November 3, 2002
Return to the
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
Who knew the Creature
would still be walking among us in the 21st century?
Julie Adams, the star
of the 1954 classic "Creature From the Black Lagoon," is as surprised as
anyone by The Gill Man's lasting legacy.
"I certainly never thought
we'd be talking about it five years later, much less 40-some-odd years
later," Adams said from her home in Los Angeles. "I still get letters.
So many young people love it."
Later this week, Adams
will add a footnote to monster-movie history when she visits Wakulla Springs,
where much of "Creature From the Black Lagoon" was filmed.
It's her first visit
to the real Black Lagoon.
Adams shot all her scenes
on a Universal Studios back lot in Hollywood. All the "Creature's" jungle
backgrounds and underwater photography were filmed at Wakulla Springs.
It was all blended together in the editing room.
Ginger Stanley was Adams'
swimming and underwater double in Florida. They've never met - until now.
Stanley and Adams will
have a chance to compare notes during The Tallahassee Film Society's second
annual Creaturefest at the Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge starting
"I wasn't sure about
the movie. I had no concept of how popular it was going to be," Stanley
said from her home in Orlando. "I just thought it would be fun to do. I
Ben Chapman, who played
the famous Gill Man on the Hollywood back lot, also is attending. This
counts as his maiden voyage to the shores of the Black Lagoon.
"Never in our youth
would we ever think that the movie would be as popular today as it is," Chapman
said via e-mail from his home in Hawaii. "I see it at conventions I visit
across the USA. It may even be more popular today. I would like to thank
the loyal fans of The Gill Man because without such fans The Gill Man would
have been dead, buried and forgotten a long time ago."
Ricou Browning, the
swimmer who performed the spectacular underwater stunts wearing the Creature
suit, was invited but declined to take part in Creaturefest.
"I'm really looking
forward to visiting (the springs)," Adams said. "After all, it's the place
where I was abducted."
Dressed for distress
The only reason Adams
starred in "Creature" is because the studio brass told her to.
"I was under contract
at the time - the last gasp of the contract - and was assigned to the picture," Adams
said. "I had my doubts about it when I read it. But I was not the kind
of person to go on strike. I thought to myself, 'This will be fun. What
The filming in Hollywood
and at Wakulla Springs took place simultaneously in the fall of 1953. Adams
and Chapman, who've remained friends, watched the dailies as they were
shipped in from North Florida.
"It was amazing to watch," she
said. "We were really impressed (by the unedited film). They would breath
off air hoses hidden behind rocks."
In the film, Adams plays
Kay Lawrence, a scientist who embarks on a trip down the Amazon River with
her fiance and a team of fellow archaeologists aboard The Rita. They are
looking for The Gill Man - a half-man, half-fish who is an evolutionary
"I think the movie has
endured because the story still holds up today," Chapman said. "Man is
still trying to figure out if man came from the sea."
In an aquatic twist
on "Beauty and the Beast," The Gill Man is smitten by the female scientist.
It may be in part because Kay Lawrence wears a series of bathing suits
and smart shorts ensembles.
"She was going down
the river with a fiance so she didn't want to look like a droop," Adams
said and laughed as she defended the numerous costume changes.
Stanley was hired for
$500 a week to perform all Adams' swimming and underwater scenes.
She had plenty of experience
after a stint as mermaid at Weeki Wachee and making promotional films (all
underwater) for Silver Springs in Ocala. To boot, Stanley was briefly "The
Underwater Weather Girl" for Dick Van Dyke on a CBS morning news show in
"I was in a tank of
water with a map drawn on the glass and would draw in snowflakes if it
was snowing in the Rockies. Stuff like that," Stanley said. "It wasn't
rocket science, but it was novel and drew a lot of attention."
In the movie's most
famous scene, known as "the water ballet," Stanley swims across the surface
of the water while Browning's Creature mirrors her movements from several
feet below. Browning swam upside down and backward while a camera shot
the action from the floor of the spring.
"That's the part that
got the most attention, and it was the easiest to do, at least for me," Stanley
"Ricou had to do all
the work on that one. He's the one who came up with the Creature's special
way of swimming. It appeared so real you didn't think of him as being artificial.
It made him real for many people."
Although Stanley said
she has fond memories of making the movie and staying at the Wakulla Springs
Lodge, the weather was not ideal.
"We filmed it in November,
and it was very cold. The air was cold," she said. "There was a lot of
standing around wet and dripping and shivering."
Her most challenging
stunt came when The Creature snatched her from the surface and hauled her
into the cave near the bottom of Wakulla Springs. Prop people with air
tanks were hiding in the mouth of the cave, but they were more than 60
feet straight down.
"I had to appear unconscious,
but I also had to clear my ears to equalize the pressure," she said. "That's
hard to do if you're supposed to be unconscious. ... I found a way to press
my nose against Ricou's shoulder and clear my ears before the pain got
worse. ... I trusted Ricou, we had been swimming partners before (at Weeki
For the "dangerous stuff," Stanley
and Browning got hazard pay.
"I think I got $500
per try, and we did it three times. But, hey, that was a lot of money in
those days. We didn't feel like we were being taken advantage of."
The original film was
shot for 3-D, thus the need for three takes.
Stanley said she owns
a video copy of the movie and enjoys showing it to her grandchildren.
"My 11-year-old grandson
just wrote an essay about how I was not your ordinary grandmother," Stanley
"I just don't watch
old movies that much. I try to live in today," Adams said when asked if
she ever stayed up late to watch "The Creature From the Black Lagoon."
She made an exception
in 1994 when she accepted an invitation to a film festival in Spain where "The
Creature From the Black Lagoon" was on the program. She watched her movie
for the first time in decades.
"I was really impressed
with his (director Jack Arnold's) direction," she said. "He truly created
an atmosphere, and it worked."
Arnold, who also made
such memorable movies as "Tarantula" and "It Came From Outer Space," died
Two sequels - "Revenge
of the Creature" and "The Creature Walks Among Us" - followed the original "Creature" feature.
Universal recently announced
that Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro ("Blade 2," "The Devil's Backbone")
is "re-imaging" the "Creature" film for a remake. This time around, the
action will take place in Australia instead of South America.
Wakulla Springs will
not be used, even though it's the true home of The Creature.