Cast & Crew
Dr. William Barton leads an expedition to capture the Gill Man, a dangerous half-man, half-fish creature that lives in the Amazon's Black Lagoon. Bill and his young wife Marcia join the rest of the team, including geneticist Dr. Thomas Morgan, biochemist Dr. Borg, lab technician Dr. Johnson and guide Jed Grant, who warns the group that the Gill Man is too deadly to control, regardless of their state-of-the-art equipment and a new sedative called rotonol. During the trip, the rakish Jed attempts to seduce Marcia, who continually spurns him. After they finally reach the Amazon, Jed takes the men to the home of Morteno, a local man who was brutally attacked by the creature. Back at the boat, Bill reveals his plan to mutate the Gill Man's blood in order to form a new, more advanced form of life, which he hopes will be more suited to life in space. Horrified, Tom warns Bill that they cannot bypass nature, but only make it safer for humankind. Once in the Black Lagoon, a bored Marcia insists on diving with Tom and Jed, despite Bill's attempts to stop her. While Tom and Jed search underwater for the Gill Man, Borg identifies the Gill Man on the sonar, but he has grown craftier since his last experience with humans, and so eludes their grasp. After Marcia dives too far down, she collapses, but Tom rescues her from the water and the Gill Man. He carries her to her cabin, where he counsels her not to take risks, and she explains that when she married Bill she was only a teenager, and now it is too late to live the life she wants. After Tom leaves, a jealous Bill enters and warns her never to leave or make a fool out of him. That night, the crew follows the Gill Man into a narrow waterway, where they are forced to drop anchor and move onto a small speedboat. They track the creature further into the water, then drop the rotonol, but a misstep results in a small fire, which burns the creature. After he passes out, the crew bring him into the lab, where they cover his burns with bandages but note that his gills have been destroyed and he can no longer take in much oxygen. Just before the creature suffocates, Bill realizes he has small lungs, and performs a tracheotomy to help him breathe. The operation is a success, and the next day, the doctors discover a layer of human skin under the Gill Man's burnt scales. Further tests reveal that first the creature's metabolism and then his eyes are also mutating to become more human. Over the next few days, while Tom urges Bill to treat the Gill Man with kindness, Bill warily notes Jed's interest in Marcia. One day, the doctors discover that the Gill Man is growing fingers where he once had flippers, and during a celebratory party that night, Tom states that although the creature's skin has changed, his nature has not, and that they "all stand at the crossroads between the jungle and the stars." After Bill grows inebriated, the party breaks up, and he later raves at Marcia that she is untrustworthy and "worthless." In the middle of the night, Jed discovers a despondent Marcia pacing the hallway and aggressively pursues her. In the lab, the Gill Man, now clothed, revives and manages to unlock the door. Hearing Marcia plead for Jed to leave her alone, the creature comes to her rescue, knocking out Jed and then heading for the water. The men wake and Tom, realizing that the Gill Man can no longer breathe in the water, dives in after him and wrestles him until the creature passes out. Under Tom's watch, the team treats the Gill Man gently, and the creature grows more docile. Soon after, they reach Bill's waterside ranch in Sausalito, California, where the Gill Man walks placidly into a cage, from which he can see the house and the ocean. Bill forces Marcia to stay in her room, and one night, as he and Tom argue about the creature's capacity for change, Bill sneers at the notion that violence stems from fear and rants that loyalty is often returned with infidelity. Later, Tom tells Marcia that Bill is disturbed, but she feels helpless to change him, and sympathizes with the caged Gill Man. When she leaves for a swim, Bill calls her a tramp, and the Gill Man watches as an unwelcome Jed joins her at the shore. Just then, a mountain lion leaps into the creature's cage, and frightened, the Gill Man attacks it viciously. When everyone runs to the cage, Bill sees Jed's wet hair and, agitated, later insists that he leave. Jed taunts Bill about Marcia, and Bill flies into a rage and kills him, in view of the creature. After Bill dumps Jed's body in the creature's cage, the creature, inflamed by the violence, breaks free and pursues Bill into the house. After a prolonged chase, the Gill Man throws Bill off the balcony and then escapes from the ranch. The next day, the scientists gather, and although Borg bemoans the fact that the experiment failed, Tom points out that the creature did not revert to his base instincts until after he was provoked. While Tom promises to visit Marcia soon, they receive notice that the Gill Man has been spotted heading toward the coast.
John P. Austin
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Joseph E. Kenny
Jay A. Morley Jr.
