THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)
THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is one of the more notable monster movies from the 1950s. It is also one of the smartest movies from the era, which leaves you asking "who is the real monster?"
The film takes place in the Amazon, where a scientific expedition looking for fossils of animals over 150 million years old encounter The Gill Man, a man-like amphibian. As the explorers attempt to capture the creature they discover he is very dangerous, and very attached to Kay (Julie Adams), the fiancee of one of the scientists. After capturing The Gill Man using a product designed to sedate fish and make them rise to the top of the water, The Gill Man breaks free and kidnaps Kay.
Universal was not a stranger at this point to making horror movies that go much deeper into human emotion. Everyone who has seen FRANKENSTEIN feels compassion for the misunderstood monster. CREATURE is very much the same. A surviving prehistoric animal is being hunted simply for being different. Director Jack Arnold flawlessly crafted the film so that the entire time you are torn as to who is the real monster. The tension is endless, and the atmosphere of being hunted by your own prey in the middle of the Amazon is haunting. This is a fantastic film that truly is timeless.
REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955)
Jack Arnold returns to direct the first sequel to the 1954 film, and does so with a decent amount of success. In REVENGE the Gill Man is once again hunted and captured where he is transported to a Florida park called Marine Land. Chained to the bottom of the tank, and gawked at as a tourist attraction, Gill Man gets increasingly upset. When he breaks free he again kidnaps a female scientist who was working with him. What ensues is a chase up the Floridian coast to catch him and rescue the girl before he makes his escape with her to the Ocean.
While this film is a decent follow up it severely lacks the atmosphere and tension the original possessed. The majority of the movie takes place at Marine Land, and there just isn't much atmosphere at a theme park. We do get glimpses at the humanity of Gill Man but again, they fall short of Arnold's original.
THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956)
The third and final installment to the CREATURE trilogy The Gill Man is captured once again only this time it is with severe burn wounds from the result of a struggle between him and the expedition. As the scientists and doctors on the boat nurse him back to health, they soon discover that Gill Man is far closer to humans than previously thought. In an attempt to alter history and evolution Gill Man has been turned into an air breather.
The main problem with this installment was the amount of time spent on conflicts between humans and not the Gill Man. While it does lead to the films conclusion, they could have cut down on it without altering the effect it had at the end. The obvious budget constraints on this film were not too much of a problem given the storyline, though Gill Man's underwater scenes were all recycled from the previous films.
Director John Sherwood gave us back some of the tension and atmosphere that were missing in REVENGE during the finale and the last sequence really made you love and empathize with the Gill Man. It was pretty heartbreaking to say the least.
As a whole the trilogy is a very real look at how humans react with anything they don't fully understand and how we can learn from nature. And as horror movies they aren't too shabby either.