The least of the great Universal Monsters, Gill-Man made his debut in this film Creature from the Black Lagoon. Originally filmed in 3D, but mostly viewed in 2. I can’t help but wish I could see it in the 3D format that it was intended. Because as of now, I think that Creature from the Black Lagoon is decent. Not as great as The Wolfman or The Invisible Man, but still memorable and iconic in its own right. One of the things I like about this film is I find Gill-Man a tragic figure and not at all the villain of this film, that title goes to Mark. Another thing I liked is Julie Adams as Kay Lawrence, there’s just something about startles of this era that always gets me swooning. Having not seen this film since… the early nineties? I had largely forgotten the film. I remember a few of scenes and that Gill-Man killed some people, but that’s it. So, I wen’t in with a neutral attitude, not wanting another The Thing from Another World situation and I’m very glad I did.
Creature from the Black Lagoon opens with an expedition led by Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) discovering part of a fossilized skeleton in a lime stone embankment. The arm looks largely human except that it’s got claws and webbing between its fingers. Dr. Maia takes the fossil to his friend Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), who’s staying at a Marine Biology institute in Brazil. Dr. Reed talks his boss and friend Dr. Mark Willaims (Richard Denning) to fund an expedition back to Amazon to try to find the remainder of the skeleton, something he agrees to for the sole reason of the publicity from such a discovery. The expedition swells with the addition of a few more scientists, including Dr. Reed’s girlfriend and colleague Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams). When they arrive back at the dig site, Dr. Maia and the others find the rest of Maia’s expedition killed. They wrongfully think it’s a Jaguar due to the claw marks and animistic style of the attack. Gill-Man (Ben Chapman/Ricou Browning) watches them as the work for the next few days fruitlessly; when they about to give up one of them suggests that they go down stream to the lagoon where the tributary empties out. As the fossil might have washed downstream over the centuries. Without any other plan of action they all head down river to the Black Lagoon, a paradise from where no one has ever returned. Gill-Man follows them down stream, as he’s become enamored by Kay. When they reach the lagoon, the expedition catches Gill-Man in their fishing nets briefly, although he manages to tear free from the nets. But leaves behind a claw, that reveals his existence to the scientists. The rest of the film becomes about the moral debate to either kill Gill-Man to study his corpse or to leave him alone and study him in the wild. A debate that grows more and more stressed as Gill-Man starts killing members of the expedition…
Conservation is a huge deal for me and is an issue I care deeply about. It would be impossible for me to talk about this film without acknowledging that since this film is just about that. Gill-Man is the only one of his kind we see and as no fossils or sightings are attributed to them. I feel it’s safe to conclude that there aren’t many of them around. So killing it for the purpose of fame, pisses me off. Which is bad news for Dr. Williams, because he became a focal point for that and honestly that’s probably not fair, since I doubt wildlife conservation was an issue back in 1954.
My feelings on conservation also put a very favorable glow on Gill-Man. From his standpoint rival males are showing up, robbing his family’s graves and trying to kill him. Maia’s expedition team took a shoot first approach with Gill-Man and I support the philosophy that if someones trying to kill you, you try to kill them right back. In fact, he doesn’t even start killing the main expiation team until after Mark shoots him with a spear gun. Furthermore I can’t fault his taste in women, as Julie Adams is beyond elegant.
Final thoughts, I like, heck I love it. But it still ain’t The Wolfman; but that’s like saying that Marie Laurencin’s “In the Park” isn’t as good as Pablo Picasso’s “Family of Saltimbanqus”, a masterpiece is still a masterpiece. Sure, not everyone will view it the same or in the same light. Which is part of what makes art, art. Which is what Creature from the Black Lagoon is, Art. 10/10