The Shape of Water-Logged

DATELINE:  Oscar Goes Glug Glug!

glug glug  Missing the Black Lagoon

Who would have envisioned Creature from the Black Lagoon winning Best Picture of 1954 for director Jack Arnold?  Yet, the wet creature won for its director in the Shape of Water in 2018. How the world has changed into a monster mash.

Guillermo del Toro may be too full of bull with his latest movie. His Gill Man takes place on the heels of the original Creature tale, circa 1960, and likely is meant to be a homage sequel. A real sequel followed in 1955.

This amphibian man is called a ‘god’ more than once, in case you don’t understand the ending.

The film is subtly anti-American, with its sympathetic Soviet spy as one of the few likeable characters.

Of course, you have Octavia Spencer in a key role, which always elevates a movie to a higher standing. Michael Shannon has apparently cornered the market on despicable villains who are sexist, racist, and anti-disabilities. And, we always perk up when Nick Searcy (from Justified) makes an appearance.

As for the Creature, swimmingly played in a wet suit by Doug Jones, we are treated to a Fred and Ginger dance number in one dream sequence. Indeed, the film is rife with clips of old movies—from Betty Grable to the Story of Ruth.

Yes, you will find Bob Denver as Maynard and Mr. Ed as the Talking Horse in a couple of clips. No wonder this struck a nerve with aging Boomers.

Alas, the overdrawn sex scenes seemed superfluous and almost tacky to the point of meanly excluding a younger audience.

The film wants to play off the King Kong-style romance between monster and damsel, but the paws of Del Toro are around the heroine’s throat all too often.

Meant to move us with its horror fantasy, we were simply antsy.

 

Watery Gill Man from Black Lagoon

DATELINE: Goon from the Lagoon

Goon from Black Lagoon

Master director of all genres at Universal Studios during the 1950s, Jack Arnold brought us so many low-budget classics: from the Incredible Shrinking Man to Space Children to No Name on the Bullet.

One of his most famous tales was the directorial gem, Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s supposed to be in 3-D, but you won’t know it.  Film recognition may be enhanced by the odd-ball Best Picture of the Year from Oscar, called The Shape of Water. It’s more like the stolen picture of the year as The Shape of Plagiarism It’s the same movie with a bigger budget, computer effects, and less panache.

So, we wanted to see what Jack Arnold did with his movie with no budget, no big effects, and more panache than horror.

The de rigueur monster of the 1950s, the creature was actually a Gill Man, covered in scales with poorly manicured, webbed fingers. He swims like a cross between Esther Williams and Michael Phelps. And, he is photographed like a choreographed water sequence at Metro from Busby Berkley.

Arnold knew enough to bring in two stalwart 1950s leading men, Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. Carlson was always some kind of scientist with heroic demeanor, and Denning comes off as a proto-Trump businessman on expedition.

Throw in Julia Adams as a research assistant and Whit Bissell as the throwaway scientist, and you have a classic gem of a cast.

Silly plot holes may have you rolling your eyes: the underwater repellent is supposed to be knock-out drops to Gill Man, but it has no effect on the regular guys in snorkel protection mode.

Everyone goes out on a dig at night and leaves Whit Bissell to fall asleep guarding the monster. And, this scholarly scientific expedition claims not to have enough weapons to fight the Creature, though every man has a rifle.

Perhaps Arnold’s most amazing feat is that he put this film together in 75 minutes without bloody gore and with a sense of fun. Victims seem to be scratched like an encounter with one of T.S. Elliott’s cats.

No, this is not Jack Arnold’s best, but it is his most well-known movie, now more than ever.