Creature From the Black Lagoon
I have been a 3D junkie as long as I can remember. I recall how excited I was, way back in the early 90s, when Freddy's Dead came out with a 3D segment at the end. I was the first one in line for that. The funny thing is, as a child of the late 80s, I didn't have much exposure to 3D. Yes, there was a 3D phase in the 80s but my primary form of movie viewing was VHS. Back then, even the lackluster red/blue anaglyph versions weren't being included on home video. When this current 3D phase hit back in the early 2000s, I was excited. While much of it seemed to be for children movies, I had two kids at the time and didn't mind it at all. As we all know, it quickly spread and 3D soon started to appear in all movies - action, horror, and even comedies.
I like 3D so much I almost bought the Japanese VHD system that included two releases I was extremely interested in: Jaws 3-D and Friday the 13th Part 3 3-D. Ultimately with the age of the system and no doubt the poor quality of the transfers by today's standards, I just couldn't bring myself to pony up the cash. When 3D blu-ray hit, I was all over it. I wasn't a day one adopter but definitely within the first year or year and a half. I bought a new TV and a blu-ray player. I resisted temptation and continued my new rule for buying blurays: 1) Has to be a movie I love or 2) Has to be a movie I'll revisit every 1-2 years or 3) Has to have some great supplements. A combination of any of those three work, too. I have added a fourth rule, however, and it will apply to 3D blu-ray, too. Number 4: Show my support to the studio. If it doesn't fall in the 1-3 category, but the studio went above and beyond on the release, or took a chance with a not too popular horror title, I'll often buy it just to support their efforts. A perfect example if Scream Factor's Amityville trilogy. They went above and beyond by releasing part 3 on 3D bluray. From what I hear, the movie is awful. Doesn't matter. They get my support for going above and beyond. That support only goes so far, as does amount in my wallet. When Universal announced their classic monsters box set and that Creature from the Black Lagoon would be on 3D bluray, I was certainly tempted to bite. While I'm a fan of these old black and white movies, I own many on the legacy DVD releases and have yet to actually watch them. I just couldn't bring myself to buy an entire box set for one movie. That's where importing comes in. Universal UK released Creature on a single disc bluray and for a very reasonable price. A quick trip over to Amazon.co.uk and I was in business. I think it's even more important to show support on some of these older 3D bluray releases, like Warner's House of Wax release. We need to show studio that the demand is there. 3D bluray is a niche market and chances are we aren't going to continue getting these obscure releases unless we start buying them.
3D is eye candy. It's fun eye candy. I get that. Perhaps it is because I'm a horror fan that I can appreciate it, or that when you put the two together I generally end up loving the result. Lets have a look at the Universal UK 3D bluray of Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Researcher Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) is excavating a site in the jungles of the Amazon. His workers discover a claw shaped hand buried in the rock. Carl returns to his institute in Brazil to seek help digging out the rest of the site in hopes of finding the skeletal remains of whatever creature the hand belongs to. His associates, David Reed (Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend Kay (Julie Adams), along with their boss, Mark (Richard Denning), head back to the Amazon to start the dig. Mark's motive is strictly to get publicity and ultimately some profit from the skeleton, whereas the rest of the group are in it for the research.
After eight long days of excavating the site, the group turns up nothing. While Mark is about ready to cut their losses and head home, David theorizes that perhaps part of the bank broke away into the river and was swept down into the lagoon it ends at. Mark quickly agrees, hoping to still turn a profit out of the trip. They head down into the black lagoon and begin searching for samples to carbon dating. Instead of finding any fossils, they discover an actual living creature, a "man fish". They attempt to catch the creature and when that ultimately backfires, they try to flee. The creature is smarter than they anticipate and blocks the path leading out of the lagoon. The beast has discovered a beauty and is intent on taking her for his own. It's a battle of man versus "man fish" as the group attempt to outwit the creature to rescue Kay and save themselves.
