Friday, October 29, 2010

Gill-Man vs. Wolf-Man

To finish off my Halloween review of all the non-vampiric Universal monsters, we come to the gill-man and the werewolf. Both are zoanthropes, and perhaps as such, both represent fears of nature or man’s own animalistic side, though at that point the similarity seems to end.

The gill-man is elusive. His appearances in media are more rarified, no doubt due to his proprietary, rather than folklorish, origins. In addition to the Creature trilogy, stand-ins make appearances in The Monster Squad, and Monsters vs. Aliens--where interestingly he’s grouped with decade-appropriate monster stand-in colleagues rather than the Universal monster old guard.

The proto-gill-men of Lovecraft’s "Shadow Over Innsmouth" have miscegenation fears in their DNA, which seem absent from Universal’s creature--unless his attraction to human females is a hint at this. In some ways, the Lovecraftian angst underlying the Deep Ones makes them more interesting than a fish King Kong. That’s part of the reason D&D’s Kuo-toa (more Deep One-ish in character) have always been more interesting to me than the other evil fishmen, the Sahuagin (Gill-Men).

I guess Dr. Who's Sea Devils and Silurians might be mined for gill-man inspiration. Anything might help. Gill-man’s got a good look, but little else to give him real monster memorability.

Neil Gaiman has a short-story called “Only the End of the World Again” where Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, winds up in Innsmouth and tangles with Deep One cultists. This may be as close as media has given us to a Gill-man-Werewolf bout.

Werewolves seem to have what it takes for urban fantasy fiction. Werewolf sex probably seems even naughtier, I suppose, than lovin’ the living dead. In fact--Teen Wolf aside--there’s always been something a little “adult situations”--maybe even exploitation--about werewolves. They don’t just strangle like the mummy or Frankenstein, or give a killer kiss like a vampire--they rend and tear and chew. Werewolves are as much serial killer as wild beast.

Is it any wonder that werewolves are almost as likely as vampires to get the grindhouse treatment? I would suspect only “almost” because vampires maybe give more excuse for nudity, and blood effects are cheaper than wolf prosthetics. But the wolf man gets by, and whatever budget.  Paul Naschy’s got a whole series of werewolf movies where the werewolf's origin involves being bit by a Yeti, and he fights Templars--how’s that for game inspiration! Then we’ve got a werewolf biker film (Werewolves on Wheels), a werewolf women in prison effort (Werewolf in a Women’s Prison); and, if Rob Zombie had his way, a werewolf Nazi-ploitation film--Werewolf Women of the S.S.

Werewolves: the most gameable of monsters, whatever your genre.


Harald said...

I'm with you on the Kuo-Toa.

Good writing, and good research. I must say I'm a bit surprised you didn't mention White Wolf's beatifying of the lychantropes, though. Off the top of my head, there're not many such takes on them - usually they are cast as brutal monsters.

Trey said...

Thanks Harald, and good point. I believe Nancy Collins does have a couple of Old West Werewolf stories that give them the positive natural-loving spin of White Wolf.

Matthew Slepin said...

When I was a kid, I was a Wolf-Man man all the way. Dracula, the Monster, the Mummy, were okay, but I loved the Wolf-Man.

That said, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is possibly my favourite monster-movie ever.

Is it becuase they filmed it about half-an-hour from where I grew up?

Is it because Julie Adams looked pretty damn good in the bathing-suit?

No, it's because the Gill-Man touches upon the terrifying nature of the water in a way that wouldn't be approached until Jaws (and I prefer the Creature). You just don't know what is in the water with you even a few feet down.

That's why that scene in which the Gill-Man mirrors Adams as she swims and almost - but not quite - touches her, gave me the shivers as a kid. As a Floridian, I spent a lot of time in the ocean and I often thought of that scene as I swam around.

The other thing the Gill-Man has is the ancient mystery-angle which non of the other monsters have. Is he, a living fossil? Is he truly the missing link? Were we all Gill-Men (and -Women and -Babies), millions of years ago?

Finally, and for the record, he would totally have scored with Julie Adams if those annoying Lung-Men had just given her a chance to get to know the real him.

Unknown said...

Since I compulsively collect anything having to do with Neil Gamain, I totally need to dig up "Only the End of the World Again". Sounds like a neat idea for a monster mash-up.

ze bulette said...

Great post and I have to say I'm with Slepin on this one... I really like the completely alien aspect of the Creature vs. the human/monster aspect of vampires/werewolves/mummies.

Trey said...

@Matthew & Ze Bulette - Matthew makes some good points--though I would argue that Jaws and sharks in general probably connected better with peoples water fears. I don't think that there aren't interesting or cool aspects to the creature--but it does seem that as an icon it resonates less with the majority of people.