Hello, boils and ghouls! October is upon us and that means one thing: HALLOWEEN! While most holidays get a measly day or two of formal recognition, orthodox Monster Kids prefer to celebrate it in the tradition of our people: By watching tons of horror movies. This month at THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY, we're going to be discussing some of our favorites every day until Halloween. So, put on your 3-D spex, pop some popcorn and turn out the lights .... because we're going to the movies!
Hi, my name is Herb, and I'd like to clear some things up about the 1954 documentary about me, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. When I signed the release form and agreed to appear in the picture, it was my understanding that it was going to be an IMAX-type film dealing with the natural splendor of my blissful existence... an existence balanced by the downer truth that I am the last of my kind. Well, except for Carol Channing, with whom I was not on speaking terms at the time. The 3D was going to be beautiful, and I'll confess that on Blu-ray, it is. This is especially true because the newer technology allows the crisp, 3D photography to be enjoyed along with the truly gorgeous black and white cinematography.
Beyond that, it's lies, lies, lies. I guess the humans are portrayed accurately, even if the names are all looped to be different. (Whit Bissell, you Indiana Jones-style adventurer, I'm looking at you.) Their savage attitude toward the environment and endangered species is embarrassing, and I can't blame future GILLIGAN'S ISLAND auteur, Jack Arnold, who told me he was going for a Michael Moore-type expose of such callous concerns.
Yes, they think I'm a missing link. Yes, an expedition goes out to find me in what was recut to be one of the most lush horror films of the 1950's. Yes, I was made out to be the last, great "original" Universal Monster. (Although the Westmore Dynasty took make-up credit for the look granted to me by, I don't know. Oh yeah, my parents and millions of years of evolution.) But it's time I told the truth.
Was I interested in the gorgeous Julie Adams, the "girl on the expedition," whose aquatic ballet in the revealing swimsuit was an erotic highlight of Fifties cinema? Yes ... as a friend! (We'd met at Musso and Frank's a year or so earlier when I returned some gloves she'd dropped.) I was a better swimmer, and as Arnold and company kept exploiting her, I would look on with avuncular concern, ready to keep her from drowning. (Someone had to.) Of course, this was recut to make me look like some sort of lustful reprobate in a beauty-and-the-beast riff. Really? Really? What is it with humans? I'm as interested in a woman without scales as you are with a guy covered in them.
The rest of the film is just half-truths and material that I thought was gag footage for the wrap party. Or it's just stuff taken totally out-of-context. Arnold stacks the deck against me at the start when I try to speak to some beatniks who were squatting on my land. I enter the tent, some guy with a Beatle haircut throws a FLAMING LAMP at me, I stagger around for balance and grab the guy's head instead of his shoulder, he screams like a girl scout, then some other guy starts attacking me with a knife, I try to push him aside just to get to some water, and it's all made to look like I'm killing them.
Well played, Arnold. This gives anybody in the movie license to beat the crap out of me with the audience rooting them on. They did the same thing to Frankenstein's monster and King Kong. James Whale and Merion C. Cooper were studied well.
As the documentary went on, all I did was try to negotiate with these harpoon-weilding nabobs. I'd show up with my hands up, trying to demonstrate that I'd left my .38 back in the cave. They attack me. They poison my water. They aim guns at me. At one point, some drunken investors show up, Julie Adams hides behind a tree, I try to carry her away, and as I calm her down and let her rest, they chase me off. This was just the beginning! They cage me, drug me, set me on fire AGAIN. I even take the rap for a bunch of fallen trees. Yes, trees. Then they drug me some more, like giving a dog robitussin. And me? I keep trying to negotiate. Their answer? They actually start shooting at me. What the Hell? Classic Hollywood. Drugs and guns. Drugs and guns. Having NO idea what they'll do with the rifles and tranquilizers, I get Julie away from those reprobates and hide her in the cave, but they show up like Charlton Heston at a Time Warner board meeting, start blasting away, and I just walk off the project. Turns out, Julie was in on it and I'd been played like Zamfir's flute. I used to like Zamfir.
Why did Arnold do this to me? I don't know. Why did they dub in my sister Carol's distinctive growl over my own, lubricious voice? Beats me. YOU get accompanied by the most distinctive, three-note bray of music in all of horror films? Again, lost. But there's no way a fella can appear with that music and NOT be considered pure evil.
Look, I'm just a guy. Hell, a vegan. I pay my taxes. I work with kids. It's not like I choreographed Miley's VMA thing (although it was kinda hot).
Ultimately, it's all about the dollars. A nature documentary won't sell. A gripping horror film, beautifully filmed, drenched with pathos and intrepid heroes will.
Just remember: I'm the hero.
PATRICK McCRAY is a well known comic book author who resides in Knoxville, Tenn., where he's been a drama coach and general nuisance since 1997. He has a MFA in Directing and worked at Revolutionary Comics and on the early days of BABYLON 5, and is a frequent contributor to The Collinsport Historical Society. You can find him at The Collins Foundation.