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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jack Arnold
Cast:
Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning
Writing Credits:
Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross

Synopsis:
A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
French DTS Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 80 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/4/13

Bonus:
• Both 2D and 3D Versions
• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver
• “Back to the Black Lagoon" Documentary
• Production Photographs
• Trailer Gallery
• “100 Years of Universal: The Lot” Featurette


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RELATED REVIEWS


Creature from the Black Lagoon [Blu-Ray/Blu-Ray 3D] (1954)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 1, 2018)

For our first adventure with a classic “Universal monster”, we go to 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon. Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) locates a bizarre, fossilized claw in the Amazon.

With this evidence of an unknown beast in tow, Dr. Maia recruits a team to investigate. Along with Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend/assistant Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), the team heads to the remote jungle, a location where they locate a prehistoric aquatic “Gill-Man”.

By my definition, Creature exists as the only one of Universal's eight "Classic Monster Collection" films to really feature a monster. Granted, this interpretation defends on how one defines the word "monster", but I look at it from this point of view: each of the other seven movies stars a "monster" with human origins.

Most of them feature men who become transformed through various forces into something not human. In this category fall the Mummy, Dracula, and the Wolf Man.

We also find men affected by something external that essentially makes them go nuts, and their insanity becomes the villain. The Phantom of the Opera and the Invisible Man fit this bill.

Finally, we get the odd cases of both Frankenstein's monster and his Bride. One could call them monsters in the classic sense, but since both were cobbled together from bits and pieces of humans, these creatures were created, not born.

Such is not the case for the titular critter in Creature. He's always been a freaky gill-man and he represents an entirely new species, unlike the others in the "Monster" films.

I have the feeling this change in focus represented the different societal attitudes in the 1950s. Whereas folks in the 1930s and 1940s felt more affected by war and negative changes to regular citizens, the people of the paranoid 1950s worried about alien threats from organisms not like them.

That's why so many of the era's horror movies went for the outrageous monsters like giant ants or extraterrestrial beings. The Creature in this film fits nicely into that mold, especially because - unlike the monsters of the preceding two decades - he features few sympathetic qualities.

Even at their most horrible, the terrors of the other movies remained essentially sad to us, largely because of their human qualities. Most had tragic flaws that made us care about them to a degree.

That's not really the case with the Creature. Although we probably should sympathize with him - after all, he's the one whose territory has been invaded and who has to fend off unwanted attention - he displays too many unnecessarily violent tendencies for the audience to truly care about him.

For example, when some scouts reside in a camp near the lagoon, he attacks them although they don't seem to have done anything especially intrusive. Technically he defends his turf, but he appears awfully aggressive in these actions.

This point also gets driven home by the fact Gill-Man offers one of the hornier monsters we've seen. Once he gets a look at sexy Kay (Julie Adams), he wants some of that hot young action and he comes after her full force! There's more of your 1950s attitude, in which everyone worried these alien threats would "defile" their women.

Gill-Man doesn't get that lucky, but he does cause a lot of havoc, all of which makes Creature a surprisingly entertaining little movie. Much of the fun stems from the relentless nature of the Creature's attacks.

As with the shark in Jaws, this dude just won't quit until he gets what he wants. After a while, it's unclear if he desires a) the death and destruction of these interlopers or b) some of that sweet Kay action or c) both of the above, but it's a lot of fun to watch Gilly go through his motions.

Actually, the comparison to Jaws seems applicable for a number of reasons, as I find the two movies surprisingly similar. No, I don't think Steven Spielberg overtly ripped off Creature, nor do I believe that his classic is a clone of this earlier picture. I find a number of moments that gave me serious cases of déjà vu.

For one, we have some underwater photography that shows Gilly as he swims beneath Kay and stalks her. These shots look an awful lot like Jaws' opening sequence, so much that I kept waiting to see Kay jerked underwater and start to hyperventilate.

A lot of the scenes aboard the boat remind me of bits from Jaws as well, especially as the ship starts to break down due to Gilly's interventions. Gilly's three-note theme isn't tremendously similar to the shark's, but they both are basic and repeat frequently.

Frankly, the quality of Creature doesn't compare with that of Jaws, as the latter is one of the greatest movies ever made, whereas the former is simply an above-average thriller. However, I do really enjoy Creature, mainly due to the effective "pursuit" scenes. As with Jaws, the hunted becomes the hunter in Creature and Gilly's attacks seem relentless.

It's during those scenes that Creature really comes to life. The movie drags a bit during its first half, mainly because Gilly doesn't do a whole lot.

The film sets up Gilly’s existence but he takes little action, and the human characters feel far too dull and drab to entertain us. But once Gilly gets riled up, the fun begins in earnest and we're treated to a terrific thrill ride.

Creature from the Black Lagoon periodically threatens to become typical 1950s-era horror cheese. However, it always avoids this fate and remains a compelling little flick.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Creature from the Black Lagoon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray 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. I saw a thin line during the “birth of the world” segment and a couple of small specks but nothing more.

Blacks looked dark and deep, while shadows were smooth and clear despite the use of “day for night” photography. I wouldn’t call this one of the best-looking Universal Monster Blu-rays, but it still seemed solid.

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 Blu-ray compare to the original 2000 DVD? Audio showed superior accuracy and clarity, while visuals were tighter, cleaner and more film-like. This became a solid step up in quality over the mediocre DVD.

This Blu-ray includes both the film’s 2D and 3D versions. The picture comments above reflected the 2D edition – how did the 3D compare?

In terms of quality, the 3D compared favorably with the 2D. 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.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and 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, 40-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, 25-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.

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 Blu-ray provides largely good picture and audio along with some satisfying supplements. This turns into another nice Universal monsters Blu-ray.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main