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The Gill-man
The Gill-man, as portrayed by Ben Chapman in Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Classification Devonian amphibian
First appearance Creature from the Black Lagoon
Last appearance The Creature Walks Among Us
Created by Harry Essex
Arthur A. Ross
Maurice Zimm
Portrayed by Creature from the Black Lagoon
Ben Chapman
Revenge of the Creature
Tom Hennesy
The Creature Walks Among Us
Don Megowan
Ricou Browning

Gill-man, commonly referred to as the The Creature, is the lead antagonist of the 1954 black-and-white science fiction film Creature from the Black Lagoon and its two sequels Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

Ricou Browning portrays the underwater Gill-man throughout the three films. Ben Chapman plays the Gill-man on land in the first film, followed by Tom Hennesy in the second, and Don Megowan in the third.

The Gill-man's popularity as an iconic monster of cinema has led to numerous cameo appearances, including an episode of The Munsters, the motion picture The Monster Squad and a stage show.

Concept and design[edit]

Millicent Patrick, adding some final touches to Ricou Browning's underwater Gill-man mask.


Film Year Gill-man on Land Gill-man Underwater
Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954 Ben Chapman Ricou Browning
Revenge of the Creature 1955 Tom Hennesy Ricou Browning
The Creature Walks Among Us 1956 Don Megowan Ricou Browning


Producer William Alland was attending a dinner party during the filming of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (in which Alland played the reporter Thompson) in 1941 when Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him about the myth of a race of half-fish, half-human creatures in the Amazon river. Figueroa spoke of a friend of his who disappeared in the Amazon while filming a documentary on a rumored population of fish people. Alland then wrote story notes entitled "The Sea Monster" ten years later.[1] There were various designs for the creature. William Alland envisioned the creature as a "sad, beautiful monster" and the sculpture of it was much like that of an aquatic development of a human. Alland said, "It would still frighten you, but because how human it was, not the other way around". Originally, the creature's design was meant to incorporate a sleek, feminine eel-like figure, which did not have as many bumps and gills as the final version. The designer of the approved Gill-man was a former Disney illustrator Millicent Patrick, though her role was deliberately downplayed by makeup artist Bud Westmore, who for half a century would receive sole credit for the creature's conception.[1] The Gill-man suit was made from airtight molded sponge rubber and cost $15,000.[2] The underwater sequences were filmed at Wakulla Springs in North Florida (today a state park), as were many of the rear projection images. Part of the film was shot in Jacksonville, Florida on the south side of the river near the foot of the old Acosta Bridge. The underwater Gill-man suit was painted yellow for greater visibility in the dark waters.[1] Air was fed into the suit with a rubber hose.[2]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Creature trilogy[edit]

Creature from the Black Lagoon

The last surviving member of a race of amphibious humanoids which lived during the Devonian age, the Gill-man (as christened by Dr. Thompson) dwelled in a lagoon located in a largely unexplored area of the Amazon Rainforest. The creature was apparently known to the natives, as the captain of the boat Rita mentioned local legends of a "man-fish".

The Gill-man in his natural habitat, as portrayed by Ricou Browning in Creature from the Black Lagoon

After having found the fossilized remains of another Gill-man, a marine biology institute funds an expedition to the Amazon in order to find more remains. Though the Gill-man reacts violently to the intrusion, he develops a soft spot for the team's only female member, Kay and repeatedly tries to abduct her, going as far as building a makeshift dam to prevent their boat from escaping. After having killed numerous members of the expedition, the creature takes Kay to his underwater lair, where he is tracked down by the remaining survivors and riddled with bullets. The creature sinks into the depths of the lagoon.

Revenge of the Creature

The Gill-man survives and is captured and sent to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida, where he is studied by an animal psychologist and his ichthyology student. The psychologist's attempts at communicating with the Gill-man are hampered by his attraction to his student. The Gill-man breaks free from his tank and escapes into the ocean. It is not long before he begins stalking the ichthyology student and kidnaps her. The Gill-man is soon tracked down and once again repeatedly shot, forcing him into the ocean.

The Creature Walks Among Us
The mutated Gill-man, as he appears in The Creature Walks Among Us, as portrayed by Don Megowan

After living for a short while in a Florida river, the creature is found again, and after a vicious struggle, is accidentally immolated. The Gill-man's injuries are so severe that his scales and gills fall off, forcing his captors to perform surgery on him to prevent suffocation. X-rays on the creature show he has begun developing a land animal's lung structure, so a tracheotomy is performed, opening an air passage to the lungs, transforming the Gill-man into an air-breathing, nearly human animal. Dressing him in a suit made of sail cloth, the creature is taken to a California estate where he is imprisoned within an electric fence. Though they initially try to integrate the creature into human society, one of its captors frames it for a murder, and the creature ultimately escapes into the ocean.

