Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) at the Egyptian Theatre

Tonight was another great evening at the Egyptian Theatre, celebrating the career of actress Julie Adams.

Miss Adams signed her new book, THE LUCKY SOUTHERN STAR, and was interviewed by historian Alan K. Rode in between screenings of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) and BEND OF THE RIVER (1952).

It was a particular treat for me to see Miss Adams in person again, many years after I had a bit part in a theatrical production of THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE in which she played the title role. I briefly showed her my program and she seemed quite delighted by that, signing my book "From Jean Brodie to the Creature - we have a history!"

The book itself is gorgeous. From the small amount of time I've had to look at it, it appears to be worth every penny of the $30 price. It's a heavy softcover book of over 260 pages, with a vast array of superb photos, reproduced in high quality on glossy paper. The double-thick covers include beautiful reproductions of her movie posters on the inner covers. As an added bonus, a CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON CD from Monstrous Movie Music was included in the purchase price. For more information, visit Julie Adams' website.

I enjoyed the chance to say hello to Alan Rode before the movies. He's hosted many of the film events I've attended over the last year or two, and I always enjoy hearing him speak or interview guests. He's genial and highly knowledgeable, and his intermission interview with Miss Adams was a great example of his work; he deftly walked with her through her career, from breaking into movies to working with Jimmy Stewart, Budd Boetticher, and Anthony Mann, to more detailed reminisces of making CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

Miss Adams is a charming speaker, energetic and articulate, who spoke with great warmth of many interesting people she had worked with during her career. She is still a working actress at the age of 85.

Adams spoke with particular admiration of the swimmers who doubled her and the Creature in the underwater scenes, and said she was lifelong friends with both men who played the Creature, Ben Chapman (the land version) and Ricou Browning (in the water). Ginger Stanley was Adams' swim double.

She also said that making the film was a very positive, fun experience, with an excellent director, Jack Arnold, and an outstanding cast. She said none of them ever dreamed that people would still be watching and enjoying the movie over half a century later!

She also mentioned that when she arrived in Hollywood she had to lose her Southern accent. I could have sworn the accent came out during one scene in CREATURE, when she said she needed "fresh air," and "air" had a real Southern twang!

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON was shown with old-fashioned paper 3D glasses with red and green lenses. I hadn't seen a movie with that type of glasses in many years -- I saw KISS ME, KATE that way a couple times in the late '70s or early '80s -- and it worked suprisingly well, although I appreciate the improvements in modern 3D glasses. The black and white print provided by Universal was excellent.

Monster movies aren't really my thing, and I confess that, by the time the film's 79 minutes had run out, I had gotten a bit tired of the Creature continually reappearing, sneaking on board the boat RITA and sticking his slimy fingers through ship windows and so on (grin). Yet at the same time it was a fun, enjoyable movie, and I was glad to finally catch up with such an iconic bit of '50s cinema. The filmmakers, including director Arnold and cinematographer William E. Snyder, successfully create an environment and mood which makes the audience willing to buy in to the fantastic tale. The movie's outstanding underwater sequences add a great deal to the atmosphere. The film's final sequence, as the boat struggles to make it out of the lagoon, was quite nerve-wracking.

Adams is terrific as scientist Kay Lawrence, conveying a woman who is knowledgeable and adventurous, but also a really good screamer who looks amazing in a white swimsuit. (When asked what happened to the swimsuit, she said, "It went the way of all latex.") She is a very significant part of what makes the film enjoyable.

I've written recently of my growing admiration for Richard Carlson, who seems to keep turning up in good movies. He's also excellent as Dr. David Reed, and like Adams, it must be admitted he looks mighty fine in swimwear. Carlson's brave Dr. Reed shows integrity and compassion for the Creature -- even after the Creature has bumped off several people in the expedition!

Richard Denning gave perhaps the least believable performance, as it was necessary for his character to be rude and make poor decisions throughout the film in order for the plot to movie forward. His character felt more like a plot device than a real person.

The main cast was rounded out by Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, and Whit Bissell.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON has been released on DVD in the Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection as well as in the three film Legacy Collection, which has many extras. I anticipate adding this DVD to my collection soon so I can learn more about the film's production as well as check out the sequels.

It's also been released on VHS and is available on Netflix streaming.

My next visit to the Egyptian Theatre should be in November, when I plan to attend a screening of Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy in MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934); a signing of the new biography, MYRNA LOY: THE ONLY GOOD GIRL IN HOLLYWOOD, will be included.

Previous Egyptian Theatre posts: Dick Van Dyke Show 50th Anniversary at the Egyptian Theatre; A Visit to the 13th Noir City Film Festival (2011); Tonight's Movie: An American in Paris (1951) at the Egyptian Theatre; Tonight's Movie: West Side Story (1961) at the Egyptian Theatre; Tonight's Movie: The Ten Commandments (1956) at the Egyptian Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Cleopatra (1934) at the Egyptian Theatre; A Visit to the Noir City Film Festival (2010).

October 2015 Updates: I was fortunate to see Julie Adams at another screening of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON at the The Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction Festival. I also paid tribute to Julie on her 89th birthday.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

Sounds like a wonderful evening. Thanks for sharing it with us.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

On the town again, huh? You show biz people. Terrific. Thanks so much for this delightful visit with Ms. Adams, and what a swell lady for signing your book that way.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Wow! Sounds like a great event. I'm not a Monster Movie kind of gal either but I would have loved to go to that. It's nice that you have been able to meet these classic actors in person! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad all of you enjoyed hearing about it! Wouldn't it be wonderful if one day there were a way we could all enjoy such an event together? :)

Best wishes,

12:01 PM  
Blogger Babysparrow said...

I can't forget her legs in that movie,..chi-chi-chiiii

But at 85,..she still looks great.

Thanx,..for sharing the story and the pictures.

6:36 PM  

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