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Создание из Черной лагуны (1954)




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Title: Создание из Черной лагуны (1954)

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Complete credited cast:
Richard Carlson . David Reed
Julie Adams . Kay Lawrence (as Julia Adams)
Richard Denning . Mark Williams
Antonio Moreno . Carl Maia
Nestor Paiva . Lucas
Whit Bissell . Dr. Thompson
Bernie Gozier . Zee
Henry A. Escalante . Chico (as Henry Escalante)

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An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.

A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.

Men capture the Creature from the Black Lagoon and make him an aquarium attraction, from which he escapes.

A scientist captures the Creature and turns him into an air-breather, only for him to escape and start killing.

The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization.

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A scientific expedition searching for fossils along the Amazon River discovers a prehistoric Gill-Man in the legendary Black Lagoon. The explorers capture the mysterious creature, but it breaks free. The Gill-Man returns to kidnap the lovely Kay, fiancée of one in the expedition, with whom it has fallen in love. Written by Marty McKee

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My Take: A classic for its day.

Jack Arnold’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is, most likely, FRANKENSTEIN and Dracula’s little cousin. A little-known relative of the more famous monster movie classics, CREATURE is nonetheless a nice trip down memory lane. Plot concerns a rouge swamp beast (Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman sweating it out in the decent monster suit) who falls for (what else?) a beauty on board a research ship, while the men find good fortune in capturing the beast and saving the gal (whose only real requirement is to scream her heart out). Those who remember stepping into the drive-way while the weird eerie music played on the opening black-and-white titles brings a sudden memory of being a wee bit scared if that rubber monster you now find cheesy so much nowadays. Still, despite stiff acting and cheesy effects gimmicks, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is a nice trip back to the good ol» days of monster pictures. Originally released in a 3-D.

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The Thing About That Creature from the Black Lagoon Remake.

UMU takes an in depth look at Bill Phillips’ screenplay for John Carpenter’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

From simple beginnings, great things come. What started as noticing an Instagram post from John Carpenter possibly featuring a first look of Rick Baker’s Gill-Man, took me on a surreal journey. Sharing that post led to its own article posted here at UMU – which I was so excited about in and of itself. It then led to reading a copy of the remake script from 1992, getting in touch with and interviewing its author, Bill Phillips, and eventually joining Universal Monsters Universe after years of following as a fan. Like I’ve always said, even the smallest stones can cast huge ripples; or in this case, you never know what’s lurking just below the most serene lagoons…

On June 25th, the 37th anniversary of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), I sat down to read a script.

What is the pertinence of mentioning both this anniversary and this specific script? Well, as you probably know, The Thing was a remake of the 1951 Sci-Fi classic, The Thing from Another World (Christian Nyby). Had the script I was holding been green-lit into production in the early nineties, it would have been the second time Mr. Carpenter took on remaking a 1950s Science Fiction staple: The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I want to tell you all about this lost – and now found – piece of monster history, but first, let’s briefly tread in the fascinating amount of “almosts” within Creature’s remake history before diving into the script, shall we?

(It should be noted, that unless otherwise mentioned, my source is the excellent book, The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy by incredible film historian, author and audio commentator, Tom Weaver with David Schecter and Steve Kronenberg. It is chock-full of all things Creature)

Early on in the 1980s, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and the Creature’s original director, Jack Arnold, circled a 3D remake. However, the lackluster reaction to Jaws 3D (Joe Alves, 1983) likely played a part in Universal shying away from another 3D underwater-creature feature (but wouldn’t it have been rad to see that version?).

According to Ryan Lambie’s excellent January 2020 article, “Whatever Happened to John Carpenter’s Creature from the Black Lagoon Remake” on, Carpenter was considering the project after he tentatively took on directing Memoirs of the Invisible Man (1992). Hollywood Special Effects legend, Rick Baker, was hired by Carpenter to design the iconic Gill-Man for a new generation of filmgoers (Baker was also involved in the Landis/Arnold project nearly ten years earlier).

So, Enter the Man of the Hour – Bill Phillips!

