Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: 'The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy'


The Creature from the Black Lagoon was made long enough ago that it is considered the final chapter of Universal’s monster movie golden age (by some folks, at least), but recently enough that most of its principal players were still alive for the Monster Kid age that continues to this day and hopefully will last well into the future. So unlike Dracula or Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon spawned a wealth of documentation about its making, as did its sequels Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us.

One of the highest-profile Monster Kids, Tom Weaver, conducted a heap of his own research to put together the lagoon-clogging The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. His (and a clutch of guest contributors') gargantuan heap of cast-and-crew interviews, archive diving, and close attention to the films, themselves, makes this the definitive Gill Man document by an astoundingly long shot. Everything you’ve ever wondered about our beloved man-fish and his three movies—and probably a shitload of things that never even crossed your mind—are covered between its nearly 400 over-sized, hardbound, photo-splattered pages. Do you want to know the warts-and-all backgrounds of everyone involved in these films, including lecherous director Jack Arnold, beastly leading man John Agar, and Gill Man portrayer/right-wing nut job Tom Hennesy? They’re in here. Do you want to know who allegedly played the creature along with everyone officially identified? That’s here too. The weird promo campaign suggestions; the failed early story drafts; the daily production mishaps and triumphs; critical analyses; the long-teased but never produced remakes to which such names as John Landis, Peter Jackson, and Robert Rodriguez have been attached; and a really long introduction by Lagoon star Julie Adams are all here too. The only thing I thought was a bit underserved in The Creature Chronicles is the 3-D process, but in all honesty, I didn’t actually care that much about it. It’s just that this book is so exhaustive that when one of the films’ significant aspects isn’t explored from every possible angle, it sticks out a bit.

Weaver makes all the minutia readable with his smirking prose, and all of the films were produced under weird enough circumstances by wild enough crews that the whole damn thing will hold your attention regardless of your interest in Revenge and Walks (and if you’re not interested in them, shame on you). Really, this is both a book about particular movies and about the filmmaking process in general, so cinema professors may want to think about assigning The Creature Chronicles after boring their students with the usual Bordwell and Thompson textbooks.

Get The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy on Amazon.com here:




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