Category Archives: Films Released in 1954
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON-United States-1954
Screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross
I loved “Creature from the Black Lagoon” when I was a kid and it would air on Shock Theater on Saturday afternoons. Any movie about a mysterious gill man was bound to be a hit in this young boy’s opinion. Re-watching the film for this review, I found that I still love the film; but there are things that my adult mind caught that my kid’s mind didn’t. The film is still good, but it definitely leaves a lot to be desired. Here are a few examples:
The film is a showcase for macho actors to say macho things and argue with each other in macho tones.
The two male leads, Richard Carlson and Richard Dennings, argue worse than an old married couple. I know that there is animosity between the two of them over the only girl in the entire film (Julia Adams), but these two Dicks act like more like Janes. Don’t shoot me, ladies; I just call it like I see it.
Speaking of the only female in the film, why is she even there in the first place? She serves no purpose and spends half the movie screaming and the other half turning away from whatever she’s screaming at.
As for the Creature itself, they refer to it as a ‘he’. Are you sure? Did you see a little Creature penis dangling from between its legs? Wouldn’t it have been more proper to refer to it as ‘it’?
At the end, when the men are shooting at the Creature and Richard Carlson’s characters tells them to stop he may as well have been saying “We can get two sequels out of him if we want.” But that’s just me.
Don’t get me wrong; I love this movie. When I was a kid I thought it was perfect. It’s definitely not, but I still love it anyway.
Ricou Browning, a professional diver and swimmer, was required to hold his breath for up to 4 minutes at a time for his underwater role as the “Gill Man.” The director’s logic was that the air would have to travel through the monster’s gills and thus not reveal air bubbles from his mouth or nose. Thus, the costume was designed without an air tank. In the subsequent films, this detail was ignored and air can be seen emanating from the top of the creature’s head.
When William Alland was a member of Orson Welles‘ Mercury Theatre, he heard famed Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa tell of a legend about a humanoid creature that supposedly lived in South America. That legend became the origin of this film.
The physical appearance of the Creature was modeled after a likeness of the Oscar, the figurine awarded annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Ingmar Bergman watched this film every day on his birthday.
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Directed by Ishiro Honda
Written by Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata
Story by Shigeru Kayama
Akira Takarada as Hideto Ogata
Momoko Kochi as Emiko Yamane
Akihiko Hirata as Daisuke Serizawa-hakase
In 1954, only nine years after the bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar dropped the first weapons of mass atomic destruction on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a similar force of devastation was unleashed on Japanese movie-goers. It’s name was Gojira, and it would become the poster child of the atomic age.
As Gojira cuts a path of destruction across Tokyo, people were reminiscent of those horrible days merely nine years passed. Scenes of scores of victims either dead or dying from radiation burns recalled horrific images of their loved ones as they suffered in all too real fashion in 1945. Japanese schoolchildren can be heard singing a song that pleads for peace. But peace does not come. There is only Gojira.
Gojira is a masterpiece of film making that arguably deserves a spot right alongside the great films of Akira Kurosawa. Without this landmark film and it’s monster as metaphor for mass destruction, there would be no Cloverfield with its own brutal reminder of September 11, 2001. Both films feature a creature that literally appears out of nowhere to wreak havoc on a sleepy unsuspecting city. Both films were also released at a time that they reflected real life tragedies. Gojira has an established place in movie history. Time will tell if the same will be true for Cloverfield.
Gojira is a combination of the words gorira, meaning gorilla; and kujira, meaning whale.
The name means ‘ape-whale’. Director Ishiro Honda never helmed anything that was even remotely close to the achievement of this film. It would be released to American audiences in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Scenes of Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin narrating the destruction of Tokyo from his hotel room window were added in. Nearly 40 minutes of footage were taken out of the film. This was done with good intentions. Americans did not want to be reminded of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The less Japanese faces they saw on their movie screens, the better. It’s a shame. The excised footage kills the momentum of the film and makes it into just another man in a monster suit movie. But the original cut of Gojira is much more than that. 28 films later, the monster has become a pop-culture icon and synonymous with destruction and devastation. Gojira is a masterwork and deservedly so.