My wife, Rita, has long considered “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” to be the scariest movie ever made. For those who don’t remember it, it’s the 1954 horror film about a scientific expedition that encounters a dangerous humanoid amphibious fish-creature while traveling up the Amazon River. The monster is portrayed by a guy in a silly rubber suit and the production values are pretty cheesy.
It’s odd that Rita – or anyone for that matter – would be frightened by this B-movie, especially since she’s seen far more shocking and gruesome fare during the more than 20 years she served as film critic for the Washington Post. Nonetheless, she’s been terrified by this crappy feature since her mother took her to see it when she was a young girl at the only theater in her small town.
For the first few years we were together, she would never allow her arms or legs to hang over the side of the bed because she was certain an monster would emerge from the dust bunnies below and pull her down.
One Saturday afternoon a while back, I came across the film on cable and started watching it. It was exactly as I’d remembered it – laughable. I called upstairs to Rita, begging her to come down and put this fear to rest. Reluctantly, she sat beside me tensely.
A few minutes later, it came to a scene where Julia Adams, playing the role of “the damsel in distress,” lounging in a bathing suit on the deck of the ship in the steamy lagoon. All of a sudden, the monster’s hand appears and grabs the ship’s railing.
And as the monster’s other hand grabs hold and he pulls himself onto the deck to crawl toward the reclining damsel, the camera gradually pulls back to reveal more and more of the side of the boat, as the name of the ship is revealed in four-foot-high letters...
R... I... T... A.
Surprisingly, that movie no longer scares her.