the chance, give Tom Weaver’s audio commentary a listen…insightful and entertaining. And only with a recent viewing did it dawn on me where Steven Spielberg got the inspiration for the shark cage sequence in ‘Jaws’.


      1. What I consider to be a prime example of a great DVD: commentary, making-of documentary, still gallery, and trailer. And this one has all that, at a decent price. There also exists a four-pack of Universal horror classics, which includes this film, at an even better price! I think your borrowing days are over!


        1. I was holding out with the far-off dream of being able to afford that 8-disc Universal monsters Blu-ray some day, but if there’s a four-pack at a pretty good price I might have to go for it!


          1. The four-pack looks good: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein, all loaded with cool extras for $11.49 at Amazon. The other four Universal Monsters films in that 8-disc Blu-ray set are also available on DVD, at the same price in that same four-pack style.


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