Monday, May 26, 2014

"Creature From The Black Lagoon" (1954) d/ Jack Arnold

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Can't believe I hadn't covered this one over the past eight years. You can thank the Doctor for my finally getting around to reviewing it,  having thrown me his copy earlier and sparking my interest in revisiting the legendary Universal trilogy, and of course, I'll be reviewing them all here, just for you, because I think youse guys are just swell. If I had a dollar for every time I'd seen or heard rumors of a Hollywood remake of this groundbreaking fifties horror/sci-fi classic dating back to the seventies (and every damned time it's always with names like Landis, Carpenter, Jackson, and Del Toro being thrown around and getting guys like me amped up for nothing), I could probably buy KFC for a family of six in South Africa and get change back for smokes.

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"There's some rear-projected trouble ahead, fellas..."
While sifting through the jungle sediments, Dr. Maia (Antonio Moreno) stumbles upon the mummified mer-mitt of a man-monster from the Devonian Age, and while he dashes back to civilization for financial backing and to assemble an archaeological team for the forthcoming dig, something similarly scaly and sinister is seen tearing through the tent and two of Maia's Moe-wigged hired hands back in the Amazon. With a team that includes David (Richard Carlson), his inspirational squeeze Kay (Julie Adams), their unscrupulous boss Mark (Richard Denning) and native river boat captain, Lucas (Nestor Paiva) among its ranks, Maia returns to the green inferno where the previous camp yields the mangled bodies of the Indio men.

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Clearly, sometimes, it's good to be a Gill-man (Rico Browning).
Watching from the murky depths of the nearby Black Lagoon, the Gill-man sets out to fatally face palm the adventurers one by one, only occasionally pausing to take a fishy gill-breather or to admire Kay's leggy figure as she cools off in the river against the advice of everyone, just like a dizzy dame. When David suggests that they vacate the premises on the threat of a steadily growing body count, Mark throws caution to the wind on the hopes that he can cash in on the prehistoric predator, even briefly trapping it in a makeshift cage after drugging the tributary with poison, before receiving a fatal underwater C.T.F.O. from Gilly for his reckless transgressions against nature and the environment. It's when the amphibian tries to make off with Kay to his secret lagoon cave that David and company adjust his amorous attitude with a barrage of bullets that send him floating lifelessly to the bottom, in the end.

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"I nearly broke my leg climbing on board, you guys got another bump of that rotenone stuff to take the edge off?"
Creature's 3D release in 1954 was confined to a run of metropolitan theater venues, with the polarized light-based gimmick having pretty much run its course a year earlier(I've got a copy of the anaglyph style red and blue method from an eighties release of the film, and it's not amazing to watch, unless you're gunning for a headache in the first place), as the small town cinemas often chose to show the movie two-dimensionally instead. The Gill-Man or Creature itself, stands as the last of the meritorious class of Universal Monsters, and arguably the finest, with its elaborate makeup, designed by Disney's Millicent Patrick and brought to horrific life by Bud Westmore, that was truly revolutionary to the genre. Whenever this one turned up on television as a kid, I could count on my dad assuming the position on the couch perpendicular to mine in the living room to watch it with me, though it pales in comparison to the Wolfman in his eyes, all-time favorite to this very day. Sixty years have left some of its minor flaws more obvious to the modern eye, but a classic monster movie like this, perpetual and iconic, surely merits four Wops, anyway.

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"I kiss like a horny gourami, Kay, so lay some lip on me... How about it."
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