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The One-Line Summary: After geologists working in the Amazon discover what appears to be a fossilized skeletal hand with webbed fingers, evidence suggests it might be a link between man and sea, so a new expedition is organized, including weathered old riverboat Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva), scientists Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell), Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning), Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) to meet up with a research team and collect the remainder of the specimen, not knowing that lurking in the tepid waters below is a beast turned violent.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Jack Arnold, and based a real legend of half-man/ half-fish monsters in the Amazon River, Creature from the Black Lagoon features some impressive sets and special effects, given the era, and while its story of a misunderstood monster that kills in self-defense while enamored with a beautiful woman is not new, the movie has a certain charm that keeps it so well beloved. The gorgeous black & white cinematography gives the underwater scenes an especially looming sense of dread and the creature is wonderfully designed, inspiring two sequels and a reboot that has been in the works since the early 1980s and is still in negotiations with several directors and stars (including Scarlett Johansson) coming and going as it continually is canceled and revived to this day.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is about curiosity and begins well before the main cast arrives as the creature encounters the first research team and approaches their campsite and surprises them, causing them to attack, which only sends the “Gill-Man” into a rage where it kills the assistants. The creature’s impression of man is one of violence and it responds in kind and then retreats, leaving the arriving Dr. Maia and his crew unsure as to who killed their advance team. The scientists suspect an animal mauled the researchers but aren’t entirely convinced, but continue on without them, deducing that the remainder of the missing fish-man skeleton might have washed downriver into the titular “Black Lagoon,” a fabled paradise off the river that legend says is a place from where no man has ever returned, a risk they think is worth taking.
The Four-Line Moment: The lagoon proves to be a lush and inviting haven and they are enthralled by its beauty, unaware that beneath them, the Gill-Man is watching, taken by the curvaceous and alluring Kay. The men dive the lagoon in search of evidence and upon their return, Kay dons a striking white bathing suit and has a turn in the calm and welcoming water, diving in and gently swimming away from the boat. Under her, but not seen, the creature follows, hiding among the swaying reads and weeds, utterly enamored with the lithe and graceful figure on the surface. In a delicate and touching moment, we see the humanity in the creature, never wanting to harm the beautiful Kay, even frightened to touch her, but hopelessly curious just the same, giving the audience a mixed rush of fear and compassion as to just what it intends to do.
The Five-Word Review: Perhaps a remake isn’t necessary.