Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

In this classic Universal horror film by director Jack Arnold, it was originally shot in 3-D, and was the last great prototypical classic from Universal Studios; in the pantheon of Universal Monsters, only The Creature was given the 3D treatment. Special effects effectively used a foam-latex costume suit to represent the amphibious creature called the Gill-Man - one of the most famous movie monsters ever created. Director Guillermo del Toro years later used the movie as inspiration for his Best Picture-winning The Shape of Water (2017):

  • the campy film began with a voice-over from a narrator (Art Gilmore) reading from the Biblical book of Genesis: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void"; the narration continued with a lengthy description of the Creation: "This the planet Earth, newly born and and cooling rapidly from a temperature 6,000 degrees to a few hundred in less than 5 billion years..."
  • with the startling discovery in an upper Amazonian jungle in Brazil of a fossilized claw or hand (with webbed fingers) embedded in rock by Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moren) - it provided evidence of an unusual, prehistoric, amphibious web-handed and footed humanoid-reptile; the discovery might prove that a strong, prehistoric creature existed that linked sea and land animals
  • not visible to the scientist, a similar-looking webbed hand emerged from the river bank and then slid back into the water after leaving claw marks
  • [Note: In the film, every time the aggressive 'Creature' appeared in some shape or form, its entry was signaled or cued by the film's recognizable theme music. It was estimated that the theme music was played over 130 times throughout the film.]
  • on his way to the Institute of Maritime Biology at Morajo Bay in Brazil, Dr. Maia met with another scientist, ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), who was studying specimens of lung-fish; Reed was one of Dr. Maia's previous students; Reed was accompanied by his dark-haired girlfriend-fiancee and research colleague Kay Lawrence (Julia Adams)
Dr. Reed, Kay, and Dr. Maia
  • Dr. Maia showed a picture of a fossilized, web-fingered claw-hand to Dr. Reed (possibly a million years old found in limestone deposits dating back to the Devonian age) - great interest was generated to find the remainder of the skeletal fossil - possibly another example of the 'amphibious' adaptive link between sea and land animals
  • meanwhile, back in the Amazon jungle campsite, Dr. Maia's two local assistants, Tomas (Perry Lopez) and Luis (Rodd Redwing), were suddenly attacked by a humanoid creature (first seen as a disembodied claw reaching out of the water and then into their tent) - a descendant of the fossil species; both men were grabbed by the claw in the face and killed amidst ferocious growls

Gill-Man Creature's Claw-Hand Reaching into Tent

Murder of Tomas

Murder of Luis
Dr. Maia's Two Campsite Assistants, Tomas and Luis
  • an anthropological expeditionary group was organized by Dr. Maia and funded by Reed's boss Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning); they journeyed to a Brazilian river in the Amazon on board the Rita; Williams and Maia were accompanied by Reed, Kay, and scientist Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell). Others included Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva) and two crew members Zee (Bernie Gozier) and Chico (Henry Escalante)

Expedition on the Rita

Main Expedition Members (l to r): Williams, Maia, Kay, Reed

At the Destroyed Campsite, A Clawed Hand Reached Out for Kay's Legs
  • once the group arrived at Dr. Maia's campsite, they discovered the destroyed campsite and the two dead assistants; it was presumed that a jaguar had attacked them with its claws; as Kay stood by the water's edge, a clawed hand reached out for her legs, but was unable to grab her
  • [Note: there were two individuals who played the Creature of the film's title, and because of their differing heights, two different costumes (full-bodied monster suits and masks) were created.]

Creature on Land (stuntman Ben Chapman)

Creature Underwater - (professional diver and water showman Ricou Browning)
  • after eight days of not discovering any more fossils, it was theorized by Dr. Reed that more remains or a descendant of the original fossilized creature, a Gill-Man (Ben Chapman), might have washed downstream and possibly was located in a dark unexplored lagoon known as the "Black Lagoon"; Captain Lucas warned: "I can tell you something about this place. My boys call it 'The Black Lagoon' - a paradise. Only they say, nobody has ever come back to prove it," followed by a laugh
  • the six-month romance between Dr. Reed and Kay continued - they kissed on board, and discussed plans for a possible marriage and lifetime together, while the Rita voyaged further to the Black Lagoon; a net was lowered into the water
  • two of the expedition members, Reed and Williams went scuba diving (with aqua-lungs) into the dark water to investigate and gather some rock samples to measure their age with uranium-lead test - unaware that they were being stalked and watched by the Gill-Man
  • after the divers returned and were studying the rock samples below deck, Kay took an impromptu swim by herself - in a stunning one-piece white bathing suit; in scary and superbly-photographed underwater sequences after she dove in, as she swam at the surface, the Creature expressed 'Beauty-and-the-Beast' love interest in the bathing beauty - stalking and watching her from below as she swam above him; he even appeared to mirror or mimic her movements
Film's Most Memorable Scene - "Beauty and Beast" Underwater Stalking
  • after Kay's swim and she was safely back onboard, the Creature was briefly caught in the ship's dragline net; although it escaped, it left a huge tear in the net and part of its claw, proving its existence; Kay expressed dismay when she realized that she had possibly been swimming near the Creature
  • the expedition's two divers, Reed and Williams, again went underwater to photograph the humanoid-like Creature; Williams argued that they should harpoon the Creature with a spear-gun, but Reed favored only studying the Creature; while underwater, Williams was able to harpoon it with the spear-gun, but the wounded Creature escaped, although Reed thought they had captured a photograph
The Creature - Pursued and Speared Underwater With a Spear- Gun
  • once back on board while developing the photograph's negative, Lucas mentioned the rumored legend of the underwater Gill-Man: "Many years ago, I hear this legend on the river. A very old native tell me of a man who live underwater, but she was crazy"; the sole photograph turned up blank
  • meanwhile, the Creature climbed onboard and attacked crew member Chico on the deck of the Rita; Zee claimed that his brother Chico was grabbed and dragged underwater "by a demon"; Lucas now reiterated his belief in the legend: "There are many strange legends in the Amazon. Even I - Lucas - have heard the legend of a man-fish"
  • Lucas suggested a plan to catch the Creature alive by spreading a poison (Rotenone) over the water's surface to paralyze any underwater fish and float them to the surface - but the technique failed to affect the Creature, even after sinking the poison deeper
  • later that evening, during the Creature's attempt to climb into the boat, it was scared off by the light of a hanging lantern on the deck and swam away; its full figure was revealed by the light of a spotlight as it emerged from the water onto land; Reed and Williams pursued the Creature by swimming toward its last known location and following it into a hidden cave grotto; they followed its footprints as it evaded them

