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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, sometimes referred to as the The Creature, is the eponymous character 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. Browning is the only actor to play the Creature more than once and is the only Creature performer that is still alive.

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

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]


In October 2005, Breck Eisner signed on as director to a Creature from the Black Lagoon remake. "As a kid, I remember loving Jack Arnold's original version of this film," he explained. "What I really want to do is update an iconic image from the '50s and bring in more of the sci-fi sensibility of Alien or John Carpenter's The Thing."[3] Eisner spent six months designing the new incarnation of the Gill-man with Mark McCreery (Jurassic Park, and Davy Jones's designer). The director said the design was "very faithful to the original, but updated", and that the Gill-man will still be sympathetic.[4] Universal has since put the project on hold. Reelgillman


The Gill-man is fully amphibious, capable of breathing both in and out of the water. As shown in the first film, it is vulnerable to rotenone. It also possesses superhuman strength, which is flamboyantly displayed in the second and third films. It also possesses large, webbed hands with sharp claws on the tip of each finger. The Gill-man's scaly skin is extremely tough, which combined with a fast acting healing factor, allows it to survive wounds which would be fatal to humans, such as gunshots and full immolation. As shown in the third film, the creature has a dormant set of lungs, should its gills be irreparably damaged. The Gill-man is slightly photophobic, due to its murky water habitat.[5] 35% of the Gill-man's blood is composed of white corpuscles lacking a nucleus.[5]

Fictional character biography

Creature trilogy

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

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.[6]

In literature

Creature from the Black Lagoon novelization

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

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

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

Live action

"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 $180,000 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.[7]
  • It appears as one of Bruno Aleixo's friends in the Portuguese comedy series "O Programa do Aleixo", with the name Renato.[8]
  • The Japanese action series Kamen Rider Kiva includes a race inspired by the Gill-man called the Mermen, their last surviving member bring Basshaa.
  • In the action series Dave Mallow) from the BeetleBorgs comics.
  • The Gill-man resided at Count Dracula's castle in the first draft of Van Helsing. The Gill-man was to have surfaced briefly for a cameo though this never came to fruition. It is somewhat implied that if a sequel were made, it would appear, as would Jack Griffin.[9]


  • The 1988 Hanna-Barbera telefilm Scooby-Doo and The Ghoul School features a cameo of the Gill-man and his daughter as a new student at Grimwood's School for Ghouls at the end of the film. The Gill-man is Orange as opposed to Green in that cameo.
  • The film Mad Monster Party? included the Creature (voiced by Allen Swift) amongst other famous monsters that are invited to the Isle of Evil by Baron Boris von Frankenstein. This depiction of the Creature is visually different from his normal look and has a purple body. The Creature mostly gargled and often spewed water even when he slept.
  • The Creature appeared in Mad Mad Mad Monsters (a "prequel of sorts" to Mad Monster Party?) voiced again 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 it's mate at the Transylvania Astoria Hotel.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Episode 257-494," a creature that was somewhat similar in appearance to the gill-man, though more massive and capable of emitting plasma blasts from its mouth is called the "Creature From Jones Lake."
  • 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.
  • The Monsters vs. Aliens character Missing Link shares some physical attributes with Gill-Man.
  • The Disney series Kim Possible had a mutant villain named Gill who bore a resemblance to the creature in features and abilities. Furthering his parody, he was called the "Creature from the Muck Lagoon" in one of his appearances.
  • The animated series Ugly Americans contains lagoon creatures (referred to as Mermen) as a race which can occasionally be seen around the city among its other creature inhabitants. Episode 10 entitled "Sympathy for the Devil" featured a politician who's appearance was essentially a gill-man wearing a toupée and a suit.
  • 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 (who is a river monster).
  • In the 2012 Sony Pictures animated film Hotel Transylvania, multiple Gill-men are among the monsters to go check in to the hotel in order to get away from the humans. There were also female versions of the Gill-men present as well. A pink Gill-man named Marty (voiced by Robert Smigel) was called by his name when Dracula was greeting his guests upon their arrival.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer was trying to get Maggie to go into the pool and Maggie imagined him as the Gill-man.
  • In episode 64 of Ducktales, entitled "Ducky Horror Picture Show", Scrooge finances a meeting house/convention center, which is then used by a group of horror movie-based monsters. One of which is based on Gill-man and is referred to as "The Creature from the Blue Lagoon"


  • The character of Rikuo (a fishman creature also known as Aulbath) from Capcom's Darkstalkers series is a similar being, and also named in honor of Ricou Brownings's portrayal of the Gill-Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon.
  • In the 1995 MicroProse game X-COM: Terror from the Deep, the Gillmen are a central race in the alien forces, but one not alien of origin. They are a pre-historic Earth race of intelligent, amphibious humanoids thought to have been destroyed when mammals became dominant on Earth. In fact they were instead forced into a symbiotic relationship with the aliens who had cashed on Earth.
  • The Gill-man became a harpoon wielding hero called Gill Grunt, and multiplied into a race of fish men in the game Skylanders.

Comics & Graphic Novels


Similar sighting and hoaxes

  • In 1972 near Thetis Lake in British Columbia, Canada, a creature known as the Thetis Lake Monster was said to be similar to Gill-Man in appearance.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Ferrari, Andrea (2003). Il Cinema Dei Mostri. p. 287.  
  2. ^ a b Rouin, Jeff (1977). The Fabulous Fantasy Films. 
  3. ^ Snyder, Gabriel (2005-10-19). "U's 'Creature' meets maker".  
  4. ^ Rotten, Ryan (2008-05-02). "Excl: Eisner on Creature from the Black Lagoon Remake!". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  5. ^ a b "The Gill-man's movie trivia". Ben Chapman Family. July 2008. Retrieved 9. 
  6. ^ Cieply, Michael (2007-03-12). "On Screens Soon, Abused Earth Gets Its Revenge".  
  7. ^ Jody Duncan & James Cameron (2007). The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio.  
  8. ^ Renato a dar Show,
  9. ^ Derek Thompson. "Projects". Retrieved 2008-12-11. 

External links

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