Cast & Crew
In the upper Amazon, two employees of Jacksonville, Florida's Ocean Harbor marine center, Joe Hayes and George Johnson, set out to capture the notorious Gill Man, a dangerous half-fish, half-man creature. The captain of the expedition, Lucas, who was with a team that spotted the Gill Man the previous year, warns the cocky men that the creature will bring only harm to mankind. They explain that, since the Gill Man is a prehistoric creature that may be the missing link between marine and terrestrial life, he is invaluable to science, but Lucas believes that he is a demon. The next day, the team reaches the Black Lagoon and Joe dives into the water to search for the Gill Man. Within moments, the creature attacks, and the group barely manage to rescue Joe. They then detonate dynamite over the surface of the water, which stuns the Gill Man and causes him to float up, where he is easily trapped. In a coma, the Gill Man is brought to Ocean Harbor, where Joe walks him around a shallow tank, hoping to revive him in the same way that sharks are resuscitated. Watching in the tangle of tourists is lovely graduate student Helen Dobson, who is gathering material for her master's thesis in ichthyology. Hours later, the Gill Man stirs, and within minutes jumps over the side of the tank, pulling technicians into the water. As the tourists scatter in panic, the team captures the Gill Man with a net and then shackles him to the bottom of the tank. Soon, the creature is the center's main attraction, and animal psychologist Prof. Clete Ferguson travels to Florida to head the team of scientists investigating the Gill Man's behavior and link to humankind. After he and Helen experience an instant attraction, Clete is happy to include her in his research team. One night, Helen accepts Clete's invitation to dinner, and although Joe is envious, he accepts his defeat with grace. Clete's first experiment aims to condition the Gill Man to respond to commands, and to this end, he and Helen enter the tank, attract the Gill Man with food, then shock him with a cattle prod after Helen tells him to "stop." Their work is successful, but the Gill Man grows fascinated with Helen, especially when she stops at the window outside his tank each night to watch him. Further studies, including one in which the Gill Man's brain waves are studied, reveal that the creature is anatomically very similar to humans. One day, Clete and Helen take a break on the beach, where Helen muses about her future plans, realizing that she must eventually choose between a career and a family. Clete reveals that he has a personal interest in her decision and kisses her, stopping only when her dog, Chris, bounds onto their towel. That night, Helen visits the Gill Man's tank, sympathetic to his unmistakable sadness. Clete finds her and informs her that he now believes that it is too risky for her to join him in the creature's tank, but she scoffs at his concern. The next day, they are in the tank when suddenly the Gill Man attacks Clete, backing off only after Helen commands him to stop. Clete escapes, but then the creature tears at its bonds and leaps out of the tank, causing the Ocean Harbor guests to flee in terror. Trying heroically to stop the creature, Joe is killed, and in the ensuing chaos, the creature escapes into the sea. Four days later, conflicting reports place the Gill Man anywhere from Maine to the Amazon, but in reality he is still in Florida, wandering outside Helen's hotel room. That night, while Helen showers, Chris hears the creature outside and howls, attracting Clete's attention. He and Helen search the grounds but cannot find the dog, and Clete distracts a grieving Helen by planning a cruise for them the next day. Although Clete must soon return to his university for three months, the couple plans to marry as soon as he returns. During the cruise, Clete and Helen swim all day, not realizing that the creature swims just below them. That night, while they dance at a nightclub by the docks, the Gill Man reaches up for Helen's foot, but they move away just in time. Soon after, however, he follows them into the club and grabs Helen, pulling her into the sea with him. Clete joins the Coast Guard in a hunt, but they find no information until two students spot Helen's unconscious body on a deserted beach and, upon investigating, are attacked by the Gill Man. The Coast Guard swarms to the beach, where a team soon spies Helen's body at a different location. The creature, which cannot leave the water for long, tries to protect his love, but she soon revives, and Clete rescues her. As soon as she is safely in Clete's arms, he shouts at the creature to stop. After the creature obeys, the police open fire on the Gill Man, who crawls back into the water and, wounded, sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Robert B. Williams
Ned Le Fevre
Diane De Laire
Don C. Harvey
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Jay A. Morley Jr.
Joan St. Oegger
Charles S. Welbourne
Revenge of the Creature
Revenge of the Creature was inevitable after the success of the original and to expand the setting a bit, the creature is caught and brought back to university to study. While there, the "studying him" part becomes difficult because the beautiful Helen Dobson is taking up all of Gill-man's attention. The wrench in the works is Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar), an animal psychologist who's falling for Helen too and has the advantage of belonging to the same species and speaking the same language. What's a creature from the black lagoon to do? Well, if you have any experience watching any of these beauty and the beast stories, I shouldn't have to tell you. If you guessed "abduct her and hope for the best", congratulations, you've cracked the case. From there, monster movie madness ensues.
