KLAATU YOU (33)
August 12, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | d. JACK ARNOLD | 1954
It all began at a dinner party during the making of Citizen Kane, for which William Alland, one of the faceless reporters in the dark querying Kane, was an invite. Orson Welles also brought Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, who told a remarkable story of a half-human, half-fish which he swore lived in the Amazon. Alland remembered this tale when he was at Universal in the early 1950s and it inspired the film he would develop and produce, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).
In readying his project for the screen, Alland went through a pile of screenwriters, and it’s unclear which should get credit for what. Who thought of cribbing from King Kong the theme of Beauty and the Beast? Or of a geological expedition searching for fossils in Brazil from the Devonian age? It’s certain that a writer, Arthur A. Ross, was responsible for an eco theme. He’d been reading Jacques Cousteau, and, in inspiration, one of the scientists on the expedition, Dr. David Reed, wants to save the one-of-a-kind Creature from extinction. His rival, Dr. Mark Williams, a swell-headed martinet with Ahab tendencies, schemes to harpoon the Creature with a spear gun.
The scientists are played blandly by TV’s Richard Carlson (I Led Three Lives) and Richard Denning (Mr. and Mrs. North), and they could easily have switched their roles. But what’s made the movie for me since boyhood is actress Julia Adams. She’s Kay, fiancée of good guy David and a scientist also. But Adams was cast by filmmaker Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man) for one major reason: to bring in an erotic element. I felt it at 10 and I think it now: Adams with her dark eyes and dimples is gorgeous. And she is shapely, why, even on the mosquito-plagued Amazon, she was often on view in short shorts. And in what surely are alligator-infested waters, she was fitted in a sensual white bathing suit for a blithe Esther Williams-like swim.
Sorry, female readers! The Creature from the Black Lagoon wasn’t made with you in mind but for male gazers of all ages. In a steamy three-minute sequence, we join the Creature’s POV under water as we watch Julia float over us. Hot stuff! We are with the “Gill Man” when Julia comes by on her stomach and the fishy humanoid below her turns on his back in a ballet of aquatic coupling. Did I get all of this when I was a kid? I certainly was there when, in another scene, a clawed arm comes out of the wetness to grab at Julia’s luscious leg.
It’s underwater, the Creature’s domain, where the id runs free. In contrast, the on-ship all-human relationship between David and Kay is completely flaccid. They peck at each other for a kiss. They giggle coyly because they plan to wed. I think every viewer worth his salt wants Kay dragged away by the turned-on Gill Man. Dream on! Such was impossible in a 1950s Hollywood film. It took until 2017 for Guillermo Del Toro to have an amphibian being and a woman race off together in the, alas, far less sexy The Shape of Water.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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