Celebrating cultural highlights of 1954...
Creature-blogging, essay 3 on
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Quatermass 5: The Black Lagoon
|A fossil Creature claw.|
I first became obsessed with Nigel Kneale through the 1989 TV-movie The Woman in Black. Tremendously impressed with the movie, I rushed to read the Susan Hill novel only to find it a bit of a disappointment (note: I am aware this is a minority opinion). But it wasn’t entirely a loss because the experience tremendously increased my appreciation for the art of screen adaptation—how Nigel Kneale unerringly selected the very best parts of the book and developed them brilliantly. If I were ever to teach a course on screenwriting, I’d center the course on this novel and Kneale’s adaptation.
|The Woman in Black (1979).|
Much of Nigel Kneale’s screenwriting work was done for British television and is currently fairly inaccessible. The three Quatermass movies are full of good material, but the legendary TV mini-series that they were based upon are either lost or elusive. I love Kneale’s wrap-around story for the Ray Harryhausen First Men in the Moon (1964), which opens and closes with the first lunar landing. For a low-budget genre exercise, Kneale’s The Abominable Snowman (1957) is startlingly intelligent.
I’m confident that a Nigel Kneale-penned Creature from the Black Lagoon would have been smart… very smart. Someday maybe I’ll learn how smart. He did write and submit his screenplay, so it must be on file somewhere. In the meantime, I can always conjecture.
Here’s what I’d love to see in a Nigel Kneale Creature script:
|Professor Quatermass in|
Quatermass and the Pit (1967).
- It’s written for TV in 30-minute episodes (the classic Nigel Kneale format)
- Professor Quatermass is on the boat
- Surprisingly plausible scientific explanations are offered for the Gill Man’s existence
- Kay shares a telepathic connection with the Gill Man
- Kay is overwhelmed by a vision where she explores a prehistoric past filled with Creatures
- Instead of the tandem swim, the Gill Man suddenly appears hovering over Kay’s bed
|The missing link between fish|
Note: Let’s be honest: In reality, the Gill Man is the swamp child of the dinosaurian Rhedosaurus in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (a big Hollywood hit of 1953) and the Frankenstein-ian alien of The Thing from Another World (a big Hollywood hit of 1951). Mix and match their DNA, stir thoroughly and simmer on low, and you might spontaneously generate something vaguely Creature-ish in size and shape.
|Whit Bissell, scientist.|
Does the beautiful Kay Lawrence count as a fifth doctor on the Rita? She appears to have some scientific training and Dr. Thompson implies that much of Dr. Reed’s success is owed to her. But you never hear anyone refer to Kay as Dr.
Lawrence. She’s allowed an active part in
their impromptu scientific conferences, and she contributes ideas that are no
stupider than the statements of the identified scientists. But even if she really is Dr. Kay Lawrence,
sharing a Ph.D. in Hollywood Science with her peers, I still have a sneaking
suspicion that she’s the lowest-paid American on the boat.
missing links tended to be extra-hairy humans rather than quasi-amphibians.
|An animated ape man from The Dinosaur and the|
Missing Link (1915) by Willis O'Brien.
|Lon Chaney as a scientifically created|
ape man in the lost silent film
A Blind Bargain (1922)
|The missing link from The Lost World (1925).|
|Bela Lugosi lectures on evolution in|
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932).
|An ape/woman experiment gone awry: Acquanetta in|
Captive Wild Woman (1943).
|Evolution run amok in|
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).
Creature from the Black Lagoon (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection) DVD commentary by film historian Tom Weaver
Various discussions on The Classic Horror Film Board (in my opinion, the greatest and most civilized of all film discussion boards.)
Back to the Black Lagoon documentary with film historian David Skal
When processing Creature information, it all boils down to this: If Tom Weaver says it, I believe it.
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© 2013 Lee Price