Longtime Carpenter collaborator, screenwriter Bill Phillips, helmed several different drafts of the project after Carpenter felt Nigel Kneale’s script from the decade earlier wasn’t going to work. Alas, despite so many moving parts, Memoirs didn’t perform well, and again Universal passed for unclear reasons, perhaps fearing the potential failure of another Monster re-emergence. This was an item of discussion with Bill in our interview – which will be released in full later this week!

For the next twenty-five plus years or so, many, many filmmakers have been attached to or interested in reimagining CFTBL, including but not limited to: Peter Jackson, Stephen Sommers, Bret Ratner, Breck Eisner, Robert Rodriguez, and Gary Ross, the son of both original Creature and third installment, Creature Walks Among Us’ screenwriter, Arthur Ross.

Which brings us to the present. When holding a copy of this particular script, I hold a piece of a multi-faceted history that makes up remaking Creature. Fans already know there’s something special about ol’ Gilly. I mean, it’s hard to describe, right? There’s just something special

With that in mind, let’s submerge into the Black Lagoon of 1992 – or rather, Bill Phillips’ first draft from May 8th of that year to be exact…

First Reading, First Reflections

One of the initial aspects of the script that shocked me was its R-rating; strong language is definitely a factor, but the “R” of this rating is truly earned in the violence. This Creature has some mean claws and boy, does he put them to work! I’m not even necessarily against an R-Rated version, but I fear it could limit your audience and is a slippery slope in which with this case, the Gill-Man’s brutal kills might take the spotlight from the story. Not to mention, it might be just a little too shocking for Creature purists who are used to the 1954 tame approach toward blood. However, be it brutal at times, I never felt this particular version was simply set up around horrific deaths. And one must remember, The Thing is extremely intense when compared to its original, and both versions are amazing, so there ya go.

This particular take is very much an ensemble effort. The original Creature focused on three main characters, another three with about half that focus and a couple minor characters. Bill’s work consisted of nine people all taking turns sharing the dialogue fairly evenly with a couple of exceptions. Sure, it’s clear where the love interest lies, but so many people moving in and out of each scene surprised me – and that’s not a bad thing. This is a different screenwriter than Carpenter’s Thing remake (Bill Lancaster), but that same ensemble/group vibe is very present, here; I dig.

There is a clear antagonist, and he’s about as bad of a dude as it gets. First of all, his name sounds like it originated in an awesome G.I. Joe character-generator: “Pete Hazard.” Pete is a survivor of a Creature attack when the small plane on which he’s a passenger crashes beside the Black Lagoon in the opening of the movie (needless to say, two survive the crash, but only Pete survives the Creature). The attack left Pete with a gnarly scar down his face/neck. Five years later, he is still obsessed with trying to return back to the Lagoon, yet cannot recall how, since a local tribe rescued him while unconscious. Killing the Creature consumes him. When a distress call comes in from our characters’ ship, “El Dorado II”, he takes advantage of his position in the Brazilian Government to personally answer the call. The guy is nuts and mean. He checks off every bad guy trait there is: violent, kills random wildlife, unabashedly womanizing, slob, drunk, and downright obsessed to the point that when a crew member takes off in a small boat to get help, Pete sneaks off and shoots the poor guy (an operatic schmoozer named Aldolfo who is in mid-aria when he’s shot in the head)!

Also note: he’s not sober throughout the final Creature showdown. I think the audience would have loved to hate him – the lack of any attempt to conceal his true motives is oddly off-putting.

Deep Breath Before the Dive

Those are a handful of my initial thoughts, and I figured mentioning them first would be a good way to establish the landscape – or Lagoonscape. Now, I wanna dive into specifics of the script. Keep in mind two things:

  1. These opinions are coming from the mindset of not only a life-long Creature fan, but also of a filmmaker who has dreamed of making his own remake since he was a teenager.
  2. Any facet I was curious about was graciously answered by the screenwriter himself, Mr. Phillips! And as stated earlier, a second article will be soon released featuring that interview in full.

Know your Shipmates

The Crew: The majority of the characters are simply hard to root for – and for I what believe is a good reason, which I’ll address along the way. One possible reason: When seven of the nine characters die gruesome deaths, I think their not-so-niceness perhaps makes it easier?

