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!]

It Came from Outer Space

Itcamefromouterspace._movie_jpgMeteor meets mine out in the Arizona desert in It Came from Outer Space. Except it’s not a meteor, as amateur astronomers are initially led to believe, but a titanium box structure with a hexagonal hatchway, not unlike the Cannon Films logo.

There’s a trail of weird fairy dust leading up to the craft, and something pulsating within, all set to a Star Trek theremin score.

Soon, a chopper is soaring over the crater, then landing nearby. It’s piloted by reluctant Pete, who’s accompanied by space-obsessed astronomers John and Ellen.

When John descends into the dust, he spies what looks like a soccer ball, then barely escapes with his life after rocks begin to cave in around him.

ItcamefromouterspaceIn one account, “It lit up the sky like the end of all creation!” so not surprisingly, law enforcement and media are quickly on the scene, trying to poke holes in rattled ol’ Johnny’s tale of seeing something sentient down in the sandy basin.

The morning paper riffs STARGAZER SEES MARTIANS, as journalists are following up for more quotes from John.

Upon his return to the scene of the crash-landing, John tells a scientist on hand: “I don’t know what is odd and what isn’t anymore. I expected you to be more open to the idea [of aliens] than the others, you’re a man of science!”

Soon, telecom engineer George (Russell Johnson, best known for his role as Professor on Gilligan’s Island) is behaving very strangely, wandering around out in the desert and leaving his vehicle with the doors wide open. Citizens are soon reporting that their significant others are acting abnormally.

Ray Bradbury wrote the original story on which It Came from Outer Space was based. According to Keep Watching the Skies! author Bill Warren, Bradbury would write two drafts of an outline, “one he preferred [and] one catering to the apparent demands of the studio.”

In this case, the film went through several changes, not the least of which was going from the prosaic The Meteor to Man from Outer Space to Strangers from Outer Space, and finally, the incredibly evocative and hilarious title we’ve all come to know and love.

It Came from outer Space is not without its flaws: listless pacing and a few too many “I tell ya’s!”, common vernacular of the time, but it’s interesting in that it predated Invasion of the Body Snatchers by a few years and also made the otherworldly intruders benevolent instead of evil as in Invaders from Mars and most sci fi films of this ilk.

*** (out of 5)