Sunday, August 9, 2015

Creature From the Black Lagoon, My Favorite Movie

Technically a B movie, "Creature From the Black Lagoon" (1954) is known as one of the greatest monster films ever.  Last March I attended Monsterpalooza in Burbank, California.  Lots of celebrities were there to sign autographs...but I only wanted one.  Julie Adams!  Ms. Adams played the beautiful swimming biologist ( that white swimsuit).  She'll be 90 next year, but you'd never know it from meeting and talking with her.  After a short conversation, I purchased her book "The Lucky Southern Star," which she autographed with a nice inscription, and an autographed movie poster, also with a neat message inscribed.  She excelled in many movie roles other than CFBL, including westerns, and of course appeared in "General Hospital."  With some help from the best comic book artist in the world, Berk Balkac (all the artwork here is his), let us take a peek at one of the most fascinating films (...and this is a horror film) ever made.
 The question we all have, but never ask, is 'what was the creature intending to do with Kay (Adams)?' This question, which we all know the answer to, is a great reason why this film should never be remade.  A 2015 version of CFBL would undoubtedly delve into the creature's intentions.  In Roger Corman's "Humanoids From the Deep" (1980), the great movie maker obviously had our film in mind when beach babes were kidnapped by sea creatures know.  The purity of Kay (symbolized with the white swimsuit) should never betrayed by exploring this question on film. Perhaps Ms. Adams' character was the 1950s version of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in "King Kong."
Like the huge ape from the 1933 classic, our creature, the gill man, was not evil.  Lonely and misunderstood are fitting descriptors for our green friend. As the white swimsuit symbolized the purity of Kay and her intentions, the green, brought out so nicely by Mr. Balkac, symbolized nature and an organic existence.  Sure he killed...but only after his habitat was invaded by some very menacing figures with a mechanized boat and sharp weapons.  
Though saved, and reunited with her love interest, we the viewer understand that in the years to come, Kay will feel a sadness at the ultimate fate of her green admirer.  Though we were on the edge of our seats praying Kay would be rescued and unsoiled by the creature, when the gill-man sunk to the depths of the lagoon...a sadness came over us.  Why?  Maybe in the creature, we saw some of ourselves.  We all have secret desires for treasures we could never have.  Teenagers who would see this film in 1954 could relate to the outcast who would never get the cheerleader.
In Mr. Balkac's above sketch, the gill-man is wide-eyed.  Balkac correctly captured the awe of our creature as he first sets eyes on his goddess.  Unable to possess the intellect to worship, lust will guide his actions and basest emotions as he is drawn uncontrollably to Kay.  In one sense horrifying, in one sense cute, the attraction to Kay has a purity to it that perhaps escapes modern day male-female relationships.
"Creature From the Black Lagoon" has so much for us, and not just from a Freudian perspective.  Great acting, a neat monster, a classic Henry Mancini score, and shocking horror all contribute to cement this film's status as a classic.  May a remake never be made, "Creature From the Black Lagoon" deserves the respect of the ages.


  1. An excellent essay..thanks for giving me the chance to read it!

  2. CFBL was my favorite of all the Universal Monsters too. I saw this when I was pretty young and "The Creature" was really the only Universal Monster I found actually scary. Excellent essay with my only disagreement being a remake, I've really always wanted to see the creature again :)

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