Ben Chapman, who portrayed "The Gill Man" in Creature From The Black Lagoon (at least, whenever he was above water) passed away two weeks ago after a lifetime of being identified with the iconic sea beast and loving it. Although he only acted in one film following the original movie, he would travel the mainland United States (he lived in Hawaii) to attend autograph shows and make appearances until late in life. While he wasn't credited with playing one of movieland's most famous monsters, he embraced the infamy that came with it. Both Ben and his rubber-suited counterpart are the subject of today's triviagasm below.
- The original movie was partially inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Lovecraft's 1936 short story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", which featured green-skinned humanoid creatures going around with their collars turned up to hide their gills.
- Producer William Alland was attending a party at Orson Welles' house, where he heard Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa tell a story about a humanoid creature living in South America, which later became part of the creature's origin story for the 1953 movie.
- According to Universal, the creature is the last remnant of a 15 million year old species, although they don't specify if he's millions of years old, or simply the last survivor.
- The Creature went through several design phases, and was nearly a smooth-skinned "Eel Man" that would have actually been female. The final design was partially based on the torso of the Oscar statue, and two 17th century woodcuts feature The Sea Monk and The Sea Bishop.
- Disney animator Millicent Patrick actually designed the look of the Creature, although for years make-up artist Bud Westmore would claim responsibility.
- The movie was filmed in polarized 3D, and was later re-released in the 1970s using the inferior red and green glasses (anaglyph) format.
- Ben Chapman wore the costume when the Creature was out of the water, due to his ominous size at 6'5". S
- However, when in the water, the Creature was portrayed by shorter actor (and adept swimmer) Ricou Browning who later produced the movie Flipper and wrote episodes of the television show. S
- Chapman also served in the Korean War, earning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. He received injuries to both legs, which doctors wanted to amputate, but he nursed himself back to health and was spry enough to play a monster in a suit a year later. You can visit Chapman's website, which is all about the "Gill Man."
- The movie spawned two sequels, Revenge of the Creature in 1955 and The Creature Walks Among Us in 1956. Neither were very well-received, and Ben Chapman didn't portray the monster in either one, although he did "introduce" the Creature on live television in "The Colgate Comedy Hour," which featured Abbott and Costello meeting the Creature. What's interesting is that this aired before the movie had even come out.
- Revenge of the Creature was also filmed in 3D, and featured the first appearance in a movie by Clint Eastwood. It also has scifi ties by appearing (in poster form) in Back to the Future 2, and in an episode of Star Trek: Voyage, Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres watch the movie on the holodeck.
- The Creature From The Black Lagoon became one of the members Universal's lineup of classic movie monsters, which also included Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Werewolf, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Invisible Man.
- Aurora made models of most of the classic movie monsters, and in a day and age before action figures, these were the coolest movie related "toys" around. S
- In 1992 Bally released a pinball machine based on the movie, and it featured a drive-in movie theme. Seriously, why pinball machines aren't more popular today, I'll never know. S
- John Landis tried to remake the film in 1982, and wanted to film it in 3D again. However, the studio was gung-ho for Jaws 3D, and quashed the Creature remake. Guillermo del Toro nearly directed a version, and Peter Jackson was given a choice to remake King Kong or Creature From The Black Lagoon following Frighteners in 1995. He chose King Kong. Today, Michael Eisner's son Breck (he direted Sahara) is attached to the remake, which we sort of hope never happens.
- In 1998 British paleontologist Jenny Clack discovered an amphibious fossil which she dubbed "Eucritta melanolimnetes," which is Greek for "the creature from the black lagoon."
- Sideshow Toys produced a "premium format figure" which will begin shipping next month, although it is already sold out. However you can still get on a waitlist for the Creature. S