I'm going to try to keep this blog short because I want to get back to working on part five of my Into the West Saga Serial but todays movies are some of my favorite of the black and white movie era, Universal Studio's The Wolfman and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I have long been a fan of the entire Universal Studio's Monster Movie Collection and even own them all. When I found out a few years ago that my mother had a tie to someone in one of the movies, I was shocked she never mentioned it before knowing what a huge fan I am. I'll explain that a bit later.
How can these monster movies be tied to westerns? I know of two very easy connections to make for these films. With the The Wolfman, Lon Chaney Jr. stars as the "wolfman". When he first started earning staring rolls in films, he was cast in a few westerns including RKO's 12 episode serial The Last Frontier. As for The Creature from the Black Lagoon, one of the uncredited underwater stuntmen was a staple in many Hollywood westerns. I am talking about Jack "Blackjack" Young. To read more about Blackjack's work in Hollywood, <--- click here. The information on his work on The Creature from the Black Lagoon starts on page 54.
I knew about Blackjack because my mother once went out with him when she was about 18 or 19 and he was in his 30s. A few years ago they reconnected on social media and renewed their friendship before he passed. Blackjack had quite an amazing career in westerns over the years and he is the inspiration for my own Marshal Blackjack James character name. I did not personally know the man so I had no way to model the character after him, but I thought the name was a nice tribute to his western film legacy.
Unfortunately, I do not have time to go into depth right now on these movies so I'm just going to give you a brief synopsis and a link to more information.
The Wolfman (1941)
See Universal Monsters Fandom for more information (<---click here)
After the death of his brother, Larry Talbot (Chaney) returns home to reconnect with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Rains). It is not long after his arrival that Larry becomes infatuated with Gwen Conliffe (Ankers), who runs a local shop. Talbot buys a silver-headed walking stick decorated with a wolf as an excuse to talk to her. Gwen tells him the wolf's head actually represents a werewolf.
Later that night, Larry tries to rescue Gwen's friend from a wolf attack. He kills the animal with the walking stick, but is bitten on the chest in the altercation. A fortuneteller named Maleva (Ouspenskaya) tells Larry the wolf was actually her son Bela (Lugosi) who was a werewolf. She goes on to tell Larry that he will now become a werewolf himself.
Talbot does in fact become a werewolf and begins to stalk the people in the village, killing a local gravedigger. Talbot has some memories of becoming a werewolf and wanting to kill. He tries to fight the need but eventually is overcome again. When he attacks Gwen, the woman he loves, he is killed with his own walking stick by his father.
This is easily my favorite of all the Universal Studio's Monster Movies.
The Creature fro the Black Lagoon ( 1954 )
This American horror movie was shot in 3D and stars Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, and Whit Bissell. The creature was played by Ben Chapman on land and by Ricou Browning under water. Jack James was uncredited for his underwater gill-man work in the second unit pick up shots for the film.
Fossilized remains of a webbed hand are found on a geology expedition in the Amazon. Dr, Carl Maia (Moreno), the expedition leader, orders his assistants to stay in camp while he leaves to visits the marine biology institute. Soon after Dr. Maia leaves camp, a gill-man which resembles the fossil they found, becomes curious about explorers and starts to check out the camp. When he is discovered, the assistants become freighted and are killed in the ensuing confrontation.
In the mean time, Dr. Maia returns to came with more help. The group takes a tramp steamer, the Rita, back to camp. It is captained by a rather crusty captain named Lucas (Paiva). The return passengers include Dr. Maia, and his associates Dr. Edwin Thompson (Bissell), Dr. Mark Williams (Denning), and Dr. David Reed (Carlson), as well as David's girlfriend and colleague, Kay Lawrence (Adams).
When the group makes it back to camp, they find that Dr. Maia's assistants have been killed. The group search the area trying to find more creature remains but the search turns up nothing. Dr. Reed suggests that part of the embankment, that might have contained the rest of the skeleton, could have broken off and washed downriver at some point. Dr. Maia says the tributary empties into a lagoon down river.
Captain Lucas calls the lagoon the "Black Lagoon" and warns the group that it is a place from which no one returns. The scientists ignore the captains warnings and head for the lagoon. The group is unaware that the gill-man has been watching them the whole time and has become fascinated with Kay. The creature follows the expedition to the Black Lagoon.
Once there, the scientists begin diving to collect rock samples from the bottom of the lagoon. During a break in the work, Kay goes swimming and is followed underwater by the gill-man. When the creature is briefly tangled in one of the ship's drag lines, it loses a claw in the net, revealing its presence.
The gill-man is finally captured and locked in a cage but not after killing several crew members from the Rita. In an escape, the creature attacks Dr. Thompson, who is saved when Kay smashes the creature with a lantern. After the attack, Dr. Reed wants to leave before anyone else is killed but Dr. Williams wants to stay and capture the gill-man.
When they try to sail back out of the lagoon, they find the creature has blocked the passage with logs. As the others try to clear the path, Dr. Williams tries to capture the creature alone and is killed. After, Kay is abducted and taken to the creatures lair. The group mounts a rescue and are able to save Kay. In the confrontation, the gill-man is shot numerous times and goes back into the lagoon were the body is seen sinking into the murky depths.
So now it's time to get your movie snacks (recipe at the bottom of the blog) and settle in for another great, classic, double feature!
Trailer: Wolfman (1941)
Trailer: The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
RKO: First Episode of The Last Frontier starring Lon Chaney Jr. (1932)
Jack "Blackjack" Young Filmography
For today's double feature, I thought a recipe from Ready Set Eat's site would be a great complement to the films.
Try their howling good Fish Sticks Under Wraps (<--- click here for recipe).
You can pair these with a nice, spicy, dipping sauce to really put a little hair on your chest.
Try this simple dipping sauce recipe to kick it up a notch:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup unflavored yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon or lime juice (I always prefer lime)
2 tsps Old Bay or your favorite cajun seasoning
1 tsp Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce