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c. 1954

Playing the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’

The first time movie-goers had been shown a full-body monster

Scene from "Creature from the Black Lagoon'' directed by Jack Arnold

Are you scared yet? You should be, because according to the original 1954 trailer, ‘not since the beginning of time has the world known terror like this.’

That terror was the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon.’

If you haven’t seen the film, don’t worry – guess at the plot, and you’ll be right.  Let’s just say it involves a scientist, his beautiful girlfriend, a crusty ship’s captain, the missing evolutionary link between fish and man, and an Amazonian lagoon from which no-one has ever returned.

If you think this sounds not unlike an underwater King Kong – correct. But whatever the somewhat predictable ingredients, the film worked. Big time. It cost $500,000 to make, and grossed six times that amount.

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This was the first time movie-goers had been shown a full-body monster – previous villains like Frankenstein looked like people in makeup – this one certainly didn’t.

The monster – aka Gill-man – was played by two guys; one in the water, one on dry land.  Both wore a suit of rubber, and spawned the entire ‘man in a rubber suit’ genre of monsters.

This was the first time movie-goers had been shown a full-body monster – previous villains like Frankenstein looked like people in makeup – this one certainly didn’t.

The designer of such horror? A woman, actually, Millicent Patrick. 

Though, even more predictably than the plot, her credit as designer of the Gill-man was stolen for 50 years by Bud Wetsmore, the male make-up artist with whom she worked.

1954
Ricou Browning in costume as the Creature on location at Wakulla Springs, Florida
State Library and Archives of Florida
1954
The film’s lobbycard
LMPC via Getty Images
1954
A promo shot
Universal Pictures / Ullstein Bild / Getty Images
1953
The Creature hangs off the boat
Getty Images
1954
Actress Julia Adams is carried by the Creature
Ed Clark / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1954
The Creature is poised to attack
Universal/Getty Images
1954
“Gill-man” emerging from the murky waters onto a log.
Getty Images
1953
Getting into position to give folks a scare is the “Gill-man” monster
Getty Images
1953
Julia Adams may or may not be aware of the Creature.
George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images
1954
Ben Chapman as Gill-man, and Julia Adams as Kay Lawrence
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
1954
A rare colour still from the film
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
1954
Ricou Browning is shown here as he is being made up as the Creature.
Bettman / Getty Images

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