Halloween Havoc!: THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (Universal-International 1954)


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By the early 1950’s, the type of Gothic horrors Universal was famous for had become passe. It was The Atomic Age, and science fiction ruled the roost, with invaders from outer space and giant bugs unleashed by radiation were the new norm. But the studio now called Universal-International had one more ace up its collective sleeve: THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, last of the iconic Universal Monsters!

Scientist Dr. Maia, exploring “the upper reaches of the Amazon” with his native guides, discovers a fossilized hand that may be the evolutionary “missing link”. Taking his finding to the Institudo de Biologia Martima, he teams with ichthyologist David Reed, David’s pretty assistant/fiancé Kay Lawrence, institute chief Dr. Mark Williams, and fellow scientist Dr. Thompson to form an expedition. They charter the steamer The Rita, skippered by Captain Lucas, and head down the river into the Black Lagoon. Maia’s Indian guides…

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Strange Bedfellows: THE GLASS KEY (Paramount 1942)


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Anyone who watches television, reads a newspaper, or surfs the Internet today knows the axiom “Politics is a dirty business” is dead on point. The mudslinging and brickbats are being tossed at record rates, and it just keeps escalating. Here at Cracked Rear Viewer, we’re just plain tired of all the nonsense. Ah, for the old days, when politics was much more genteel and civil, right? Wrong! Politics has always been a dirty business, proving another old adage, “There’s nothing new under the sun”. Case in point: the 1942 film THE GLASS KEY.

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The story’s based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, and was filmed once before in 1935 with George Raft, Edward Arnold, and Claire Dodd. In this version, Paramount chose to star their red-hot team of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, fresh off their hit THIS GUN FOR HIRE. Brian Donlevy takes the Arnold role as Paul Madvig, a…

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Creature Double Feature: THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) and THE KILLER SHREWS (1959)


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Back in the glory days of local television, Boston’s WLVI-TV (Channel 56) ran a Saturday afternoon movie series titled “Creature Double Feature”. It was a huge ratings hit during the 1970’s, introducing young viewers to the BEM (bug-eyed monsters) movies of the past. Let’s return now to those halcyon days of yesterday with a look at two sci-fi flicks from the fabulous 50’s.

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First up is THE BLACK SCORPION, a 1957 giant monster movie from Warner Brothers. This low-budget saga starts off with stock footage of volcanos erupting and earthquakes a-quaking, and a hyperbolic narrator expounding on natural disasters threatening Mexico. Two brawny geologists, Hank and Artur, investigate the devastation. While out scouting they run into beautiful rancher Teresa Alvarez, whose vaqueros have fled the hacienda in fear. After getting them back on the ranch, our scientists attend an autopsy of a dead Mexican cop (the doctor performing the autopsy looks like he…

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The Daily Drive-In: The Creature From The Black Lagoon (dir. by Jack Arnold)


As anyone who knows me can tell you, Lisa Marie doesn’t do water.

Seriously, I have a very intense fear of drowning and, while I might enjoy laying out by the pool during the summer, you’re never going to catch me actually going anywhere near the deep end.  I’m the epitome of the girl who loves the beach but hates the ocean.  As a result, I have a hard time with movies the feature swimmers thrashing about in the water or ancient monsters coming up to the surface in search of swimsuit-clad victims.

For lack of a better term, these films freak me out.

Sometimes, however, it’s fun to be freaked out.  Perhaps that’s why I so love the 1954 monster classic, The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Like all good B-movies from the 1950s, The Creature From The Black Lagoon starts off with a lot of stock footage and a stuffy narrator telling us about how the Earth was created and how mankind originally evolved from a creature that crawled out of the sea.  The narrator manages to cover all the bases by including a few Biblical quotes with his explanation of how evolution works.

From the beginning of mankind, we fast forward to the 1950s.  A fossilized claw has been discovered in the Amazon and a group of scientists think that it could be evidence of the missing link in human evolution.  Mark (Richard Denning), who is kind of a jerk, funds an expedition to the Amazon to search for more evidence.  Accompanying Mark is hunky young scientist David (Richard Carlson) and David’s girlfriend, Kay (Julie Adams).  Traveling on a boat captained by the rather gruff Lucas (Nestor Paiva), they go to the camp where the fossil was originally discovered.  However, once they arrive, they discover that everyone in the camp has been killed.  Lucas suggests that the camp was attacked by a jaguar.

Lucas, needless to say, is totally incorrect.  The film isn’t called The Jaguar From The Black Lagoon.  It’s called The Creature From The Black Lagoon and the creature, also known as the Gill-Man (played by Ben Chapman when on land and by Ricou Browning whenever he’s underwater), is none too happy about these strangers invading his home.  Soon, the Gill-Man is stalking the expedition as they move up and down the Amazon River.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon is probably best known for the dream-like sequence in which Kay, wearing a white bathing suit that is simply to die for, swims in the Amazon River without realizing that the Creature is following just a few feet below her.  This scene (which does little to help with my aquaphobia) is one of the most iconic in the history of monster cinema.  Expertly framed by director Jack Arnold, this scene is distinguished by the graceful movement of both Julie Adams and Ricou Browning.  It’s as close as a monster movie has ever gotten to duplicating ballet.

Ultimately, like all good monster films, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is on the side of the monster.  The members of the expedition are, for the most part, interchangeable and, when the Gill-Man attacks, he’s acting more out of self-defense than out of hostility.  The expedition, after all, has invaded his home.  Like many 50s B-movies, the theme for The Creature From The Black Lagoon is not that people should be careful while investigating mysteries but that most mysteries are best left unsolved.

When you combine one of the genre’s most iconic monsters with Jack Arnold’s atmospheric direction, the end result is one of the best B-movies ever made.