- Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by Jack Arnold Produced by William Alland Screenplay by Harry Essex
Arthur A. Ross
Story by Maurice Zimm Starring Richard Carlson
Music by Henry Mancini
Hans J. Salter
Cinematography William E. Snyder Editing by Ted J. Kent Distributed by Universal International Release date(s) March 5, 1954 Running time 79 minutes Country United States Language English
Creature from the Black Lagoon is a 1954 monster horror film directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, and Whit Bissell. The eponymous creature was played by Ben Chapman on land and Ricou Browning in underwater scenes. The film was released in the United States on March 5, 1954.
Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed and originally released in 3-D requiring polarized 3-D glasses, and subsequently reissued in the 1970s in the inferior anaglyph format (this version was released on home video by MCA Videocassette, Inc. in 1980). It was one of the first Universal films filmed in 3-D (the first was It Came from Outer Space, which was released a year before). It is considered a classic of the 1950s, and generated two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Revenge of the Creature was also filmed and released in 3-D, in hopes of reviving the format.
A geology expedition in the Amazon uncovers fossilized evidence from the Devonian period of a link between land and sea animals in the form of a skeletal hand with webbed fingers. Expedition leader Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) visits his friend, Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), an ichthyologist who works at a marine biology institute. Reed persuades the institute's financial backer, Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning), to fund a return expedition to the Amazon to look for the remainder of the skeleton.
They go aboard a tramp steamer, the Rita, which is captained by a crusty old codger named Lucas (Nestor Paiva). The expedition consists of Dr. Reed, Dr. Maia and Williams, as well as Reed's girlfriend, Kay Lawrence (Julia Adams), and another scientist, Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell). When they arrive at Dr. Maia's camp, they discover that his entire research team has been mysteriously killed while he was away. Lucas suggests it was done by a jaguar, but the others are unsure. In fact, the camp was attacked by a piscine amphibious humanoid, a living member of the same species from which the fossil originated. The creature, curious upon seeing the expedition, investigates the camp site, but when its sudden appearance frightens the members, they attack it, and in response, the enraged creature kills them.
The excavation of the area where Maia found the hand turns up nothing. Mark is ready to give up the search, but David suggests that perhaps thousands of years ago the part of the embankment containing the rest of the skeleton fell into the water and was washed downriver. Lucas says that the tributary empties into a lagoon known as the "Black Lagoon", a paradise from which no one has ever returned. The scientists decide to risk it, unaware that the amphibious "Gill-man" that killed Dr. Maia's assistants earlier has been watching them. Taking notice of the beautiful Kay, it follows the Rita all the way downriver to the Black Lagoon. Once the expedition arrives, David and Mark go diving to collect fossils from the lagoon floor. After they return, Kay goes swimming and is stalked underwater by the creature, who then gets briefly caught in one of the ship's draglines. Although it escapes, it leaves behind a claw in the net, revealing its existence to the scientists.
Subsequent encounters with the Gill-man claim the lives of two of Lucas's crew members, before the Gill-man is captured and locked in a cage on board the Rita. It escapes during the night and attacks Dr. Thompson, who was guarding it. Kay hits the beast with a lantern; driving it off before it can kill Dr. Thompson. Following this incident, David decides they should return to civilization, but as the Rita tries to leave, they find the entrance blocked by fallen logs, courtesy of the escaped Gill-man.
While the others attempt to remove the logs, Mark is mauled to death trying to capture the creature single-handedly underwater. The creature then abducts Kay and takes her to his cavern lair. David, Lucas, and Dr. Maia give chase to save her. Kay is rescued and the creature is riddled with bullets before he retreats to the lagoon where his body sinks in the watery depths, presumably dead.
- Antonio Moreno as Dr. Carl Maia
- Ben Chapman as Gill-man (land)
- Bernie Gozier as Zee
- Henry A. Escalante as Chico
- Julie Adams as Kay Lawrence
- Nestor Paiva as Lucas
- Perry Lopez as Tomas
- Richard Carlson as Dr. David Reed
- Richard Denning as Mark Williams
- Ricou Browning as Gill-man (underwater)
- Rodd Redwing as Luis
- Whit Bissell as Dr. Edwin Thompson
Producer William Alland was attending a dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane (in which he played the reporter Thompson) in 1941 when Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him about the myth of a race of half-fish, half-human creatures in the Amazon river. Alland wrote story notes entitled "The Sea Monster" ten years later. His inspiration was Beauty and the Beast. In December 1952, Maurice Zimm expanded this into a treatment, which Harry Essex and Arthur Ross rewrote as The Black Lagoon. Following the success of the 3-D film House of Wax in 1953, Jack Arnold was hired to direct the film in the same format.
