Creature from the Black Lagoon

Creature from the Black Lagoon

4.7 10
Director: Jack Arnold

Cast: Jack Arnold, Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning


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Creature from the Black Lagoon was the last of Universal Pictures' franchise monsters. Drawn out of a treatment called "The Sea Monster," it started life as a rip-off of King Kong and evolved into a well-constructed story in its own right, yielding two sequels and attracting generations of fans. The movie had the distinction, along with its sequel…  See more details below


Creature from the Black Lagoon was the last of Universal Pictures' franchise monsters. Drawn out of a treatment called "The Sea Monster," it started life as a rip-off of King Kong and evolved into a well-constructed story in its own right, yielding two sequels and attracting generations of fans. The movie had the distinction, along with its sequel Revenge of the Creature, of being shot in 3-D. Alas, Universal hasn't given us Creature From the Black Lagoon in 3-D, so it isn't quite as startling a viewing experience as it was intended, despite the high quality of the transfer. In fairness, this is the best 2-D transfer of the movie ever seen, and since one of the reasons for the movie holding its reputation for decades is that it was a great 2-D movie as well as a superb 3-D movie, it does work in this presentation. One would have to see it in a theater to appreciate the 3-D scenes of the creature floating underwater, seemingly in mid-air. The DVD's big bonus feature is Tom Weaver's narration on one alternate audio track. Weaver takes viewers through the movie almost shot-by-shot, even frame-by-frame in some spots, and seems to know the date and location of every shot (as many as a half-dozen in a single scene in some of the exterior sequences). He knows an astonishing amount about the behind-the-scenes personnel involved in the movie, and the backstory on just about every performer, as well as the involvement of everyone who came to work on it. His narration is extraordinary -- he rattles through personnel links between Creature, The Wizard of Oz, and The Monster of Piedras Blancas, and others between Creature and the 1940 Thief of Baghdad. He's able to tell about the ins and outs of playing the creature for the two actors who did that job (Ricou Browning underwater, Ben Chapman on land). In contrast to other commentators, who might focus on director Jack Arnold, Weaver gives credit to producer William Alland for much of the shape and content of the movie. Weaver talks very fast and over virtually every shot, a daunting task for him and for the listener; it takes about 25 minutes to get accustomed to his pacing, but he finally slows down ever so gradually, giving himself and the listener some necessary breathing room. One gets a sense that this narration was done live and on the fly, because he gets wrong Whit Bissell's major television credit of the 1960s -- The Time Tunnel -- referring instead to Land of the Giants; he also neglects to mention screenwriter Harry Essex's final exploitation of Creature's script (with which he actually had very little to do), in the guise of the cheesy 1971 rip-off Octaman (distinguished only by Rick Baker's monster design). The other major bonus feature, in addition to a brace of trailers and production stills, is a dazzling 40-minute documentary that covers a lot of the same territory embraced by the narration, but in a more leisurely and carefully delineated fashion. The surviving cast members turn up, including Ricou Browning, Ben Chapman, the lovely Julia Adams and, in the biggest surprise here, even Lori Nelson from the first sequel. Various historians go into recollections and some analysis, of which the latter is surprisingly profound and sophisticated. Anyone who thinks this is just a monster movie will realize quickly that this movie had a lot more to say about a lot of very serious subjects; serious analysis, however, is juxtaposed with memories such as Ricou Browning getting a chunk of the heel of his costume's foot getting bitten off by a turtle at Marineland during the shooting of Revenge of the Creature. The documentary is also something of a tribute to director Jack Arnold, and makes up for the slights against him in the narration. If this had been a laserdisc release, it would have been considered a bargain at 80 dollars. The 29.95 list price on the DVD makes it practically a gift, and it's recommended to anyone who has even a casual interest in this movie, in horror films in general, or in 1950s popular culture.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
The Creature From the Black Lagoon may seem more cliché today than it did in 1954; so many movies have borrowed from this source that it's hard not to snicker while watching it. But downshift your disbelief, turn up your camp receptors a few notches, and you'll thoroughly enjoy this film. Unlike most other 3-D pictures of its era, it is mercifully low on "throwing stuff at the audience" sequences, though seeing the film in stereo certainly adds to the not-inconsiderable beauty of the film's underwater sequences (and watch out for the plaster cast of the creature's claw!). Richard Carlson is a better-than-average hero, Julia Adams is a superior damsel in distress (in a damp swimming suit), Jack Arnold keeps the story moving nicely and lays on plenty of mysterious undercurrent, and Universal Pictures knew how to make a monster when they put their mind to it. If the Creature isn't as immediately memorable as Frankenstein's monster or the Wolf Man (who were both near the end of their run when this movie was made), he easily beats out the dozens of aquatic beasts that later slithered onto drive-in screens. In an imaginative suit designed by Bud Westmore, diver Ricou Browning made the Gill-Man a graceful force to be reckoned with in the water, and Ben Chapman was even more powerful (if less mysterious) when he played the Creature on land. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was one of the last worthwhile monster movies from Universal, the studio that most enthusiastically embraced the horror genre in the 1930s and '40s, and, even if one can tell at times that this is a past-prime horror flick, it has enough craft and high spirits to serve as a potent reminder of just how strong even their second-string stuff could be.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Special Features

"Back to the Black Lagoon"; Feature commentary with film historian Tom Weaver; Production photographs; Theatrical trailers; Cast and filmmakers; Production notes

