Thursday, March 7, 2019

Monster Watch: Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Watched:  03/07/2019
Format:  Alamo S. Lamar
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's

This evening the Alamo S. Lamar and Birth.Movies.Death's Scott Wampler hosted a screening of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) along with a Q&A and book-signing with Mallory O'Meara, a film maker who just released a non-fiction book about Milicent Patrick, the original designer of The Creature entitled The Lady From the Black Lagoon.

I don't know how many of you try to get out to see favorite movies when they show on the big screen, but I sure do (within reason, I am not SimonUK, who has turned it into an art form).  But Jamie likes Creature well enough, so she was my date for the movie and talk.  And, schniekies, guys.  I've only ever seen this film on home video and in 2D.  Back in '54, the original film was one of those where you were supposed to watch with the red and blue glasses, but this restoration was done with modern 3D, and in full theatrical presentation, it was like seeing a whole new movie pop off the screen.

The screening and guest were terrific, and happen to coincide with  - this week marks the 65th Anniversary of the release of the film (the book's release on this date is a happy accident), and, sadly, Julie Adams who plays Kay Lawrence in the film passed a short while ago - so this screening was a nice memorial to her most famous role.

Creature is interesting for a lot of reasons, including the 3D.  My undestanding is that Universal was seeing receipts from revivals of the Lugosi and Karloff films from the early 1930's, and as TV came on and those movies got shown building renewed interest in monsters, Universal went for it and started making some new movies - Creature being the most artistically (and, I suppose, commercially) successful.*

I was surprised how much genuinely scarier the 3D made the underwater scenes.  The depth and darkness goes from sort of murky to an otherwordly void, with camouflage for the Creature, and expanses the fragile humans with their aqualungs need to cross and explore.   Once you know there's a 6'-something Gill Man in there, every weed in the foreground, every fish that crosses between you and the actors is a reminder of the odd world on the other side of the surface.  I mean, that "mirroring" scene really pops in 3D.

I won't get into a full review of Creature From the Black Lagoon, but if you've never seen it, unlike Dracula and Frankenstein, which both wear the marks of being early talkies, this movie is more than two decades later and is far closer to a modern film in structure, characters, etc...  while also carrying over some of what I liked best about the 1930's films and how the "monsters" fit into those movies.

You can't beat the design of Gill Man - truly the best of the era and in the absolute top tier for any era.  And we have Milicent Patrick to thank!  I look forward to reading more about her in O'Meara's book (which Jamie has informed me she's just going to take, and I may have it when she's done).

Patrick at work, making cool stuff

*the 1950's and 1970's both enjoyed "monster" revivals.  The 1990's and this decade, not so much.  It's a dang shame. 


Paul Toohey said...

I wonder if the blue red glasses would be less annoying in a black and white movie. But I’m glad they remastered it.

The League said...

My experience has only been with red and blue comics, and the experience is a mixed bag. I'm not sure if that's what they did - dye one strip red and one blue, and then put them over each other. I'll read up on it.

Rick said...

I don't often comment, but I just can't resist on this one. I was about eight years old when I saw Creature From the Black Lagoon - and it scared the heck out of me! I was use to cowboy and Flash Gordon movies, Laurel and Hardy shorts and Mighty Mouse cartoons - so this one kept me from sleeping well for a few nights. (Maybe it still does!)

The League said...

It holds up really well! I think a lot about when and if I can show movies like to the nephew one day. Sadly, I didn't see this one til I was in my late 20's, but it's grown on me.