Blu-ray Review: The Creature from the Black Lagoon / Cert: PG / Director: Jack Arnold / Screenplay: Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross / Starring: Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Ben Chapman / Release Date: Out Now
Universal brought out the Blu-ray box set of their classic monster movies last month, but one particular disc needs further mention. You see, for those with the right equipment, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is also reproduced for the first time in its original 3D. Well maybe not ‘original’; technology has changed and 3D processes are not the same as they were nearly sixty years ago. However, the people at Universal assure us that this is actually better than the original ‘dual-strip’ method and one suspects that they’re probably right. This is definitely the best way to watch Creature if you want to feel like you’re watching it in its heyday.
That’s more important than you might think because we’re probably going to shock a few of you by saying that, despite some great moments, time has not been terribly kind to Creature. Don’t get us wrong, we love it, but to really enjoy it you have to embrace the whole fifties drive-in vibe. Creature retains no hint of scariness today; nor is it a movie of classic horror performances (unlike much of Universal’s monster output). This is a movie in which the two male leads can be absurdly competitive with their shaved bodies and tight trunks without the slightest suggestion that any homoeroticism was intended. The Gill-man picks off the South American hirelings first but there were no complaints of racism. In short, this is a movie from a very long time ago. But actually, being so obviously a product of such a (not so) innocent time is part of its mysterious charm.
The Gill-man is one of the most iconic monsters in cinema history and if movies from this era are your thing, there is a joy in seeing Ben Chapman do his stuff in that brilliantly designed rubber suit that is hard to convey. For some reason, our fellow viewers at the preview screening giggled at the sight of a fossilized webbed hand protruding from the screen in glorious 3D, but actually, we thought that was pretty damn cool. Strangely, no mirth was audible when the huge-shouldered and square-jawed Richard Denning (Williams) excitedly suggests ‘hey, why don’t we make up the expedition?’ with all the gravitas of Mickey Rooney pointing out that ‘here in the barn’ might be the best place to do the show. Suffice to say that this is a movie that really ought to bring a smile to your face, whether viewing it in 3D or ‘flat’. If your TV can handle it then get yourself a hotdog and a shake, drive a ‘55 Chevy into your living room and get ready to duck when they start firing those spear-guns in the wonderful underwater scenes. Failing that, just use your imagination.
Extras: The Creature From The Black Lagoon in Blu-ray 3D, Back to The Black Lagoon, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver, 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, Trailer Gallery