Plot: Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) is part of an expedition in the Amazon, to learn about the rich history of the area and see if he can uncover some long buried, insightful secrets. He discovers a fossil of an unusual hand, one that seems human in most ways, but is also webbed. When he shares the find with Dr. Reed (Richard Carlson), he is stunned and is determined to find the rest of the skeleton, as it is like nothing science has seen before. Reed and his girlfriend Kay (Julie Adams) soon lead a team to the Amazon and begin to search for the rest of the fossils, unaware they have stumbled into an area known as the Black Lagoon. While the team hopes to find relics of the past, a living creature lurks in the depths here and watches the humans with great interest. But when the creature begins to attack the team, Dr. Reed is driven to capture it alive, regardless of what it takes.
Entertainment Value: One of the original Universal Monsters movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon has remained a genre favorite for decades and inspired numerous films in both monster design and narrative elements. The story finds humans encroaching on the natural habitat of an unusual animal, who then defends himself from an initial attack, then goes after the entire expedition. So this isn’t the usual maniac or monster on the loose, but an animal pushed to defend itself and of course, the creature has a soft spot for the ladies. While it does have b movies vibes, this movie is competent on all fronts and has some memorable moments. The scenes where the creature stalks the humans, just out of their field is vision, are remarkable, especially the one where it swims just under Julie Adams. The underwater visuals are impressive, both in technical and artistic ways, so those segments never feel like a gimmick. While the scares are minimal, the visuals ensure the atmosphere is tense and the movie has aged well, so it doesn’t feel as campy as some of its peers.
The cast here is solid, with Antonio Moreno, Richard Carlson, and genre veteran Richard Denning, who provide capable efforts. The performances overall are good and not as campy as you might expected, which lends the movie a kind of seriousness similar movies couldn’t seem to find. As good as those gentlemen are, Julie Adams steals most of the scenes she is in here. She is radiant in this movie and just shines, with great screen presence and charisma. She commands the screen and her scenes with the creature have become iconic over the years. Inside the suit were Ricou Browning and Rex Chapman, switching depending on whether the creature was submerged or not. The design for the creature holds up insanely well and is still impressive work, not to mention one of the most iconic horror designs ever. A fun, brisk, and well crafted movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon is highly recommended.