Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ersatz Creatures (Black Lagoon Variety)

Some folks have all the luck. Some folks don't. Our old childhood pal The Creature from the Black Lagoon tends to wind up on both sides of this fence, depending on your point of view. Over the years he's been represented rather maginificently, kinda quirky and super-ludicrously.... But like the early green haired Fred and Barney figures, things can get so far-off model as to be reinvented in unexpected and deliriously cool ways. If you've been paying attention to previous posts you know where this is going... and what side of the fence we'll be favoring in this forum.
So here's a killer collection of off-kilter Creature curiousities... Starting off with the cover of Dell Comics short-lived The Creature comic book of the early 1960's. (There's something very 1st season Scooby Doo about this design...)

The Offbeat

Here's a rather large vintage plaster Swamp-Thingy Creature cousin menacing a plaster fisherman at a goofy golf course in Toronto.

A guy in Florida carved this great Creature-Tiki and sold it on eBay (...and we bought it!)

I guess there's Mexican knockoffs of just about everything. (I've seen several ceramic knockoffs of plastic Peanuts and Popeye figurals in my own collection) and the Creature is no exception. Some Mexican outfit started producing this 5 foot tall hard-plaster statue around the time Revenge of the Creature came out (in 1955) for tourist themed stores all over that country.

Rob Zombie owns his own version of this statue (which sort of looks like it's starting to turn human) that was featured --along with the rest of his amazing house-- on a episode of Cribs. Rob said saw the statue standing out front of a Sombrero shop and he basically just had to have 'im! (--yet another perk to being Rob Zombie.

Look! There's another one on Melrose Ave. out front of Harvey's in 1987. (I think the guy pictured with this one here also owns it now.)

Here's another full-size Creature, from someone's collection. I believe sold through the Rubies costume catalog.

Cwazy Collectibles

Here's the unlikely Holy Grail of Creature Collectables...The Penn-Plax Action-Aerating Aquarium Creature. I remember picking this up in the pet department in Woolworth's at Cobb Center, and then putting it back, put off that it was "only a scaled-down version of that Aurora model that I've got " --that and the 4.29 price tag. I think I also thought "Pfft--costs more than the damn model, too! " Dopey me! Guess reasons like that's are why it's so rare.

Yup, while the Gillman wasn't everywhere in the '60's, he did get around for a fish-man.
Here's some other marketing oddities
The Creature Mystery Board game (featuring the Aurora Creature image again.)
...and the original Creature Soaky!

Emenee released a Formex 7 casting set that included several Universal Monsters including guess who?

Super 8 digest films were available (this one features an Ang Lee Hulk-sized Creature)...or if you lacked a projector, you could order the HorrorScope Nickleodeon-type Movie viewer from the back of Famous Monsters Magazine. (the one pictured here sold recently on eBay for over 1300$!)

This Coca-Cola can isn't that old, but what's with the "Charles Burns-style" spiral accent. Is he supposed to be disoriented? Perplexed? Drunk?

Another for the shoulda-woulda-should've file... Here's the one Monster Hot-Rod Aurora really shoulda released The Creature's Crate...at least now it's available as a resin kit (if you reeeeeally look for it, that is).

More wish fufillment. In answer to Aurora's Gigantic Frankenstein kit Comes another fan produced shoulda-been kit, The "Aurora" Gigantic Creature! I forget the actual cost of this bad boy but I think he was about 25 times the 1960's gag price in the ad.

A fan-boy favorite for sure, this out-o-print "Laguna" kit from the 1990's was a big one too. (I think this is the one that used to be on display at Creature Features in Burbank) I didn't measure her but I would guess she was about 20-24 inches tall.
Oh yeah,..nice rack, monster-face.

Here's an interesting kit (from the collection of Johnny Gillbert I believe) It's one of Ben Chapman starting to take the costume off, complete with separate and interchangeable heads Here's a good shot of Ben Chapman (who played the Creature while on land in the original 1954 film) actually signing the kit --while it sports no cabeza at all!

Ah, while he's at it...here's Ben signing my own Creature mask (not land, though) at Creaturefest 2003 in Wakulla springs Florida. (One of my favorite Cons ever!)
Ben did say (completely unsolicited) that the shade of green I 'd painted it was just about dead-on ...*whew*... (those pictures I'd taken out at Bob Burns' house of his Creature masks made great reference!)


One little misinterpetation from a black and white photograph and all of a sudden Blackie L. spends most of the 1960's with a mouth full of sharp teeth. I guess the marketeers back then must've thought he looked a shade more formidable with a face-full o' fangs.

You can see from these photos that more often than not what is interpeted as fangs is actually Ben Chapman's cheeks on either side of his open mouth--that's his tongue, too( ...You can even see his teeth in the amazing photo on the right). This simple misconception affected a whole generation of kiddie halloween masks and costumes.

