Creature from the Black Lagoon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Though a little iffy at times, this was usually an appealing presentation.
Overall sharpness seemed good, but exceptions occurred, as some shots felt a bit soft. A loss of definition during underwater photography became inevitable, but some “above-water” elements also lacked great delineation. Still, most of the movie provided nice accuracy.
The image lacked jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a fine layer of grain, I suspected no digital noise reduction, and print flaws stayed minor at worst.
Blacks looked dark and deep, while shadows were smooth and clear despite the use of “day for night” photography. HDR added impact to whites and contrast.
Due to the limitations of the source, I wouldn’t call this one of the best-looking Universal Monster Blu-rays. Nonetheless, it appeared to replicate the film about as well as I could hope.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it worked fine given the era of its origins. Speech remained a little thin but still appeared reasonably natural, without edginess or other issues.
Music showed pretty good range and punch, while effects came across as a bit lifeless but accurate and clean enough. The audio held up nicely over the last 60-plus years.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Audio seemed identical.
Visuals got a minor boost due to improved blacks, contrast and delineation – at times, at least. As occasionally occurs, the 4K revealed problems with the source more than the Blu-ray did, and that meant softness that seemed more apparent.
The nature of the original photography also limited upgrades. I thought the 4K offered a marginally superior image when compared to the Blu-ray, but don’t expect wonders.
Note that the included Blu-ray also presents the movie in its intended 3D version. In terms of picture quality, the 3D compared favorably with the 2D Blu-ray. Definition, blacks and clarity seemed similar for both versions.
As for the stereo imaging, the 3D could be inconsistent but fared nicely most of the time. Depth became the most erratic aspect of the image, partly because the movie used a lot of process shots. 3D foreground elements in front of a 2D backdrop didn’t allow for much dimensionality.
Entirely 3D shots worked better, and those added a nice layer of involvement. Though the inherent loss of definition in the underwater shots impacted the 3D, the way in which the aquatic creatures and elements floated around the screen added an appealing sense of place.
In the movie’s first act, we got a lot of “pop-out” elements, but those decreased as the story progressed. Nonetheless, the image used the 3D components in a satisfying manner, so it became the best way to watch the film.
That last statement remains true when I compared the 3D Blu-ray to the 4K as well. While the 4K offered modest visual improvements, the 3D offered the most engaging way to view the film.
As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Tom Weaver. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the project’s origins and development, story and characters, various drafts of the script and deleted scenes, sequels and influences, cast and crew, sets and locations, shooting the underwater scenes and technical elements, using 3D, and a few additional areas.
Weaver clearly works from prepared materials but he always makes his statements sound like they are being generated spontaneously. He's also not afraid to crack on the film's problems from time to time, though he never seems disrespectful.
Weaver comes locked and loaded, as he rarely takes a breath through this delightful commentary. I like most of the Universal Monsters tracks, but Weaver’s are arguably the best.
Next comes a circa 2000 documentary called Back to the Black Lagoon. Hosted by film historian David J. Skal, the 39-minute, 36-second program features interviews with creature connoisseur David J. Schow, science fiction illustrator/historian Vincent Di Fate, 3D Film Archives curator Bob Furmanek, film memorabilia collector Bob Burns, “Monstrous Movie Music” producer David Schecter, film historian Paul M. Jensen, and actors Ben Chapman, Julie Adams, Ricou Browning and Lori Nelson.
“Back” looks at precursors to Lagoon and its development as well as shooting 3D, cast and performances, creature design, score, and the film’s sequels. It becomes an efficient and enjoyable view of the Creature phenomenon.
Under Production Photographs, we get a running video montage of stills. It lasts a total of 11 minutes, 29 seconds and includes 114 images that mix promotional pics, stills from the set and advertisements.
It’s a good collection but it’s too bad Universal didn’t rescan the elements, as these remain the same quality seen on the 2000 DVD.
Within the Trailer Gallery, we find three clips. We get ads for Creature as well as sequels Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us.
With 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, we find a nine-minute, 27-second featurette that gives us comments from filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Peyton Reed, Ivan Reitman, Peter Berg, John Landis, Ron Howard, Michael Mann, Phil Alden Robinson, and John Carpenter, NBC Universal Archives and Collections director Jeff Pirtle, Universal Studios Hollywood tour guide Molly Orr, and actors Dan Aykroyd, Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep.
This one takes us around the Universal Studios locations and tells us a little about movies made there. What does any of this have to do with Creature? Very little.
Midway through a short discussion of Universal horror, we get a quick snippet from the film, but that’s it, as no one discusses the movie flick at all. Despite the featurette’s disconnect from Creature, it seems pretty fun. While it aims to promote the greatness that is Universal, it’s still light and likable.
Note that the included Blu-ray copy brings the same extras as the 4K – and the aforementioned 3D version of the film as well.
With Creature from the Black Lagoon, we get the final classic Universal monster. The movie differs from the more psychological chills of the earlier stories, but it nonetheless offers a fun tale that's effectively rendered. The 4K UHD provides largely good picture and audio along with some satisfying supplements. This turns into another nice Universal monsters Blu-ray, though the 3D remains the best way to watch the movie,
Note that as of January 2023, the 4K UHD version of Creature from the Black Lagoon appears only as part of a four-movie “Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection”. In addition to Bride, it also includes The Mummy (1932), The Bride of Frankenstein and The Phantom of the Opera (1943).
To rate this film, visit the prior review of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON