The Gill Man Trio

Universal Studios’ Creature from the Black Lagoon is a classic monster that has terrified and captivated audiences for decades. By far my favorite of the Universal Monsters (and the last of the line), ol’ Gill Man is a lover and a fighter with impeccable taste in women. The creature’s distinct look and terrifying presence has made it one of the most iconic monsters in film history. I strongly urge you to read The Lady from the Black Lagoon, the story of the Creature’s creator, Millicent Patrick. Talk about a woman being overshadowed by a male dominant industry.

There are plenty of CFTBL fans, but surprisingly, many aren’t aware that the classic film has two sequels. Hell, I didn’t know until well into my horror lovin’ adulthood. Over the course of a few years in the 1950s, there were three Creature from the Black Lagoon movies, and each one has its unique charm and appeal. Come grab my claw as we compare the three Creature from the Black Lagoon movies and explain why Universal monster fans need to watch them all.

Before we dive into the movies themselves, let’s take a brief look at the history of the creature. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is the aquatic love child of producer William Alland, who was inspired by the discovery of the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish that was believed to be extinct for millions of years. For folks interested in cryptozoology, the ugly fish’s reappearance is what gives Nessie and Squatch hunters hope.

The first film in the series is the titular Creature from the Black Lagoon, released in 1954 and directed by Jack Arnold (who also helmed flicks like Tarantula and The Incredible Shrinking Man).  The film tells the story of a group of scientists who venture deep into the Amazon to study the unusual findings of a colleague who was previously attacked by a mysterious creature. As they continue their expedition, they realize that the creature is not only real, but it is also dangerous and determined to protect its territory.

The first film is a classic monster movie that set the tone for all future creature features. The creature itself is an impressive feat of practical effects and underwater photography. You’ll find nothing more beautiful and suspenseful that Julia Adams (the most alluring woman in horror movie history) taking a dip with a horn dog and curious prehistoric beast swimming just underneath her, mimicking her moves and daring to touch her toes. Just when you though it was safe to swim in the Amazon! Throw in a killer score, some light hearted comedy thanks to captain Lucas and, well, the mere presence of pipe smoking Whit Bissell and you have all the ingredients for monster gold.

I was fortunate enough to meet both Julia Adams and Ricou Browning (the man behind the mask and suit). Their signed pictures hold a special place on our wall. I also peppered CFTBL references all throughout by novella, They Rise. Give it a read and see if you can spot them all. Good luck!

The Chimaera Fish are coming to get you Barbara!

The second film in the series is Revenge of the Creature, released in 1955. The movie picks up where the first film left off and tells the story of the creature being captured and transported to a research facility in Florida which also doubles as a public aquarium. The creature’s captors soon realize that it is more intelligent than they previously thought, and it quickly escapes, wreaking havoc on the city. And be on the lookout for a young Clint Eastwood playing a scientist in one of his very first roles.

Revenge of the Creature is a fun sequel that adds new dimensions to the creature’s character. The film is full of classic monster movie tropes, such as the monster on the loose in a populated area, but it also has some unique elements, such as the creature being trained to perform tricks at the research facility. The underwater sequences are once again impressive, and the creature’s suit has been improved since the first film. If you enjoyed the first movie, you will love Revenge of the Creature. Oh, if only this level of pandemonium would happen at Sea World. I’d pay good money to be there.

The third and final film in the series is The Creature Walks Among Us, released in 1956. This time around, a group of scientists successfully capture the creature and try to study its biology by performing surgery on it. The operation is a success, but it also causes the creature to become more humanoid, which leads to an identity crisis (not sure what pronoun to use here) and a desire for revenge. The transformation of the creature is downright bat shit nuts. Methinks they did so to get it on land and save some cash on all the underwater shoots. I also think Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy bears a striking resemblance.

The Creature Walks Among Us is an interesting conclusion to the series that takes the creature’s story in a new direction. The movie is more focused on the human characters than the creature, which may disappoint some fans, but it also allows for a deeper exploration of the creature’s motivations and emotions. The underwater sequences are once again impressive, but the film also includes some interesting scenes set on land. The lesson here – don’t fence the Gill Man in! If you try, you do so at your own peril.

So, why should Universal monster fans watch all three Creature from the Black Lagoon movies? Watching the movies allows fans to appreciate the creature’s design and development over time. Secondly, the movies are classic monster movies that set the standard for all monster movies that came after them, ala Humanoids from the Deep or, say, even something trashy like Slithis. The Creature from the Black Lagoon movies are not just important for their impact on the horror genre, but they are also entertaining and fun to watch. Each movie has its unique charm and appeal, from the suspenseful first film to the fun and campy second film, to the thought-provoking and emotional third film. Watching all three movies allows fans to experience the full range of what the series has to offer, as well as bearing witness to the end of one of the greatest monster making eras in movie history. There will never be another Universal cranking out terrifying creatures for decades. And we as a viewing audience will never be as innocent again and easily made aghast. Makes me kind of wistful and sad. But happy as hell I have these movies to watch over and over again.


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About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 30 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

2 responses to “The Gill Man Trio”

  1. Iseult Murphy says :

    Great review of these movies. Your enthusiasm has made me want to watch these movies again. I’ve added the book to my TBR. It sounds fascinating.

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