If a major Hollywood studio were to release a G-rated monster movie today, I think the majority of horror fans would unite in boycotting the effort; no matter how good it might be. Releasing a PG-13 horror movie is borderline questionable with today’s standards.
Fifty years ago, when directors still shot in black and white and monster movies were the standard for getting people in seats, the G-rating ruled all and set the bar for creature movies after that.
Universal Studios is roughly known as the house of monster films. It produced such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. With its success in the genre of the unknown, it needed a hit and after raping the library for monster books, it turned to using some creativity.
Creature from the Black Lagoon came out a little over 20 years after the studio hit pay dirt with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and 13 years after The Wolf Man graced the screen. The 1954 hit spawned two sequels and a remake that is currently in the works.
What makes the movie unique in my mind is the brilliance put into the plot. At this point of history, not much, if anything, was known about the Amazon River, where the film takes place. It was known as the much bigger version of the Mississippi River, but other than that, most just saw it as another body of water.
The film takes that idea of the unknown and puts it into a horror situation. No one knew anything about what swam under the glossy surface of the water they saw everyday, so telling audiences a creature that has been here since the dawn of time lives under there was not too much of a stretch. It’s the same reason why people loved the big bug movies back then. No one knew anything about nuclear bombs, so saying it turned an average ant into a killer seemed plausible.
The movie was filmed in the United States, but the atmosphere feels like the great unknown of the Amazon just the same. I think this goes a long way in furthering the plot and tension the characters feel.
The movie starts off well enough with a brief history of how the oceans rose and life began, for anyone who did not all ready know. This leads to the big statement of how most of the sea’s underwater life is still a mystery.
When an unknown fossil of a creature’s hand comes across the desk of David Reed, he sets out on an expedition to find this life form in the world’s most secluded and mysterious place: the Amazon River. Once on the river and on the boat, Reed and the rest of his team discover what has been creeping around a small lagoon for millions of years. This jump starts the action in the film. From then on out, it’s a matter of survival and understanding. Reed wants to understand the creature and capture it, while some of his other members of his team would like nothing more than to get back to dry land.
A lot of the scenes from the film take place under water. Since computer animation would be another thirty years away, the creature in the film had to be played by a real man. Meaning, this man had to hold his breath for up to four minutes at a time while the director shot the scenes. It’s fairly obvious the creature is a man, which takes away from the credibility a little. I would have liked to see the creature act like a real creature and not so much like a human. I think it’s important to make that distinction for the horror part.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of the most original monster movies ever made and I think it goes to show that even a G-rated horror movie can deliver the goods.