I love old black and white movies. They always transport me back to a time when life was seemingly much simpler. Universal's Creature from the Black Lagoon is no exception. Director Jack Arnold, having previously directed It Came From Outer Space and then Richard Matheson's The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957 (three years after Creature), does an admirable job with the movie. The visuals are beautiful, particularly the underwater scenes. The pacing of the film is spot on. To this day I'm always amazed at how quickly the film gets to its conclusion. That's in part due to the 79 minute run time, but we have all sat through excruciatingly long 79 minute movies before. This one flows nicely with good characters and a fun, albeit hokey, story to move things along.
Acting is top notch all around. It's a blast to watch people come up with these crazy ideas as to why this fish man could possibly exist. Julie Adams as Kay, the damsel in distress, is charming and breathtakingly beautiful. The biggest star is a person we never actually see. Ricou Browning plays The Gill Man in water. It's his breath holding ability that contributes to many of the beautiful visuals of our monster swimming around in the Amazon. According to IMDB, he had to hold his breath for up to 4 minutes at times. That's an interesting bit of trivia that most modern movie goers, myself included, wouldn't really think about unless specifically told.
Today, with modern effects and countless CGI infested movies, I can appreciate the simplicity of the Creature effects. It's just a guy in a fish suit, but what else is a "Gill Man" going to look like? It's simple yet effective. I'm not sure what I would do to try and modernize it besides adding in some more facial movements and some realistic eyes. The eye are worse in the sequel so perhaps it's best to be thankful for what we got in the original. While some may look down upon these effects today, remember that they were cutting edge back in the day and that creature suit took a good chunk of the budget. For a nearly 60 year old effect, it holds up well.
If Creature marks the end of the classic Universal monsters era, I don't think there's too much better of a movie to go out with. It's not fast paced by any means, yet if you're a fan of the classic monsters, there's no question you'll have fun with this one.
Creature From the Black Lagoon is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Universal released it on 3D bluray, an amazing treat for 3D fans. The transfer is astounding; easily one of the best transfers I have seen from a 50+ year old movie. I was constantly wondering how they could make such a perfect transfer to such an old movie. The image is sharp and well detailed. Black are strong. Minor grain is present at times but it's minimal. As for the 3D, it's equally amazing. There's the usual gimicky scenes - claw coming out at you and what not, but there are also some cool scenes with fish seemingly swimming out of the screen and trees swaying out and about.
A DTS-HD mono track is clean and clearly audible at all times. Dialogue is at a consistent level throughout. I found no distortion or other issues with the track. The Gill Man arrival music has a nice punch to it. The score is equally clean and comes across well balanced and at a consistent level. It's an average mono track but I have no complaints.
It's not a full blown special edition but there are a few supplements included. There is a commentary track with film historian Tom Weaver. Historian commentaries are wonderful, especially on these older movies where much of the cast and crew have passed away. While actual cast and crew members are always preferred for those personal stories and experiences, historians are a very close second. Tom provides an amazing commentary track. It's a chock-full of information about the cast, crew, production, story, script differences, and countless anecdotes. If there's a fault with the track, it's that he talks too quickly. By his own admission at the beginning, he has a lot to say and only 79 minutes to do it in. I tried listening to the track while I sized up the screen shots for this review and I simply couldn't do it. He talks non-stop and you really have to pay full attention if you want to follow along and absorb all the information. Fans will love it. I learned a lot about the movie and its production, along with all the people involved with it.
Production photographs as well as a trailer gallery of each of the three Creature movies. A documentary titled 100 Years of Universal: The Lot is included that is 10-minute look at the history of Universal Studios and their backlot. While it's not specifically related to Creature From the Black Lagoon, Universal has had their hands in enough wonderful movies that it's enjoyable to view.
It's a dated movie but a fun classic monster movie. Chances are you have already seen it and simply want to know this 3D bluray holds up. It's great all around, except being light on the supplements. If you're looking to avoid buying the entire Monsters box set, go ahead and grab this import bluray. It's region free so no worries there, and it's reasonably priced. Now lets hope Universal steps it up another notch and gives us the sequel on 3D bluray. Until then, enjoy this great release from Universal UK.
One of the greatest monster movies of all time...arguably one of the best suit designs in cinema history..gets a "B"???
Yeah I think a B is fitting. But that's just my opinion of the movie.
I'm going to get the box set soon. Amazon should have a deal coming up. Seeing these again will be great. Creature is one of the best in the set I think. Great review.
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