I’ve been watching a lot of B-movies lately. The acting is wooden, the production values are dated, but the filmmakers made the most of what little they had. The low budgets forced them to get innovative. Watching B-movies isn’t a bad way to learn about film. There’s no subtlety to any of the elements, the editing, the narrative, the music, the acting — so it’s much easier to see what the filmmakers were aiming for. My favourite B-movies so far: King Kong (1933) — it isn’t just a B-movie; it’s amazing. Forbidden Planet — there would be no Star Trek without this movie. Destination Moon — which may have been Kubrick’s inspiration for 2001: A Space Odyssey. It Came From Outer Space — a generic but entertaining “sci-fi” B-movie about aliens crash landing in the desert. And the latest surprise hit is The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon may be the best creature-feature B-movie I’ve seen since the original King Kong. Dramatically, it’s not in the same league as King Kong, but it’s a good action movie with enough thrills and surprises so it never gets boring. The DVD Talk synopsis (edited): “Starry-eyed scientist David Reed, adventurer-investor Mark Williams and curvaceous Kay penetrate the Black Lagoon to search for a full fossil to match the skeletal claw discovered by professor Carl Maia. But what greets them is an aquatic man-fish that takes an instant liking to the way Kay fills out a contoured swimsuit. The Gill Man decimates the supporting cast while the leads argue the best way to capture it; after he blocks their exit from the Lagoon, the wily Devonian goes a step further and claims Kay as a romantic spoil of war.” The underwater scenes (impressive even by today’s standards) are exciting and especially creepy when the The Gill Man follows the “curvaceous Kay” while she’s swimming. The creature may be a guy in a rubber suit, but it’s a pretty damn affective rubber suit.
The Revenge of the Creature is a repeat of Black Lagoon but dumber — way dumber. The thrill is gone because there’s no mystery to the creature. And then they throw the poor guy into an aquarium at Sea World with a ball and chain wrapped around his ankle. Several shots of the creature from the first movie are blatantly recycled, and the new footage shows a constant stream of bubbles leaking from the top of the rubber suit. It’s bad.
The Creature Walks Among Us is even worse, if that’s possible. The creature is captured by some gun-toting scientists again and transformed into a air-breathing monster who becomes the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He takes them all the way to the Super Bowl. Or not. Anyway, the creature does indeed walk among us and then walks back to the ocean. But he doesn’t have gills anymore, so I assume he escapes back to the ocean and drowns. That’s a great ending. There’s no reason to see this or the previous sequel if you’ve already seen The Creature from the Black Lagoon.