Breck Eisner says that his remake of the 1954 classic Creature from the
Black Lagoon planned will be an “aggressive sci-fi horror film in the vein
of Alien” . . .
This is ironic considering that ultimately this popular
‘Fifties flick proved to be an influence on flicks such as Spielberg’s
Predator and Alien itself in the first
watching the original Black & White movie one wonders whether the world
actually needs yet another Alien clone, or even a Creature of
the Black Lagoon remake for that matter.
To recap: Creature of the Black Lagoon will start
filming as soon as director Eisner wraps up yet another remake, this time
of George Romero’s 1970s disease-turning- people-crazy thriller, The
Crazies. Budget is said to be $90 million and Bill Paxton is
“rumored” to star in it. (Don’t bet on it though.) Filming will be on
location in the Amazon. “There's this place called the Forest of Mirrors,
because there are so many lagoons on a thousand mile green carpet river,
and we found the lagoon we're going to shoot in.” The creature itself has
been redesigned, a process that took the film-makers a whole six months.
In the original film a scientist discovers a fossilized
hand in the Amazon that seems to belong to some unknown species of
creature. The hand is webbed and appears to be almost human. The scientist
brings in some scientists to look for the rest of the remains. The new
team doesn’t find anything, but it seems that something even “better” is
out there: a live specimen of a hitherto unknown humanoid amphibian
creature. Only problem is that this creature doesn’t take too kindly to
crowds of people camping in what must literally be his backyard and it
starts killing them off one by one. The creature (known as “the gill-man”)
also takes an unhealthy liking to the only female member of the scientific
expedition just as any warm-blooded, er, amphibian would . . .
Hollywood has toyed with the idea of a Creature
remake as long ago as 1982. Back then American Werewolf in London
director John Landis wanted Jack Arnold, the original film’s director, to
direct a remake. In 1995 Universal gave Peter Jackson a choice between
remaking King Kong and Creature
(Jackson chose Kong because watching the original 1930s Kong as a kid
inspired him go into movies in the first place). In 2002 Guillermo Del
Toro was attached to direct, but finally quit because he had too many
other projects on his slate.
"There is a little bit of
the gill-man in all of us. That is, if
you’re a hermit amphibian pervert . . ."
Following the successful resuscitation of another
Universal movie monster, namely The Mummy, plans got into high gear
for a remake in 2001. Things somehow still stalled however. In 2005
Sahara director Eisner signed on. “As a kid, I remember loving Jack
Arnold’s original version of this film,” he said. “What I really want to
do is update an iconic image from the ‘50s and bring in more of the sci-fi
sensibility of Alien or John Carpenter's
A screenplay by Gary Ross, who is also producing it
under his Larger Than Life banner, has already been finished.
(Interestingly Ross’s father, Arthur Ross, was a writer on the 1954
According to the Movie Insider, the plot synopsis for
the remake originally was:
A Victorian expedition group searching for fossils along
the Amazon locate an area that has been kept on a tangential track of
evolution alongside mankind, untouched by modern man, and filled with
strange and fantastic creatures. This haven is guarded, however, by a
sleek and clever gill-man: the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Things have undergone a change since then according to
producer Ross as the setting has been updated to modern times. Now the gill-man won’t be a
lost and forgotten species being rediscovered, but will be the result of a
pharmaceutical corporation polluting the Amazon. “It’s about the
rainforest being exploited for profit,” Ross elaborates.
Obviously it isn’t only the rainforests being exploited
for profit here . . .
It is understandable why Hollywood is attracted to
Creature from the Black Lagoon. The movie has permeated popular
consciousness thanks to its iconic monster design, a design which has
largely lived on thanks to a popular pinball machine and has been parodied
endlessly in anything from Mad magazine to The Simpsons. It’d be
foolish of Hollywood not to exploit this familiarity (or “pre-branding” as
marketing folks will call it). Unfortunately if the interviews with Ross
and Eisner are anything to go by, the monster design won’t be only thing
over-familiar to audiences. The plot would be all too familiar to
cinemagoers as well . . .
past decade or so has seen a spate of
boat-on-a-river-threatened-by-a-monster movies, anything from Anaconda
and Rogue to Primeval.
Creature from the Black Lagoon seems to heading in the same direction.
“It will deliver action and excitement, but I want it to
be scary. The creature was scary when it first came out in '54 - it's not
scary today - but that's what updating means to me, updating the tone of
the original,” says Eisner. “We went top shelf on it. It's very faithful
to the original, but updated.” Eisner however seems to want his bread
buttered on both sides. On the one hand he wants an “aggressive” horror
movie and on the other hand he wants the new movie to be faithful to the
original. What made the original movie interesting was its sympathetic
monster. After all, there is a little bit the of gill-man in all of us. Well, that is, if you’re a hermit amphibian pervert . . . (In
one underwater swimming scene later copied in Jaws one is uncertain
whether the creature is actually stalking actress Julie Adams . . . or
perv-ing on her!)
After all, how would you feel if you’re just hanging out
peaceably at your favorite lagoon one day when some noisy strangers start
dumping fish poison and cigarette butts in the water where you live? You’d
be irked too. Also, you’d also be wanting to get it on with the luscious
Julie Adams, a prime piece of long-legged 1950s cheesecake if we have ever
seen one, even if you do have gills and scales . . .
The point is how are we supposed to find an “aggressive”
Thing-like creature even vaguely
sympathetic? Eisner seems to be missing the point here to be honest. Did
he forget that the creature actually falls in love with the heroine? Or
maybe Eisner were thinking along the lines of Sigourney Weaver getting it
on with all kinds of slimy beasties in Alien
Sure, Creature of the Black Lagoon is ripe for
updating. It is quite out of date today with its bizarro religious opening
scene replete with voice-over narration so typical of Fifties science
fiction movies; the unintentionally hilarious gait of the monster itself;
and the somewhat languid pace. It isn’t scary at all, but it sort of
predates all the current tourist horror flicks in which locals take
“revenge” on good-looking tourists in movies such as Turistas,
Hostel and The Ruins. When one
thinks about it the gill-man was the original irate local who had it in
for obnoxious American tourists . . .