Creature from the Black Lagoon is a 1954 American black-and-white 3D monster horror film from Universal-International, produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold, that stars Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno and Whit Bissell. The Creature was played by Ben Chapman on land and by Ricou Browning underwater. The film premiered in Detroit on February 12 and was released on a regional basis, opening on various dates.
Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed in 3D and originally projected by the polarized light method. The audience wore viewers with gray polarizing filters, similar to the viewers most commonly used today. Because the brief 1950s 3D film fad had peaked in mid-1953 and was fading fast in early 1954, many audiences actually saw the film "flat", in 2D. Typically, the film was shown in 3D in large downtown theaters and flat in smaller neighborhood theaters. In 1975 Creature from the Black Lagoon was re-released to theaters in the inferior red-and-blue-glasses anaglyph 3D format, which was also used for a 1980 home video release on Beta and VHS videocassettes.
For marketing reasons, a comedic appearance with Abbott and Costello on an episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour aired prior to the film's release. The appearance is commonly known as Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ben Chapman reprised his role as the Gill-Man for the program.
Creature from the Black Lagoon generated two sequels: Revenge of the Creature (1955), which was also filmed and released in 3D in hopes of reviving the format, and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), filmed in 2D. The creature, also known as the Gill-Man, is usually counted among the classic Universal Monsters.
|Creature from the Black Lagoon|
|Directed by||Jack Arnold|
|Produced by||William Alland|
|Screenplay by||Harry Essex|
Arthur A. Ross
|Story by||Maurice Zimm|
|Music by||Henry Mancini|
Hans J. Salter
|Cinematography||William E. Snyder|
|Edited by||Ted J. Kent|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
A geology expedition in the Amazon uncovers fossilized evidence (a skeletal hand with webbed fingers) from the Devonian period that provides a direct link between land and sea animals. Expedition leader Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) orders his two assistants to stay in camp while he visits the marine biology institute.
Carl reunites with his friend and former student, ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson). David works at an aquarium in California, but more recently he has been a guest at Carl's institute in Brazil to study lungfish. David persuades his boss, the financially minded Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning), to fund a return expedition to the Amazon to look for the remainder of the skeleton.
Soon after Carl leaves camp, a piscine amphibious humanoid, a living member of the same species from which the fossil originated, becomes curious about the expedition's camp. When its sudden appearance frightens the assistants, they panic and attack, and in response the enraged creature kills them both.
The group goes aboard the tramp steamer Rita, captained by crusty Lucas (Nestor Paiva). The expedition consists of David, Carl, Mark, as well as David's girlfriend and colleague, Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), and another scientist, Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell). When they arrive at the camp, they discover Carl's assistants have been killed while he was away. Lucas suggests it was likely done by a jaguar, but the others are unsure.
A further excavation of the area where Carl found the fossil 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, broken up by the current. Carl says the tributary empties into a lagoon. Lucas calls it 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 Carl's assistants has been watching them. Taking notice of the beautiful Kay, the creature follows the Rita all the way downriver to the Black Lagoon. Once the expedition arrives, David and Mark go diving to collect rock samples from the lagoon floor. After they return, Kay goes swimming and is stalked underwater by the Gill-man, who then gets briefly caught in one of the ship's drag lines. Although it escapes, the creature leaves a claw behind in the net, revealing its existence.
Subsequent encounters with the Gill-man claim the lives of Lucas's crew members, before the creature is captured and locked in a cage aboard the Rita. It escapes during the night, attacking Edwin, who was guarding it. Kay smashes the creature with a lantern, driving it off, but Edwin is severely injured. Following this incident, David decides they should return to civilization. Mark, obsessed with capturing (or killing) the creature, objects. As the Rita tries to leave, they find the lagoon's entrance blocked by fallen logs, courtesy of the Gill-man. While the others attempt to remove the logs, Mark is mauled to death while trying to capture the creature single-handedly, underwater. It then abducts Kay and takes her to its cavern lair. David, Lucas and Carl give chase, and Kay is rescued. The creature is riddled with bullets before retreating to the lagoon, where its body sinks into the watery depths.
Producer William Alland was attending a 1941 dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane (in which he played the reporter Thompson) 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 titled "The Sea Monster" 10 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 3D 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 Milicent Patrick, though her role was deliberately downplayed by make-up 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 (1939) 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 scenes shot at Universal City, California. Many of the on-top of the water scenes were filmed at Rice Creek near Palatka, Florida. 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 back lot'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.
