Used by permission from:
The Real Creature from the Black Lagoon
by Steve Buchanan
1954, a horror film was introduced that shocked and electrified
audiences. And some 48 years later, it's just as popular, if not more
so than when it originally debuted on the big screen. Up from the dark,
murky waters of the mighty Amazon River, a creature appeared. He was
docile, until humans trespassed on his habitat, which had been
unchanged for thousands of years. The men were scientists who on a dig,
found a curious
fossil. It would arouse their suspicion and at the same time peak their
interest. They had to know what had left the fossil behind. What they
didn't bargain on was on finding out more about the fossil, and coming
face to face with one of its relatives. Was it a fish? Was it a man?
Maybe both! In my opinion, "Creature from the Black Lagoon" was in a
lot of ways a "Beauty and the Beast" type story. The monster only got
riled up when people bothered him. Once he saw Julie Adams, he fell in
love with her.
International Pictures released the "Creature From The Black
Lagoon", and it didn't take long for it to take its place along side of
other classic horror films by the studio: "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi;
"Frankenstein" and "The Mummy" with Boris Karloff; "Phantom of The
starring Lon Chaney; and "The Wolfman" with Lon Chaney Jr. The Gill-Man
was in good company with the most famous monsters of all time.
the years, there has been some confusion and misinformation regarding
the identity of the real Gill-Man. One man played the creature, and
man was the actor's stunt double. Ben Chapman was, and is, the real
deal. "There were two units shooting the film. The first unit was
the actors, Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio
and myself. We shot all of the scenes at Universal Studios in
Unit two was stuntmen and our doubles, including the man who doubled me
the underwater scenes. That unit only shot in Florida, never at
Mr. Chapman would say.
Unfortunately, over the years, several hundred
the Creature have
been signed in error. All of the promotional stills from the film
The Creature with Julie Adams, or on land were that of Ben Chapman. Any
underwater shots were that of his double in the movie. "I just believe
being honest and setting the record straight. Photos are floating
me, signed by someone else. I would never sign a photo that was not of
he said. Mr. Chapman is 6 foot 5, and his double is 5 foot 8. Knowing
it's easy to tell who is who.
Chapman was born in Oakland, California in 1928. His parents were
vacationing at the time of his birth. "I like to tell people that I was
born in Oakland because I wanted to be close to my mother," he'd say
hearty laugh. Shortly after his birth, the family returned to Tahiti,
lived there until Mr. Chapman was 12. In 1940, the family moved to
California, settling in San Francisco. After High School graduation,
Chapman was on the move again, this time to Santa Monica to find his
into show business. He began his career entertaining in nightclubs,
and dancing, bringing the sounds and feeling of Polynesia to the
He entertained in the clubs for the next ten years, and then his life
take another direction. He was called into action in The United States
Marine Corps. For the next two years, he'd see action in the Korean
War. Mr. Chapman served his country well, and after discharge in 1952,
he returned to show business and the nightclubs. Just a short year
later, Mr. Chapman was offered a one-year contract with Universal
International Pictures. The young singer, dancer and now actor, was on
his way! "It was during that time period that I was lucky to be in the
right place at the right time, and to be signed to play the Gill-Man",
in stature, and a great sense of humor, he was a sight in the costume.
He'd often scare visitors on the lot by slowly coming up out of the
and jumping straight up in the air, right at the visitors. "One day
shots, someone came up and told me that Rock Hudson was bringing some
people on the lot for a visit. I went into my routine, and boy, they
loved it! But once the Studio Executives found out how much fun I was
having, they told me, 'Benny, don't do it anymore, you'll give someone
a heart attack!' So that put an end to my fun!"
were two more creature films to follow, but Mr. Chapman's contract had
run out and was not asked to participate in the sequels. After
creature, Mr. Chapman went on to other film, stage and television
projects over the years. In the 1960's, he went on to other things
leaving show business behind. He worked for The Seven-Up Bottling
Company in Los Angeles for several years, and also had careers in
Hawaiian Tourism and for many years worked as an executive in Real
Estate Investment. In the 1990's, Mr. Chapman came out of retirement to
start a new career, back where it all started with the "Creature from
the Black Lagoon".
got a call one day, out of the blue. This guy says are you Ben Chapman?
I say yes, I am. Are you the Ben Chapman who played The Creature From
Black Lagoon? Again, I said yes, I was. He went on to tell me about
Autograph shows and conventions that were at that time just starting
talked a bit about it, and then he asked if I'd be interested in doing
After thinking about it for a minute, I thought, why not!"
Mr. Chapman has a great time mixing and mingling with
fans both old and new at these shows. He affectionately refers to his
fans as "Gillies". "Some of these celebrities do the shows for the
money. Not me, don't get me wrong, money is good and all, but for me
it's about the fans. It's my way to give them payback. I know that
without them, I'd be nowhere. I love people, especially the kids. If a
child leaves my table with a smile and is happy, then I know I've done
something right. It makes me feel good inside to know that for a few
minutes spent with someone you can really make their day."
"Creature from the Black Lagoon" has always been extremely popular with
film fans, and with the re-issue of the film on DVD, fans can hear the
actors and people behind the scenes discuss the film.
asked about the enduring appreciation for the character and film over
the past four decades, a humble Ben Chapman summed it up this way: "It
is all because of the quality people involved with the making of the
picture, from the actors who were perfectly cast, to the writers and
editors who put it all together. All of these elements, together, make
this a truly special picture. From the eerie lighting and music, it had
it all. I'm very proud of my association with this film and the people
who indeed made it a classic over the years".
asked how he'd like to be remembered, Mr. Chapman sincerely stated,
"I'd like to be remembered as a nice person, that's all. I pride myself
being good and nice to others. I hope people remember me that way, and
his web site, Mr. Chapman has a wide variety of signed photos available
to fans. For $25 fans get three autographs for the price of one. When
ordering a signed photo, you also receive a signed "Gill-Man"
bill known as a Gilly Buck, and a signed copy of Mr. Chapman's 1953
Universal Contract. You'll be getting three autographs and a piece of
fans wishing to have items of their own signed, for example, the
Universal Studios Monster action figures, or other memorabilia, the
is $20 plus an appropriate SASE. Please include the name of the
as Mr. Chapman likes to personally inscribe each item!