31 Horror Films #15: The Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954 Dir. Jack Arnold

Last year I did a series of daily micro blogs going through the history of horror films by year. This was meant to give people an example of the high points of the genre. This year I'll be doing the same thing, but going off the beaten path to provide some films you may not have heard of. These films may not be up your alley, but they're all interesting.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954 Dir. Jack Arnold

The Creature from the Black Lagoon is the last proper go-round in the classic Universal Monster cycle. A series of films that began in 1931 with Todd Browning's Dracula, but by the 1950s many of the old boogeymen had run their course. It was the atomic age, and magic had been replaced by science. It was during this decade and the one following, that we would see insects grow to gargantuan proportions, and aliens lay waste to entire cities, or replace them all together.

On one level, The Creature from the Black Lagoon represents this new trend in public taste, three scientist go to the Amazon searching for evidence of man's connection with his aquatic ancestors. This is a perfect setup for a society hungry for stories about adventurer-scientists, and when these scientists come face to face with the "Gill-Man" it seems natural that he represent the scientific link that they've been looking for. However, you could also look at this film as a Lovecraftian tale about modern man coming face to face with something he can't quite explain. Indeed, this movie has just as much in common with "At the Mountains of Madness" as it does with THEM!, which is why, perhaps, the film has endured as well as it has.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon features some very talented actors and a simple, but effective plot. It's almost like a live-action Jonny Quest episode mixed with the "Shadow Over Innsmouth", and lest we forget, it was originally screened in 3D! But while this film is a lot of fun to watch there is a cultural undercurrent that is easy gloss over amid the blaring trumpets and scaly costumes. We had become a post-war society. We had seen the very worst that humanity had to offer, so what was left then to terrify us? I don't think it was just for convenience that the "Gill-Man" was shaped like a humanoid, I think he represents the primal part of ourselves. In this new era of prosperity, we had traded ancient curses for science parting the mists of Europe for the Amazon River.

And while his cinematic predecessors were dying out, doing their best to squeeze what was left out of the old days, the "Gill-Man" was bringing his prehistoric terror to a new generation. A generation who, growing up in the shadow of the atomic bomb, could perhaps understand that there are some things that man was not meant to know.

Watch the trailer HERE