Ben Chapman sets us as The Gill Man in “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954). Unknown photographer.
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Universal Studios and director Jack Arnold gave moviegoers a new form of horror when Creature from the Black Lagoon was released in 1954. Marketing for the film was very unique because it catered towards a new experience of the movie theater, 3-D. Despite already being used in many other horror films of the 50s, Creature was a much more valuable candidate because of its release through Universal Studios.
Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) – USA Poster
But the most marketed aspect of the film was the very appealing Julie Adams, the woman whom the Creature desperately falls in love with. Many of the promotional images of the film show the Creature and Julie Adams character (Kay) together in an almost submissive and dominant manner. The most famous of these images shows Julie Adams sitting at the feet of the Creature while he is looking down at her after she is kidnapped and taken to his lair.
Interestingly enough, the sexual connotations expand far beyond this image and into the actual film itself.
Once the team of scientists set out deeper into the Lagoon to search for what they think might be a rather large fish, Kay decides to swim without really considering the possible dangers of the water. The oldest and most experienced scientist spots her out in the distance and yells from the boat, “Kay! You are out too far! Come back!” She doesn’t hear his warning and continues to swim.
The viewer sees her mature figure wearing a rather revealing white bathing suit that is much too provocative for the time. The camera cuts beneath her and a point of view shot from the Creature’s eyes shows her body from the bottom and she looks fully nude due to the lighting and color of her swimsuit. The Creature looks on in a lustful manner as she continues to do backstrokes in the water and when she eventually dives deeper the Creature begins to follow her from a distance. Once she goes back up towards the surface he swims underneath her while looking up and he mimics her every move.
In this context, when looked at in a much more explicit angle, the Creature and Kay are participating in a synchronized love dance or possibly the actions of both characters was a metaphor of interracial relations that was still very taboo and unacceptable in 1950s American society. It is also quite possible that this scene provided viewers with a sense of scopophilia, or in terms of taboo relations, a different race or species that wants something they can’t have.
Once Kay retreats back to the surface the Creature swims back to the seaweed that was concealing him and looks up at her and the oppressors (scientists) whose lifestyles prevent him from experiencing another type of species or Creature.
Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) – French Poster
Written by Matt Lockwood.
Matt Lockwood holds a B.A. in Cinema Studies from Oakland University. He writes extensively about race, gender, class and politics in film.
All rights go to Matt Lockwood.
I am not the author of these images. All rights reserved.