Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno
Written by: Harry Essex, Arthur Ross
Directed by: Jack Arnold
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80
Date: 05/03/1954

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Flippery When Wet

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The sixth entry in Universal's monster "Legacy Collection" is also the least, coming 13 years after the previous entry (The Wolf Man) and a full two decades after the monster's heyday in the early 1930s. Nevertheless, Creature from the Black Lagoon is an effective "B" picture that benefits from the heavy censorship of the 1950s.

It prefigures films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I Married a Monster from Outer Space in that it uses a "harmless" genre to tap into people's real-life fears and insecurities.

In this case, the "Gill Man" represents an army of teenage boys, living in a repressed and introverted society, who are too awkward and half-formed to succeed with girls. When a team of scientists venture into the Amazon to investigate a fossilized claw, the Gill Man falls in love with the expedition's lone female (Julie Adams), while the human males fight over whether or not to kill the creature or capture and study it.

As directed by Jack Arnold, the film suffers from silly stretches of dialogue and wooden acting, but the underwater footage is still beautiful, and Adams radiates a strong, sexy screen presence.

For more information on this film, check out Joe Bob Briggs' excellent essay in his book Profoundly Disturbing.

DVD Details: Universal's two-disc set comes with the second and third Creature films. Revenge of the Creature (1955) was also directed by Arnold and features Clint Eastwood in his film debut, doing a little comic bit involving a mouse.

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