(Characters – in order of appearance and their deaths)

*Pete Hazard – 51 – You know him by now (killed by Creature, crushed head, then Piranha)

*Abel Gonzales – 32 – Our hero and resident ichthyologist

*Jake Hayman – 47 – M.D., womanizing blowhard who likes to dress fancy (killed by Creature, decapitated)

*Jean-Claude Gaston – 30 – Scientist, first diver to go missing (Killed by Creature, claws to face, arm torn off)

*Adolpho Palminteri – 35 – Schmoozer, loves opera (killed by Pete, shot)

*Bobby Whittaker – 27 – Researcher (killed by Creature, too many claws to face)

*Hector Ramirez – 40 – Amazonian, botanist, there to remind us of local legends and such (killed by Creature, spine crushed then face crushed)

*Cirri Thompson – 29 – Gill’s Girl, Greenpeace, rainforest fan.

*Mary Peirson – 49 – Really loves studying algae, rude, gum chewer, casually sleeps with Jake. (killed by Creature, too many claws to neck)

It is also worth mentioning that nearly every man, other than Abel, hits on Cirri without blinking. By my count, there is a pass made at her on about seven different pages, not counting any from love interest, Abel.

Kay Lawrence: This character is key to the story, and her 1992 counterpart was originally perplexing to me. The character of Cirri – this version’s Kay Lawrence (a part made famous by the late, great Julie Adams) – can’t exactly be Kay Lawrence, right? It’s not 1954, and there are some real-world factors to address.

She’s Greenpeace and brought in as a rescue in need of safer transportation; environmental and empathetic. Okay, I can definitely get behind that. I think addressing the environmental aspect of the Amazon is essential when given such a platform. It wasn’t until a second reading that I really realized her navigating the threat underwater isn’t nearly as dodgy as navigating the ones on the boat – as most of the male members take a liking to her in one way or another. She spends a chunk of the story evading their uncomfortable presence as well as trying to solve the missing Jean-Claude mystery. Her empathy, which drew her to the Amazon and its need of environmental warriors, is the same empathy that draws her toward a caged Gill-Man in the third act.

Into the Lagoon…

Rollercoaster Creature: I’ve mentioned how violent the Creature is, yeah? He mangles faces, takes heads off and even feeds one crushed chap to Piranha (so long, Douche of Hazard!). But interestingly enough, most of his initial direction is described as watching from the shadows. So when he feels forced to violence, it surely would have been effectively shocking moment for the audience. Keeping our Gill-Man doing his best to evade the newcomers creates an almost-passive demeanor. He seems to be in fear, avoiding them, yet as the action against him escalates, he kills all but two of the crew by the story’s end. His killing is served by multiple purposes: fear, anger, self defense, revenge. There’s a culmination of all the above throughout the script.

* When addressing this concept with Mr. Phillips, he believed that the Creature’s killing is often a case of his strength getting the better of him. That mindset is more in keeping with a Gill-Man trying to shy away from human presence.

Gills/Lungs: The Gill-Man’s biological system for adapting to land is described in detail and received an out loud “Ah, that’s cool!’ response from me as I read it:

“He hunches his body, contorting it, and suddenly water begins pouring out of pouches in his arms and legs.

Now his skin begins subtly changing color as he starts to inflate his lungs. A deep, breathy sound hisses from the Creature as air rushes into his lungs. His eyes undergo a transformation, the pupils taking on more detail, the flat shining fish-lens disappearing.

Suddenly, he stands erect, dark and reptilian, yet somehow partly human.”

Cool, right? I don’t think I ever had issue with the original Creature suddenly walking on land and breathing air, but to see the transformation process is a pretty nifty idea, if you ask me.

Pyramids! Three connected pyramids lie beneath the Black Lagoon and its shoreline – one of which peaks just above the dark water’s surface. As this team dives ever deeper, they discover a maze of chambers and rooms within. Eventually, they uncover an underground lake, which leads to an elaborate grotto lair (not unlike in the original film). As you can imagine, there are hieroglyphics of fish-beings along the pyramid walls, and within a hidden chamber are the scattered skeletal remains of previous Gill-People. Their inclusion not only addresses the history of the Gill-Man, but reveals his importance to a race of people long ago. The audience understands this Gill-Man is truly the last of his kind after an ancient ancestry – and these intruders are in his domain as well as the ruins of his people.

