Thursday, October 29, 2015

Creature From the Black Lagoon

The Universal Blogathon is an event celebrating the films of Universal Studios, presented by Silver Scenes. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the link at the host site.

YouTube viewing

In the grand tradition of Universal movie monsters, one of the greatest, and at the same time, one of the least understood, is the amphibious terror known only as the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In this rare and exclusive interview conducted over Skype, I had the opportunity to get to know this unique, yet deadly monster as we discussed his sixty-plus year career in Hollywood as well as his future plans with the studio that made him a star.



Wide Screen World: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. I realize how reclusive you tend to be.

Creature from the Black Lagoon: Well, it ain't that I'm reclusive so much as - ah, who am I kidding? You're right; I don't get out much. But I don't get many requests for interviews anymore, so there's that too.

WSW: What about the other monsters? Do you see them much?

CBL: Nah, most of them can't be bothered to come down here, the bums! [laughs] Actually, Wolfie and I still send each other Christmas cards. And I guess I wouldn't know if the Invisible Man's ever been here or not, would I? [laughs] That's a joke.

WSW: I thought so. Y'know, I was surprised to learn that you're online.

CBL: Actually, I'm talking from an Internet cafe not too far from the ol' Lagoon. Gentrification's happening here too, can you believe it?

WSW: Wow.

CBL: The Studio rented the place out for today, though, so it's just me and a couple of baristas, but I come here sometimes if I need to use the computer. The locals know me; they respect my privacy, though that may change if more yuppies start coming in. They wanna build condos here! Condos! I remember when this whole place was nothing but a swamp!

WSW: So, what do I call you? I know some people refer to you as the Gill-Man. Do you have a given name, or --

CBL: No name.

WSW: Really?

CBL: Never needed one. Although the Studio tells me I should come up with something. They say I need to "brand" myself for the 21st century. So how do you feel about, say, "George," or "Doug," something like that?

WSW: I... think it's a start.


CBL:" Dick Carlson and Dick Denning were real pros. They both wanted to do
their own stunt work because they were so eager to take me on!"

CBL: That's good!

WSW: Well, let's get right to it, then: What are you?

CBL: [pause] I'm... [sings] "I'm just a gigolo, and everywhere I go, people know the part I'm playing..."

WSW: [laughs] Okay, okay, you wanna keep up the mystery, that's fine.

CBL: It's not that, it's more like, I don't really know myself, you know? I mean, for a long time, it never occurred to me to even find out! But I can tell you that I'm currently in the process of learning - and for a monster like me who only mastered written language less than five years ago, lemme tell you, it's slow going!

WSW: Are there more like you?

CBL: If so, I never met them. They don't call, they don't write...

WSW: I understand. Um, what are the upper limits of your abilities?

CBL: What, you mean like, how strong I am, or how fast I can swim?

WSW: Yeah, yeah, like that.

CBL: Eh, I could go fifteen rounds with De La Hoya if I had to. As for swimming, well, I don't like to brag --

WSW: Oh, feel free. That's what this is for.

CBL: Well, in that case: I'm faster than any human.

WSW: You know this for a fact.

CBL: I know this for a fact. I mean, in the pictures, I can't look too good, obviously. I'm paid to take a dive, so to speak, but it's all in the name of family entertainment, right? [laughs]


CBL: "Julie [Adams] never got tired of me carrying her in take after take.
Light as a feather, she was. And what a swimmer!"

WSW: Let's talk about the movies, then. You debuted in the 1954 film, and then you made two more in the following two years, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us.

CBL: Yep. I love them all. [Director] Jack Arnold was a good guy; great to work with on those first two pictures - and a big fan of science fiction. The kids today don't know him, but he helped make science fiction respectable in Hollywood. He told me once that he made so many of those pictures - Incredible Shrinking Man, It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula - because he told the Studio he was an expert at it when he wasn't. But they didn't know that! [laughs] So they let him do his thing.

WSW: And he did the first two Creatures in 3D.

CBL: Damn right! Bill Snyder was the cameraman for the first one, and I remember he and Jack chose to emphasize the, uh, whatchamacallit, the depth of field - you know, making the screen feel like you could stick your hand right through into that world when you're wearing those glasses. Problem was, 3D was on the downswing by the time our picture came out, so the Studio distributed both 2D and 3D versions. We were still a hit, though!

WSW: At what point did you realize you had become part of the pantheon of Universal monsters?

CBL: Wow. I dunno. [pause] I suppose, if I hadda guess, maybe when the fan magazines started covering us on a regular basis. Forry Ackerman, what was that one he did all those years?