Imaginary Creature Tales

Another speculation film entry Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon Too bad they really didn't. About as close as they came was this 10 second "creature-behind-me" punchline (below) at the end of a sketch on live TV shortly after the first movie came out in 1954. One more movie in the late 50's woulda been a great shot in the ass for the careers of all three.

In 2002 Starlog magazine ran a cool comic of yet another fantasy Black Lagoon team-up of sorts...

Live Appearances

Man, who'd they hire for the live gig in the Creature suit, Martin Scorsese? Alan Ladd? Billy Barty? Looks like he at least needs a bigger box to stand on! Also (above left) The Creature costume made the late-night Spook-Show rounds with some other dog-earred Hollywood Monsters in the Ballyhoo era of the late '50's.

Didn't they totally riff on this scene in Matinee'? If Cathy Moriarity was playin' the nurse here I'da probably faked a seizure.

Clawin' Cousins

Hey, see this guy here inbetween Julie and Ben? That's Jack Kevan. He was the main-man on the team that brought you one of the most perfectly designed and timeless monsters in all of film history. He must've wound up with some green-eyed rubber suit envy, because he not only designed the suit for the Monster of Piedras Blancas, (1959) but he played the critter as well. --In fact, the drawing he's working on here looks like a cross between the two costumes. Here he is on location playing the old "jump and I'll catch you" game with Jeanne Carmen.

The publicity shots of the Monster with the ripped-off rubber head were surprisingly gory for the day (and always sorta creeped me out as a kid), but established the notion early on that this lighthouse lurker played a bit rougher than most of his A-list counterparts.

Booga-Booga! Can't leave the She-Creature off this list. Here "She" (Paul Blaisdell) menaces wife Jackie Blaisdell and Kathy Burns (holding the broom) at the Blaisdell Topanga Canyon home in this wild color gag photo from 1956.

Wow, one of these days I have got to MFin' see Chabela y Pepito Contra los Monstruos!
We've almost come full circle as Mexican (Universal-style) Frankenstein battles the South-of-the-border Gillman. (Something else cool that you can only see in Mexico.)
The lobby card border almost looks like an ad for Don Post Studios (except for fang-face, natch).
What can top that? Not me... I'm outta here.

My thanks for the insights and pictures to Kirk Demarais, Johnny "Gillman" Gillbert, Bob Burns, and Ben Chapman Without their input this post would've been a lot less entertaining.


Blogger Robert Pope said...

Good Gravy, that was deep! But what about Uncle Gilly? Seriously though, great stuff.

12:57 AM

Blogger John Rozum said...

Lots of great stuff, Clay, as usual. The fellow who looks like he's from some 80s geek hair band in the photo beneath Rob Zombie, does in fact own that Creature statue. That's Terry Ingram, founder of the Universal Monster Army yahoo group, who also has a great blog featuring many items from his impressive collection. His blog is www.castlefamous.blogspot.com

Tell him I sent you.

11:46 PM

Blogger Robiscus said...

because of the questionable circles i mingle in, i know too many people who are OBSESSED with all things "Creature"
i'll send them over here.

quite an overview - thanks!

12:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clay, you seem to have an affinity for green monstery people, eh?
Oh, I got some questions:
-In the interview on your other blog, you mention your wife April. What year did you guys get married?
-What year were you born? (63? I'm guessing educatedly, but am probably wrong)
Sorry to bug you (haha, accidental), but there's no information about you anywhere on the internet. I was going to try and add some. If you don't want to respond, I will understand.

4:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other CFTBL sightings: Famous Monsters, cover of issue # 103, fantastic painting by Basil Gogos (NO TEETH!) that was later (in '74 or '75) part of a series of glow-in-the-dark jigsaw puzzles (I got me one!).

I also recall a photo spread in National Geographic(!) on Marineland (of the Pacific) that had a cool color pic of an exhibit that featured the Creature (from an issue somewhere between '65-'70 [?]).

1:56 PM

Blogger Famous Monster of Mpls said...

Hey! That's me pictured on your blog! Yes, I'm the fellow who looks like he's from some 80's geek hair band. LOL! And why is that? Well, because I was in a geeky hair band back in the 1980s! I'm happy to say that the hair is long gone. And I'm also very happy to report that I now finally own one of these Creature statues. It took me 17 years to land one courtesy of eBay. It is one of prized catches. Great blog by the way! I'll be sure to add a link over at Castle Famous.

Best, Terry.
The Famous Monster of Minneapolis.

9:25 PM

Blogger Kirk D. said...

This is the Ultimate 'Creature' post!

I painted a picture of that halloween costume box at one time...

Thanks for the "shout out" and keep up the great blog.

12:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too own one of the rare creature statues but mine is a little different than the two pictured. Facial features different as well as position of arms. Was displayed in front of theater in 50's in l.a.

11:26 AM

Blogger Playtimecapsule said...

Howdy- Great stuff!
Someday one of those Creature statues shall be mine. Someday.....

Until then I'll have to find comfort in my custom Creature wallpaper in my bathroom.


10:30 PM


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