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Creature Feature: 50 Years of the Gill-Man (2004)

First surfacing in 1954, the Gill-Man from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON has been one of the most influential screen monsters. This documentary fondly recalls the history of the 3-D horror... See full summary »

Director:

Matthew Crick

Writer:

Sam Borowski
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Cast

Credited cast:
Ben Chapman ... Himself
Julie Adams ... Herself
Daniel Roebuck ... Himself
Benicio Del Toro ... Himself
Arthur A. Ross Arthur A. Ross ... Himself
Tom Savini ... Himself
Samuel M. Sherman Samuel M. Sherman ... Himself
Bob Burns ... Himself
Frank Dietz ... Himself
David J. Schow ... Himself
Scott Erhard Scott Erhard ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ed Bowkey Ed Bowkey ... Himself
Kevin Clement Kevin Clement ... Himself
Keith David ... Narrator
John Gilbert John Gilbert ... Himself
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Storyline

First surfacing in 1954, the Gill-Man from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON has been one of the most influential screen monsters. This documentary fondly recalls the history of the 3-D horror film - which spawned several sequels and countless imitators - and the behind-the-scenes story of its making as told by cast and crew. Written by rottentomatoes

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 April 2004 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Beverly Hills, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Color:

Color
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Did You Know?

Connections

References Spawn of the Slithis (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Don't Fear the Creature!
12 August 2004 | by clyyde1971See all my reviews

While in LA recently, I had the opportunity through a colleague to catch an early screening of this doc at the Sunset Theater. As a fan of all the old creature films, I jumped at the chance.

The impression I got after screening this doc was that the flick was made by folks who have an honest appreciation – even love – for the Creature and his enduring legacy. As a result, they handled the subject matter with tremendous respect and kept it from turning into a campy spoof. (Though when talking about the creature features of the 1950s, a little camp is never a bad thing)

In particular, I was impressed with the level of access the filmmakers had to the original cast and crew, as well as footage, exclusive and rare stills, and other background materials. They used all of the above to do a great job nailing down the story behind the making of the original Creature film. A big plus there. For me, the back-story on the design work that went into the Creature itself was interesting, especially when considering how this film literally raised the bar in terms of how Hollywood monsters were conceptualized and designed.

And current-day interviews with surviving cast members – including the Gill-man himself (Ben Chapman) and heroine Kay (Julie Adams), gave the film a resonance and sincerity that would have been sorely lacking had they not been there.

As someone interested in screen writing, I also especially enjoyed the in-depth interviews with screenwriter Arthur Ross (father of Gary Ross, for anyone keeping score), both about the making of the Creature script as well as his experiences with blacklisting in Hollywood. Some great stuff there that all Hollywood history aficionados should see.

In particular I also enjoyed hearing about Ross' rationale that the Creature should not be a traditional horror figure in terms of being inherently evil or dangerous, but should be more of a conflicted, more "human" character who only harms others once he's pushed to the edge.

In addition to the back-story of the actual production, the filmmakers did a good job documenting the sheer hysteria that surrounded the release of the first film and subsequent sequels (Revenge of the Creature). Seeing old footage of the nursing stations that were set up at screenings to treat any of the 'scared sick' filmgoers reminded me just how much of an impact the Creature had on the horror film industry. (Let's see you Freddie Krueger do that!)

Then the doc went beyond the actual films to show the enduring legacy of the Gill-man, taking us to a variety of modern-day sci-fi and horror conventions to meet to real people who still love the creature and consider him one of cinema's great characters. The doc could have easily gone overboard at that point to become a bad SNL skit (anyone remember William Shatner's scathing Trekkie convention skit?), but to the filmmaker's credit, they kept it from crossing the line and becoming a farce. Again, they accomplished this by treating the fans and subject matter with the respect that can only come from a true fan.

I was happily surprised to see they also reached out to a variety of current filmmakers, historians, and even some celebrities (Benicio Del Turo and Daniel Roebuck are two in particular that I remember) and got them to discuss how the Gill-man impressed and affected them while growing up. Seeing Roebuck sitting in a room in his home that's filled from floor to ceiling with horror and sci-fi memorabilia – much of it Gill-man related – goes a long way at proving that point. A nice touch there.

But I think the biggest coup for the filmmakers came in nailing down veteran actor Keith David as the narrator. David (Platoon, Something about Mary, Pitch Black) has such a distinctive, recognizable voice that it really added weight to the film – at least for me.

But alas, reviews can't be all good: I'd say the biggest criticism I have for the filmmakers is that they let a few of the interviews run longer than necessary. Nothing major, but just a few instances where I felt they could have chopped a few lines here and there to make the doc flow a bit quicker.

I can't remember who said it exactly, but one of the best lines in the doc was that if the Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman trifecta could be considered the Rat Pack of creature characters, then Gill-man is the Elvis. I thought that was brilliant and really nailed down the creature's enduring appeal. As does this documentary.


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