Breck Eisner remake[edit]

Producer Gary Ross said in March 2007 that the Gill-man's origin would be reinvented, with him being the result of a pharmaceutical corporation polluting the Amazon. "It’s about the rainforest being exploited for profit," he said.[3]

In literature[edit]

Creature from the Black Lagoon novelization[edit]

The 1977 novelization of Creature from the Black Lagoon by Carl Dreadstone offers a completely different origin for the Gill-man, who in this version of the story is a hermaphroditic giant, almost as big as the Rita itself, weighing in at 30 tons. This Gill-man is both cold blooded and warm blooded and also has a long whiplike tail. The gigantic creature is dubbed "AA", for "Advanced Amphibian," by the expedition team members. After slaying most of the team members, destroying a Sikorsky helicopter, and kidnapping Kay more than once, the creature is killed by the crew of a United States Navy torpedo boat.

Time's Black Lagoon[edit]

In Paul Di Filippo's novel Time's Black Lagoon, the Gill-man is depicted as descending from a race of extraterrestrials who came to Earth during the Devonian period on a giant spaceship called The Mother. The Gill-people have the ability to communicate telepathically among themselves and among the human characters. Alphas such as "Fleshmolders", "Mudshapers", and "Fishcallers" are highly telepathic individuals in their tribal communities.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon itself is a degenerate member of this race, descended from an individual who explored deep in the ocean and became exposed to archaebacteria, becoming deformed and insane, driven to infect others with the disease. Eventually there were no healthy gill-people left, and the race's numbers dwindled over the epochs to one individual in the 1950s, which is the one that appears in the original film.

Theme park attraction[edit]

The Gill-man was the star of Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical, a live performance show that once added to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles, California. It debuted on July 1, 2009, it replaced Fear Factor Live. It closed down for good on March 9, 2010 and replaced by Special Effects Stage which opened 3 months later on June 26, 2010.

In popular culture[edit]

Live action[edit]

"Uncle Gilbert" from The Munsters.
The Gill-man as seen in The Monster Squad (1987)
  • The Gill-man made a brief cameo in an episode of the McHale's Navy television show.
  • The creature made a cameo appearance on an episode of TV's The Munsters as a visiting relative called Uncle Gilbert (portrayed by Richard Hale). Uncle Gilbert is considered the Munsters' favorite relative from the Old Country. He once brought with him in gold and Spanish doubloons, when visiting the family. He used to be a politician as well. Along with this, a robot version of The Gill-man or possibly Uncle Gilbert was featured in a museum at the start of the film The Munsters' Revenge.
  • The Gill-man reappears in Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad, where it shows little interest in human females as opposed to its classic counterpart. Instead, it allies itself with Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy and the Wolfman in order to secure a magical amulet which will allow them to conquer the world. After snapping the necks of several police-men, the Gill-man is killed by Monster Squad member Horace, who shoots it with a shotgun. For its appearance in The Monster Squad, the Gill-man was redesigned by Stan Winston in order to merely suggest Milicent Patrick’s original design due to licensing issues. The Gill-man was the first costume portrayal of Tom Woodruff, Jr. who would later work prominently in the Alien film series.[4]
  • The Japanese action series Kamen Rider Kiva includes a race inspired by the Gill-man called the Mermen, their last surviving member being Basshaa.
  • In the action series Big Bad Beetleborgs, there is a monster named Charterville Charlie (who is based on the Gill Man) who is really a comic book character called Swamp Scumoid (voiced by Dave Mallow) from the BeetleBorgs comics.


  • The film Mad Monster Party? included the Creature (vocal effects provided by Allen Swift) amongst other monsters that are invited to the Isle of Evil by Baron Boris von Frankenstein. The Creature has a redesigned appearance and mostly makes gargling sounds.
  • The Creature appeared in Mad Mad Mad Monsters (a "prequel of sorts" to Mad Monster Party?) voiced by Allen Swift. He is among the monsters that are invited by Baron Henry von Frankenstein to attend the wedding of Frankenstein's Monster and its mate at the Transylvania Astoria Hotel.
  • The Gill-man appeared in the Beetlejuice episode "Ghost to Ghost. He is summoned during a seance along with other Universal monsters such as Count Dracula and the Bride of Frankenstein.
  • The Creature from the Black Lagoon appeared in the Robot Chicken episode "Shoe" voiced by Seth Green. He complains that he prefers to be called the "Creature from the African American Lagoon." In the episode "We Are a Humble Factory" the Creature (voiced by Breckin Meyer) tried to create his own cereal called "The Creature with the Black Macaroons" after getting jealous of Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Booberry. In this appearance, the Creature was made to look like a cereal character.
  • Monster High (a Mattel fashion line of dolls and related series) features Lagoona Blue (daughter of the Gill-man and a Nereid) and her boyfriend Gillington "Gil" Webber.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ferrari, Andrea (2003). Il Cinema Dei Mostri. p. 287. ISBN 88-435-9915-1. 
  2. ^ a b Rouin, Jeff (1977). The Fabulous Fantasy Films. 
  3. ^ Cieply, Michael (2007-03-12). "On Screens Soon, Abused Earth Gets Its Revenge". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  4. ^ Jody Duncan & James Cameron (2007). The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio. ISBN 1-84576-150-2. 

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