A classic 1950s monster movie. The design of the titular creature, the “Gill-man”, is so fantastic and memorable that it’s no wonder it’s continued to resonate through the years, but there’s a good film built around him too.
Coming in at a lean eighty minutes, the film is a refreshingly well-paced adventure that still finds time to slow down and ruminate and enjoy its own concept. There are enjoyable dialogues where characters mull over the nature and ramifications of the monster; it’s hardly non-stop horror or action. A very well-balanced film. Easy to see how it fired up the imagination of so many. A lot of that is thanks to the well-handled underwater sequences too. The Gill-man is mesmerising as he moves underwater. The musical motif that follows him around is a good signifier of his unique power in the narrative too.
Perhaps the film’s greatest strength is it doesn’t just relegate the Gill-man to being a monster. The characters actually seem competent because of the dialogues they have about him, pondering over him, discussing him, not just how to attack or kill him. He’s not a mindless beast, he’s even given some measure of romantic chemistry with the female lead.
Fantastic technical work, inspired costume work, reliable cast, and writing that doesn’t waste its own concept, everything really does work here, and it hold sup very well today. Three and a half fossils, and a cage.