By 1954 it seemed that Universal had run out its string of classic horror icons. Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, and the Wolfman were forever gone from the backlots of Universal Studios. Enter Bud Westmore with a brand new monster design and The Creature soon joined the unholy 3 as the new face of horror. The Creature or Gillman would be the first Universal monster to be a full body suit and played by 2 actors in the same film (Browning for water and Chapman for land). Jack Arnold would bring a newly charged atmosphere and revitalize a genre.
When a strange new type of fossil is discovered deep in the jungles of the Amazon River a scientist (Carlson) and his assistant (Adams) track down a living “Gillman”. When attempts to capture the creature fail, it becomes enraged.
The audio is a digital version of the original mono soundtrack. More recent than other Universal monster movies, the sound is more remarkable. The brassy tones representing the creature rival the bass tones from Jaws as a signature of impending terror. The dialogue is very clear. A little background hiss is detectable during the more silent scenes such as the cruise down the Amazon.
There is a commentary track by film historian and genre columnist Tom Weaver. The track is insightful.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Although the print is quite inconsistent it usually comes through remarkably well for its age. The original film’s 3-D is not included on the DVD. Contrast is of vital importance in this film. Brightly photographed skies and mostly white attire by the cast contrast sharply with the black waters of the film’s title. The cave and jungle scenes also demonstrate the motif common in Jack Arnold’s 1950’s films. The DVD does a respectable job with such contrast. The blacks are almost always deep and true while the whites are distinct and clean. The underwater ballet has been preserved beautifully and is a splendor to behold. The Creature’s costume works well against the stark contrasts of the sets.
Once again there is a David Skaal production, this time entitled “Back to the Black Lagoon”. The feature contains interviews with many participants in the film and tactfully covers the controversy over the actors portraying the Creature. No actor was credited on the film because the PR department thought that ignoring the creature in the credits would create a buzz they helped to stimulate that the creature was real.
The DVD is rounded out with the usual trailers, bios, stills, and production notes.The menus are relatively simple and easy to navigate.
Creature from the Black Lagoon was the last of the Universal Monsters to grace the movie screens. There would be two sequels, but by the mid 1960’s an era that started 30 years before with Lugosi’s Dracula came to an end with The Creature Walks among Us. The DVD marks a milestone in film history, and when you play this disc I urge you to listen carefully to sounds because “Some of them are cries of fear like people who whisper in the dark.”