Plot: What’s it about?
When a scientists discovers a fossil of a webbed hand within some rocks, an expedition is begun to see if more fossils and relics can be uncovered. This trek takes place along the Amazon River and while danger abounds, the scientists have no idea just how dangerous this area can become. Soon the group travels down the path taken by a tributary river and discover a lagoon, one that seems to be untouched by the hands of man and time. But while this black lagoon seems pristine and lush, a creature also untouched by man and time lurks within the waters. The creature has reptilian features and even boasts razor sharp claws, but had the men left him alone he very well might have let them be also. The men don’t leave him alone though and instead capture the creature, in hopes of studying him to learn how he survived for all these years. As he is being held he notices the beautiful Kay (Julie Adams) and takes a liking to her, which means he can think and reason at least somewhat. Soon the creature decides to escape and takes Kay with him, which is sure to draw the team after him since she is engaged to one of them. The chief scientist rallies a rescue mission to bring back Kay and also defeat the creature, but when eras collide who will survive?
This is another volume in Universal’s Classic Monster Collection and once again they have issued a fantastic disc, one which should please fans of the film to no end. Now I love all the Classic Monster movies and own all the discs released so far, but Creature From The Black Lagoon stands as my favorite movie from the series, so I am excited it has finally been issued on our beloved format. I suppose the reason I hold this film above the others is that I love the creature, but this movie offers a lot more than a guy inside a monster suit to be sure. I think the storyline is very cool and the manner in which unfolds is very natural, which means the suspense never drops off until the end. Add in some terrific acting and interesting characters and you’ve got the base upon which this movie rests. Now of course the monster adds a wildcard into the mix, but before I discuss that I want to talk about the sets and locations. While a few sets seem flat at times, I feel the majority of them are effective and well detailed, while the locations are perfect and beautiful also. When I watch this movie I just get the feeling that this is one of those films where everything just came together perfectly, resulting in a movie that will never be equaled in remakes or updated versions. I am sure a case can be made for Frankenstein or Dracula, but I am convinced without a shadow of a doubt that this picture is Universal’s finest work in the Classic Monster series. I highly recommend this release and whether you choose to rent or purchase, your money will be well spent.
This classic monster movie was directed by Jack Arnold, who as I mentioned above seems to have delivered a film where it all came together just right in the end. You can have a great story and a talented cast and still screw up the movie, but no aspects of this film seem to be below standard in the least. While many other Classic Monster flicks have terrific overall value, this one just seems to have an extra something that pushes it over the top. I’m not sure just what that something is by any means, but when I watch the film I can tell it is there. I love the visuals used in this movie and unless I knew better, I would almost swear some of the sequences were shot on location in the jungles. As I said above some sets do seem flat, but not usually and most of them look fantastic. And don’t even get me started on the amazing underwater photography, we’ll be here all day. Arnold was just one spoke on the wheel that made this movie so good, but I am sure he did more than his fair share. If you want to see more of Arnold’s movies I recommend Revenge Of The Creature, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Tarantula. This movie has some terrific acting and I think Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman deserve a lot of credit for bringing the creature to life so well, even though they went uncredited for their work. The rest of the cast is also superb and includes Richard Denning (Naked Paradise, Girls In Prison), Richard Carlson (King Solomon’s Mines), Antonio Moreno (The Searchers, Ambush), and the lovely Julie Adams (The McCollouchs, The Underwater City).
Video: How does it look?
Creature From The Black Lagoon is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the original aspect ratio of the film. Since this is one of my favorites I was worried about the transfer, but Universal has issued a shining visual presentation for this film. The source prints looks very good when you consider the age involved, but some flecks and debris still emerge at times. But this damage was minimal and I was surprised at how clean the movie looks, this is the best the film has ever looked and I am very pleased to say the least. As with all black & white movies, the contrast is crucial and here we get a perfect mixture of lights and darks. I never saw any detail obscuration and blooming was never an issue either. I also found no evidence of compression errors and I am glad to report there is little to complain about with this transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release uses a mono track and while it doesn’t pack much of a punch, it does the job and kicks in when it needs to. I am very pleased with this track because of how clear it is and despite the age factor, this track shows no traces of distortion at all. I like the music a lot and the trademark sound that marks the appearance of the creature, so I was happy to find that it all comes across well in this mix. The rest of the sound effects, from screams to splashes also sound clean and clear, but no sound takes control of the speakers like the creature’s signature effect. The dialogue is replicated well also and I found no volume or clarity problems at all. This release also contains English captions and French subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains a terrific audio commentary with film historian Tom Weaver, who also recorded the commentary on The Wolf Man. As with most tracks in this series this one is loaded down with all sorts of information about this movie, but sometimes tends to become dull and monotone. While I was engrossed because of my passion for the film, more casual fans might find themselves bored at times. Nonetheless this is a wonderful and highly informative track, which I am very pleased was chosen to be included. This release also includes a slide show of still photographs, which covers everything from publicity shots to promotional pieces and such. Also contained on this disc are talent files, production notes, and some very cool theatrical trailers. Back To The Black Lagoon is the final supplement and contains a wealth of interviews, rare stills, and all manner of behind the scenes goodies. I was especially taken with the bits about the creature’s costume, but the sections about the score and underwater photography were also enthralling. The piece runs just over forty minutes and covers it all, even the sequels and the much lauded 3-D version of the movie.