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The Creature Walks Among Us, also known as: How to DROWN a Fishman.
As a few of you might have figured out by now, I loves me some fishmen in my movies. Creature from the Black Lagoon was the first and the big daddy of them all and spawned literally over a thousand knockoffs, spinoffs, and clones over the past 50 years. The original film did insanely well in the box office, and Hollywood decided to follow up on a tradition that sadly continues to this day: The Three-Picture deal. Any good film deserves to become a trilogy. While we can all remember the classic Dracula, Frankenstein, or even just Vincent Price in the Fly....they all spawned trilogies that brought shame to the original glory of their progenitor film. I'd use the Matrix as an example (since the first film is so complete while the others.....er....weren't), but I know some people swear by it, so I'll drop that line of thought. Point is, the Creature of the Black Lagoon had two sequels that came out one year right after the other: Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. All of them have similar plots and what-not in common. For example, all three feature men wearing dangerously short shorts. All three also feature an expedition of scientists/hunters + a hot girl + tiny pants trying to hunt down the Fishman. In the first film, they're just looking for him. In the second, they kidnap the Creature (a.k.a. Gillman) and put him on display at SeaWorld (much like that crappy sequel to Jaws, now that I think of it). But the Third? The third is the filthy redheaded step-child of classic monster movies. It is the film that takes my hero, my dream if you will, and stabs it in the eye, pees on it, buries it in an unmarked grave, just to dig it up again and pee on it some more. :deep breath: What I guess you should pull out of that is that this film isn't exactly the most respectful to the whole "Fishman" monster. It makes me sad. 1956 was a very bad year to be a Fishman.
Let's just get the plot out of the way: A rich scientist wants to genetically mutate the Creature so he can evolve human beings that can live in outer space. They capture the creature and make his life miserable until he kills himself. This is hard for me to write because, quite frankly, if you love the Creature from the Black Lagoon this film will literally shake your belief in a kind and just God. The world became bleaker after I saw this film. Colors just weren't as bright anymore. There were no longer any children laughing in the park. I'm going to show you why by showing you all the horrible, horrible things that the director/writer decided to put the Creature through.
That, right there, is the Creature as we've all seen him. It's how we know him. By "we" I'm am, of course, talking about myself, but maybe you've seen the classic horror film yourself...I can only hope. But, whatever you see here....say goodbye to it. Because the amphibious killing machine is gone. The hunters (in a small boat) get attacked by the Creature. After shooting two gigantic spears into it (to drug it), the monster picks up the nearest object and throws it at the hunters. What was the object and why does it matter?
It matters because the Creature picked up a can of gasoline, doused himself like a protesting monk in the process, and allowed the hunters to break open a molotov cocktail on his face. Now, to be honest, I can only blame the Creature for this. He's only on fire because he poured gas all over himself, but still. First big scene, and he's already cooking himself alive. If you look closely you can even see the two spears still sticking out of the "flaming Fishman." He falls into the water as the drugs (as well as having the flesh seared off his bones) takes effect. The hunter/scientists take his body back to the boat/laboratory where the true horror begins. On a side note, this is the first Creature of the Black Lagoon film where they simply used "pig grunting noises" to signify the sounds the Fishman makes. So yes, while he's immolating himself, you do get to hear the Creature literally "squeal like a pig." Somehow, that's appropriate for what's going to happen to him.
Let's make a list of the 7 horrible things they've done to the Creature:
1. The Gillman (the other name they give the Creature in the films themselves) isn't getting enough oxygen into his body. After an X-ray, they realize he has lungs that just need to be "freed." They do so by giving him a TRACHEOTOMY. They pop a hole in his neck so he can breath through it.
2. Since they've got him on the table covered in bandages anyway, they decide to start experimenting with his genes. This has something to do with evolving man so he can play in space or something, but that doesn't matter. Point is, they give him hormones and magical serum that makes his scales fall off and the rest of him resemble a human being. Sadly, now he's the Manfish and waddles around in dumply rubber make-up. Oh, did I forget to mention:
3. The Gillman is mentally retarded now. Apparently, his brain was deprived of oxygen for too long and now he's severely brain damaged. Swell. The Creature wasn't too bright in the first place (remember the gasoline?) but Jesus. Now they can't even give him sharp things like pens or he might gouge out his eye or something. Just the image of the Creature from the Black Lagoon having to use safety scissors so he doesn't cut himself makes me sad.
4. The Fishman can't breathe water anymore. That's right. Somewhere between having his genetics goofed around with and having a big hole dug out of his throat, he starts to drown in the water. Of course he's too retarded now to realize this, so he pretty much flails around until one of the scientists (who's got Daisy Dukes on) comes to save him. It's a sad way when the Gillman doesn't...have gills. That's a pretty terrible image I have up there, but at least now you can say you saw a fish monster drowning.
5. It pretty much goes downhill from there, if you can believe it. The Gillman, now a retarded dumply-looking guy in a mask who breathes through a quarter-sized hole in his neck, is herded into a goat pen (with actual goats still there) that has an electrified fence all around it. Even worse, he only has two things to look at.
6. The Gillman can only look at the water (which he misses, but can't go in or he'll drown) and a hot young girl who wanders around near his cage. So, his life's been totally screwed over, he can't go home, he's been turned into a totally lame monster....and all he can do is stare at what he can't have. I think Satan would have trouble topping this kind of torture. Poor Fishman.
In the end the whole thing gets kind of moral, as the jealous husband kills the guy his wife was fooling around with in front of the Creature. The monster freaks out and, while the scientist tries to frame the Gillman (who really should be called the Lungman now) for it, our monster breaks out of his cage and starts smashing everything, including the mad scientist who totally screwed the Creature over in this film. To be honest, this is the one thing they got right when it comes to the Fishman. Check this out:
That's the Gillman smashing down a brick wall. What's interesting is, while everyone remembers Frankenstein for being slow and very strong, very few people remember that besides having claws and a killer backstroke, the Creature from the Black Lagoon could break whatever it wanted in half. The Creature is the ass-kicker of the Universal monsters. None of this drooling and melodramatics bullshit; he just messes you up. (Though, as my review of Monster Squad revealed, he does have a weakness to bullets.) They get the super-strength scariness pretty much spot on as he RUNS THROUGH WALLS and flips over furniture with one hand in his pursuit of the evil doctor (who he does indeed smash over his head). Of course, what does the Creature do, now that's he's free?
7. The film ends with the Creature looking longingly into the sea before diving in and drowning. The Fishman DROWNS at the end of the movie. The most famous aquatic monster (save Jaws, but a shark is not a monster, really) dies by being in the water. There's an irony there, but if you love Fishmen it's just totally lame. Even worse, with the Fishman dead, there aren't any more Fishmen to be had. The other two Creature films were all about how the Gillman wanted to get laid (effectively). Now that's he's gone....bah.
I totally blame this film for why the Creature of the Black Lagoon isn't a complete classic to everyone. Then again, besides H.P. Lovecraft, I don't think any respectable "classical" authors really wrote about fish people. That's not to say that good ol' H.P. "I live in my basement and dream of monster squid" Lovecraft had anything to do with this monster, but some tiny part of me can pretend.
Thank you guys for humoring me. I know very few of you feel so passionately about fish-monsters as I do...that's a good thing, too. I think after this week, I've had my fill of Fishmen for a while. Particularly when they're my childhood heroes that have been made mentally retarded by goofy scientists. Bah.
copyright 2005 jared hindman. Might I add that that does not include the above images as they are used purely for review purposes. And seriously, who would actually WANT to claim ownership of pictures of a retarded Gillman?
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