Out of My Mind: Creature Comforts

Hello everyone!  Today we’re talking about…Nowhere to Hyde!  That would have been a much better pun for yesterday’s post!  Ahem.  Today, we’re talking about The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon is interesting in that it was an original creation of Universal Studios.  There were never any books or stories about a fish-man before the film in 1954 (at least, none that I could find).  There were only three films in the original Universal Studios film series featuring the Creature, so I’m kind of amazed that it persisted in the public consciousness for as long as it has.

For those that are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, The Creature is a humanoid fish monster.  While we only ever see one of the monster, it’s implied to be one of an entire race of fish-men.  We never see any other fish-men in these films, so it could be implied that The Creature is the last of his kind.

Unlike with Frankenstein’s Monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon does have an official name.  However, very few people use that name because it sounds kind of silly.  The monster is referred to in the film as the “Gill-man”, which is not exactly something that strikes fear into your heart.  I will be using the Gill-man name here just because writing The Creature from the Black Lagoon over and over again is going to get old.

In The Creature From The Black Lagoon, a group of scientists are in the Amazon researching a link between sea creatures and land animals.  For those of you scratching your heads, there was once a time when Americans accepted Evolutionary Biology as scientific fact.  Shocking, I know!

During their expedition, the scientists are stalked by the Gill-man.  They eventually discover Gilly when it kills some of their crew and destroys some of their equipment.  At the end of the film, the Gill-man captures the one woman that was on the expedition and takes her back to his lair.  The other members of the expedition track him down and shoot him, presumably killing him.

The next film, Revenge of The Creature, starts off with the Gill-man having been captured after surviving being shot in the previous film.  It also shows that even the filmmakers realized how dumb the “Gill-man” name sounded when they preferred to use “The Creature” for the sequels.  The problem is that Revenge of The Creature sounds generic.  If you had never heard of The Creature From The Black Lagoon, you would be left wondering “which creature is getting its revenge?  Frankenstein?  Bigfoot?”.

Yes, I know how you think.  Be afraid!  Be very afraid!

So in the film, the scientists are studying the captured creature.  Anyone that has ever seen a science-fiction movie from the 1950’s can tell where this is going.  Sure enough, the creature breaks free.  To give the film credit, the Gill-man does not go on a rampage like in other science-fiction movies of the era and simply flees to the ocean.

However, when the Gill-man was in captivity, it became enamored with one of the scientist’s girlfriends.  This leads to scenes where the Gill-man stalks the woman, and eventually abducts her from a seaside restaurant.  Hey, I like seafood too, but when there’s a walking fish monster running around, you should probably rethink where you go for dinner.

The film ends with the police tracking down the Gill-man.  They shoot the creature and save the woman.  I’m sorry, I know I’m being kind of vague in summarizing the end of the movie, but there’s not really a lot to talk about here.  By this point in the monster movie genre, most of the films ended with someone just straight up shooting the monster.  I could talk about how this was one of Clint Eastwood’s first movie roles (no, he doesn’t play the monster), but I’m guessing even die-hard Clint Eastwood fans wouldn’t be interested.

The third and last film was The Creature Walks Among Us.  That’s actually a pretty good title for the most part, but once again it has the same vagueness problem of Revenge of the Creature.  Anyone that isn’t familiar with the Gill-man won’t know which Creature is walking among us.

This film takes a unique turn.  After a group of scientists track down and capture the Gill-man, they discover that he is shedding his gills and breathing with lungs like a human.  I guess this means that he’s not a fish monster, but an amphibian monster.  The scientists try to condition the Gill-man to living among humans, even going so far as to give him clothes.  These are probably the same kind of people that put sweaters on their dogs.

The plans to fully turn the Gill-man into a perfect gentlemen like in My Fair Lady falls apart when one of the scientists murders his friend and frames the Gill-man for it.  The film ends with the Gill-man killing the scientist and walking back into the ocean.  And thus, his dreams of being knighted as Sir Gilliam never comes to pass.  He doesn’t get shot in this film though, so that’s something.

When it comes to the “Monster Mash” stories, the Gill-man seems to be a “throw it in” character.  He seems to exist just in the background, not really contributing to whatever the plot of the story is.  Also, the Gill-man films took place in what was then the modern day, so there’s really no reason why he should be hanging out with monsters from the Victorian era.  I guess this could be an ancestor of the Gill-man, but that’s never explained.

It’s also hard to see why the Gill-man would be hanging out with the other monsters in the first place.  I guess he could be an ambassador for his kind, but that adds a whole level of political thinking that doesn’t mesh well with these kinds of stories.  Although now that I think about it, Dracula was an eastern European nobleman and the mummy is either a Pharoah or a high ranking priest.

Huh.

I guess there could be a political angle to the whole “Monster Mash” thing.  Of course, that just makes me want to see a story that features a monster version of the United Nations.  Or even better, a mafia-style film with the monsters representing the heads of the different “families”.

And on that strange note, we say farewell to the Gill-man.  Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about The Phantom of the Opera.  Yes, I know he’s not a monster, but we’ll get into that in the next post.

 

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