Rewatching the Universal Monsters! The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. Universal’s so-called “monster office” was in diminishing returns during the 1950s, but there was more bona fide classic to come, Creature from the Black Lagoon. Here’s what happens: After discovering a mysterious fossil, a group of scientists travel deep into the Amazon for more. They encounter the amphibious Creature, who foils their efforts to leave, and takes an interest in Kay, the expedition’s only female member. Monster! The look of the Creature, designed by artist Millicent Patrick, is terrific. Out of the water, he’s all wet and glisten-y, and his neck bulges as he breaths, suggesting gills. In the water, we actually see him swim around, making us believe that he really does live in this hidden lagoon. Our hero: The protagonist is David, a heroic man of science, although he’s one of several heroic men of science on the expedition. David is very much a 1950s science-hero. He always has the answer and always knows just what to do. Hapless humans: Kay, played by the great Julie Adams, is super-likable, enjoying the sense of adventure that is the expedition. She’s stuck in the “damsel in distress” role, but she also smashes a fiery lantern over the Creature’s head at one point. The other scientists are Mark, Carl, and Edwin, who are kind of interchangeable. Thrills: It’s a lot of fun to see the Creature rampage through the scientists’ ship, trashing everything in his path. But he’s also a stealthy monster, often sneaking up on his prey. He also gets a fun underwater fight involving a spear gun. Perhaps his best moment is the so-called “water ballet” where he swims alongside Kay as she doesn’t know he’s there. The scene is both beautiful and spooky. Laughs: Our comic relief is Lucas, who captains the ship chartered by the expedition. Instead of being a bumbler, Lucas is super self-confident, believing himself to be the story’s hero. I especially like when he proclaims, “I, Lucas, can do it!” What’s all this, then? The movie opens with a prologue… in outer space? Where we see the big bang? OK, if you say so. Thoughts upon this viewing: Pretty much everything you could want from a monster movie. The monster is threatening but also somewhat sympathetic. The human characters are likable, and the visuals are gorgeous. Maybe the score is a bit obnoxious, but other than that this is a great time at the movies. Next: Fin-al vengeance.
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