Creature from the Black Lagoon

Any time any some monster hunts down eggheads, Jack Arnold’s estate should get a royalty check.

The flick he directed, Creature from the Black Lagoon casts as many shadows as its Florida everglade locale. It’s almost inescapable/inestimable how influential this movie is.

Whether it’s drek like Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination, or fan favorite Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, it doesn’t matter. You put researchers on board a vessel investigating something weird, things go haywire, and it all goes back to Creature. Hell, the underwater swimming shots here are totally Jaws and the good ship Rita is the bigger boat.

Creature from the Black Lagoon has simple, effective storytelling that found its way into the above, and hundreds of other films both sci fi and natural horror/animal attack: strange find, experts called in, search party sent out, warning signs ignored, or some variation thereof.

A geologist discovers a strange fossil sticking out of a sandbank along the Amazon.

With very little care for its preservation, he hacks it loose with a pickax and hoofs it over to the lab.

His colleagues don’t know what to make of it, but in the interest of science, champ at the bit to go looking for its origins downriver. They hire a sleazy sea captain to pilot a dilapidated vessel down river, Joseph Conrad-style.

And what do you suppose they find?

Creature was Stephen King’s earliest movie memory. Audiences in the 50s must’ve been wowed by the effects, which were undoubtedly cool for their time.

And it’s a riot to think a silly film like this came out of Citizen Kane, of all things. CK’s producer William Alland was at a dinner party for Kane, and overheard a…guess you could say “fishy” tale about some odd fish/human hybrid. Hence, Creature was born.

Incidentally, if readers would like to hear us talk about that very thing, check out our podcast discussion of Creatures from the Abyss and Island of the Fishmen!

Creature from the Black Lagoon is a joy. Its sequel, Revenge of the Creature, featured Clint “the Squint Eastwood” in his film debut as a lab geek.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Readers, do check out our podcast discussion of Creature from the Black Lagoon!]

Solarbabies

In a far distant dystopia (weirdly, in the Year 41), the world’s water resources are being tightly controlled. And it’s up to the the rebellious young residents of an orphanage/prison, the Solarbabies (not the Aquababies, mind you) to do something about it, and wrest control away from the villainous, jack-booted Eco Protectorate.

Yep, we’re in post-apocalyptic territory again. Except this time, it’s youth-friendly.

Still, Solarbabies has all the genre’s hallmarks: an oppressor class, enslaved people keeping society (what’s left of it) functioning; a quest for a water-drenched paradise; terror-drome combat sports; an antediluvian oracle who makes Dumbledore look spry by comparison; dune buggies, and of course, a barren, sandy wasteland.

Solarbabies (1986) has two pop culture cash-ins: The Walkman, (whose popularity peaked between 1987 and 1997) sported by young star Lukas Haas (Witness) and a cast of roller skaters. How this footwear is appropriate for a desert landscape is never explained, but luckily, the Eco Protectorate, for all its turpitude, has paved much of the misbegotten landscape for easy escape.

In a nutshell: the powers that be are fighting over a supernatural omniscient orb, Bohdai, who can make it rain like it’s a gentleman’s club.

Somewhere along the line, we veer into Mad Max territory with a bunch of indentured servitude water processors (who are predominantly Aussie) and the Solarbabies get assistance from the Eco Warriors to help turn the tide…this may sound like a cheesy premise, but the inconvenient truth is, this mega-bomb is a hella-fun flick!

With a budget of $25 million plus, this dud earned back under $2 mil.

And the flick wasn’t exactly the toast of critic town, with the likes of the Washington Post saying, it’s “a hilariously bad movie that doesn’t make much sense and isn’t much good when it does.”

Much to our delight, Solarbabies is a rip-off extravaganza, with nods to E.T., The Road Warrior, Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, and Rollerball. Director Alan Johnson keeps things movie with chase scene after chase scene (and even an Dukes of Hazzard-style gorge-jump for good measure).

*** (out of 5)