Creature from the Black Lagoon received positive reviews from critics upon its release and is now considered a classic horror film. Leonard Maltin awarded the film three out of a possible four stars, writing, "Archetypal '50s monster movie has been copied so often that some of the edge is gone, but ... is still entertaining, with juicy atmosphere and luminous underwater photography sequences." Film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 85%, based on 33 reviews, with an overall rating average of 7.03/10. The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
In 1980, Universal released Creature from the Black Lagoon on VHS in anaglyph 3D, using the Deep Vision anaglyph 3D release as its source. Subsequent releases followed on standard 2D VHS, Beta-Max, and DVD. On October 2, 2012, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray as a 2D / Blu-ray 3D dual format disc, a part of the "Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection" box set. On June 4, 2013, a Creature from the Black Lagoon 2D Blu-ray disc was released as a stand-alone title.
Creature from the Black Lagoon was novelized in 1954 by John Russell Fearn, using the pseudonym "Vargo Statten". Walter Harris, using the pseudonym "Carl Dreadstone", novelized the creature in a 1977 mass market paperback, part of a short-lived series of books based on the classic Universal horror films. The novel, with an introduction by British fantasist Ramsey Campbell, offers a completely different Gill-man, who in this version is gigantic, being almost as big as the Rita herself, and weighing in at 30 tons. The creature 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 them, destroying a Sikorsky helicopter, and kidnapping Kay more than once, the huge Gill-Man is killed by the crew of a United States Navy torpedo boat.
The 1977 novel also rewrites most of its human characters. Only David Reed and Kay Lawrence remain the same. Mark Williams is now a German named "Bruno Gebhardt" and dies, not from drowning, but by the creature falling on him. Lucas is renamed "Jose Goncalves Fonseca de Souza", and is a sympathetic character until he suggests throwing the wounded and unconscious Reed to the Gill-Man. An enraged Gebhardt/Williams instead throws him to the creature. Dr. Thompson and Dr. Maia suffer grisly deaths this time, whereas in the film they both survived. Maia is eaten by the Gill-Man, and Thompson is impaled by the creature, using a long tree branch like a spear (an apparent nod to a deleted scene from Revenge of the Creature, wherein the Gill-Man kills a guard in this fashion).
Creature from the Black Lagoon spawned two sequels: Revenge of the Creature (1955), which was also filmed and released in 3D in hopes of reviving the format, and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), filmed in 2D. A comedic appearance with Abbott and Costello on an episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour aired prior to the film's release. The appearance is commonly known as Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
In 1982, John Landis wanted Jack 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 United States Navy. A decision to make the film in 3D led to the remake being canceled by producers at Universal, both for budgetary concerns and to avoid a clash with Jaws 3-D.
In 1992, John Carpenter was developing the remake at Universal. He originally hired Bill Phillips to write the script while Rick Baker was hired to create the 3D model of the Creature, but the project never got green-lit.
With the financial success of The Mummy remake in May 1999, development of the Creature from the Black Lagoon remake was revived. In December 2001, 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 feature, was attached to direct a remake. He had hoped to do a story focused more on the Creature's viewpoint, while also letting him have a successful romantic liaison. He would later go on to turn this idea into the 2017 film The Shape of Water, after Universal rejected the concept. Because of these creative clashes and his commitments to many other projects, Universal was forced to drop del Toro 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 (1982)". 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.
However, the production was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike; as a result, Eisner instead made The Crazies (2010), the number one project on his priority list. His new goal was to finish The Crazies and then 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 the film Fitzcarraldo, and the boat set had been built. Eisner continued to rewrite the script, which was to 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 new design was "very faithful to the original, but updated" and that the Gill-man would still remain 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 the ensemble had been abandoned by 2011.
In March 2012, Universal announced that a remake was in production and would simply be titled The Black Lagoon rather than Creature from the Black Lagoon, in order to distinguish between the two versions. In October 2012, the studio hired Dave Kajganich to write the film. The film was expected to hit theaters by May 2014, but was ultimately cancelled.
Universal Pictures is developing a shared universe of rebooted modern-day versions of their classic Universal Monsters, with various films in different stages of development. The series begins with The Mummy (2017) and will continue with Bride of Frankenstein (2019). The Creature from the Black Lagoon has a story written by Jeff Pinkner and a script written by Will Beall. In June 2017, Kurtzman revealed that the Gill-man will be from the Amazon. But on November 8, 2017, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan moved on to other projects, leaving the future of the Dark Universe in doubt.
The 2017 film The Shape of Water was partly inspired by Guillermo del Toro's childhood memories of Creature from the Black Lagoon; he wished to see the Gill-man and the film's co-star Julie Adams succeed in their "romance".
Arthur A. Ross (February 4, 1920 Chicago, Illinois - November 11, 2008 Los Angeles, California) was an American film and television screenwriter, best known for writing the Oscar-nominated script for Brubaker and for co-writing Creature from the Black Lagoon with Harry Essex. He was blacklisted in Hollywood during the Red Scare. His son is writer, producer, and director Gary Ross. His daughter is constitutional and Indigenous rights lawyer, Stephanie Ross.Creature from the Black Lagoon (pinball)
Creature from the Black Lagoon is a pinball machine designed by John Trudeau ("Dr. Flash") and released by Midway (under the Bally brand name). It is loosely based on the movie of the same name. The game's theme is 1950's drive-in theater. The pinball game was licensed from Universal Studios by Bally so that all backglass and cabinet artwork and creature depictions would resemble those of the original movie.Cultural impact of Creature from the Black Lagoon
The extensive and persistent impact on media and popular culture of Creature from the Black Lagoon began even before it was seen in theaters. To publicize the release of the film in 1954, Ben Chapman, in costume, introduced the Gill-Man to the public on live television in The Colgate Comedy Hour with Abbott and Costello.Eucritta
Eucritta (meaning "true creature") is an extinct genus of stem-tetrapod from the Viséan epoch in the Carboniferous period of Scotland. The name of the type and only species, E. melanolimnetes ("true creature from the black lagoon") is a homage to the 1954 horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon.Eucritta possessed many features in common with other generalized Carboniferous tetrapods and tetrapod relatives. A large amount of these features were plesiomorphic, meaning that they resembled the "primitive" condition that was acquired when four-limbed vertebrates ("amphibians", in the broad sense) first appeared. With a short, wide skull, large eyes, and strongly-built limbs, Eucritta proportionally resembled Balanerpeton, a contemporary terrestrial tetrapod which was one of the earliest members of Temnospondyli, a successful tetrapod group which may have produced modern amphibians. However, Eucritta lacked key temnospondyl adaptations, nor certain adaptations of reptiliomorphs (the tetrapod lineage that would lead to reptiles and other amniotes). In other cases, it possesses certain characteristics in common with each. Its closest relatives may have been baphetids such as Megalocephalus, based on the possession of slight embayments on the front edge of the eye sockets.Eucritta's mosaic possession of characters seen in baphetids, "anthracosaurs" (early reptiliomorphs), and temnospondyls suggests that these three groups diverged in the Carboniferous rather than earlier, in the Devonian. Its limb proportions support terrestrial preferences while skeletal features suggest that it utilized buccal pumping, the type of breathing used by modern amphibians.Gill-man
The Gill-Man—commonly called the Creature—is the lead antagonist of the 1954 black-and-white science fiction film Creature from the Black Lagoon and its two sequels Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).
In all three films, Ricou Browning portrays the Gill-Man when he is swimming underwater. In the scenes when the Gill-Man is walking on dry land, Ben Chapman plays the Gill-Man in the first film, followed by Tom Hennesy in the second, and Don Megowan in the third.
