Tuesday, October 30, 2018


by JB
Love is love.

In the last few years I have come to the conclusion that my favorite Universal Classic Monster is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This should surprise no one who knows me well or has ever been to my home. I hang Francesco Francavilla’s magnificent Mondo Creature poster above my 1990 Bally Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball machine. My office is festooned with Creature stuff: three action figures on my desk along with a 12” statue, a plastic bank on the Blu-ray shelf, a life-size black and white Creature head behind my chair so that he can watch over me and everything I say and do, and the magnificent 18” Sideshow Toys “Swimming Creature” across the room. On the walls proudly hang the Ghoulsville oversized Creature mask and my framed insert poster, signed by Julie Adams, Ben Chapman, and Ricou Browning. My car keys are attached to a Creature keychain.
The Plot in Brief: Dr. Maia (Antonio Moreno) discovers a fossilized claw at an expedition dig site. He contacts devil-may-care ichthyologist Dr. Reed (Richard Carlson) thinking he might be interested in the claw. Reed tells his fiancĂ©e Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) and boss Dr. Williams (Richard Denning) about the discovery. The three plan an expedition to the famed Black Lagoon to discover the claw’s mysterious origins.

The plucky group rent a boat, The Rita, from local character Lucas (Nestor Paiva), who has never bathed nor showered. They discover further proof that the Creature may still exist, and decide to poison the lagoon to flush him out. Before they can do this, Kay impetuously dives into the water, swims around lasciviously, and attracts the Creature, who falls instantly in love with her. This can only lead to tears…
My affection for the Creature flows like a mighty torrent of salt water tears, starting from my heart and brain, gushing forth to the tide-pool weigh station of my soul, and then rivering out to every tributary that can hold the frothing love of infinite and sublime Monster fandom. I love the noises that the Creature makes on land. I love how cool the Creature looks when he is set on fire. I love the magnificent three-note theme Henry Mancini wrote to herald the appearance of the Creature. I love the design of the Creature, originally drawn and sculpted by Millicent Patrick but later attributed to Bud Westmore, who was head of the Make-Up Department at Universal and who wrongfully hogged all the credit.

I love how often the original movie emphasizes that the Creature was simply minding his own business when some glory-seeking scientists invaded his turf, killed his food supply, polluted his environment, and then denied him the love of his life. Oh, I realize that the film’s narrative posits Richard Denning’s asshole scientist as the wrong choice for Julie Adams’ Kay and Richard Carlson’s cool, hip scientist as the right choice, but did Kay ever consider the Creature as the right choice? Sometimes loves breaks the rules, including the rule about whether or not human lungs will work under water.
Because of the blinkered Philistine pig-ignorant prohibitions against interspecies romance in the 1950s, this sort of thing was frowned upon and “simply not done”—but consider these facts:

• The Creature is the better swimmer.
• The Creature is the only character to literally sweep her off her feet.
• The Creature proved to be the better earner—Ben Chapman toured the fan convention circuit for years before his death, as both Julie Adams and Ricou Browning do to this day. I have seen boatloads of Creature merchandise in my life: masks, coffee mugs, t-shirts, party favors, dolls, statues, posters, candles, knives, and assorted decorations. Yet how much fucking Richard Carlson merch is there? I rest my case.

Kay Lawrence, you passed up your only chance for once and future love. I hope you sleep well.
Like many of the classic monsters that I champion, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is more a victim than a monster. The same can be said for the Wolf Man (Shakespearian tragic hero/doomed victim of a curse); Frankenstein (created and abandoned), the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Mummy (Just looking for second chances with their best gals); and the Invisible Man (blinded by scientific ambition and drug addiction issues). If someone came to my house uninvited, stole my food, drank all of my Monster energy drink, smoked smelly cigars, and shat on my rug, I would be justifiably miffed.

Because of my early love for both Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, it has only recently come to my attention that, in the world of fandom, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is, fins down, the most popular Universal monster. It’s no wonder: the movie is a delight—fast-paced, with lots of scares and a terrific monster that’s onscreen a LOT, plus the best 3D of any ’50s horror film. Those are surely some of the reasons why I’ve seen appreciably more merchandise, more tattoos, and more rabid fans. We are a small army of land-dwellers, longing to return to the sea.
Given my love of all things Creature, it should come as no great surprise that I ordered the recent Creature Complete Legacy Blu-ray set on August 21, 2018 in anticipation of its release date, August 28, 2018. I ordered this set even though I had previously purchased the main feature, Creature from the Black Lagoon, twice on VHS, once on laserdisc, three separate times on DVD, and twice on Blu-ray disc. (I think somewhere along the line I might have ordered it on flipbook too.) As I believe I mentioned earlier, I love Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Because of a manufacturing error, Universal must replace the set’s Revenge of the Creature Blu-ray disc. The studio originally promised to have this replacement in consumers’ hands by Halloween. Three separate e-mails to Universal Customer Service later, I discover the replacement discs will barely be in our hands by Christmas. Clearly, Universal Studios hates Creature fans, though the e-mail I received from them stresses “[their] goal is to always deliver the best possible product to our consumers.”
Clearly, I love Creature from the Black Lagoon so much that I am allowing myself to continue in an abusive relationship with Universal Studios. Creature, your folks may be against us… but I love you too much to quit you.

Blub blub blub blub
Glug glug
Gurgle gurgle blurp
Blurble blarble blurble
Glug glug… blurp blurp blurp blurp…


  1. You're not kidding about the 3D in "Creature" being the best. I've seen some 3D movies from the 1950's upgraded to current 3D standards ("Inferno," "Kiss Me Kate," "Miss Sadie Thompson," "Second Chance," etc.) and, despite being B&W, "Creature's" 3D transfer (both in theaters and the Blu-ray 3D) tops them all by a fair margin. I've only seen the movie in 3D, so to me it'd be blasphemy to see the film in 2D. :-)

  2. Great piece! Despite being a fan of the Universal Monsters since I was very, very young, I didn't come to love the Creature till adulthood. I was blown away by how great it is on my first rewatch in decades. Amazing film.

  3. I always thought of the creature from the black lagoon as the most tactile of the Universal Monsters. I can relate to all of them in a way, which obviously is the point, but the grace of the creature in the water and the awkwardness of it on land hit me hard. It's also the only Universal Monster without a proper name. I mean, it's not like we say "Dracula from the Transylvania".

  4. I'm now convinced JB and I are related.