By Tony Sanders
For fans of the classic Universal monster films, monster movies or just movies in general, Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man offers a trip down monster lane!
Christmas came early for fans of the Universal Monsters - and more specifically, the Creature From the Black Lagoon - with the pre-holidays release of Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man to both DVD and BLU-RAY. Released on both formats in a Special Edition disc, chock-filled with extras, this feature-length documentary offers fans of both the horror genre and the Gill-Man - all the Universal Monsters, really - a chance to get their monster on.
Written and produced by Award-Winning filmmaker Sam Borowski, Creature Feature truly is a labor of love. And, you can tell the care that Borowski, a lifelong fan of the Gill-Man and director Matthew Crick, put into it.
"I feel like this film represents a child that has grown up and just graduated college," Borowski told Your Today News. "It's gone out into the world and has been received well.
"What really makes me feel good is that it has been received very well by all of the fans of the horror genre and the general 'Monster Kids'."
'Monster Kids,' refers to the many fans of classic horror, many of whom collect memorabilia from the genre and attend the many horror cons around the country, some of which are featured in Borowski and Crick's film.
Borowski first met Crick more than 10 years ago when the two decided to enter into a journey that would be much longer and deeper than either likely imagined. Borowski shared his fandom and passion for this character with Crick, who was not necessarily a fan of the movie back then, but something told him there was something there.
“I wanted to create the best documentary I could about this wonderful and visually iconic Universal character,” said Crick. “For Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man, I spent hundreds of hours editing, pouring over images and video, adding additional music, re-mastering much of the soundtrack, and making the color and interviews the absolute best. When I met Sam Borowski back in 2001 on a chilly Staten Island night, and he told me of his passion for filmmaking and his interest in the Universal monsters, I knew a documentary on the Creature and its fandom would change my life.”
And, with that, the two embarked on a long, but rewarding road together.
Flash forward a little over 10 years later, and their film, which has screened in two festivals and received a small theatrical is widely available in both of the aforementioned formats on many sites, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Turner Classic Movies, Creepy Classics and Oldies.com just to name a few, and several chain stores such as Target and Walmart.
The documentary harkens back to a golden era of filmmaking gone by. Immediately, we're told from a historical standpoint about monster movies, beginning with Thomas Edison's Frankenstein in 1912, of which there is a clip, all the way up to the Universal Monsters.
Then, we delve right into the history of the Gill-Man, and how producer William Alland heard "an old legend of the sea," at a party thrown by Oscar-winning writer-director Orson Welles. From there, the idea of The Creature From the Black Lagoon was born ...
The filmmakers cover all their bases, sharing with us everything from pioneering female artist Milicent Patrick, who helped design the Creature, to sculptor Chris Mueller to screenwriter Arthur Ross, credited with penning the most acceptable version of the script that went to screen. Ross, by the way, who passed a few years back in 2008, is the father of Gary Ross, Oscar-Nominated Director of Sea Biscuit and The Hunger Games.
And, his interview was a real coupe for the filmmakers, as you won't find him in any special feature on The Legacy Set or the Creature From the Black Lagoon DVD or BLU-RAY. He talks about his concept of how the Creature needed to be more human. And, how the producers brought him back to pen the script for the third - and final - installment in the original trilogy, The Creature Walks Among Us.
We hear from Ginger Stanley, Julie Adams' swimming double in the original film. And, even Ricou Browning, the swimming double for the Gill-Man in all three films in the trilogy. We see Clint Eastwood's first-ever on-screen appearance in any film - a small speaking role in Revenge of the Creature. And, we see a clip of Marilyn Monroe going to see CFTBL with Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch as well as a rare clip from 'Copycat Creature' film, "Octoman," which featured one of 7-time Oscar-Winning makeup artist Rick Baker's early on-screen creations.
We even hear - extensively - from another lifelong Creature fan, Oscar-Winner Benicio Del Toro, who speaks glowingly about his love of the Creature ... and all the Universal Monsters. (After hearing this, is it a wonder Del Toro played The Wolfman in the 2010 Universal remake that took home an Oscar for makeup artists Dave Elsey and Baker a few years back?)
But, the real star of the show is Ben Chapman, the original top-side actor hired to play the Gill-Man in the first film. He has been widely associated with the character and was a hit on the horror-con circuit for years, up until his death in 2008 (sadly the same year as Ross). And, the filmmakers have one of the last interviews with this lovable figure.
Anyone who ever attended a Con likely has met Chapman, who unlike most actors that despise being known for one role, loved and revered this character. In fact, he speaks of the Gill-Man, as if its his alter-ego, likely because it was. His appearance here adds a lot to the film, and he even tells about the moment he met the aforementioned starlet, Monroe, at a party thrown by actor and Rat-Pack member, Peter Lawford.
He also talks lovingly of the bygone era of the Studio System, where all the actors and workers hung out at a corner bar called "The Keys."
But, as Creature Feature reminds us through the voice of heralded narrator Keith David, "The keys is long gone." However, thanks to this top-notch documentary, the history is not. If you long for these movies and these classic characters, then Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man is for you.
Both the DVD and BLU-RAY, come with a gaggle of special features that include the Abbott and Costello Colgate Comedy Segment of the original appearance of the Creature that pre-dated the movie by several months (there is a short clip from this segment featured in the doc, as well), an interview with writer-producer Sam Borowski that he gave to Monsters HD channel, several fan interviews and a "Creature Cavalcade of Stars" segment, where other notable personalities discuss the Gill-Man.