He might be one of the most famous monsters of the 1950's, or perhaps THE most famous. He is THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and this is his story.
"Universal-International Pictures" had created the most iconic of Horror Movie Monsters from the 1920's into the 1940's, but with the coming of "The Cold War", a different kind of fear gripped the United States and standard horror movies were replaced with Science Fiction Tales such as 1952's, "Invasion U.S.A." and "Red Planet Mars". Two feature films based upon the fears every day American's had toward "The Second Red Scare", "Communism" and the Soviet Union attacking the United States with atomic bombs.
I look at how the motion picture industry in the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom dealt with this fear in my article, "Let's Play Thermal Nuclear War: The 2nd Red Scare as Seen in 1950's Motion Pictures", to be found at:
In 1953, "Universal-International" had released a Science Fiction motion picture based upon two treatments by writer Ray Bradbury. "It Came from Outer Space" was the studios first motion picture in the Third-Dimension process and told the story of an alien space craft landing in the Arizona desert and strange happenings in a small community. The screenplay by Harry Essex had added elements of the fear American's were being told to watch out for, that your next-door neighbor might be a communist spy. In this screenplay, humans were duplicated by the aliens and seemed to have no emotions. Stories of Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union told of whole communities afraid to speak to each other out of fear the other person might report them for thinking, or saying something against the Soviet system. British author George Orwell's, "1984", come to life.
Other than three "Abbott and Costello" comedies, 1951's, "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man", 1953's, "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars", and 1953's, "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", the above movie was the only other Science Fiction/ Monster movie made by "Universal International".
However, the box office and critical response to "It Came from Outer Space", brought on a change in the studio's "Safe Direction" of "B" Westerns and Adventure films, that the "House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA)" approved of, toward a rebirth of the classic and not so classic Science Fiction/Horror tales of the previous three-decades.
For those who may be interested by article "Abbott and Costello Meet the Universal Studio Classic Monsters" will be found at:
The confirmation of that change in direction was the next pure Science Fiction/Horror entry from "Universal International":
THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON premiered in Denver, Colorado, on February 12, 1954
By the time "Universal International" released their fourth motion picture in the Third-Dimension. The country was in the middle of a 3-D craze that would include a Western starring John Wayne, and a Mystery directed by Alfred Hitchcock. For those of my readers interested the history of 3-D and that craze my generation remembers, my article, "THIRD DIMENSION the Golden Age of 3-D Motion Pictures 1952-1955", may be read at:
To direct the motion picture, Willian Alland turned to Jack Arnold, who had teamed with the producer on "It Came from Outer Space", and would on 1955's, "Tarantula", and "This Island Earth". My article, "Jack Arnold 'It Came from Outer Space' to 'The Mouse That Roared': His 1950's Films", may be read at:
To have an excellent monster movie, you need an excellent looking monster.
Although, other than approving the look, the head of the make-up department, Bud Westmore, attempted to take full credit for creating the creature. He would get that initially, but it didn't take any time for the truth to come out.
However, Milicent Patrick's most famous design was the "Gill-man". Below, she works on the mold for the head of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon". A known fact was Westmore's jealousy over Patrick's talent and upon returning to North Hollywood and the studio after a promotional tour for the motion picture. Bud Westmore told Milicent Patrick she was no longer needed and she was "let go".
Above, Milicent Patrick touches-up the Gill-man's make-up. Below is the cover for her biography that is still available as of the time of this writing.
Richard Carlson portrayed "Dr. David Reed". He had been appearing on television in the anti-Communist, spy next door, "I Led 3 Lives" since October 1, 1953 and would stay as real-life FBI Agent, Communist Party Member, and typical Eisenhower family man, through January 1, 1956. Richard Carlson had starred in "It Came from Outer Space" and director William Cameron Menzies, 1953, 3-D, "The Maze" and both producer Ivan Tors, first film in his "Office of Scientific Investigation" trilogy, 1953's, "The Magnetic Monster", and right before this feature, Tors' second film in his trilogy, 1954's, "Riders to the Stars". My article, "Richard Carlson the Academic Turned Actor", may be read at:
Ricou Browning portrayed the "Gill-man in the water". As an actor, Browning is primarily known for this role. What is usually not known, is among his other work, the Second Unit Director on the 1965, "James Bond" movie, "Thunderball", for all the underwater sequences. As a Stunt Man, he was a diver on Walt Disney's, 1954, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and was actor Jerry Lewis' swimming double in 1959's, "Don't Give Up the Ship". Additionally for Ivan Tors, he was the associate producer on both movies, 1963's, "Flipper", and 1964's, "Flipper's New Adventure". He also produced 30-episodes of the "Flipper" television series, wrote 27-episodes, and directed 37 of them.