The designer of the approved Gill-man was Disney animator Millicent Patrick, though her role was deliberately downplayed by makeup artist Bud Westmore, who for half a century would receive sole credit for the creature's conception. Jack Kevan, who worked on The Wizard of Oz and made prosthetics for amputees during World War II, created the bodysuit, while Chris Mueller, Jr. sculpted the head.
Ben Chapman portrayed the Gill-man for the majority of the film shot at Universal City, California. The costume made it impossible for Chapman to sit for the 14 hours of each day that he wore it, and it overheated easily, so he stayed in the backlot's lake, often requesting to be hosed down. He also could not see very well while wearing the headpiece, which caused him to scrape Julie Adams' head against the wall when carrying her in the grotto scenes. Ricou Browning played the Gill-Man in the underwater shots, which were filmed by the second unit in Wakulla Springs, Florida. Many of the on-top of the water scenes were filmed at Rice Creek near Palatka, Florida.
The film was novelized in 1977, in paperback under the pseudonym of "Carl Dreadstone", as part of a short-lived series of books based on the classic Universal horror films. The book was introduced by Ramsey Campbell, but was written by Walter Harris. The novel offers a completely different Gill-man, who in this version of the story is gigantic, almost as big as the Rita herself, weighing in at 30 tons. It is both coldblooded and warmblooded, is a hermaphrodite, and also possesses a long whip-like tail. The gigantic creature is dubbed "AA", for "Advanced Amphibian", by the expedition team members. After slaying most of the team members, destroying a Sikorsky helicopter, and kidnapping Kay more than once, the creature is killed by the crew of a US Navy torpedo boat.
The novel also differs greatly with respect to the human characters. Only David Reed and Kay Lawrence remain the same. Mark Williams is a German named "Bruno Gebhardt", and dies not as a result from drowning but by the monster falling on him. Lucas is named "Jose Goncalves Fonseca de Souza" and is a mostly sympathetic character until his suggestion of throwing the wounded and unconscious Reed to the monster makes an enraged Gebhardt/Williams throw him to the beast instead. Dr. Thompson and Dr. Maia both die grisly deaths, whereas in the movie they survive; Maia is eaten by the monster, and Thompson is impaled on a long tree branch flung at him by the creature like a spear (in an apparent nod to a deleted scene from Revenge of the Creature wherein the Gill-man killed a guard in this fashion).
The movie has an enduring legacy in both media and the general public. A musical based on the movie opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in late June 2009. It has also been widely referenced, in part due to its groundbreaking character, in other media. In fact, many movies featuring monsters put a Gill-man likeness in the background as homage. More directly, the Gill-man appeared in the Robot Chicken episode "Shoe", voiced by Seth Green. He tells a guy that he prefers the lagoon to be called the "African-American Lagoon."
The Monster also appears in "We are a Humble Factory", now voiced by Breckin Meyer, where Count Chocula, FrankenBerry, and BooBerry are angrily mentioned by him, as well Fruity Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute. The creature decides to make his own cereal called "Creature with the Black Macaroons" because macaroon sounds like lagoon; however, the cereal wasn't successful and when all the cereals were dumped into his lagoon, he says "I should've gone with legumes", as legume also sounds like lagoon. Its likeness was also used for the film The Monster Squad. However, due to licensing issues with Universal, the creature is referred to as "Gill-Man."
Ben Chapman introduced the creature in costume with Abbott and Costello on live television on an episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour. Even earlier, in The Seven Year Itch, the film is referenced when Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe come out of a theatre showing Creature from the Black Lagoon. Monroe expresses some sympathy for the creature, saying that it was not really bad and "just wanted to be loved". The creature plays a brief cameo emerging from Lake Springfield in the Simpsons animated TV series—see the 10th episode of Season 16.
Creature from the Black Lagoon was later made into a pinball game, designed by John Trudeau (AKA "Dr. Flash"), and released in 1992 by Midway (under the Bally brand name). This game has a retro 1950s drive-in theme. It also features such 50s classic songs like Rock Around the Clock, Get a Job, and Summertime Blues. Completing side missions in the pinball game causes the screen to display "Universal Presents... Creature from the Black Lagoon", and then requires the player to chase after the monster just like in the film. The game sold 7,841 units.
A series of children's books, written by Mike Thaler and Jared Lee, paradigm the film. Beginning with The Teacher From the Black Lagoon, it continued with The Principal..., The Gym Teacher... and several others.