Creature Attempting to Climb Onboard

Creature Disturbed by a Lantern

Captured in Spotlight As It Emerged From Water
  • the two caught up to the Creature as it made an attempt to grab Kay, who was sitting on the bank of the lagoon next to a palm tree, awaiting their return; when Zee attempted to rescue her from the Creature's attack, he was killed; fortunately, the Creature collapsed from the effects of the poison, was netted and captured, and caged up onboard the Rita in a makeshift cage
  • shortly later, as Reed and Williams returned to the lagoon's grotto to conduct more research, Dr. Thompson was left on board with Kay to guard the Creature; it escaped and attacked and seriously wounded Thompson when he hit the Creature with a lantern and set it on fire; the Creature dove into the water to extinguish the flames
  • after four men had died (Tomas, Luis, Chico, and Zee) and bandaged Dr. Thompson was ailing, Dr. Reed was ready to call off the expedition, but Dr. Williams insisted on staying to get the Gill-Man: "We're staying to get him!"; Captain Lucas overruled him (after pulling out a knife) and insisted on leaving immediately; as they were departing, they realized that their exit-way had been deliberately blocked with logs and branches (it was likely that the Creature was trying to entrap them); Williams was still obsessed with capturing or wounding "the biggest find ever" to impress the world with his discovery
  • after again arguing and slugging each other, Reed and Williams both went underwater - but separately; as Reed tried to clear the blocked passage again, Williams approached with the spear-gun and hit the Gill-Man in the abdomen; Reed watched from nearby as the Creature dragged Williams down and mauled him to death; afterwards, Reed scared the Gill-Man off
  • another vain attempt was made to make the Creature groggy with Rotenone, to keep it away while the blockade was cleared; while mixing the solution, the Creature was able to climb on board and reach in through a porthole in an attempt to attack the bandaged and ailing Dr. Thompson

Clawed Hand Reaching Into Porthole to Grab Dr. Thompson

Kay Grabbed and Kidnapped

Kay Taken to the Creature's Grotto
  • after Dr. Reed had injected the solution in the water, and was able to spray the Creature numerous times with the paralyzing substance, he was able to place a winch around the snagged branches to remove them; as the crew was distracted while working to clear the blockade, suddenly, Kay was grabbed and kidnapped from the boat; the Creature dove back into the water with her and took her to its swampy cave or grotto hidden by the bank
  • Dr. Reed with a spear-gun came to Kay's rescue; as the Creature was attacking Dr. Reed and Kay was cowering nearby, it was shot with bullets (by Dr. Maia and Captain Lucas) and severely injured in the chest with multiple bullet wounds; Dr. Reed allowed the Creature to retreat back to the lagoon's beach ("Let him go") where it swam off, disappeared, and sank lifelessly back into the deep watery depths of the lagoon

Creature Shot With Multiple Bullets

Watching the Creature Retreat

The Creature's Demise in the Lagoon?

Dr. Maia's Discovery of a Fossilized Claw in Rock

With Dramatic Music, a Claw Emerged on River Bank - Similar to the Fossil

Picture of Fossilized Claw-Hand

The Amazing Fossil Find - A Web-Fingered Claw-Hand

Kay's Romance with Dr. Reed During Trip From the Campsite to the Black Lagoon

Creature Underwater in the Black Lagoon - Watching and Stalking the Two Divers

Kay Preparing to Swim in the Black Lagoon

A Huge Tear in the Net

After Kay's Swim, A Claw Was Found in the Torn Net

Kay Disturbed by the Finding of the Claw

Creature Attacking Crew Member Chico on Deck of the Rita

Attempted Assault on Kay by the Creature

The Creature - Caged Onboard the Rita

Attack of the Escaped Creature on Dr. Thompson and Kay

Creature Set on Fire During Attack on Dr. Thompson

Black Lagoon Exit Deliberately Blockaded by the Creature

Dr. Williams Mauled to Death Underwater

In the Grotto: Kay Was Rescued by Dr. Reed

Kay Cowering as Dr. Reed Was Grabbed


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