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Greatest Golden Age Sci-Fi Movies - 1954: The creature from the black lagoon

Updated on April 30, 2009

 Residing uncomfortably halfway between the science fiction and the horror genre, The creature from the black lagoon has become a highly renowned cult movie while in practice (alongside its endless sequels) is actually little more than a substandard remake of King Kong. What makes this motion picture truly amazing is that Jack Arnold, who has never considered a great director and would have been the first to admit that he had never sought to make each of his movies into a masterpiece, manages to pull off a storyline which elevates The creature from the black lagoon well above its varied and sundry B-movie competition of the era.

We are in the Amazon, and a scientific expedition encounters a strange mutated being who is half man and half fish and is clearly attracted by the lone female of the group (Julia Adams). The monster thing is able to trap the boatload of scientists within a spooky lagoon, and then proceeds to kidnap the woman. After a long and eventful chase, her companions manage to free the about to be spawned woman, and finally to kill the mysterious creature.

Apparently there is nothing new under the cinematic sun, but Jack Arnold shows that he is a cunning film director and goes on to demonstrate an uncommon flair as he appropriates from King Kong the concept that the monster is far less evil than it looks, and indeed is animated by sentiments which can only be described as decidedly human.

How else to be able to explain how the famous scene of a half-naked girl swimming in a river with the monster swimming beneath her made it past the Hays Code censors? If the same scene had featured a man in a speedo, that scene would have ended up on the cutting room floor on orders from the Breen Office. After all, that would be as shocking a scene to the audience of the day as Deep Throat or Last Tango In Paris was to the audiences two decades later. Let's remember that the Hays Code was the reason why for several decades any married couple's bedroom was shown with side by side twin beds separated by an ample nightstand, and if a man and a woman were sitting on a bed, each one had to have one foot firmly planted on the ground. This was a completely different era which still had Victorian sexual attitudes to a great extent. However, in the case of this rather "erotic" scene, it was just another scaly ugly monster which according to the censors could not actually have feelings for the human woman, thus it slipped past them. It is a definitely testament to the cinematic genius of Jack Arnold that he was able to wink at the audience in a scene like that and not let the censors catch on.

1954: The creature from the black lagoon

Directed by
Jack Arnold
Screenwriting by
Harry Essex
Arthur A. Ross &
Maurice Zimm

 David Reed - Richard Carlson
 Kay Lawrence (as Julia Adams) - Julie Adams
 Mark Williams - Richard Denning
 Carl Maia - Antonio Moreno
 Lucas - Nestor Paiva
 Dr. Thompson - Whit Bissell
 Zee - Bernie Gozier
 Chico (as Henry Escalante) - Henry A. Escalante


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