Revenge of the Creature was directed by Jack Arnold, one of the most experienced and talented sci-fi directors, not only of the fifties, but in all of cinema history. He had directed the original, as well as the great The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and was certainly up to the task here. Filming in 3-D, as with the first, gave Revenge of the Creature the distinction of being the first 3-D movie to have a 3-D sequel. The craze wouldn't last long and, alas, it was the only 3-D sequel of this period.
Producing the film was none other than William Alland, the relentless reporter of Citizen Kane (1941) who won't take "No, I don't know what Rosebud is, stop asking me," for an answer. Back when Citizen Kane was wrapping up he was told stories by cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa of half-men, half-fish living in the Amazon and held onto the idea for well over a decade until he could get the films up and running. Apparently, he was as intent on getting these movies made as his character was about finding out the secret to Charlie Kane's past.
The stars of the movie, John Agar and Lori Nelson, do what they can with what they're given but in a sequel to a successful creature feature, that's not usually much. Still, they do a fine job. The real stars of the movie are Ginger Stanley and Tom Hennesy, as the stand-ins for Dobson and the Gill-man, respectively. Stanley had already subbed for Adams on the first flick and was happy to come back for a second movie. Stanley was an experienced swimmer and a professional mermaid at the Weeki Wachi Springs tourist attraction in Florida. Outside of the creature movies, she also did some double work for Esther Williams in Jupiter's Darling (1955).
As for the creature, Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning had taken on the part of Gil-man, land (Chapman) and sea (Browning), in the first feature but opted not to return for a second go of it. Apparently, being inside the costume was such a miserable experience that neither wanted to do it again, thus opening the aquarium tank door for Hennesy, who most likely regretted it soon after. He was already a successful stuntman in Hollywood when he took on both the land and sea parts of the creature. The suit was difficult to stand in, walk in, sit in, and see in. Basically, it was a custom made sensory deprivation chamber the wearer had to endure. Hennesy did not elect to play the creature again.
Aside from the stars in front of the camera and behind the makeup, there was another star in the making walking around as a lab assistant. He doesn't get any credit on the film but he went on to mega-stardom, iconic status, and multiple Oscar wins. The lab assistant was none other than Clint Eastwood, making his feature film debut.
Revenge of the Creature didn't receive the kind of notices that the first movie did but it did well enough with the public to keep the series going. And they even managed to lure Ricou Browning back for the fourth installment to play the creature again. That's the thing with big silent types like Gill-man: they charm you, whether you know it or not, and you keep going back to them. And if you don't, no worries. He'll come back for you.
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Martin Berkeley and William Alland
Cinematography by Scotty Welbourne
Edited by Paul Weatherwax
Music by William Lava and Herman Stein
Produced by William Alland
Cast: John Agar (Prof. Clete Ferguson), Lori Nelson (Helen Dobson), John Bromfield (Joe Hayes), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Grandon Rhodes (Jackson Foster), Dave Willock (Lou Gibson), Robert Williams (George Johnson), Charles Cane (Captain of Police), Tom Hennesy (Gill-man), Ginger Stanley (Lori Nelson double)
By Greg Ferrara
Revenge of the Creature
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
TCM Remembers - John Agar
Popular b-movie actor John Agar died April 7th at the age of 81. Agar is probably best known as the actor that married Shirley Temple in 1945 but he also appeared alongside John Wayne in several films. Agar soon became a fixture in such films as Tarantula (1955) and The Mole People (1956) and was a cult favorite ever since, something he took in good spirits and seemed to enjoy. In 1972, for instance, the fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland mistakenly ran his obituary, a piece that Agar would later happily autograph.
Agar was born January 31, 1921 in Chicago. He had been a sergeant in the Army Air Corps working as a physical trainer when he was hired in 1945 to escort 16-year-old Shirley Temple to a Hollywood party. Agar apparently knew Temple earlier since his sister was a classmate of Temple's. Despite the objections of Temple's mother the two became a couple and were married shortly after. Temple's producer David Selznick asked Agar if he wanted to act but he reportedly replied that one actor in the family was enough. Nevertheless, Selznick paid for acting lessons and signed Agar to a contract.
