by Joe Coluccio, Parsec President
A few years ago Universal released box sets of their world famous monster movies. Frankenstein in all of his guises. Dracula with penetrating eyes and teeth. The very hairy Wolfman nipped by Wolfbane. Ardeth Bay, the mummy, cursed, arisen, and seeking a lost love. The outlier of the group was The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Made a couple decades later than the original chillers.
I watched the trilogy in one day. The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. The scope of the tragedy unfolded before me. It is an unhappy arc showing the worst side of scientific research. The full circle of the story makes the creature a tragic figure. Written in the times of Aeschylus there would have been a chorus donning masks, perhaps in mimicry of the creature, commenting in dance and song on the wrath the gods laid on our half fish, half human missing link.
Marilyn Monroe, playing “The Girl” in The Seven Year Itch, just before she cools off in one of the most iconic of Hollywood shots, says of “gillie” “Didn’t you just love the picture? I did. But I just felt so sorry for the creature at the end.” I took me years and an intense weekend of viewing to come around to her viewpoint.
When I first watched the Creature in some dark theater of my youth, I was frightened. Not delightfully so. The bleating horns and strings that accompanied the creature’s arrival on the screen made me perspire even as my temperature dropped. The slimy webbed amphibian hand grabbing the deck of the small boat, scared the popcorn, perilously deep in my throat, out onto the effluvium of the theater carpet. It was a blow to my body and shot to my developing psyche.
So what is it about this gill-man that first scared the pee out of me and then garnered my sympathy. So, Belle, it is the Beast in all of us. Why else is it that the Creature lusts after Julie Adams? I know my mouth was watering in puerile desire every time she appeared on the screen. You would think he would prefer another gill-person. I guess this is the lot of an existing “missing-link” from the Devonian. To desire with passion, what you can’t have. It was the source of many of my childhood fantasies. Can’t say it abated all that much. I’m just a little more realistic, now.
Within us lives the creature, muddy, primordial, seething with desire, unable to communicate except with a roar. And here comes society trying to make us into an image of a genteel person that never can exist. With thick, clumsy fingers, we break all the delicate cup handles at the tea party and devour the entire platter of watercress sandwiches slathered with ketchup and mustard. The shock of recognition. We are, often left on the beach, unable to return to the depths. Just like our buddy, the altered gill-man.