In The Nightmare Before Christmas, there is a character in Halloween Town who is clearly meant to be the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In one song, it ponders the contents of Jack's present: "Perhaps it's the head that I found in the lake".
The film has been immortalized in paleontology circles. When Jenny Clack of the University of Cambridge discovered a fossil amphibian in what was once a fetid swamp, she named it Eucritta melanolimnetes, which is Greek for "the creature from the black lagoon."
Though technically a merman, the character Rikuo in the Darkstalkers game series and his race bear a striking resemblance to the Gill-Man, and perhaps more so than any character in the game, remain very true to the source character, with Rikuo being from an area in Brazil near the Amazon. Even the character's name is a reference to one of the actors who played the creature.
Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 a band from North Carolina who were fronted by now Murderdolls lead singer and solo artist Wednesday 13 also did a song about the creature naming it Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes: The Animated Series parodied the movie in "The Tomato From The Black Lagoon", where the gang looks for a missing tomato link in the San Zucchini Botanical Gardens and are stalked by an amphibious tomato who goes after Tara, who is also part tomato.
Funko released in October 2010 a 7-inch button eyed cuddly monster.
In 1982, John Landis was keen on getting Arnold to direct a remake of the film, and Nigel Kneale was commissioned to write the screenplay. Kneale completed the script, which involved a pair of creatures, one destructive and the other calm and sensitive, being persecuted by the US Navy. A decision to make the film in 3-D led to the remake being canceled by producers at Universal, both for budgetary concerns and to avoid a clash with Jaws 3-D. In July 1992, John Carpenter was developing the remake at Universal. Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris wrote a new script, and Universal offered Peter Jackson the director's position in 1995, but he choose to work on King Kong instead. In February 1996, Ivan Reitman was planning to direct the remake, but the outing never materialized. With the financial success of The Mummy remake in May 1999, development of theCreature from the Black Lagoon remake was revived.
In December 2001, following the success of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, Gary Ross signed on to write and produce the remake with his father, Arthur A. Ross, one of the original's writers. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "The story my father wrote embodies the clash between primitive men and civilized men, and that obviously makes it a fertile area for re-examination." In August 2002, Guillermo del Toro, a fan of the original was attached as director. Because of his commitments to numerous other projects, Universal was forced to go without del Toro as director, and hired Tedi Sarafian (credited on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) to write a script in March 2003.
In October 2005, Breck Eisner signed on as director. "As a kid, I remember loving Jack Arnold's original version of this film", he explained. "What I really want to do is update an iconic image from the '50s and bring in more of the sci-fi sensibility of Alien or John Carpenter's The Thing." Ross said in March 2007 the Gill-man's origin would be reinvented, with him being the result of a pharmaceutical corporation polluting the Amazon. "It's about the rainforest being exploited for profit", he said.
The film was delayed by the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, and Eisner put The Crazies on his priority. Once he finishes filming that, he will begin filming Creature from the Black Lagoon in Manaus, Brazil and on the Amazon River in Peru. Eisner was inspired to shoot on location by Fitzcarraldo, and the boat set has been built. Eisner continued to rewrite the script, which will be a summer blockbuster full of "action and excitement, but [still] scary". Eisner spent six months designing the new incarnation of the Gill-man with Mark McCreery (Jurassic Park, and Davy Jones' designer). The director said the design was "very faithful to the original, but updated", and that the Gill-man will still be sympathetic.
In 2009 it was reported that Carl Erik Rinsch might direct a 2010 remake that would be produced by Marc Abraham, Eric Newman and Gary Ross, however, a project featuring this ensemble had been abandoned by 2011.
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- Creature from the Black Lagoon at the Internet Movie Database
- Creature from the Black Lagoon at the TCM Movie Database
- Creature from the Black Lagoon at AllRovi
- The Reel Gill-man – Official site of Ben Chapman, who played the Gill-man
Films Other Films directed by Jack Arnold 1950sWith These Hands (1950) · Girls in the Night (1953) · It Came from Outer Space (1953) · The Glass Web (1953) · Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) · The Man from Bitter Ridge (1955) · Revenge of the Creature (1955) · Tarantula (1955) · Red Sundown (1956) · Outside the Law (1956) · The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) · The Tattered Dress (1957) · Man in the Shadow (1957) · The Lady Takes a Flyer (1958) · High School Confidential (1958) · The Space Children (1958) · Monster on the Campus (1958) · No Name on the Bullet (1959) · The Mouse That Roared (1959) 1960sBachelor in Paradise (1961) · A Global Affair (1964) · The Lively Set (1964) · Hello Down There (1969) 1970s
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