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Carlson David Reed
Julie Adams Kay Lawrence
Richard Denning Mark Williams
Antonio Moreno Carl Mala
Nestor Paiva Lucas
Whit Bissell Edwin Thompson
Bernie Gozier Zee
Henry Escalante Chico
Ben Chapman Gill-Man
Ricou Browning Gill-Man (in water)
Rodd Redwing Louis
Perry Lopez Tomas
Sydney Mason Dr. Matos

Technical Credits
Jack Arnold Director
William Alland Producer
Hilyard M. Brown Production Designer
Ricou Browning Stunts
Leslie I. Carey Sound/Sound Designer
Harry J. Essex Screenwriter
Fred Frank Asst. Director
Russell A. Gausman Set Decoration/Design
Joseph E. Gershenson Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
James C. Havens Cinematographer
Bernard Herzbrun Production Designer
Ray Jeffers Set Decoration/Design
Ted Kent Editor
Joe Lapis Sound/Sound Designer
Henry Mancini Score Composer
Rosemary Odell Costumes/Costume Designer
Arthur A. Ross Screenwriter
Hans J. Salter Score Composer
William Snyder Cinematographer
Herman Stein Score Composer
Charles S. Welbourne Cinematographer,Special Effects
Bud Westmore Makeup
Maurice Zimm Original Story

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Scene Index

Side #1
0. Chapter List
1. Main Titles [1:11]
2. In the Beginning [2:56]
3. In Brazil [6:19]
4. An Attack [5:23]
5. The Dig [4:28]
6. The Black Lagoon [7:35]
7. A Solitary Swim [4:25]
8. The Net [1:50]
9. Big Game Hunt [8:49]
10. Poison Water [4:02]
11. Night Watch [4:17]
12. The Creature Attacks [1:00]
13. Captured [3:09]
14. Breakout [3:24]
15. Trapped [15:20]
16. Abducted [2:31]
17. In the Grotto [1:56]
18. End Titles [:27]


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Creature from the Black Lagoon 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Wade1000 More than 1 year ago
The Creature or Gillman is my favorite Universal monster and the best 1950's thriller. It's an adventurous love story much like King Kong. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was the inspiration for Jaws; you can easily see the similarities in the movie. I am glad the Gillman saga was contained within a trilogy and not degraded by lame sequels like other classic monster films. Thank God no one has remade this motion picture because it would be an inferior copy and insult to an enduring classic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great 3D movie for its age.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you liked this movie, you will love the DVD edition. The nearly 40 min. behind the scenes of the Creature films is great. The other production extras are super as well. The movie itself looks very sharp. Only drawback is that it is not in widescreen.
ChandlerSwain More than 1 year ago
Jack Arnold's " Creature From the Black Lagoon" is an iconic monster picture from the paranoid 50's, but it is a rarity in that it doesn't concern itself with either atomic bombs nor Communism, but instead treats as it's themes the ancient sense of discovery with a modern twist of commercialism perverting science. A fascinating little picture from Universal made on the cheap yet managing to convey an exotic richness (a specialty of the resourseful Arnold), the film features one of the most famous monster designs in history; scientifically realistic and terrifying. Featuring a reliable cast of studio stalwarts (Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, a stunning Julie Adams and Whit Bissell), the film is virtually a chamber piece as it takes place almost entirely within the confines of the Black Lagoon. Hardly stagnant in it's visual drama, the film makes full use of it's setting most spectacularly in it's lengthy underwater sequences especially one deservedly famous scene when Miss Adams is taking a leisuely swim through the Lagoon while the stalking Creature swims beneath her in a lyrical pas-de-deux that transcends the horror genre into visual poetry. Surely there has never been a sequence in any horror film imbued with such a scene of fatalistic romance. Oddly enough, this little black and white gem was originally lensed in 3-D, so the occasional moments of spears and claws thrusting into your eyes is explainable and rather nostalgically charming. Universal's DVD print is crisp in both picture and sound. (But not in 3-D)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a famous fifties horror flick that¿s a little too cheesy to be a classic, but is still highly enjoyable. Despite a really undercooked cosmic appetizer to begin, the plot and narration stay tastefully tense throughout. The overall production is surprisingly good, especially on details. The underwater footage is great: visibility is excellent but is clearly an authentic riverine location, and the creature never looks stupid or contrived in his natural element. Scuba divers will enjoy the actors¿ use of vintage aqualung and swim equipment, and further appreciate that the stuntman who played the creature (professional diver Ricou Browning) is an exceptionally powerful swimmer who held his breath for up to 4 minutes a shot to eliminate tell-tale air bubbles. The ¿scientific¿ expedition to research the creature is laughably unscientific, but does provide some uncluttered action, as well as a heavy-handed dramatic counterpoint between leading men scientists Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. They both look pretty buffed out for scientists, anyway. Leading lady scientist Julie Adams screams too much and stands around scared too much, but she wins the swimsuit event hands (claws) down and does an Esther Williams mini-routine for the underwater camera. No wonder the Devonian fish man wants her, but we see his huge and hideous hand groping up gunwales, riverbanks, or portholes too many times, already. In spite of those horrible hands, gasping ichthyoidal mouth, and occasional mayhem on surface-dwellers, most viewers probably empathize with the creature. All he wanted was to be left alone with the girl.