A good proverb to live by: If you don’t know what it is, shoot it with a spear gun.
I have always had a soft spot for the classic Universal Monster movies, not the crummy monster movies that they tried to pass off as cinema in the mid 2000’s. The idea of creatures and man-made monsters wreaking havoc on a group of unassuming people excites me…….when it is done well. Few current movies capture the spirit, terror and sheer fun of the classics so I thought it was high time that I revisited some of the films that I first saw as a kid.
A group of explorers hunt for fossils brings them to a dig along the banks of the Amazon river. After discovering a fossil of an unidentified creature hand, they theorize that the rest of the fossil must have floated upstream and into a remote lagoon (pssst, it’s the Black Lagoon). The crew sets anchor in the lagoon and they start diving for samples to determine if the rest of the fossil could have drifted into the area. At this point our trusty friend the creature makes his presence known as he starts to terrorize the group. From this point forward the group changes its focus from exploration to preservation as they first try to capture it by drugging the water with a fish sleeping aid, then they try to escape as the determine that the creature has the upper hand on them.
It isn’t made known what the motives are for the creature so we are left to assume that he is just a blood thirsty, lonely sea creature. The only desires that we see out of him are to kidnap the only woman who is part of the crew, which one would assume is to perform monster like things on her. A motive is not needed to progress the simple plot (but it would have been nice) and there is enough going on in the movie to keep things interesting enough, oh and there is death. Terror and death, shouldn’t that be at the heart of every monster movie?
The creature and underwater shots steal the show. Even with his listless evil robot like eyes, the creature costume is very well done and looks just as good out of the water as it does in it. The underwater cinematography still holds up strong in todays movie standards because there is the right mix of contrast especially in black and white and the lagoon seems to have the right balance of life and stillness. As the creature swims effortlessly through the kelp it looks like it belongs among the seascape. They also don’t try to accomplish too much with the underwater scenes and everything remains relatively believable. The creatures odd swimming style seems funny at first but who’s to say what a made up sea creature would swim like.
The acting is a little stiff at times and a the dialog a little cookie cutter for my tastes but not to the point where it takes too much from the film. Some interesting artistic decisions were made regarding the music and use of the ominous hand out of the water scenes. Coupled with a screeching soundtrack, it is used far too many times and mid way through the movie, it has no effect at all. The soundtrack wasn’t used to set the viewer up or keep them on edge, it was used to drive home the fact that the creature was on screen. That to me is just lazy.
In hindsight my favorite of the childhood Universal Monster’s pictures is one of the weaker installments but is still a fun underwater terror flick.