The Creature from the Black Lagoon series tells the story of a tragic villain. Gill-man’s story also speaks of modern environmental problems.
The last monster introduced in the Universal Classic Monster franchise was the Gill-man from the iconic 1954 film, Creature from the Black Lagoon. Even though the film is a beloved creature feature, the bigger ideas are bubbling just below the surface of the three films that make up the series. The villain in the movie is often portrayed as the monster. In reality, he is a victim who, inadvertently, represents nature itself. As a creature constantly attacked and studied by man, the franchise addresses some of the major environmental problems the world experiences even today.
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The original Creature from the Black Lagoon tells the story of a group of scientists who believe they have found the missing link in the evolution of humanity. Yet that bond is alive and well with the Gill-man, an amphibian humanoid who is the last of his kind. Without an explanation as to why it has survived, the creature is quickly attacked after developing an attraction for a woman who is part of the expedition. Acting as animals will, the creature responds aggressively when the other explorers attempt to save the captured woman. At its conclusion, the creature is shot and apparently killed. The actions of humans reflect how people have always attacked misunderstood creatures without knowing why they are acting hostile. It is eerily similar to poaching or whaling and how these innocent creatures often turn violent with their attackers in order to survive.
In the aftermath, The creature’s revenge, humanity’s curiosity again negatively affects Gill-man, who, after surviving the injuries in the first film, is taken to a Florida aquarium for study. Once again, he likes one of the women on the team and firmly establishes the idea that while he is the last of his kind, he still feels lonely and wants someone to care for. This desire for affection is the catalyst for his escape, and the creature begins to stalk the woman in the hope of being with her, as in the previous film. Once again, this ends with his apparent murder by the police, allowing his captive to escape. The film shows Gill-man’s loneliness while juggling the metaphor that nature can only be contained for so long and is not meant for humanity to lock up and study.
1956 The creature walks among us is the tragic conclusion to the Gill-man story and presents the most crucial lesson of all. Surviving his injuries from the previous film once again, the creature is captured and severely burned. After extensive surgery, Gill-man sheds his scales and develops a pulmonary system that allows him to breathe air. Now, more human than fish, he walks around in clothes, trying to assimilate into some form of life that society deems appropriate. Still an animal, Gill-man looks out to the ocean with a desire for freedom.
Unable to be human or to return to the sea, his loneliness and anger reach a fever pitch, and he responds with violence. The conclusion of the film sees the Gill-man return to the ocean after his rampage. However, it is not clear whether he survives in his new form or dies obtaining the freedom that was taken from him. Gill’s Man’s Wishes show how nature was always destined to be free. Their scars represent that human interference often leads to a point of no return, similar to the death of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon The franchise is much more complex than its name suggests. Gill-man is the last of his kind whose only wish is to be loved and be free. At the end of his trilogy, he loses one and potentially the other. The trilogy serves as a cautionary tale and a metaphor for letting nature flourish and admire its beauty without undue interference. If abused, it could end up as Gill’s man’s wish to return to his past life.
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