This article originally appeared in The York Dispatch’s York Weekend section on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007.
Maybe it took a while for it to swim the Susquehanna, but on Thursday, April 7, 1954, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” finally arrived in York County about a month after its national debut.
According to an ad in The Evening Dispatch
, continuous showings beginning at 1 p.m. started that day at Charles McDonald’s Southern
theater. Back then, tickets were less than a dollar.
On Sunday, the Creature and the swimsuit-clad Julia Adams return, in all their 3-D glory, to York’s Capitol Theatre. Today, tickets will cost you $7 — and that includes renting the 3-D glasses.
FAN FAVORITES: The classic film is part of a series honoring the Capitol’s centennial anniversary, said Donna Nicklow, marketing associate for the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. The films were selected by public vote in specialized categories, and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was the top vote-getter for the 3-D genre. Other classics, including “Lawrence of Arabia,” spotlighting the glory of 70 mm film, and fan-favorite “Casablanca,” will play in the coming months.
“We like to offer films that people can’t see anywhere else,” Nicklow said, noting that “Creature” was particularly special since it is a G-rated horror film.
“It’s a film you can bring your family to,” she said. “A lot of people bring their families back because they have fond memories of going to the Capitol when they were young.”
BEASTLY BEHAVIOR: “Creature” tells the story of scientists who search the Amazon River for a missing link in the evolutionary chain. They find it — with a vengeance — in a fish-like humanoid who just wants a lovely female (the voluptuous Adams) for his own.
“Creature” fan Mike Bollinger, 25, of Stoverstown says the film is “about the appeal of the monster and the girl, especially because you’re not really sure of his intentions. Is he in love with Julia or not?”
Pointing to the “beauty and the beast” theme of the story, Bollinger explained, “It’s a story element that has always worked and will always work. Look at the success of the new ‘King Kong.'”
ENDURING APPEAL: That appeal has endured too, says Bollinger. He works at Hake’s Americana & Collectibles in Timonium, Md., where the company almost always has some “Creature” collectibles available in its monthly auctions of pop culture merchandise.
“The Creature is always grouped in there with the big ones,” he said of the water-logged monster. “Dracula by Lugosi. Karloff’s Frankenstein. Chaney’s Wolfman. He’s always up there with them.”
With scads of underwater footage, the “Creature” was a perfect candidate for the 3-D treatment, which was popular with theater-goers of the time.
AT THE CAPITOL: Oddly enough, the last time the Capitol screened a 3-D movie was for a 2004 private showing of “Creature From the Black Lagoon.” That showing was hosted by York Container Co. to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary. “Creature” was selected because the film was 40 years old as well and because the movie was suitable for family viewing.
And if seeing the film in 3-D isn’t exciting enough, moviegoers will get to see the film in the Capitol Theatre’s vintage atmosphere, complete with balcony seating and pre-show entertainment on the theater’s 1927 Wurlitzer organ.
In an online interview at ChaosControl.com, Ben Chapman, who played the Creature in all but the lengthy underwater scenes, espoused his love for the 3-D version of the film.
“I loved it. If they ever show it in 3-D, especially on the big screen, go see it. … They shot with two cameras, and 3-D is the same idea as your eyeballs. You have two eyes, you look at something, you can pick out depth. … We did shoot a lot of the things where they would fly out in the audience (and) when those things fly out, you will move.”
‘Creature’ facts “Creature From the Black Lagoon” in 3-D
Length: 79 minutes
Release date: March 5, 1954
Original gross earnings: $1.3 million
Showing: Sunday, Jan. 28 at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
— Check out other films coming to the Capitol Theatre at www.strandcapitol.org/capitol_films.html
— Julia Adams: www.julieadams.biz
— Clint Eastwood’s first onscreen role was that of a nerdy lab technician in “Revenge of the Creature,” one of two sequels to “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
— CFTBL and its sequel “Revenge of the Creature” were made in 3-D, but the final Creature film, “The Creature Walks Among Us,” was not.
— In 2008, a new version of “Creature from the Black Lagoon” is expected to be released.
— The Creature is considered to be one of the “Universal Monsters,” alongside Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolf Man. As such, the Creature frequently has been made into action figures, stuffed dolls and T-shirts.
— Julia Adams, who plays Kay in CFTBL, has continued acting to this day, most recently in episodes of “Lost” and “Cold Case.”
— The Creature costume was also used in an episode of “The Munsters,” where his character was called Cousin Gill.
— An extinct swamp dwelling amphibian was named Eucritta melanolimnetes, which means “creature from the black lagoon,” by its discoverer.