A Look At The Past And Possible Future Of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

The Gill-man will be returning to the big screen, but what does the new film hold in store?

Since the trailer for The Mummy, Universal’s first new film in the Monsterverse, was released the internet has been a-buzz. Not long after the trailer debuted, we learned from Alex Kurtzman that the films for the latest monster revival are not remakes but canonical with the original series. That means instead of rebooting the franchise entirely we are going to get continuations from each of the original stories. This revelation has started many theorizing what Sofia Boutella’s “Ahmanet” could be capable of. Could she bring back Imhotep, Kharis, and Klaris from the past Mummy films? Is Tom Cruise some kind of immortal? Who knows? Will have to wait and see, but what I really want to know is what are they doing with the Gill-man?

The Creature From the Black Lagoon is my favorite of all the monsters in the Monsterverse. And while werewolves, reanimated corpses, and vampires have gotten their fair share of films precious few seem to have the desire to see another Creature movie. This franchise lives in constant development hell and has seen several promising directors such as John Carpenter, Peter Jackson, and Ivan Reitman come and go from the project. Why can’t this movie get a solid go of it?

Even with the Monsterverse being revived there is still little information on when and where this film is going. In April of 2015, Tracking Board reported that Scarlett Johansson had been offered the leading role in the upcoming entry to the Creature story. Then, in August 2015, it was reported that Jeff Pinker (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) would be writing the film. But that’s all the information we have.

After learning the new films would be canonical I decided to go back and revisit my favorite monster to see if I could figure out the direction it could be going.The Creature From the Black Lagoon was first thought up at a dinner party for Citizen Kane when producer William Alland was told about the legend of a half-man, half-fish monster supposedly lurking in the murky water of the Amazon River. Ten years later and inspired by Beauty and the Beast, the world got Harry Essex and Arthur Ross’ script, “The Black Lagoon”. Because 3D was so popular at the time, Jack Arnold (House of Wax) was hired to direct the picture.

Though the 3D fad had pretty much faded by the time the first film came out, Jack Arnold tried to resurrect it with Revenge of the Creature. This time another group of good looking scientists captures the Gill-man and takes him to an aquatic park in an attempt to train him. I feel like Revenge of the Creature shaped the story for Jurassic World and while it isn’t as good as the first film it retains that sort of dream-like state that the first creates.

Finally, in The Creature Walks Among Us, the Gill-man is captured again after being set aflame at the beginning. The fire does serious damage to his outer scales and reveals that underneath is a far more human-like being than they could have imagined. The longer he stays on land the more human the Gill-man turns and when he is treated kindly he reveals himself to not be such a monster. But, much like Frankenstein’s monster, when he’s confronted by violence he reverts back into his primal stage. The ending of this final film sees the Gill-man returning to the water where he would presumably regain more of this fish-like appearance.

My Theories & Speculations:

  • “The Black Lagoon” is a title that has bounced around since before the original film was made. Maurice Zimm’s original treatment was titled “The Black Lagoon” and in 2012 Universal announced a reboot in production by the same name. So, if they continue in this route we could get a movie going back to the roots of the Amazon River that could explore the possibility of more than just one Gill-man.
  • Going back to the trailer for The Mummy, we see Tom Cruise and company transferring the sarcophagus presumably back to the United States. But why? A theory at Cinema Runner suggests that perhaps they are taking it to Dr. Jekyll’s (Russell Crowe) to be stored in a collection. So what if Dr. Jekyll has learned of this half-man, half-fish reptile and wants to collect all the world’s monsters to study their rage? After all, that is what the original Henry Jekyll is fascinated with. It would seem that Crowe’s portrayal is probably a great-grandson who has taken on Gramps’ work. AND in The Creature Walks Among Us, we learn that the Gill-man is capable of becoming human and only regresses to his natural form when confronted with violence. Perhaps Jekyll wants to continue this study?
  • A recurring theme in the Creature films is the idea of man overstepping his/her bounds in nature. Obviously, this is a theme that has continued on in hundreds of films since then. I’d say it’s likely our Gill-man is going to be the result of a global warming incident from the massive deforestation occurring in the Amazon jungle. This seems to be a sort of boring rebirth but likely nonetheless. The Gill-man could be forced further inland from the secluded Black Lagoon and stumble into ScarJo’s camp of scientists.
  • In each film of the trilogy, Gill-man is enamored with the only woman, who is always gorgeous, in the group. Like King Kong, he wants to capture the beauty and make her his fish-queen. What if our leading lady is taken by Gill-man and ends up in a secret world of Gill-people?

New Film Must Haves:

  • An actual Gill-person. Ricou Browning’s underwater performance is what made the first film so amazing. Everyone remembers the iconic shot of the Creature swimming underneath Julie Adams in the first film. This fourth entry needs to have an actual body suit with a person inside. A full on CG Gill-man would be a real disappointment to fans and the use of practical effects could usher in more creature-features, something horror has been lacking in over recent years.
  • All three films have featured a gorgeous leading lady for the Gill-man to fall in love with but unlike a lot of films from back in the day these women are all incredibly intelligent as well. This needs to continue now more than ever.
  • As much as I hate to say it and build up the gimmicky quality of 3D, it would be a really great homage to Jack Arnold and the creature features of the '50s to have the new film continue in the 3D world. (Sidebar: I got to see the original film in newer 3D several years ago and it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a 3D film.)
  • A strong marketing campaign is going to make all the difference in the world for a Creature From the Black Lagoon flick. People will always run out to see a new Dracula movie and maybe to a lesser extent, a Frankenstein, and a Wolf-Man movie but I think Creature will be a harder sell. A lot can go wrong in creating a monster like Gill-man for modern audiences. Especially ones who don’t have a built-in love for him already. The monster has to be scary without the risk of becoming comical or corny.

I find it strange that we know a little about each movie that will be coming up in this continuation yet we know nothing about Creature From the Black Lagoon. What I do know is that even if these new films don’t initially seem to hold the same magic as the first, I am still entirely on board to see the return of monsters to the big screen. This could mean an entirely new wave of actual creature-features, and I think movie world needs that. It could also mean the resurgence of practical effects within big-budget movies and that could be amazing. In the wake of our political climate, I see a lot more room for monsters on the screen. They are cautionary tales like any other and perhaps we are at the beginning of a fantastic new world of monsters.