Universal Classic Monsters: “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)


The 1950s brought us the final Universal Classic Monster… The Gill-Man. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man have become Halloween mascots, but the Gill-Man was the first summertime monster, a precursor to “Jaws.” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” story begins with the actual creation of the universe, hinting at an alternative evolution, resulting in an aquatic humanoid.

Bud Westmore had taken over for Jack Pierce as head of the makeup department around the time of “Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein.” Westmore now oversaw the creation of the Gill-Man suit. Ricou Browning played the Gill-Man in the underwater sequences while Ben Chapman played the creature on land. If this film were ever to be remade, the creature would probably lose its humanoid legs and closely resemble a merman with a CGI tailfin.

As with any sci-fi monster flick, there is a good amount of dialogue which is mainly techno-babble, but the actors (Richard Carlson and Julia Adams) were earnest in their performances and delivered their lines without a sense of irony. This helps the audience with what is known as “suspension of disbelief.” Besides all the obvious similarities to “Jaws,” which was releases twenty one years later, some film historians have sited the original “King Kong” as a film which inspired the beauty and the beast themes present in “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

A sequel, “Revenge of the Creature” was released in 1955. The Gill-Man (still played by Ricou Browning underwater and now played by Tom Hennesy on land) is captured and brought to an oceanarium, where it quickly escapes and runs amok… Clint Eastwood played a small role, but I think everyone who’s a fan knows that by now. Jack Arnold helmed the first two films in the series. “The Creature Walks Among Us,” released in 1956, concluded the saga. The Gill-Man (again played by Ricou Browning underwater and now played by Don Megowan on land) is badly burned, necessitating surgery that prevents it from ever returning to the water.

Gill-Man never met Abbot and Costello in a movie, but he did guest star on their TV show. Hammer Films had no equivalent to the Gill-Man, so you’ll need to view “The Monster Squad” (1987) to see the Gill-Man along side Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. The band was back together.


About domcappelloblog

New York based screenwriter.

Posted on July 21, 2013, in Horror, Universal Classic Monsters and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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