Guillermo del Toro once called the sequence we’re about to analyze the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He ain’t wrong. I watched Creature from the Black Lagoon last week on Blu-ray and could not believe its beauty; the way it captures the human/creature body as it moves through the water.
Stanley was a swimmer and underwater performer in Silver Springs, Florida, and a professional underwater photographer's model. She also doubled for swimmer and actress Esther Williams in 1955's, "Jupiter's Daughter".
As I mentioned the filming of the motion picture started on October 13, 1953 and completed on November 15, 1953. The locations used where:
Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California.
The Hermosa Beach Aquarium.
Will Rodgers State Beach.
In San Bernardino:
Big Bear Lake, in the San Bernardino National Forest.
Florida locations by city:
While back in the camp, "Tomas" and "Luis" are basically just relaxing in the main tent and do not notice a living hand similar to the fossil's.
Upon approaching, the campsite is strangely too quiet, and neither man answers "Carl's" calls to them.
Underwater, "David" has a camera to photograph the "Gill-man" and is to be protected by "Mark". The Gill-man is spotted and "David" takes his photograph and "Mark" drives it away with a shot from the harpoon gun to its back.
The "Gill-man" does not come to the surface, but that night a drugged "Gill-man" goes on-board the "Rita" and attempts to grab "Kay", she screams, and he jumps back into the water. "David" and the others attempt to locate it with the large light on the boat.
Below, Julia Adams has cut herself on the grotto set and a nurse treats her. Looking on, standing on the left is director Jack Arnold, Ben Chapman is in the "Gill-man" suit, Richard Denning kneels beside Adams and on the right, Richard Carlson is also showing his concern.
The motion picture was produced by William Alland. Alland had just produced the 1954 Western "Four Guns to the Border", directed by, but not acted in, Richard Carlson. He followed this feature with another Western, 1955's, "Chief Crazy Horse", starring Victor Mature in the title role.
The first sequel was directed by Jack Arnold. This was Arnold's direct motion picture that followed "The Creature from the Black Lagoon". He would follow this feature with the Lex Barker Western, 1955's, "The Man from Bitter Ridge" and the cult Science Fiction film, 1955's, "This Island Earth".
The story was written by William Alland, and the actual screenplay was by Martin Berkeley. Berkeley had just written two television dramas, but would follow this feature with the screenplay for 1955, "Tarantula" and become primarily a television writer. Although in 1957, Martin Berkeley would write the screenplay for the William Alland's, "The Deadly Mantis".
The Four Main Roles:
Ricou Browning portrayed "The Gill-man in Water" and a "Lab Technician".
The motion picture started filming in June 1954 and finished in August 1954. The locations used where:
Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, North Hollywood, California.
Marineland of Florida, Marineland.
St. John's River
The following morning the "Rita" enters "The Black Lagoon" and "Joe" in a full diving suit enters the lagoon's water.
"George" and "Lucas" go onto the lagoon and place dynamite on the surface to stun the Gill-man. Once back upon the "Rita", it is detonated. The Gill-man, whose body in a coma, floats to the surface, and is brought onto the "Rita", and placed in a steel cage.
Among those watching "Joe Hayes" is "Professor Ferguson", who will be working with the Gill-man, and graduate student "Helen Dobson", gathering material for her master's thesis in ichthyology. The two meet and "Clete" is attracted to "Helen", but so will be "Joe".
The United States box office was $1,100,000 equal as of this writing to, $12,347,910.
