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The Surprising Inspiration For The Creature From The Black Lagoon

When it comes to movie monsters, there aren't many that are anywhere near as memorable — or iconic — as the titular figure in 1954's "Creature From the Black Lagoon." The character, frequently referred to as either the Creature or the Gill-Man, is one of the most recognizable monsters in movie history. The film it appears in is generally regarded as one of the best monster movies ever made as well, and its influence can still be seen in contemporary horror films and monster flicks, most notably Guillermo Del Toro's 2017 movie "The Shape of Water" — an Academy Award-winning film which itself was inspired by Del Toro's prior efforts to remake the 1954 film in a more romantic context, via The Hollywood Reporter. "The creature," the director explained, "was the most beautiful design I'd ever seen."

The amphibious, humanoid character is, quite simply, one of the most unique and brilliant creations ever put to film. And the fact that the titular monster in "Creature From the Black Lagoon" is so effective is not only a testament to the film's quality, but also how well-crafted the visual design of the monster is. 

The costume for the creature, comprised of a bodysuit and detached head, somehow manages to blend amphibian and human features in a truly unforgettable way. It turns out that the original source of inspiration for the monster came from the most unexpected of places, too.

The design for the Creature From the Black Lagoon was inspired by the Oscar statuette

It was "Creature From the Black Lagoon" director Jack Arnold who came up with the idea of what the film's titular monster should look like. The idea didn't just pop into Arnold's head totally out of the blue, either. As the filmmaker explained to the magazine Cinefantastique in a 1975 interview, he actually came up with the look of the Gill-Man after looking at a picture of the iconic Oscar statuette, which was printed on the certificate he was sent after a documentary he'd directed was nominated for an Academy Award (via IMDb). Struck with inspiration, Arnold decided to use the award statuette as a model for the overall look of the monster in "Creature From the Black Lagoon." 

"I said, 'If we put a gilled head on [the figurine], plus fins and scales, that would look pretty much like the kind of creature we're trying to get.' So they made a mold out of rubber, and gradually the costume took shape," Arnold revealed. 

It's a decision that ultimately played a huge role in crafting the design of one of the most iconic monsters in film history. In fact, both the Gill-Man and "Creature From the Black Lagoon" became so popular that two sequels to the 1954 original were made in 1955 ("Revenge of the Creature") and 1956 ("The Creature Walks Among Us"), to say nothing of the creature's influence on popular culture.