Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Opening with the classic black and white Universal Pictures logo, it took me a while to adjust to. It reminded me of Sunday mornings and calling into see grandparents, as they sat watching black and white films reminiscent of the cinema of their era. I guess even though we as a genration arguably coined the term nostalgia, clearly we were not the first to be reliving past moments of cinematic enjoyment. Thankfully, with just a short run time of 1h 19m, I figured this was something that I could persevere with. If this era of cinema wasn’t for me, they'd be no major loss, and I could always say at least I tried.
Firstly, the acting is faultless. There isn’t a single performance here that caused me to lose intrest or question the authenticity of the character they where portraying. Each and every actor felt genuine and convincing, not only in their said field of science, but the relationships they all had with one another. I found that Richard Carlson as David, and Richard Denning as Mark, both gave the most engaging display, as thier alpha male rivalry unfolded over the course of this film. The actress playing Kay, Julie Adams, does a great job with the script she is given. However, I felt her character slightly sidelined in order to make way for the more male dominant roles that overcrowd this story. She is a very beautiful woman and perfectly epitomises the way women where portrayed on screen throughout this time in film.
The green screen work, (although very obvious and glaring by today's standards) holds a very charming quality to it. The same can be said for the full orchestral score, something that is so much more impactful that expected, especially whenever the creature would appear on screen. I also found the set design to be very creative, the scenes filmed within the creatures lair especially standing out to me as impressive. Most of all though, considering this was filmed in 1954, I was in awe of the amazing underwater filming sequences. Some of these are so carefully choreographed that they hold up just as well today as the day they were filmed. One scene in particular that is so beautifully done is the iconic moment when the creature swims so effortlessly beneath Kay, in an almost balletic way, as they both dance across the water.
I have to give credit to the costume department. They did a fantastic job with the the Gill Man costume. I was really impressed by the puppetry used to make the gills move, as though he was breathing. Where this creatures cosume really shines though is when in water. The way his scales move seamlessly with the motion of his body, whilst swimming underwater, was mesmerising to watch. The same can't necessarily be said for when he is out of water though. Though this is something I put down to the actor portraying the Gill Man more than the costume itself. Strangely enough, the Gill Man was performed by two separate actors, Ricou Browning when in water, and Ben Chapman when on land. I strongly feel that Browning does a much better job of encapsulating the mermaid style movement, that I think he would have been able to bring that across to the land portrayal much more fluidly than Chapman's more robotic efforts. At the time of release, both of these actors went uncredited for their roles in this film, I'm not sure why as it is a major disservice to their performance.
I was extremely apprehensive about watching and reviewing this film as I know it is so dearly adored by the horror community. Especially considering the little prior knowledge or experience I had with films from this era, and being soley a black and white production was something I was unsure would be able to hold my attention. I can honestly say I really enjoyed my experience with it and I can see why this is held in such high regard by so many people. I'm excited to continue my journey with the remaining universal monsters from 'The Monster Golden Era' of cinema. I'm just curious to know if these films are required to be watched in any particular order, or if I can just pick and chose which characters seem the most appealing to me?