Let’s get one thing out of the way, the creature from the Black Lagoon did nothing wrong. Well except for a murder, a maiming and a kidnapping but I argue those actions were all the result of extreme psychological trauma due to being hunted by selfish scientists. Now before you say I’m being crazy for siding with a fish monster (or Gill-man as he’s called in the film) think about it, group of people rock up to your lagoon, shoot you with a harpoon, poison your water then again shoot you with a harpoon, do you take that shit lying down? Hell No! You pull the harpoon out of your chest, swim gracefully like a ballerina and bring the pain.
One of the great things about Creature from the Black Lagoon is that it challenges the notion of who the real monster is for most of the film. For me at least I found the human characters to be the antagonists, yes Gill-man is guilty of murder but humans aren’t known for their caring charisma towards strange creatures. I don’t know if that was the filmmaker’s intentions when initially released but director Jack Arnold and performer Ricou Browning are able to bring a real sympathetic nature to the Gill-man. Now this might just be because the film is over 60 years old and what could be seen as “terror” doesn’t translate as well for modern audiences, parts where I maybe should have been scared actually had me laughing. If that’s the case then its to the film’s strengths that new interpretations can be found within its story.
The film plays like a classic B-Movie, a group of scientists of an expedition go out in search of a fossil of an unknown creature only to find out that creature still lives. It’s a crew of people who resembles films like King Kong or Tarzan, stereotypes such as the damsel in distress, the shirtless hero, the brash boat captain, the one who actually is there to kill the creature. It’s all one-dimensional but that 50’s B-movie charm makes it entertaining. Again something that makes Black Lagoon fascinating is how primal survival instincts seem to dictate over science and logic for these characters, fear of Gill-man eventually leads to these marine biologists poisoning all the fish in the lagoon to root him out. Even out heroes who at first try to defend the creature only wanting to take photos and study turn to their more violent sides when it’s there only option.
Black Lagoon also features impressive underwater cinematography, again considering the time period, the battle scenes, hunting of the creature, and suspenseful stalking scenes throughout the film its amazing what the filmmakers had created. Gill-man may seem comedic at points with his movements but all the scenes underwater add another layer to the film. Now on to the creature itself, yes its a man in a rubber suit but it’s still creepy as hell, above or below the water Gill-Man will haunt your children’s nightmares. Thoroughly detailed, even the sight of his webbed hand will have you recoil and his dead eyed wheezing face staring right at you is definitely unsettling.
It’s man vs monster but it has you think about who was truly in the right, who was the tragic character? the scientist or the Gill-man? Maybe I’m reading too much into it but the glory of film and revisiting film is that we can form new opinions and challenge others, so yes I believe the Gill-man was the misunderstood hero of this film and you who is reading this may think I’m crazy because this is a sixty year old film about a fish man but Dammit maybe that’s the point! In another sixty years when we look back at Black Lagoon we may see something completely different so start exploring the films of the past, form your crazy opinions and start defending the actions of sixty year old fish men with strangers on the internet.
Or…. maybe just grab a few friends, watch Creature from the Black Lagoon and enjoy some old school movie magic.