My Favorite Monster

Halloween cometh so it seems logical to do my favorite monster as the next in the series of my favorites. Now one could get heady and start by saying what defines a monster. But let’s not.  Instead lets define what makes for a memorable monster movie. For me the ingredients are; a good story, the monster should scare us (at least a little) and evoke some degree of empathy. Most of the classic monster films have these elements to one degree or another. As an aside, as my favorite monster is one of the universal family of monsters, I recommend having a listen to James Rolfe  on the subject on Cinemassacre. His discussion reminds me of arguments I had with my friends as to who was the scariest monster etc. Very nostalgic (below).                                                                                               
It’s hard to find a film that is strong in all three areas. King Kong, one of my favorite movies, has a great story, a tremendous empathy factor but scary, not really. However consider in the early 1930’s movie audiences were being fed a diet of feel good movies. Shirley temple was the biggest box office draw. King Kong was a radical departure. Now of course what is scary to an eight yr old watching King Kong might well not be to an adult. Then again my youngest son, at an early age, could watch the most blood curdling film and not flinch, while I would have the pillow ready to cover my eyes. I still wonder about him LOL. Well one movie that comes to mind that satisfies all criteria is Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera 1925 (below).
But he’s not my favorite. So who is? The Creature from the Black Lagoon AKA the Gill-Man.
This movie, in which Universal uses its successful  beauty and the beast formula, has all the elements, though again not very scary. The music for the movie is pretty good and those shrill three notes that plays every time the monster appears stay with you forever. You know the three notes I’m talking about. The camera work is above average. The synchronous swimming scene between the monster and Kay is amazing. The monster could have grabbed her and pulled her under the water at any time but he’s enamored with her, barely touches her foot and darts off. Reminiscent of Kong toying with Ann. Watch the scene (below).
Now I have a slightly different take on why the monster is so enamored. If you remember the very beginning of the movie the archeologists find an arm and hand identical to the Gill man’s embedded in rock. My theory is this was the Gill-Man’s mate (The title card does say centuries of pent up passion) and he’s pissed at the archeologist for disturbing her resting place, destroys their camp and kills his assistants. Kay’s swim routine sparks memories of the creature frolicking with his mate in the black lagoon etc. Anyway just a theory. Tell you what.. I’m gonna do something for my favorite monster. Kay move over. The gill man just got lucky (below).
OK back to the movie.  Some of the scenes when the monster is on the boat are a little scary. The scene where he scoops up Kay and jumps into the water, all in one fluid motion, though not scary, was cool. Though not totally fluid, the stunt double obviously took the plunge.
A lot of empathy in this movie. In the final scene David finally stops the men from shooting the monster allowing him to re-enter and die in the lagoon or did he die???? Clearly the Gill-Man was the prototype for future monsters. Was the swim scene a forerunner to Jaws? Most definitely.
Finally although Lugosi or the Phantom might be considered the most dapper Universal monster. The gill-man, in this break from filming, shows a little panache of his own (below).
Now on to collectibles. I don’t have any American paper on this title other than some magazine advertisements. As you might expect original 1954 posters are expensive as would be a complete lobby set in fine condition. Individual lobby cards certainly are not rare, and are affordable but I know I would want the whole set  and haven’t had the patience to collect it card  by card. Of course the title card is expensive. I do have the two French re-issue posters from the 60’s (left and center).  There is a visa no. on the reissues. Wish I had known that when I purchased the small re-issue poster. I thought, as did others, this was an original 1954 issue. The original is pictured on the right. Only in more recent years with detailed descriptions from Grey Smith at, Bruce Hershenson and Sue and ED Poole’s website LAMP have this and a number of other poster’s year of issue been correctly described.
My mother, who was bed ridden happened to move in with me about the same time I acquired the large French poster. The only wall space I had available to hang the poster was directly opposite her bed. I can still hear her voice “Alan, why do I have to wake up every morning looking at that hideous creature. Can’t you hang a Gone with the Wind poster there instead? Now I had a GWTW poster, but not framed and I wanted to look at my creature poster. “ Alan!  if  I wasn’t confined to this bed..”But y’are Blanche Y’are. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother very much, god rest her soul. I wouldn’t be the person I am today and certainly would not have the appreciation for movies that I have, if my mother hadn’t taken me to see many films. She was a real fan. Interesting side bar she was a telephone operator during WWII and had occasion to speak to Clark Gable,  Bob Hope and Danny Kaye. Who of the three, I asked her, did you most enjoy talking to. Danny Kaye. He was the most polite and chatty.
Stay tuned for next month's My Favorite.