In 1954, Creature From the Black Lagoon successfully launched one of the last Universal Monsters franchises: the Gill-Man. It was the film that Marilyn Monroe’s character in The Seven Year Itch had just seen when a passing subway car wafted a breeze up her white dress from underneath the vent. The 1955 sequel, Revenge of the Creature, made Clint Eastwood’s day as his feature debut. A third and final chapter, The Creature Walks Among Us, arrived in 1956. Matthew Crick’s documentary Creature Feature: 50 Years of the Gill-Man chronicles the makings of the trilogy and its lasting effects on fanboys, among them Benicio Del Toro (who here supplies a celebrity testimonial). Interviews with the trilogy’s cast and crew (including the late Ben Chapman, who originally wore the monster suit), numerous film clips, and exhaustive behind-the-scenes trivia all suggest the research that went into this documentary was quite an undertaking. But Crick less successfully devotes the latter third entirely to memorabilia collectors and the various forums where they congregate. The knowledgeable enthusiasts can’t quite articulate the enduring appeal of the creature, and there isn’t a film historian or critic on hand to put things into perspective. For the uninitiated, Creature Feature would better serve as a special feature on a DVD set. Made in 2004 to commemorate the creature’s 50th anniversary, Crick’s film is just now getting a theatrical run, no doubt as an extended teaser for next year’s Creature From the Black Lagoon remake with Bill Paxton.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 22, 2008