Spooky Movie Month Day # 19 – Creature from the Black Lagoon

October 19th

Going back to our roots today and introducing the kids to one of the founding fathers of horror; Creature from the Black Lagoon.

This incredible piece of cinema hit screens in 1954 and horrified audiences with its captivating underwater scenes and its terrifying human-like creature. Directed by Jack Arnold, Written by Harry Essex, Arthur A Ross, and Maurice Zimm, but the original story was the brainchild of William Alland who is well known for his work on other creature features such as World of Giants, The Mantis, The Space Children, so many others! His voice can be heard in Orson Well’s War of the Worlds, but was probably best known for his role in Citizen Kane. The story goes; he was told about the legend of a “half-man/half-fish” at a party. He wrote down notes, then later elaborated on them, calling them “The Sea Monster”, but then put them away. 10 years later, the notes were dusted off and revisited by Maurice Zimm, Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross.

Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Bill Chapman as “Gil-Man” while on land and Rico Browning when “Gill-Man” was in the water, this story follows a team of scientists determined to find mankind’s “missing link” in a dangerous black lagoon. When the arrive, they find the fossils they’d hoped to find are long gone, but a living relic, untouched and thriving in the hidden lagoon. Naturally, they want to investigate it, but they ultimately frighten it with their unfamiliar presence. It goes into defense mode and kills the intruders. At that point, they had the choice to leave or press on and find it. Of course, they stayed and aggressively attempted to encroach on the creature’s home. Gill-Man tries to hide, but they decide to poison the water in hopes of disorienting the creature so it will rise to the surface. Of course, this doesn’t go over well and the creature begins stalking and killing the team one at a time, while hiding from divers and doing what it can to protect itself. 

Eventually, the humans devise a plan to drug then kill it so they can get away. They are successful and the incredible creature, the very last of its kind… drifts off dead sinking to the bottom of the black lagoon and those who are left thankfully make their way home. 

Julie Adams who payed Kay Laurence, the only female in the cast, was once quoted to say “There’s always is that feeling of compassion for the monster. I think maybe it touches something in ourselves, maybe the darker parts of ourselves, that long to be loved and think they really can’t ever be loved”. It strikes a chord within us.”

Perhaps, Julie. Or perhaps deep down you just know it was wrong for the team to barrel into an untouched natural space, claim it for yourselves and then murder the only living being ever discovered from the Devonian Period. 

The entire film just felt like an hour and a half of typical American hubris on display justifying the destruction of land, water and a literal whole species in the name of ego masked as “science”. It was disappointing to watch and my entire family sympathized with the “monster” the whole time. 

Dragon thought it was a great movie and loved the Gill-Man’s costume and mask, but regularly commented about how unnerving his eyes were, especially underwater. 

Lion had many, many questions including “why are they bothering him”, “How would they like it if someone set up a camp in their front yard??” “Why aren’t they letting the girl scuba dive?”, “did he really just say they should leave because they have a WOMAN with them??” 

Their overall thoughts were – it was a cool movie, the effects were neat and the underwater scenes were really stylistic and beautiful. They hated the overt sexism and how the entire team just walked in there entitled like they could do whatever they wanted to the land and habitat just so they could win an award for the discovery. The good news is, Gill didn’t die by the hands of irresponsible scientists! He appeared 10 years later in an episode of The Munsters where we learn his name is Uncle Gilbert and he’s actually done very well for himself in both health and finances.

Four thumbs up and they’ve both asked for a lot more movies like this one, so I’m sure we’ll be tackling more creature features and sci-fi in the near future!  Stick close to this transmission for more from The Mothership!