Are they monsters or men? Unclassifiable creatures, possessing freakish qualities and abilities inhabit a world of their own, shocking the humans with whom they come into contact with their powers and near immortality. Before the advent of modern comic book movies Universal Studios took characters from literature, stage, and screenwriters’ imagination to the silver screen, creating a series of monster classics. From the 1920s through the 1950s cinemas across the United States became home to the likes of Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein. Join us for a retrospective of some of the best horror, science fiction, and suspense classics this October as we present Universal Monsters.
What distinguished Jack Arnold’s pictures from mutant spinoffs/knockoffs is even more imperative to sci-fi today than it was in 1954: wonderment. Creature from the Black Lagoon opens with a brief take on the birth of the universe, milky gaseous clouds exploding into one another with a booming “In the beginning…” voiceover so amiably straight-laced it actually seems the opposite of pretentious… With wailing trumpets we land somewhat bumpily in the Amazon, where a sagacious archaeologist, Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), digs out a bizarre humanoid reptile claw. He links up with a hunky Speedo-wearing marine biologist, David Reed (Richard Carlson), and his fiancée, Kay (Julie Adams), on an expedition downriver after the full skeleton, the whole trip underwritten by Mark Williams (Richard Denning), a square-shouldered, glory-seeking competitor for Kay’s affections…. Creature from the Black Lagoon perfectly typifies the transition from older, more European horror styles into bloodthirsty schlock and ever-cheaper thrills. Though the creature will destroy anyone who stands between him and Kay, who he continually sweeps up in his arms to drag off to do God-knows-where, it’s Denning actually forms the movie’s (human) conscience. An aspiring romantic stuck in a chiseled man’s-man persona, he’s all about the kill, as the audience must inevitably be as well. It’s still a man’s world—or is it? (Slate Magazine)