Creature from the Black Lagoon

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Growing up in the 70's was a bit of a special treat. Children of the 70's were the last ones to be treated to classic Horror films on network TV. This was before cable and the video explosion, so classic Horror was on TV atleast once a week. Everything from "King Kong" to "Dracula". Somedays you could catch an old Universal and then an old Hammer. They were great times to be a kid, not to mention a growing Horror fan.

Of all these films though, there was one for me that I could never find. I had seen the monster in books I had and in magazines I had collected. I had trading cards with the monster on them. I had never seen the movie, but I knew that "Creature From The Black Lagoon" could possibly be the greatest monster film I might never get to see.

The look of the Creature was amazing! I couldn't accept that that was a man in a costume. It all seemed too real looking for me. But the monster had so much more to it. I needed to see this movie.

Finally I found a night when it was going to be on. But it was to be on at 3:00 am, and I was only 8 or 9. I begged my parents to let me stay up for it. Mom (who is a bit of a classic Horror fan herself, she saw "Psycho" in the theatres on the it's first run!) told me that if I could set my alarm and get up with it and then still go to school without complaining about being tired, then fine. So the alarm was set! But I woke up at 6:30 to the sound of a very tired alarm.

When I finally did see the movie I was thrilled to find that it was all I had hoped for.

So when I saw last year that Universal was doing the "Classic" DVD line, guess what movie I was looking forward to the most? Once again the wait for the movie was going to attempt to kill me! But once again, I would not be disappointed.

To review this film is almost pointless, like all of the other Universal Classics. The plot is the basic Beauty and the Beast storyline. But what works for it are the FX, acting, realistic characters and dialogue, a stunning score and one of the most likable monsters ever imagined.

The story: in the jungles of the Amazon a fossil of a strange hand is discovered. A research team is put together and off they go to find more of the fossilized creature. Once the team is at the area of the fossil, the ship they traveled there on becomes caught up on a log dam. The attempts to break free fail and then they find the reason why: a prehistoric half man, half fish creature has trapped them in an attempt to get himself the beautiful lady the team has with them. Can you really blame the poor critter?

Battles ensue and we are treated to some great underwater shots, monster shots and music! All turning into a beautiful movie that still works today!

I love this movie. I will always love this movie. This movie will always get full marks from me, so I think you know what my end result will be here. Buy this movie. Even if this thing had no extra's, I would still insist that you buy this movie. But hey, it has extras! So you really can't beat that.

And what of those extras? They are all of the standard Universal Classic extras. Which means some of the best. Universal must have done a bit of research for these movies. If I had my pick for extras on DVD, I would say that the two best extras are commentary tracks and documentaries. Both of which are the main center piece for Universal DVD's.

The documentary is hosted by David J. Skal, who really should be recognized by the Horror community in some special way for all he has done in this field. Actually we need to do something for William Lustig also. But this time around the documentary, entitled "Back To The Black Lagoon", really shines! This, in no small part, to the fact that we still have living people from the films of the Creature, so we have stories to listen to! The commentary covers everything about these films. We learn about the underwater filming, something that was new to the world of film at the time. We learn about the costume, we learn about the filming of 3D, we learn who really invented the Creature design (thank you Mr. Schow), and we learn so much more in the mere 40 minutes that this thing runs. A brilliant documentary!

Now for that commentary track. This time around we are treated to a track done by Film Historian Tom Weaver. Mr. Weaver was also the gentleman who did the track for "The Wolf Man", which has been one of my favorite commentaries in the Universal line. But this time Mr. Weaver provides one of the best commentaries I have yet to hear. One of the things you notice in this track is that Mr. Weaver never stops talking! He bounces between stories of behind the scenes with tales of technique with the ease of a gymnist. He never breaks his stride and you never get lost. It is a fluid track that just flows smooth. Some stories are told again that were on the documentary, but that is fine, they are few and far between. But all in all, you get tons of info done told in a very nice manner.

My only complaint this time with the presentation of the DVD all around is that of Universal seeming to loose excitment over this whole series. The blurb on the back reads like it is from the middle of a story explanation from someplace else. It starts with these lines: Scientist drug and capture the creature, who becomes enamored with the head scientist's female assistance (Julie Adams). Huh? What? Where did we start? The rest is a quick wrap-up, but none of it really pays much respect.

The other bad thing is the menus. No neat stuff going on this time, just a still screen with the music playing. The others at least had cool stuff happening, like the "Frankenstein" DVD. Small complaint, but I just fear that these are going to get lesser and lesser treatment with each new batch.

The photo gallery is the standard gallery of the Universal DVD's with the pictures zooming in and out and the panning from the left to right with the soundtrack playing in the background. Nice, but I would rather have the pictures hold in one place so that I could look at them and pause on them.

This though is a dream for the Creature fans out there. The movie looks great with great sound. You won't find anything as amazing in the looks or sound as you did with the stellar "Frankenstein" presentation, but then again this is a newer film and it was never butchered by censors. But it is still the best it has ever looked. So be happy with that. Get your ass (arse for you folks overseas) out and buy this thing!

Directed by Jack Arnold
Released by Universal
Running time - approx 79 minutes
Ratio - Standard 1.33:1 (Black & White)
Audio - English Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles - French
Extras :
Audio Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Production Notes
Review by Carl R Isonhart