WSW: Famous Monsters of Filmland.

CBL: That's the one. Yeah, I remember seeing magazines like that all the time during the sixties. Forry, all those guys, they did so much to keep our memory alive in those days before home video, before the Internet. I met Forry a couple of times. [laughs] What a kook! You just hadda love him. I love all the fans. They're the ones who put me in that, uh, "pantheon," as you call it.


CBL: "Hardest part about the underwater scenes? No doubt about it,
choreography. Getting the scenes to look the way Jack wanted took time,
and lots of careful planning."

WSW: So Universal wants to make new Creature movies. Your thoughts on that?

CBL: [sighs] Oh boy. [pause] Yeah, uh, the Studio wants to make a bunch of new monster pictures and then bring them all together in one great big picture - which is not that original an idea! I mean, Frank and the Count and Wolfie were appearing in each other's movies all throughout the forties, am I right? And over in Japan, you had the same thing too! But this time there's all this hype behind it because those long underwear guys made so much money doing it, so now everybody else has gotta do it too. I understand. It's the nature of the biz...

WSW: But?

CBL: Well, the Studio's looking for a new guy to play my part, and they want me on board to train him, whoever he turns out to be. [pause] Hey, I understand, okay? Times change, and today's audiences want bigger, badder, scarier. I get it. But I like to believe that some things don't change. I mean, looking at you right now, I can tell that you still find me ugly, am I right?

WSW: Hideous.

CBL: Thank you! I think that in all the years of merchandise and action figures and statues and all that stuff they made out of me, I think that in the fans' eyes - and don't get me wrong; I love the fans, I love the fans, I love the fans - but I think in their eyes, I've become almost... I don't know... cute. And I can't really complain about it too much, because I know that it's part of their love for me, but for a monster, there's nothing quite like the feeling you get by scaring the pants off of people. 

And that's not something I expect you, as a human, to understand, but it's a huge part of what makes me a monster! Even back in the sixties, when I was on magazine covers and making live appearances and stuff - did you know I was on an episode of The Munsters?

WSW: No, I didn't.

CBL: I think even then, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was aware - though it took me a long time to realize this - that I lost something. I became, I dunno, domesticated. I wanna put fear into people again, make 'em run for their lives at the sight of me! [pause] But it's too late for that, isn't it? You believe that?

WSW: The price of stardom.

CBL: The price of stardom, yes sir. You hit it right on the head. [pause] But what the hell. I had a good long run, and I'm being paid quite well for my consultancy. [laughs] Maybe I'll leave the Lagoon behind and buy me one of these new condos, huh? Whaddya think about that?

WSW: You can't leave the Lagoon. It's your home.

CBL: Yeah... yeah, it is. For a little while longer, anyway.



----------------------
Other Universal horror movies:
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Dracula (1931)
The Old Dark House
Bride of Frankenstein
The Incredible Shrinking Man
Horror of Dracula (US distribution only)
Jaws

6 comments:

  1. What a scoop! I'd just about given up hope on anything new coming out about "Gill-Man" - and to have his story in his own words - what can I say? It kinda chokes me up. Great interview.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The folks here at Wide Screen World have invited me to say hi to the readers, so... hi. It's me, the Creature. This is the first time I ever talked to fans online, so I'm sorry in advance if I call you he and you're really a she, or visa versa. I know everybody on the Internet got nicknames. Must be so the IRS can't find them!

    Hello, Caftan Woman! Pretty easy to tell what you are with a name like that, am I right? I'm glad you liked my interview. I went to an industry party once and saw some producer wearing a caftan. Thought he looked like a big shot until he spilled some wine on it. Spent the rest of the night in the bathroom trying to get the stain out! But I'm sure you look lovely in yours, sweetheart. Thanks for reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've always been a favourite with me and it is a thrill to "speak" to such a legend. This must be why the internet was created.

      Delete
    2. That's funny, they told me the Internet was created for porn! But hey, yours is a good reason, too.

      Delete
  3. You outdid yourself iwth this wonderful, wonderful post. I haven't seen the film, just read about it at Jacqueline Lynch's e-book. But I could enjoy every sentence of your article. Congratulations, man!
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Le

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Le! (I'm afraid I don't know how to make that accent mark on your name - it's hard enough typing with webbed fingers!) I'm told you're a fellow Brazilian! How about that! I remember appearing at a few "Save the rainforest" benefits back in the 80s, but I haven't really seen the rest of Brazil. Can you believe that? One of these days I gotta change that. Anyway, my Portugese is a little rusty these days, but obrigado, my friend!

    ReplyDelete