Agar's first film was the John Ford-directed Fort Apache (1948) also starring Temple. Agar and Temple also both appeared in Adventure in Baltimore (1949) and had a daughter in 1948 but were divorced the following year. Agar married again in 1951 which lasted until his wife's death in 2000. Agar worked in a string of Westerns and war films such as Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Breakthrough (1950) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Later when pressed for money he began making the films that would establish his reputation beyond the gossip columns: Revenge of the Creature (1955), The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Invisible Invaders (1959) and the mind-boggling Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966). The roles became progressively smaller so Agar sold insurance and real estate on the side. When he appeared in the 1988 film Miracle Mile his dialogue supposedly included obscenities which Agar had always refused to use. He showed the director a way to do the scene without that language and that's how it was filmed.
By Lang Thompson
DUDLEY MOORE, 1935-2002
Award-winning actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore died on March 27th at the age of 66. Moore first gained notice in his native England for ground-breaking stage and TV comedy before later building a Hollywood career. Like many of his peers, he had an amiable, open appeal that was balanced against a sharply satiric edge. Moore could play the confused innocent as well as the crafty schemer and tended to command attention wherever he appeared. Among his four marriages were two actresses: Tuesday Weld and Suzy Kendall.
Moore was born April 19, 1935 in London. As a child, he had a club foot later corrected by years of surgery that often left him recuperating in the hospital alongside critically wounded soldiers. Moore attended Oxford where he earned a degree in musical composition and met future collaborators Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The four formed the landmark comedy ensemble Beyond the Fringe. Though often merely labelled as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, Beyond the Fringe was instrumental in the marriage of the piercing, highly educated sense of humor cultivated by Oxbridge graduates to the modern mass media. In this case it was the revue stage and television where Beyond the Fringe first assaulted the astonished minds of Britons. Moore supplied the music and such songs as "The Sadder and Wiser Beaver," "Man Bites God" and "One Leg Too Few." (You can pick up a CD set with much of the stage show. Unfortunately for future historians the BBC commonly erased tapes at this period - why? - so many of the TV episodes are apparently gone forever.)
Moore's first feature film was the 1966 farce The Wrong Box (a Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation) but it was his collaboration with Peter Cook on Bedazzled (1967) that's endured. Unlike its tepid 2000 remake, the original Bedazzled is a wolverine-tough satire of mid-60s culture that hasn't aged a bit: viewers are still as likely to be appalled and entertained at the same time. Moore not only co-wrote the story with Cook but composed the score. Moore appeared in a few more films until starring in 10 (1979). Written and directed by Blake Edwards, this amiable comedy featured Moore (a last-minute replacement for George Segal) caught in a middle-aged crisis and proved popular with both audiences and critics. Moore's career took another turn when his role as a wealthy alcoholic who falls for the proverbial shop girl in Arthur (1981) snagged him an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and a Golden Globe win.
However Moore was never able to build on these successes. He starred in a passable remake of Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours (1984), did another Blake Edwards romantic comedy of moderate interest called Micki + Maude (1984, also a Golden Globe winner for Moore), a misfired sequel to Arthur in 1988 and a few other little-seen films. The highlight of this period must certainly be the 1991 series Orchestra where Moore spars with the wonderfully crusty conductor Georg Solti and leads an orchestra of students in what's certainly some of the most delightful television ever made.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - John Agar
Look for a young, uncredited Clint Eastwood in his first screen appearance as the goofy lab assistant who does the silly mouse gag in the lab scene with the monkey.
Reported to be the highest-grossing film of the "Creature" trilogy.
The working titles of this film were Return of the Creature and Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The opening credits include the following written statement: "We gratefully acknowledge the generous cooperation extended to us by the Marine Studios of Marineland Florida, where scenes for this production were photographed." Revenge of the Creature was filmed in 3-D and projected in both flat and 3-D versions. It was the last film of the 1950s to be shot in 3-D. According to studio press materials, the scenes at Marineland, a sea aquarium near St. Augustine, Florida, were shot using a special underwater 3-D camera developed by director of photography Charles S. Welbourne. The camera floated evenly in the water and could rise, sink or move forward via a compressed-air apparatus built into the frame.
In 1982, Revenge of the Creature became the first 3-D film to be broadcast on commercial television, and according to a February 1982 Los Angeles Examiner article, stores quickly sold out of the special dual-color glasses needed to view the picture. For more information about the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" films, please see the Series Index and the above entry for Creature from the Black Lagoon. For additional information on 3-D films, please consult the entry above for the 1953 Universe release Bwana Devil.
Released in United States on Video August 3, 1994
Released in United States Spring May 1955
Sequel to "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" (1954).
Screen debut for Clint Eastwood.
Released in United States Spring May 1955
Released in United States on Video August 3, 1994