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 Pictures 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 visits his friend, Dr. David Reed, an ichthyologist who works at a marine biology institute. Reed persuades the institute's financial backer, Mark Williams, 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. The expedition consists of Dr. Reed, Dr. Maia and Williams, as well as Reed's girlfriend, Kay Lawrence, and another scientist, Dr. Thompson. 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. The audience is privy to the attack upon the camp, which was committed by a living version of the fossil the scientists seek-curious upon seeing the expedition, the creature investigates the camp site, but its sudden appearance frightens the members, who attack it, whereupon the enraged creature kills them in response.
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 try to remove them, 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 (the creature's death was left open to allow for a sequel).
- 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. 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, which was shot at Universal City, California. He was unable to sit for the 14 hours of each day he wore it, and it overheated easily, so he stayed in the back lot's lake, and often requested to be hosed down. He also could not see very well, 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 top water scenes.
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 not written by him. 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).
In 1982 John Landis was keen on getting Arnold to direct a remake of the film, and Nigel Kneale was commissioned to write a 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 film being cancelled by producers at Universal, both for budgetary concerns and to avoid a clash with another 3-D film they had in production, Jaws 3-D. In 1995, Universal gave Peter Jackson the option to either remake King Kong or Creature from the Black Lagoon. Jackson chose King Kong because seeing it on television when he was nine years old had inspired him to become a filmmaker.
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.
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 Chickenepisode "Shoe," voiced by Seth Green. He tells a guy that he prefers the lagoon to be called the "African-American Lagoon." He 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 in 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. The Marvel Comics character Triton of the Inhumans is a green water breathing character resembling the Creature from the Black Lagoon.The DC Comics character Aquaman donned a suit of armor resembling the Creature in the 2005-07 miniseries Justice. 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.
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