Pacing: This script builds, and I love that! At 118 pages, the movie would have easily clocked in at over two hours. After the attack within the opening minutes, and not counting his quick hints, our title critter doesn’t truly surface until another forty pages later. From that point, it’s not exactly immediate before the crew becomes aware of him. I think the best monster movies take that kind of time to set the landscape, along with minimal glimpses of our beastie. The events ramp up quite naturally and end in some really neat all-out-Creature mayhem!

Staying True to the Lagoon: At this point of my analysis, we must address the dilemma of remakes. What’s changing too much that you stray from the original intent completely? Or, what’s the threshold of redoing what’s literally been done before? I actually think this script does a terrific job of honoring what came before and building on that. My understanding is other remake approaches brought the Gill-Man to some pretty offbeat places, both physically and by scenario.

In my opinion, you simply have to keep the story centered around the Black Lagoon; you just have to. We again have an ensemble of researchers of varying degree and competency in a struggle of survival with an unknown animal. Only this time, instead of being physically stuck there by barricade, Jean-Claude’s disappearance fuels their search into the Lagoon’s pyramids, which leads to uncovering more about what still calls this place home. From there, the sudden, alarming presence of nasty Pete Hazard keeps our characters in a secondary mode of survival against the unstable threat topside. Though they stumbled upon the Lagoon, the story drives their presence as being more circumstantially stuck, rather than physically. That, in turn, still crosses off key moments of the original – but also injects a complicated and dangerous situation increasing in pressure the longer they’re there.

Closing Thoughts

The more I think about it, the more I think I can see what Bill was going for. Two specific moments in the third act stuck out to me. The first was the Gill-Man’s escape from his holding cell in Mary’s lab. While going on a rampage there, he inadvertently starts a fire. He starts throwing multiple items out the lab’s window and into the Lagoon – including his cage and a mirror he was infatuated with while imprisoned. In the midst of this, he sets free all the animals locked up there (I also spoke with Bill about these animals), including a jaguar, which makes it back to the jungle, and a Manatee that’s released into the Lagoon (quite the boat!). This is deliberately done to release them, to undo what these humans have done; nature helping nature.

The second “hero” moment from our animal-saving Gill-Man comes a few pages later during the final showdown in his lair beside the underground lake. Crazy Pete Hazard has the Creature in his sights, and from afar, takes aim of his rifle. Boom! Pete’s aim is dead-on, but what he’s hit is a reflection – the mirror thrown from the boat! Creature steps from right beside Pete, delivering the most brutal kill of the movie. After, he simply lets Cirri and Abel live; he watches them leave together and our title character slips beneath the water. Fade to black.

This is no mere “self-defense” Creature, nor “get outta my swamp!” Creature (Shrek reference). This is an intelligent, sympathetic being who is able to distinguish bad and good. Yes, he defends himself as well as his home – we mustn’t dismiss his animal component – but we also cannot dismiss his other half. Humans took Amazon wildlife from their homes and shoved them into cages (including him). Humans pursued him in his own home with selfish intent. We’re left to wonder how humans left the pyramids and, in doing so, also left him there. It’s no wonder the story’s most sympathetic characters escaped with their lives. Why carry Cirri down there (which I absolutely must mention he kept her breathing underwater with an exhaled air bubble between their lips)? In talking about her capture with Bill, he said the Creature “realized that Cirri and Abel had a love that can only happen between members of the same species, and he did the noble thing and retreated”. That’s certainly a departure from the original I can get behind.

I believed the script was intended to root for the Creature, and after talking with Bill, I’m sure of it. It’s no coincidence some rather extreme lows of humanity are all on this boat afloat in a hidden corner of the world. Between the greedy, the violent, and the disrespectful (bad Western name), our Creature stands apart as nearly noble (better Western name). Mr. Carpenter would have done a spectacular job. One can easily picture his dripping, moody, atmospheric Black Lagoon, along with spooky haunted-esque underwater pyramids. Glimpses of Rick Baker’s Gill-Man design have recently surfaced, and they also do not disappoint – he looks both menacing and emotive. There may come a time when the Creature will again grace the silver screen, but if not, letting the imagination swim through decades of the “Almosts Lagoon” after watching a 1954 masterpiece isn’t such a bad alternative either.

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