A look at CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
Whilst recently writing a review of the film (I’ll post a link when it’s published) it became apparent to me that there is a little more depth to this particular horror than perhaps it has been given credit for over the years. If you don’t know it, it’s one of Universal’s classic horrors, and was originally shown in 3D. (Oh, what I’d give to see it in 3D on the big screen. I hear that the BFI have a print…) Here’s the original trailer for the film.
Let us start by breaking down the horror aspect of these classic horrors. The monsters really represent our fear of an aspect of ourselves. With THE WOLFMAN, it’s our animal nature, with DRACULA it’s sexuality (obviously, amongst many other things), FRANKENSTEIN our fear of death. With each of these, the our regular safe boundaries have been broken, which creates the horror. So what does The Creature represent?
He hasn’t been created through careless science, nor is he trying to invade or attack. Indeed, it is humans that are invading HIS home, out in the deepest darkest Amazon. Maybe then, he represents our fear of nature, and how little we know about our own planet? He also lives underwater, which I believe is very significant. We know less about the deep underwater reaches of our planet, and less about the creatures that live down there. Visually, this creates a very strong divide between what we know and what we don’t. From our safety in the boat or on land, we cannot even see underwater. A metaphor, perhaps, for just how little we know? In the film, the underwater kingdom of the Black Lagoon is explored – or invaded – by our heroes. This is always when they are most at risk.
So what of the most startling and memorable scene in the film? The beautiful Julie Adams decides to take a swim and simply enjoy the lagoon. The Creature sees her, but only watches at first. Then he swims in parallel to her, mirroring her underwater. Finally he allows himself to briefly touch her ankles before swimming away and hiding. No killing, or mutilation. The reason that this scene stands out to me is because it is the only time that the two worlds meet and interact in a peaceful way, and it is on the surface of the lagoon, where the two worlds – the known and unknown – meet. Every time that this boundary is crossed, it results in horror, bloodshed or death.
What is the lesson, then? Perhaps the simple one that we cannot understand or control all the world, and that we should perhaps attempt to live in harmony with it? Or maybe that we can end up destroying the very thing that we’re attempting to understand? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the eventual defeat of The Creature as a perfect happy ending.