A group of scientists looking for fish specimens in Brazil get more than they bargained for when they encounter a half-man, half-fish. Unfortunately he has the nasty habit of killing minor characters and absconding with Kay, the only woman in the movie. Her fiance David has to chase the creature down and battle him.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is always lumped in with Universal Studios’s famous horror movies like Frankenstein and Dracula, but I’m not sure it deserves the honor. Though he’s kinda cute, the Creature doesn’t have the same depth and charisma of, say, the Wolf Man (though at least Creature doesn’t whine) or the Mummy. He doesn’t have the sympathy factor of Frankenstein or the sexiness of Dracula; he’s just murderous and grabby.
In addition, the film is very slow (and some would say boring). Here’s the plot of most of the movie: the Creature pops up and looks around the boat, Kay shows off her one-piece bathing suit, and the men scuba dive. Even the underwater fight scenes aren’t especially suspenseful. Not to mention the overacting and the excruciating combination of quiet dialogue and blaring music that had me cranking up then hurriedly turning down the volume on my T.V.
For me, the only bright spot (aside from David’s unintentionally funny statement, “We didn’t come here to fight with monsters. We’re not equipped for it”) is Lucas, the always chipper captain of the boat. He’s Brazilian, and God bless him, the actor playing him, Nestor Paiva, isn’t some white guy in bronze-face. He’s a breath of fresh air from the stuffed-shirt guys in the crew. Lucas seems a little dense compared to the science-y types, but he’s not subservient or stupid—just down-to-earth. The film doesn’t come across as terrifically racist for the mid-’50s, though most of the people who die are minorities. One of the scientists is the wise and Brazilian Dr. Maia (who lives to the end) and is played by Antonio Moreno, who was actually Latino (thank you IMDB).
The movie may be nostalgic to some; Stephen King discusses in depth how the movie scared him as a boy in his book Danse Macabre. The Creature was also my father’s favorite of the Universal monsters. Check it out if you’re in the mood for old-timey fishy action.