After opening day of the World 3-D Film Expo III at the Sid Grauman Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, where two diverse hits from 1953 where aired, HONDO and HOUSE OF WAX, the next day brought with it the blockbuster outing of the entire festival. Especially for monster kids.
Following THE MAZE and BWANA DEVIL, Saturday brought us Jack Arnold’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON on the big screen, in 3-D, how it was intended to be seen, with star Julie Adams (aka Kay Lawrence, the luminescent bombshell in the classic white swimsuit) in attendance for a Q&A after the show. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I was blessed with the opportunity to talk with Julie Adams and her son Mitch Danton before the festival, in an interview that is forthcoming (stay glued to Facebook, Twitter, and the website for details!). At the Expo, I was able to meet the pair in person, and they couldn’t be nicer, more gracious people. Julie Adams, following Ben Chapman’s footsteps, has been a champion and ambassador for the film, becoming a veteran of the convention and festival circuit. She loves her fans, the movie, and still has that twinkle in her eye.
I’ve seen CREATURE many times before, but it was the first time I had seen Jack Arnold’s masterpiece on the big screen, let alone in 3-D, so I got chills right off the bat with the brilliant trumpeting opener (“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth…”), and by the first time I saw the Gill-Man’s claw come at me, in glorious 3-D, I was giddy, transported back to childhood.
CREATURE is perhaps Universal’s greatest monster movie, and maybe the best monster overall, though I don’t want to open up that never-ending debate. Suffice it to say, it’s a classic for a reason, with the awesome cave set, the picturesque lagoon on the lot, Millicent Patrick’s beyond classic Gill-Man suit (those eyes, those gills, those claws!), the booming score, and the dynamic of the motley crew on the Rita.
The great Nestor Paiva’s Captain Lucas is still the crowd favorite, with his scene stealing lines (“It is impossible. But I, Lucas, will do it.” or “I can tell you something about this place. The boys around here call it “The Black Lagoon”; a paradise. Only they say nobody has ever come back to prove it.”).
The 3-D gags still work today, with that omnipresent hand, Richard Denning’s harpoon gun, the bubbling lagoon, and just the wonderful layer that’s added to the entire show. The film still looks gorgeous, and you’d be hard pressed to make a better or cooler looking Creature suit today, which is precisely why we watch it over and over, and the phenomenon lives on with each generation.
There’s something undeniably special about watching CREATURE with Julie Adams just three rows away, a feeling hard to put into words.
Following the film, Adams took the stage to much fanfare for a quick Q&A, asking questions about the movie. She, of course, didn’t expect the movie to be such a phenomenon, and would’ve called you crazy if you had told her what would’ve happened with the film. Julie brought up the tidbit that she didn’t have to read for the part (and made a joke about there not being much to read).
She was asked if she did the underwater swimming in the film, with all the balletic and graceful moves, to which she said she unfortunately could not take credit for. That being said, she can take all the credit in the world for the above water scenes, and of course, that was her in the swimsuit. That can’t be taken away from us. She’s the best, and she’s Julie Adams.
Adams was around before and after the movie, signing photos, posters and copies of her memoir (THE LUCKY SOUTHERN STAR: REFLECTIONS FROM THE BLACK LAGOON), which she co-wrote with her son Mitch Danton (review forthcoming!). For more information on the book, which features stories from the set of CREATURE as well as others from her legendary career, check out their website.
How do you follow up CREATURE? Well, you can’t, but Joe Alves’ JAWS 3-D is a good start. The film is pure cheese, but it’s the glorious kind that you don’t mind clogging your arteries, complete with a script from the late Richard Matheson.
There’s glass shattering, waves splashing, bubbles bursting, disembodied limbs, all delivered in delightful 3-D. It was probably the most fun in that format that I’ve experienced so far, even if it was all ridiculous.
The movie has a pretty cast, with Dennis Quaid, John Putch, Simon MacCorkindal, the stunning Bess Armstrong, and absolute babe Lea Thompson. Not to be outdone, is the great Louis Gossett Jr. in the role of the deliciously sleazy corporate head of SeaWorld that’s about to go under.
You have beeper jokes, an obnoxiously in love couple that somehow are still damn cute, girls water skiing in pyramid formation, heaps of blood, screams, and John Williams’ duh dum duh dum… Sure, it’s no JAWS, but it’s impossible not to have fun watching it. Besides, the movie further proves that dolphins are the dominant life form on Earth.
After the film, director Joe Alves took to the stage, along with producer Rupert Hitzig, executive producer Alan Landsburg, and location manager Carl Mazzocone. Stars Lea Thompson, Bess Armstrong, and Louis Gossett Jr. were all scheduled to appear, but apparently had schedule conflicts and couldn’t. Through the Q&A, they talked about the process of getting this sequel made, and how difficult it was. Alves claimed that studios didn’t want to make sequels back then (JAWS 2 was also a struggle), but he must be forgetting INDIANA JONES, STAR WARS, ROCKY, FRIDAY THE 13TH, George A. Romero’s zombie films, HALLOWEEN, and of course, all of the Universal horror movies, including CREATURE.
NEXT UP: Friday September 13th, with Universal’s IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and Vincent Price (again!) in THE MAD MAGICIAN!
Follow me @FMWolfmandy on Twitter as I live tweet the events and Q&A’s.