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 Land
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Ben Chapman
Revenge of the Creature
Tom Hennesy
The Creature Walks Among Us
Don Megowan
Ricou Browning

The Gill-man is the titular 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. The Gill-man's popularity as an iconic monster of cinema has led to numerous cameo appearances, including in 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.


According to producer William Alland, the idea behind the film was originally thought up by an unnamed Brazilian director whom he met at the home of Orson Welles. The unnamed man spoke of a friend of his who disappeared in the Amazon in an attempt at filming a documentary on a rumored population of fish people.[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 Disney animator 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]


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 Ritamentioned 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 frame 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 will be the star of Creature from the Black Lagoon- The Musical, an upcoming Live performance show to be added to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles, California. It is scheduled to tentatively debut in the spring of 2009, when it will replace Fear Factor LIVE.

In popular culture

"Uncle Gilbert" from The Munsters

The Gill-man, as portrayed by Tom Woodruff Jr. in The Monster Squad (1987)

  • In an Abbott and Costello sketch, on TV's Colgate Comedy Hour, Gill-man appears in a haunted house after Frankenstein's monster faints at the sight of Lou Costello.
  • The creature made a cameo appearance on an episode of TV's The Munsters as visiting Uncle Gilbert.
  • A gill-man appears alongside a vampire (based on Count Dracula), a werewolf, a Mummy and a Frankenstein Monster in the film The Castle of the Monsters.
  • 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]

  • 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.
  • A creature somewhat similar in appearance to the gill-man, though more massive and capable of emitting plasma blasts from its mouth, appears in the Teen Titans episode "Episode 257-494" as 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.[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.
  • The creature also appears in the novel "It" by Stephen King.
  • It appears as one of Bruno Aleixo's friends in the Portuguese comedy series "O Programa do Aleixo".
  • Gill-man and his race are mentioned in passing in the second volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where they are connected to the Silurians and Sea Devils from Doctor Who.
  • DC Comics' Lagoon Boy name and appearance are inspired by the creature.
  • Gill-men have appeared in Konami Wai Wai World and in the Castlevania games Castlevania, Vampire Killer, Haunted Castle, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia under different names
  • The Gill-man alongside the rest of the Universal Monsters appears in the animated television show Monster Force.
  • 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 bared 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.
  • 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 from the BeetleBorgs comics.
  • There are creatures in Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, called Mirelurk King and Lakelurk, respectively, which are very similar to the gill-man.
  • 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.

Universal Monster Reboot

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ferrari, Andrea (2003). Il Cinema Dei Mostri. pp. 287. ISBN 88-435-9915-1. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rouin, Jeff (1977). The Fabulous Fantasy Films. 
  3. Snyder, Gabriel (2005-10-19). "U's 'Creature' meets maker". Variety. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  4. Rotten, Ryan (2008-05-02). "Excl: Eisner on Creature from the Black Lagoon Remake!". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "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". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  7. Jody Duncan & James Cameron (2007). The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio. ISBN 1845761502. 
  8. Derek Thompson. "Projects". Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
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