Robert E. Smith
Joan St. Oegger
The Creature from the Black Lagoon Legacy Collection
A few years later, viewer tastes and movies had changed. When Universal decided the time was right for more horror films it left the past alone and went with a new creation, the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He's called The Gill Man by characters in the films which is so much less threatening that it's easy to see why the movie bears the more familiar name. Whatever the inspiration, the Creature turned out to be an audience-grabber and after the original 1954 film there were sequels in each of the next two years. Now all three have been collected in Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Legacy Collection. It includes crisp transfers of the films, a historical documentary and commentary on each by noted historian Tom Weaver and on two Bob Burns as well.
The first film, called simply Creature from the Black Lagoon, was one of the era's earliest science fiction monster movies though it now seems fairly typical of the type. Viewers so inclined could point out the hunky hero, his window-dressing girlfriend, the monster that's all too obviously a man in a rubber suit, the Eisenhower-era fascination with and dread of science, the King Kong-derived Beauty and the Beast theme and similar elements. But that's missing the point of what still remains a fairly entertaining film. After all it begins with the Dawn of Creation (explosions, flying rock and a sonorous narrator), tosses in mysterious jungles, a colorful boat captain, pontificating scientists, a babe in a swimsuit and a surprising number of violent deaths. It's odd today to see that though Julia Adams was nominally the cheesecake and attraction for the Creature it's the two scientists (Richard Carlson and Richard Denning) who continually bicker like a stereotypical married couple while frequently clad in nothing but shorts. The battle between the Creature and the scientists trapped in the lagoon is often unpredictable and reasonably tense though the blaring horns whenever the Creature swims near the camera eventually become too grating.
If you're curious about the occasional objects that head straight towards the camera--such as the fossilized hand at the opening--that's because this was originally filmed in 3-D. However anybody who's seen Creature in that format can attest that the filmmakers didn't go wild with the format, though some of the underwater scenes that seem way too long in 2-D actually made more sense in 3-D.
Revenge of the Creature (1955) appeared the next year (also in 3-D) and picks up perhaps that same amount of time after the original film. The boat captain is back, taking more scientists and adventurers (including John Agar) to the lagoon. This time they succeed in capturing the Creature and bring him back to a Sea World-styled aquarium in Florida where in a typical '50s move he's put on public display and also subjected to bizarrely sadistic "scientific" experiments. As you might suspect this can't turn out well.
The sequel received (or suffered depending on your view) the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in 1997 episode of that show and in fact Revenge is a bit more creaky than the first film. The opening sequences are too much a rehash of the lagoon trip while the middle aquarium sequences tend to be both tedious and implausible. The finale, though, is fairly taut monster-movie hide-and-chase though you have to supress any thoughts about how the fresh-water Creature could survive in salt water. Keep an eye out for a very young Clint Eastwood as a scientist.
The series came to a close with 1956's non-3-D The Creature Walks Among Us though in some ways it's not exactly a Creature from the Black Lagoon film. The usual team of scientists head off to a swamp where the Creature has been reported and immediately locate him. However, a fire burns much of the Creature and an experimental medical procedure gives him a lumpish, quasi-human look that only partly resembles the Gill Man we've come to know and love. Possibly this was a budget issue since the make up is significantly reduced (no full-body suit) and there's much less underwater filming. Still, the change does point out his trapped-between-two-worlds alienation since he's no longer able to breathe underwater and makes him a much more clearly sympathetic character than previously. The Creature Walks Among Us benefits from a suprisingly solid secondary plot about an aggressive but lonely wife of the most driven, perhaps even mad, scientist.
This Legacy Collection has strong supplemental material that at times is more interesting than the films. The 40-minute documentary Back to the Black Lagoon effectively describes the making of each film and their cultural place. Far from being a fluff piece there are fascinating accounts of the differences in the Creature costumes, an astutely honest examination of the music (an uncredited Henry Mancini contributed to the first film), the workings of 3-D and even solid textual analysis. For the films, historian Tom Weaver contributes densely detailed audio commentaries that run from crew backgrounds to shooting locations to the production history. Though occasionally it might have been nice if he was a bit more in sync with what is happening on the screen, his commentaries are top-notch efforts that can withstand being heard again, something that can be said of very few DVD commentaries.
For more information about The Creature From the Black Lagoon Legacy Collection, visit Universal Home Video. To order The Creature From the Black Lagoon Legacy Collection, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson
The Creature from the Black Lagoon Legacy Collection
Sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and Revenge of the Creature (1955), and the only one of the three not made in 3-D.
The Creature Walks Among Us marked the directorial debut of longtime Universal-International assistant director John Sherwood. According to an August 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, some scenes were shot on location in Ft. Myers, FL. This was the third, and last, in the series of "Creature from the Black Lagoon" films, and the only one not to be shot in the 3-D process. For more information on the series, consult the Series Index and the entry for the 1954 Universal film Creature from the Black Lagoon, above.