Jack Arnold had left for "A" List motion pictures and producer William Alland promoted assistant director John Sherwood to director for this entry. Between 1936 and 1959, Sherwood was either the second unit, or assistant director on sixty-four feature films. John Sherwood's total motion pictures as a directed was only five, but they included the excellent and mostly overlooked today, 1957 cult Science Fiction, "The Monolith Monsters".
Both the original story and the screenplay were written by Arthur A. Ross, who worked on 1954's, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon". Among his motion picture screenplays that followed the basically television writer Ross, are the Lou Costello and Dorothy Provine, 1959, Comedy, "The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock", stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen's, 1960, "The Three Worlds of Gulliver", and he wrote the story that became the Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Natalie Wood, 1965 Comedy, "The Great Race".
"Universal International" made the decision, based upon the decreased audiences for the process, not to film "The Creature Walks Among Us" in the Third-Dimension.
Jeff Morrow portrayed "Dr. William Barton". One of 1950's Science Fiction movie icons, he had been "Exeter" in 1955's cult Science Fiction film, "This Island Earth". Between that feature film and this one, Morrow had appeared on four television programs and co-starred with Audie Murphy and Barbara Rush in the boxing picture, 1956's, "World in My Corner". His next motion picture had Jeff Morrow co-starring with Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Lori Nelson, in the Modern-Western-Comedy, 1956's, "Pardners". My article, "Jeff Morrow An Icon of 1950's Science Fiction: This Island Earth, KRONOS, and The Giant Claw", may be read at:
James Rawley portrayed "Dr. Johnson". This was James Rawley's third-out-of-six motion pictures from his on-screen career of nineteen roles, thirteen on television.
Florida locations by city:
Fort Myers the lagoon scenes.
Wakulla Springs the underwater scenes.
In 1954's, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon", the Gill-man is introduced as a half-amphibian creature and possibly half-humanoid. In 1955's, "Revenge of the Creature", it is discovered that the Gill-man's brain patterns are very close to a human and his muscular and bone structures also. Which gave writer Arthur A. Ross the obvious next step in the Gill-man's on-screen evolution.
Accompanying "Dr. Barton" is his young wife, "Marcia". Whom abusive "Bill Barton" never keeps his eyes off of and wants to know where and with whom she is at any moment of the day.
The "Vagabondia" arrives at the last known location of the Gill-man and "Tom" and "Jed" are going to dive and search for the him. However, "Marcia" informs the others that she plans to dive with the two men and her jealous husband objects, but "Bill" doesn't win the argument with his wife.
Over the next few days, both "Dr. Barton" and "Dr. Morgan" have been treating their patient with kindness and notice his hands are now forming human fingers. However, "Bill" is also noticing "Jed's" interest in "Marcia" and he is somewhat edgy over what "Barton" believes he is seeing.
The "Vagabondia III" arrives at "Dr. William Barton's" oceanside ranch in Sausalito, California.
Next, "Tom" goes to "Marcia's" room to tell her that "Bill" is mentally disturbed and needs medical help. She feels helpless to change her abusive husband and admits sympathy with the now "Human-Gill-Man".
The following day, "Marcia" is leaving the house for a swim in the Pacific, "Bill" lets her go, but not before calling his wife a tramp in view of the "Human-Gill-Man". Who seems to be listening to the two.
Locating "Dr. William Barton" and cornering him, the emotional "Human-Gill-Man" picks "Barton" up and throws him off the second floor balcony to his death.
The audience now sees the "Human-Gill-Man" standing on some cliffs looking at the ocean and remembering swimming safely within the waters of his "Black Lagoon", is there any different as water is water.?
Most people have seen the film end with the words, "The End"!
According to newspaper articles at the time, "Universal International Pictures" was planning a fourth film in the series to continue the story and the reason for the ambiguous ending and the original "Question Mark".
It should be noted that the next Science Fiction/Horror movies from "Universal International" were the estimated $200,000 budgeted, "The Mole People", starring John Agar, on a December 1, 1956, double bill, with the $155,000 budgeted, "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon", starring John Bromfield. Perhaps money was the thing that stopped a fourth feature at the time?