Creature From the Black Lagoon and Coelacanths
You know that cryptozoology is having a culturally significant impact when a movie 50 years old, inspired by a cryptozoological event, is being remade. Variety announced last week that Universal has hired Breck Eisner, the director of last spring’s "Sahara," to steer "Creature From the Black Lagoon" into the mainstream, for a new era of movie viewers, many who are fascinated by real-life cryptids.
The original concept for the movie developed from the excitement in the early 1950s that surrounded the Comoros Islands (near Madagascar) discovery of a "living fossil," the coelacanth. After its initial find in 1938, and the eventual acceptance that an animal thought extinct for 65 millions was still alive today, the race was on to find the next specimen. When that second coelacanth was found in 1952, it became a bigger worldwide media event that the capture of the first.
"Creature From the Black Lagoon" was a graphic result of the public’s interest in this grand adventure story, as many at the time felt the coelacanth was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of future "living fossils" to be encountered. Put in context, it is easily to see why Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans, in the 1940s and 1950s, would formulate the notion of and coin the word "cryptozoology," then.
For the 21st century version, Gary Ross will write the script; his father, Arthur A. Ross, wrote the screenplay for the original. The plot will reportedly be modernized and yet follow the first motion picture concept closely. The 1954 film introduced the Gill Man from the Black Lagoon, a bipedal reptiloid that terrorized archaeologists who had dug up fossils of an earlier prehistoric Gill Man from a riverbank somewhere in Amazonia. "Plans for the update call for shooting in the U.S. as well as a Central or South American location," says Variety.
In my book Mothman and Other Curious Encounters I included a chapter entitled "Lizardmen," detailing some of the real-life Gill Man reports and their eerily overlaps with the Black Lagoon Creatures.