Director 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 Jaws, Predator and Alien itself. However 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 “rumoured” 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.
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 The Thing.”
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 original.)
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 . . .
The 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 of all of us in the gill-man. 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 Resurrection here?
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 . . .