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Recently, Hollywood box-office analysts have noted an
alarming drop-off in 3D revenue during new films’ opening weekend releases.
Whereas a year ago 3D made up 60 percent or more of opening weekend ticket
sales, the percentage has dropped to about half that number in current weeks.
Are audiences getting tired of the gimmick and paying the extra bucks for the
extra-viewing dimension? Or are the films themselves just not so special to
warrant the higher prices and to have a big piece of plastic sitting on the
bridge of your nose for two hours?
Well, to reinvigorate your love for 3D and see the format
done right, look no further than 1954’s classic monster flick CREATURE FROM THE
BLACK LAGOON, which begins a special one-week engagement (presented for the
first time since its initial launch in its original Polaroid 3D) at New York
City’s Film Forum (209 West Houston;  727-8110) from
October 12-18. With this gorgeous Universal Pictures restoration, CREATURE FROM
THE BLACK LAGOON has never looked better, and rarely has 3D been this
immersive, crisp and beautiful (especially the underwater scenes)—and all in
glorious black-and-white, no less!
Directed by studio contract man Jack Arnold, who a year
earlier helmed Universal’s previous sci-fi 3D hit IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE,
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON has inspired generations of monster kids since
its ’50s debut. Directors, FX artists and writers like Steven Spielberg (his JAWS
owes CREATURE a big debt), John Landis, Joe Dante, Frank Darabont, David J.
Schow, Greg Nicotero, Guillermo del Toro and Fango scribe Tom Weaver (whose
McFarland CREATURE trilogy filmbook will hopefully be out next year) have been
singing the film’s praises for decades. And what’s not to like? CREATURE FROM
THE BLACK LAGOON lives on as the quintessential creature feature to this day, a
simple but effective monster picture that still holds up and has not devolved
into unintentional camp like many other films of the period.
The setup couldn’t be simpler. After a fossilized Creature
claw is found near an Amazon river bank, an expedition sets out to track down
this evolutionary missing link between man and fish. The scientists onboard
include a “who’s who” of sci-fi film greats, such as IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE’s
rugged academic Richard Carlson; THE BLACK SCORPION’s Richard Denning; and I
WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF’s Whit Bissell. Plus, there’s the lovely Julie Adams,
who’s the center of the film’s unique love quadrangle. Yes, that’s right. Not
only are Carlson and Denning pining for the leggy Ms. Adams, but the
Devonian-age Gill Man flips for her after spying her sexy river swim. CREATURE
FROM THE BLACK LAGOON borrows a page from the KING KONG playbook here, with its
suggestion of the possibilities of interspecies romance (I never really bought
into that, though; my sister’s dog never fell for her cat). By the way,
octogenarian Adams is CREATURE’s only surviving cast member, outside of
unbilled underwater suit performer Ricou Browning. The cheerful actress still
keeps active on TV (several episodes of LOST) and on the convention circuit.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON’s relevancy today continues
due to its still-effective 3D; Arnold’s no-fuss direction; the great, bombastic
score by unnamed composers Henry Mancini (yes, the PINK PANTHER guy!), Hans J.
Salter and Herman Stein and its virile cast. But, of course, the main reason we
remember CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is its titular bipedal undersea
denizen, one of the greatest movie monsters of all time. Created by the design
and makeup team of Milicent Patrick, Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan, the Gill Man
stands tall as the perfect example of man-in-a-suit monster-making that blows
away the CGI imposters of today. He’s a believable living, breathing, walking
and swimming monster that immediately suspends our disbelief. You won’t spot
any zippers on the Creature’s back (hidden by the suit’s scales), but you can
notice bubbles coming from a hidden air hose that the performer sucked on
between takes in several shots.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON still tips the scales
(sorry!) as one of the best monster movies of all time. It’s inevitable that
Universal will remake CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON in the foreseeable future;
as a matter of fact, Landis, del Toro and even THE HUNGER GAMES’ Gary Ross, son
of original co-scripter Arthur A. Ross, have been attached to CREATURE updates
over the years. So now’s the chance to see the first CREATURE FROM THE BLACK
LAGOON (and, please, in 3D!) on the big screen before it gets a fresh coat of
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