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The Cultural Legacy of ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’

Some films make such an impact on pop culture the ripples can still be felt decades later. One such movie was 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon which featured the monster known as the Gill-man.

The horror film directed by Jack Arnold was launched during the 1950’s 3D cinema craze and retains classic status to this day. It also arrived at a time when countless monster movies were dominating the cinema screens but still managed to emerge as one of the defining movies of the decade.

The film spawned two sequels, Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) and the monster also popped up in an Abbott and Costello comedy sequence as part of a promotional campaign prior to the original film’s release. There have been several plans to reboot the franchise, including as part of Universal’s monster movie cinematic universe, but so far all have been shelved by Universal Pictures.


Novels inspired by the film

Culturally, the impact of the movies was immediate.

A novelized version, penned by Vargo Statten (AKA John Russell Fearn) was released in the same year to coincide with the film’s launch in the UK. Despite being rushed due to a tight deadline, the book was considered an exceptional example of a movie adaptation and went on to become a collector’s item. The novel was later re-released and included stills from the movie and a revised introduction from David Schow.

Another novel was released in 1977 but was less faithful to the original movie and not so well received.

Games featuring the monster

In 1963, the monster resurfaced in a board game manufactured by HASBRO titled “The Creature from the Black Lagoon Mystery Game”. Like the original novel, the game has become sought-after amongst collectors with versions fetching upwards of $700 on online auctions. In 2013, a collaboration with Universal saw the launch of the Creature from the Black Lagoon slot game. The game is available to play at online casino operator Mr Green and a look at the site, it’s top reviews and the awards it has won, shows how the Black Lagoon and its spin-offs still hold sway with key providers of today’s popular forms of entertainment. The game features the prehistoric creature and other characters and symbols from the film. The game also features a retro movie-style score to give it a real 1950s atmosphere.


Nods to the original on the silver screen

The impact on other filmmakers was immediate. Just a year after the original movie’s release, Marilyn Monroe emerged from a viewing of the monster hit in the Billy Wilder-directed The Seven Year Itch. Posters of the movie have appeared in the background of countless other films and TV shows, and many other TV and movie monsters were inspired by the Gill-man.

The creature appeared in the 1987 film The Monster Squad, while a character wearing a Gill-man costume also appeared in the cult movie, Johnny In Monsterland, released in 1990. In 1993, a half-Gill-man, half-mermaid creature was featured in the smash-hit movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.


A modern re-imagining

Most famously, the 2017 Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water was born out of director Guillermo del Toro’s desire to see the Gill-man and Kay (played in the original by Julie Adams) have a successful romance. In his version, the female character is a mute cleaner called Elisa who works at a secret government laboratory. She forms a close bond with an amphibious creature held captive in a tank.

From the 1950s through to the modern-day, the Creature from the Black Lagoon continues to influence all forms of media and culture.



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