'Creature From the Black Lagoon': THR's 1954 Review

Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954 Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Photofest

Creature from the Black Lagoon 

A "good piece of science-fiction of the beauty and the beast school, the beast in this case being a monstrous combination of man and fish"

On Feb. 24, 1954, Universal's 79-minute monster thriller Creature From the Black Lagoon opened at the Vogue and Ritz theaters in Los Angeles. The Hollywood Reporter's review, originally headlined, "Black Lagoon Diverting Science-Fiction Meller," is below:

Creature From the Black Lagoon is a good piece of science-fiction of the beauty and the beast school, the beast in this case being a monstrous combination of man and fish. It makes for solid horror-thrill entertainment.

Story starts when scientist Antonio Moreno discovers a huge web-fingered skeleton hand along the Amazon River. When he reports his find an expedition is organized to locate the rest of the skeleton. Among the scientists are Julia Adams, the beauty of the yarn, Richard Carlson, Whit Bissell and Richard Denning, the latter a publicity seeking character who, when he sees the fishman after it has killed several of the helpers, is determined to bring it back. They capture it once, but it escapes after almost killing Bissell. Over Denning's objections the others decide to return for help, but the monster has blocked the exit from the lagoon, seeking revenge for the attack upon him and having designs on Miss Adams. It kills Denning and grabs the girl, being tracked down to its eerie hiding place where it is fatally wounded.

Screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross, from a story by Maurice Zimm, is soundly developed, leading to an exciting climax. Jack Arnold's megging is briskly competent, although too much time is wasted on underwater shots which are neither novel or dramatic enough to hold interest for the entire footage. Pruning here would help.

Lovely Julia Adams, finally out of the crinoline costumes, reveals a gorgeous pair of gams in a swimming sequence and turns in her customary fine performance. Richard Carlson, who seems to appear in most of the good science-fiction pictures, is convincing as the male lead, and Richard Denning is strong as the commercial-minded head of the expedition. Nestor Paiva contributes an excellent stint as the skipper of the river boat, and Antonio Moreno and Whit Bissell handle their roles capably.

The William Alland production was shot in black-and-white 3-D, the process adding some small value to the underwater shots which don't make up for the eyestrain. William E. Snyder's photography is good. Underwater sequences were ably directed by James C. Havens. — Milton Luban, originally published on Feb. 9, 1954.