The Creature from the Black Lagoon
C. Martinus

Rollover Timeline

     The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a monster because he is a proto-human, an evolutionary dead-end estranged from his land-based antecedents. The gill-man's physical strength and his kinship to his surroundings threaten the comfort of the dominant species. Furthermore, he threatens to break social boundaries and resists the intrusion of progress. Ultimately, the Creature is incompatible with the modern, tool-using man, and he sinks-defeated-to the dark depths of the past.
  The movie posters (move the mouse over the image to reveal the poster for the sequel) tell us something about how the film was marketed to attract audiences. Notice the gill-man's bared teeth. He appears threatening in the picture, yet in the film, he does not act violently towards Kay. In the second poster, the Creature appears stronger. He is holding the woman with one arm while the useless chain swings beneath her, creating the illusion that she is bound to him.
     Universal seems to play up the sexual angle of the story by displaying women prominantely in both posters. However, notice the contrast between Kay's pure white swimsuit and Helen's flaming red gown. Furthermore, Kay is screaming and actively resisting the monster, while Helen has either been overcome or has surrendered willingly to the gill-man. Perhaps this reflects the Creature's lost innocence from one film to the next. Or perhaps it is simply an attempt to lure more men into the theaters...
Taboos and Fears

     "You know the feeling when you are swimming and something brushes your legs down below--it scares the hell out of you if you don't know what it is. It's the fear of the unknown. So I decided to exploit this fear as much as possible in filming Creature from the Black Lagoon."
                                     --Jack Arnold, director and co-writer (Brosnan, 92)

      The gill-man, like King Kong, threatens society's relationship boundaries. The Creature shows distinct interest in the female member of the expedition, Kay. At first, he is a bashful observer of the woman's playful swimming and he demonstrates empathy through mimicry (Jancovich, 179). As long as distance is maintained, there is harmony among the characters. However, when the gill-man ventures into Kay's air-filled world, her reaction to his appearance is surprise (vocalized as a scream). The peace is shattered and the men are spurred into violent action. Society, represented by the men of the expedition, cannot abide by the Creature's attention to Kay. When he finally closes the gap between Kay and himself, taking her away from the men who dismantle the earth's crust and threaten his independence, a showdown occurs between the gill-man and David, her other suitor. With help from rifle-toting comrades, David claims Kay for himself. He then asserts his dominance by permitting the gill-man to return, broken, to the water. The pairing of unlike characters is not tolerated, and the taboo against intimacy between individuals of different race, class, or-as in this case-species is reinforced.
      The gill-man is an evolutionary adolescent, caught between the aquatic childhood of primordial life and the terrestrial adulthood of modern humanity (181). He is shown at the left emerging from the water, like a pioneering species millions of years ago. For eons he has lived undisturbed but by a few errant natives who created legends to preserve their existence and insulate his world. As modern scientists encroach upon his Lagoon, the Creature fights to defend his home (178). The more he struggles to maintain the sanctity of his Lagoon; the more fear is conjured up in the scientists. The expeditionists confront their fear with the tools of evolved man. The mature male figures in the film are rational scientists, dependent on reason and intent on fulfilling goals. They analyze, plan, and prepare their tools while the Creature watches and reacts. When the Creature does enact a plan (using Kay as bait to draw rival David into the open), he is rendered powerless in a world he in which he does not belong. The gill-man finds himself in a rivalry for a woman as a mate, requiring strategies to achieve his goals. These qualities are associated with the humans that have evolved and do not fit the gill-man's natural profile. By playing by modern rules, the ancient Creature forfeits his innocence and his existence. Therefore, the Creature's resistance to evolution was tragically futile.