Monday, 6 November 2017

Creature from the Black Lagoon - Film review

fig.1 film poster

Released in 1954, ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ is an American 3D horror film. While the film has been rated as a B-movie, ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ has a cult following. It is now being considered a classic but has been well received upon its release. Directed by Jack Arnold, ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ attempts to pave way for a new monster in the film industry. The “Gill-man” manages to match the other major monsters, such as Dracula, in terms of atmosphere. Despite having relative success, the film still retains the inherent flaws of a B-movie.

The film has been recognised for being a B-movie for a number of qualities. This category of film has been regarded as low budget and typically inferior in quality when compared to contemporary cinema. B-movies have been typically used to fill a niche in the market. Low budget films can be produced and sold cheaply allowing them to be viewed by a larger majority of people. Typically these films follow a certain structure using stock characters alongside gimmicks to help sell the film. ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ is no exception. In this case the gimmick is the use of 3D effects, something that is still considered a gimmick to this day (even with the advances in technology).

Stock characters also make an appearance, the most obvious being the damsel, in the form of Kay Lawrence and the sensible hero, David Reed. Following the theme of obsession similar to that of Captain Ahab (Melville, 1851) is the fanatical Mark Williams. The character which once had great ambitions quickly turns to blind obsession, chasing the creature to his bitter end. As a result of this the story can be easily read. The damsel in distress will be unable to defend herself and held by the antagonist for the hero to save. There is little character development beyond the given stock personality. This means that the characters themselves are not the focus of the film but instead the interactions with the creature. The biggest focus of the film appears to be cinematography of the footage itself.

During early parts of the film the camera is carefully positioned to ensure the creature is never fully exposed early on. Instead this affair is drawn on creating far more tension, helping to create atmosphere. The monster of the film retains a certain quality of 1950s monster (a man dressed up as best as possible). However the costume designs remains impressive for the time holding the impression of a scaly, aquatic menace.  Helping the monster feel at home is the Florida Everglades, a location chosen for its surrounding. The wild atmosphere makes it a more appropriate home for the monster as it is able to blend in easily with the weeds and water lodged setting. The water has an important role in the film in terms of cinematography.

‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ makes great uses of its underwater camera shots. Footage used is often clear enough to see the characters, motions and actions. Not only do they help to develop the story but also build tension as the characters have entered the Gill-man’s territory. The water helps to build on the concept that we are foreigners to the water. There is a darkness below that we are yet to explore leading to the secrets being hidden.

“The underwater sequences are particularly memorable, while the scene where Adams swims alone with the creature watching from below plays upon all our fears of what may lurk beneath the sea.”(Sellers, no date)

 The camera follows the creature as he stalks Kay Lawrence nearly stealing her away. This memorable shot has gone on to inspire iconic scenes from ‘Jaws’ (1975 Spielberg). Spielberg’s own camera also follows the shark from the depths as it stalks its victims. While the use of close ups during the underwater scenes are used it is still difficult to read the situation at hand or even the expressions of the characters. 

With the characters unable to express themselves properly underwater the film makes good use of dramatic music to make up for this limitation. However the consistent use of the loud orchestral music becomes apparent as it is used at the slightest hint of the creature quickly losing its impact on the audience. Never the less the score is easily remembered as it is played over and over again.    
In conclusion the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ is a film that has a cult following and has gained success for its atmosphere. The film does well using its assets as a B-movie to help build a strong and tense atmosphere.  

Sellers, R. (no date) Creature from the Black Lagoon – review | cast and crew, movie star rating and where to watch film on TV and online. Available at: (Accessed: 6 November 2017).