Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Movies: Mermaid from the Black Lagoon?

Mermaid Heather, long-time ANTSS supporter and one of the folks who inspired this very blog you are reading, is celebrating her fifth year of blogging with guest posts about film favorites. She graciously invited me to join in so I sent in some thoughts on my personal fave: The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It starts a little something like this:

The Creature is, unabashedly, my favorite of all the old Universal monsters. This is why I've never actually written a review my favorite horror film, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, before. And, honestly, I don't think I can do it now. You can't review something you love. That would be like giving a clear-eyed critique of your lover's sexual chops while you're both still in the afterglow. (If you think that's a good idea, try it and see.) So this is less a review than a tribute - which is appropriate since this whole shebang is a tribute to another horror-centric amphibian: Mermaid Heather. So, with her kind permission and your patience, let's talk Creature.

Of all the classic marquee-grade monsters in Universal stable, two of them are notable in that they never receive a name. Though he's often erroneously called by his creator's name, Frankenstein's tormented creation is never named. The other nameless horror is the man fish creature at the center of the Black Lagoon franchise. Unlike Dracula or Larry Talbot or Imhotep, these two characters remain "the Monster" and "the Creature."

Curiously, these also happen to be the two monsters whose backstories are scientific rather than supernatural. Though there's a notable distinction between the two. The Monster, of course, is a product of Frankenstein's mad science. He's a freakish thing, an affront the natural order, a rip in the sense of the world brought into being through an act of supreme will and profound hubris. In this, Frankenstein's monster most resembles a work of art. He's a unique imposition of man's will onto the raw material of nature that, once created, takes on a life of its own.

The Creature, on the other hand, is unique in the Universal pantheon in that he (and everybody assumes the Creature is a he) is not a freak of nature. Richard Carlson, doing his heroic-square bit in the role of Dr. David Reed, repeatedly mentions that the Creature is a logical result of evolution. The isolated, Edenic lagoon of the title is, the good doctor tells us, "its natural habitat." When skeptical Dr. Thompson and the jovial, yet curiously sinister, guide Lucas express doubt as to the existence of the Creature - even after two other doctors on the expedition claim to have seen it - the nay-sayers are given a lecture by Kay, the expedition’s resident hottie and fashion plate, on the amazing diversity of amphibious life. The impossible, Kay suggests, is just the real we haven't discovered yet. The Creature is, in an odd way, the anti-uncanny. Instead of "what should never be," the strange and mysterious Creature is: He's as he should be, in his natural home.

The rest is o Heather's site. Go check it out.


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The Warfreak said...

Good stuff. Loves me some Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well. Probably one of the first horror flicks I ever saw.

Sasquatchan said...

oohh blog comment spam. Yuk.

Hey, did she win the award you were busking for ?

Heather Santrous said...

Sas: I was waiting to see if CRwM might answer, but I will go ahead and do so. I did not win the award/contest that CRwM was so nice to campain for me. I didn't even come close to winning, but I did get more votes than I expected and doubled the number of followers I had before the contest started. So to me, I did win after all.

CRwM said...


I was hesitant to answer because I'm a little embarrassed that I asked Heather to participate. It turned in a bit of a horror blog controversy (though a horror blog controversy is as close as you'll ever get to the Platonic Ideal of a tempest in teapot). Still, as Heather points out, all's well that ends well. New fans have figured out what ANTSS has always known: Her blog is a blast. And that's a good thing.

Also, now I get to grumble that I was pro-Mermaid before it was cool. That's bonus.