The Gill-Man's popularity as an iconic monster of cinema has led to numerous cameo appearances, including an episode of The Munsters (1965), the motion picture The Monster Squad (1987), and a stage show (2009). Despite this popularity, the Gill-Man appeared in the fewest movies of all the Universal Monsters.Jack Arnold (director)
Jack Arnold (October 14, 1916 – March 17, 1992) was an American actor and film and television director, best known as one of the leading filmmakers of 1950s science fiction films. His most notable films are It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Tarantula (1955), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).Julie Adams
Julie Adams (born Betty May Adams; October 17, 1926 – February 3, 2019) was an American actress, primarily known for her numerous television guest roles. She starred in a number of films in the 1950s, including Bend of the River (1952) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). She was also known for her small screen role as Paula Denning on the 1980s soap opera Capitol and recurring role of Eve Simpson on Murder, She Wrote.Leslie I. Carey
Sound recordist Leslie I. Carey (August 3, 1895 – June 17, 1984) first hit Hollywood in 1938, where he embarked on the first of over 300 films. Some of these were A Double Life in 1947, The Naked City and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948, Winchester '73 in 1950, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Magnificent Obsession in 1954, Man Without a Star and This Island Earth in 1955, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and Operation Petticoat (1959). Also in the late 1950s, he worked extensively on the "Peter Gunn" TV series. Nominated six times for the Academy Awards, he won an Oscar in 1954 for The Glenn Miller Story.Maurice Zimm
Maurice Zimm (June 19, 1909 – November 17, 2005) was an American radio, television and film writer, whose most famous creation was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The son of Jewish immigrants who settled in Iowa shortly after the turn of the century, Zimring moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, and wrote for such mystery and drama radio series as Hollywood Star Playhouse and Murder By Experts under the pen name of Maurice Zimm.Monster Bash (pinball)
Monster Bash is a pinball machine produced by Williams. The game features some Universal Monsters including The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy.Move Your Car
"Move Your Car" is a song by the Swedish punk rock band Millencolin from the album Life on a Plate. It was released as a single on October 26, 1996 by Burning Heart Records, including two b-sides from the album's recording sessions, "Entrance at Rudebrook" and "An Elf and His Zippo". These two tracks were re-released, the former in 1997 on the band's next recording For Monkeys, the latter in 1999 on the compilation album The Melancholy Collection. An accompanying music video for "Move Your Car" was filmed and included in Millencolin and the Hi-8 Adventures. A Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball game inspired the song's title and the cover art.Nestor Paiva
Nestor Paiva (June 30, 1905 – September 9, 1966) was an American actor of Portuguese descent. He is most famous for his recurring role of Teo Gonzales the innkeeper in Walt Disney's Spanish Western series Zorro and its feature film The Sign of Zorro, as well as Lucas the boat captain in Creature from the Black Lagoon and its sequel Revenge of the Creature.Revenge of the Creature
Revenge of the Creature (a.k.a. Return of the Creature and Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon) is the first of two Universal-International sequels to Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was the only 3D film released in 1955 and the only 3D sequel to a 3D film released during "the golden age of 3D". Produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold the director of the first film, the film stars John Agar and Lori Nelson. It marked Clint Eastwood's film debut.
Revenge of the Creature premiered in Denver on March 23, 1955 and a "flat", non-3D sequel, The Creature Walks Among Us, followed in 1956. Revenge was released as a double feature with Cult of the Cobra.Ricou Browning
Ricou Browning (born November 23, 1930) is an American film director, actor, producer, screenwriter, underwater cinematographer and stuntman. He is best known for his underwater stunt work, playing the Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Other actors portrayed the creature on land. He is also the only actor to have portrayed the creature more than once. He is the only surviving Gill-man actor, and the last surviving original Universal Classic Monsters. Browning also co-created Flipper.
Browning directed the underwater scenes in Thunderball (1966 Academy Award winner for special visual effects), underwater scenes in Caddyshack (1980). A Florida native, Browning was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2012.The Creature Walks Among Us
The Creature Walks Among Us is a 1956 American monster horror film and the third and final installment of the Creature from the Black Lagoon series from Universal Pictures, following the previous year's Revenge of the Creature. The film was directed by John Sherwood, the long-time Universal-International assistant director, in his directorial debut. Jack Arnold, who had directed the first two films in the series, had moved on to "A-list" films, and felt he had no more to contribute to the horror genre. He suggested that his assistant director, Sherwood, could move up to full director, which partly affected Universal's decision to allow him to direct the film. The Creature Walks Among Us starred Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, and Leigh Snowden, and, like the original Creature from the Black Lagoon, had music composed by Henry Mancini, who at the time was under contract with Universal.Thetis Lake Monster
The Thetis Lake Monster is a legendary creature and admitted hoax of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. In 1972, two teenage boys claimed to see a monster emerge from Thetis Lake beach. The description of the creature that the teenagers gave matched the description of the Gill-man from the 1954 movie Creature from the Black Lagoon.Wakulla River
The Wakulla River is an 11-mile-long (18 km) river in Wakulla County, Florida. It carries the outflow from Wakulla Springs, site of the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, to the St. Marks River 3 miles (5 km) north of the Gulf of Mexico. Its drainage basin extends northwest into Leon County, including Munson Slough, and may extend as far north as the Georgia border.The river, due to its clear, clean water, was once used to film underwater scenes during north Florida's cinema boom. Movies filmed in Wakulla Springs and river include several Tarzan movies, starring Johnny Weissmuller, and Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Films directed by Jack Arnold