Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

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Creature from the Black Lagoon
I think The Creature - the gill man - in this film series always got the raw deal. Poor old Gill Man was just lonely, misunderstood and above all - horny. All he was doing was looking for was a little bit of lovin'. Admittedly his wooing skills were too basic for a babe like Julie Adams, but hey, it was 1954 and lots of supposedly human guys acted just as bad or worse. This film is now considered a camp classic of the 1950s, and generated two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us
     The plot line of Creature from the Black Lagoon is your basic fare. The main characters go on expedition to an isolated part of the world and then all hell breaks loose. In this instance, 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 (Julie 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 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.
Photo Via Tampax Superstar
     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. 

Photo Via Gen X Video Blog
     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.
Synopsis Via Wikipedia
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Universal – International © 1954
Screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross
Produced by William Alland
Directed by Jack Arnold
   The Black Lagoon was the last film in the series of classic monster movies produced by Universal Pictures. The 1950s saw a shift in the studios attitude towards producing more science fiction films. Creature from the Black Lagoon was conceived as an amalgamation of two genre: horror and science-fiction. 
     The film starred Richar Carlson who went on to act in many more studio produced sci-fi films as the role of hero scientist. Ricou Browning played The Gill-Man (Underwater) and Ben Chapman as The Gill-Man (On Land) but neither were credited for their performances as the titular monster. 
     The Creature from the Black Lagoon was shown originally in 3-D. A special underwater 3-D camera was developed exclusively for use in this production. Viewers would remark on how they felt like they were underwater with the monster. At the time, it was a unique experience. However showing a film in 3-D was a difficult process. If the two cameras needed to produce the effect were not aligned properly the image would go blurry and the 3-D effect would be ruined. This forced later releases of the film to abandon 3-D for more conventional viewing.
    By Gautam | Sunday, November 8th, 2009
     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.
     Former Disney animator Milicent Patrick designed the Gill-Man. 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 down for the fourteen 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.
Julia Adams receives medical attention after the creature banged her head on the cave set wall. As you can see, he is the most concerned of all the actors.

Ben Chapman played the gill-man on land and remained in his latex body suit for up to 14 hours a day.
Gillman Stats:
      1. Able to breathe surface air for only a few minutes before returning to a watery habitat.
      2. Is around 6 feet 5 inches in height on land and 5 feet 8 inches in the water! (due to actors of different height playing the creature)
      3. Blood composition is approximately 35% white corpuscles, or “halfway between marine life and mammal.” It is also important to note that these white corpuscles have no nucleus.
      4. The Gillman falls in love with Kay (Julia Adams), the lone female in the party.
      5. Outer layer of marine scales cover a layer of mammalian epidermis.
      6. Living primarily in the dark depths of the sea, the Gill Man reacts adversely to bright light.
      7. Although it has been known to exhibit violent tendencies, such actions can be classified as defensive. Typically, it usually hunts fish for its food.
      8. For Trailers and background information about this film click here.
      (source: wiki and the 
      John Bromfield & the Gill Man
      Julie Adams & the Gill Man
      Oh, decisions, decisions...
      Mini Review
           The Creature From The Black Lagoon has been on my 'to watch' list for years and on my mind for the past few months. Finally saw it, and was surprised by how much I liked it. Great atmosphere, great monster, and an environmental subtext I hadn't been expecting. 
           There's a shot where the leading lady tosses an unwanted cigarette into the creature's lagoon, and the camera moves below the surface to the face of the creature, who watches silently. Thanks to how it's shot the cigarette becomes invasive, and, more importantly, insulting. This is some of the earliest environmental awareness I've seen in a Hollywood film, sci-fi fear of toxic waste and nuclear war aside. 
          There's a scene where poison is dumped into the lagoon to force the creature out of hiding, and the comatose fish that litter the water's surface highlights the disregard for the natural world that the scientists, behaving more like hunters, are exhibiting.
           The creature itself looks awesome, and the amount of understanding and sympathy we find in him makes for great monster cinema. This film is a thoroughly satisfying classic.
      ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ emerges
      Via Hero Complex

           When director Breck Eisner parted ways with Universal’s remake of “Creature From the Black Lagoon” in 2009, fans of the 1950s camp classic wondered if and when the new film would ever see the light of day.
      But now the story of Gill-Man and his victims is getting a new director — and possibly some new momentum. Carl Rinsch, the hot commercials director who recently signed on to direct the samurai adventure “47 Ronin” for Universal, is now also in talks to direct “Creature From the Black Lagoon” for the studio.The movie, which was originally shot and shown in 3D — a very primitive, 1950s kind of 3D — revolves around a mythic monster who spooks scientists (and the requisite beautiful damsel) in the Amazon. 
      As for “Black Lagoon,” it wouldn’t be the first time the sea-monster movie was brought back to life. Universal has tried several times over the past three decades, with everyone from John Landis to Peter Jackson contemplating a stab. (Jackson chose “King Kong” instead. Hey, you can’t be right all the time.)
      More recently, Gary Ross of “Seabiscuit” fame wrote a draft of the screenplay (in a nice bit of continuity, he’s the son of Arthur Ross, who co-wrote the original). And Eisner had done a rewrite. But the studio is apparently back to the drawing board on the script.
      All of these movies are part of a new crop of horror films — Universal has such as 2009's “The Wolfman” starring Benicio Del Toro. Creature From the Black Lagoon” is in production and scheduled for release in 2013. – Steven Zeitchik
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      What lies beneath...
      Black Lagoon.jpg
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      1. Spent many a Saturday afternoon watching CFTBL and it's sequels on Creature double Feature. It always scared the bejeebers out of me. Of course it wasn't till alter that I realized the films other merits of lead male stars in tight bathing trunks for a good deal of the time!

        Great blog Neal!

      2. Glad you like it. Tell your friends! ;{D
        Yeah, a lot of 50s creature features have additional great viewing. And of course, there was Sea Hunt. I didn't care what was happening so long as Lloyd Bridges was in that clingy white swim suit.