Fish-Man Films (Genre)

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A standard-issue Fish-Man, from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954 franchise)

Summary

This page lists films about "gill-men" or "fish-men"; a tremendous number of low-budget films of this type have been made since the original "Creature of the Black Lagoon", one of the earliest and most successful examples of the genre which would set many of the standard "tropes" for the sub-genre: typically, the Fish-Man lives in harmony with nature, undisturbed for aeons, before being discovered by modern science and industry, prompting the monster to rampage against bikini-clad beach babes. The genre sometimes borrows from The Island of Doctor Moreau, with mad scientists playing god by turning back the clock of evolution on modern man with fish- or lizard-serums and/or hypnotism. The success of Jaws (1975 film) injected some "tropes" from from that film and its clones into the Fish-Man subgenre, including greedy tourism bureaucrats and local businessmen taking the place of scientists and industrialists, and trying to cover-up the Fish-Man's killings and rapes on profitable luxury beaches and vacation spots, while working-class fishermen, rogue-cop rangers, and other 1970s anti-heroes try to stop the monster and save lives, and the 1980s would see such films begin consciously adopting less-subtle Green-friendly messages about Fish-Men heroes striking back on behalf of the environment against hunters, polluters, rednecks, capitalists, and other usual suspects....

Details

Film List

  • The Mysterious Island (1929 film)
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954 franchise)
  • The She-Creature (1956 film) (Trailer) (IMDB) - A mysterious hypnotist reverts his beautiful assistant back into the form of a prehistoric sea monster that she was in a past life.
    • Review by Scott Ashlin at 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting (-1.5/5 Stars) (link) Review by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (3/5 Stars) ([Review by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (3/5 Stars) link]) Review by Dennis Schwartz at Ozus' World Movie Reviews (C) (link) Review by Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (link)
  • Swamp of the Lost Souls (1957 film) AKA Swamp of the Lost Monster (IMDB) - (Mexican) A disappearing body leads a detective and his sidekick into an encounter with a gill man.
  • Voodoo Woman (1957 film) (Trailer) (IMDb) An expedition leader searching for gold in the African jungle is turned into an indestructible beast by a mad doctor.
    • Review by Richard Cross at 20/20 Movie Review (link) Review by Justin McKinney at The Bloody Pit of Horror (1.5/4 Stars) (link) Review by Mitch Lovell at The Video Vacuum (3 Stars) (link) Review by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2.5/5 Stars) (link) Review by Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (link) Review by Dan Stumpf at Mystery File (link) Review by Derek Winnert at Derek Winnertdotcom (2 Stars) (link)
  • The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959 film) (IMDB) - When a sea monster's appetite outstrips a lighthouse keeper's ability to serve it, bloodless and decapitated corpses start to show up.
  • The Alligator People (1959 film) (IMDB) - A woman in a hypnotic state recounts to two doctors the details of a horrific experience from her past life that began with the mysterious and sudden disappearance of her husband.
  • Night Tide (1961 film) A young sailor falls for a carnival mermaid then begins to wonder if she is the real thing.
  • War-Gods of the Deep (1965 film)
  • The Horror of Party Beach (1964 film) (IMDB) - Sea creatures created from radioactive sludge terrorize a beach community.
  • The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965 film) (Full movie) (IMDB) - Surfers are being brutally murdered. Is the culprit a sea monster or just one of the teens' jealous parents? (Review)
  • Destination Inner Space (1966 film) (full movie) (IMDb) A group of scientists working in a deep-sea research station discovers a strange craft of extraterrestrial origin.
    • Review by Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Reviews and Ramblings (link) Review by Andrew Smith at Popcorn Pictures (link) Review by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link) - "Destination Inner Space is thoroughly routine. Dramatically, the film is dreary and dull – the scenes of the alien stalking people are mounted for almost nothing in the way of tension. The venture into the alien ship builds interestingly in a prosaic way. However, this is only there to produce the monster, whereupon the UFO is entirely forgotten about."
  • Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966 film) (IMDB) - A 1966 Made-for-TV remake of Voodoo Woman; Deep in the rural swamps of Texas the mad Dr. Simond Trent is conducting experiments on the local swamp people in an attempt to discover the secret of evolution. When a party of oil surveyors comes upon his isolated laboratory he decides to take the final step and turn one of them into a grotesque amphibious creature.
    • Review by Scott Ashlin at 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting (-1.5/5 Stars) (link), Review by Mark Cole at Rivets on the Poster (link), Review by Zak Greene at Wicked Horror (Trash) (link), Review by Justin McKinney at The Bloody Pit of Horror (0/4 Stars) (link), Review by Vincent Silvera at Midnight Monster Show (1.5/5 Vincent Price's) (link)
  • Terror Beneath the Sea (1966 film) (IMDb) A group of surface dwellers come upon an underwater city ruled by a mad scientist and his amphibious servants.
    • Review by Jim at Eat My Brains (2.5/5 Stars) (link) Review by Andrew Borntreger at Badmovies.org (4/4 Slimes) (link) Review by Michael Den Boer at 10,000 Bullets (link) Review by Mark Cole at Rivets on the Poster (link) Review by Chris Hartley at The Video Graveyard (2 Stars) (link) Review by Mitch Lovell at The Video Vacuum (3 Stars) (link) Review by Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (link) Review by Richard Schieb at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link) - "Hajime Sato directs with the exact same colorful stolidity that Inoshiro Honda gave the Toho films – that is to say one-dimensional characters, pedestrian dramatics and the emphasis entirely on monsters and the sf elements. There are some entertainingly colorful scenes where the humans are transformed into cyborgs, where we see their scales developing and ears changing in a progression of stop-action images..." Graham - A pulpy 1966 film that mixes James Bond style villains with creatures from the black lagoon, simply change the 'cyborgs' to Deep Ones and you have a scenario.
  • Creature of Destruction (1967 film) (IMDB) - A hypnotist is able to predict murders by a terrifying sea monster. In reality, he causes the murders through his lovely assistant, who is the reincarnation of the monster.
  • Octaman (1971 film)
  • Zaat (1971 film), AKA The Blood Waters of Dr. Z (IMDB) - A mad scientist transforms himself into an aquatic killer, then kills his enemies and tries to find a woman to reproduce with. (Review 1)(Review 2) (Review 3) (Review 4) (Review 5)
  • The Loreley's Grasp (1973 film) (IMDB) - "Loreley lives for centuries beneath the river Rhein and hunts humans during the full moon. When several girls from a boarding school are killed, a hunter is hired to kill the monster." Review at The Terror Trap (2.5 Stars) (Link) Review by Mitch Lovell at The Video Vacuum (3 Stars) (Link) Review by Gabriel Powers at DVDActive (Link)
  • Spawn of the Slithis (1978 film) (IMDB) - A nuclear leak creates a mutant Slithis sea monster, which terrorizes the variety of pets, winos, and hippies who hang around Venice, California.
  • Bog (1979 film), AKA L'isola degli uomini pesce (IMDB) - (Italian); Dynamite fishing in a rural swamp revives a prehistoric gill monster that must have the blood of human females in order to survive.
  • The Island of the Fishmen (1979 film)
  • Humanoids from the Deep (1980 film) AKA Monster
  • Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1981 film)AKA Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell (IMDB) - A young man returns to the scene of a childhood trauma involving an amphibious monster.
  • Demon of Paradise (1987 film) (IMDB) - Hunters become the hunted when illegal dynamite disturbs the age-old slumber of a carnivorous lizardman.
  • Leviathan (1989 film)
  • They Bite (1996 film) - Fish People interrupt the shooting of a feminist porno movie by raping the actresses.
  • House by the Lake (2017 film)
  • The Shape of Water (2017 film) (IMDB) - At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
  • Cold Skin (2017 film) (IMDb) - A young man who arrives at a remote island finds himself trapped in a battle for his life. (Review1), (Review2), (Review3), (Review4)

"Lovecraftian" Analysis

Generally, the only link between these movies and Lovecraft will be in a superficial resemblance between the Fish-Men and Lovecraft's Deep Ones, and perhaps themes of interbreeding between Fish-Man and Bikini-Girl that, while notable, are perhaps best not examined too closely. The main difference between Fish-Man and Deep Ones will usually be that the Fish-Man is more symbolic of nature, disturbed by blundering modern, civilized man, where Lovecraft's Deep Ones are typically more of a primordial corruption lurking just beneath the surface of everything Lovecraft held to be civilized, sane, clean, pure, honest (and, ultimately, Anglo-Saxon, aristocratic, conservative, asexual, and atheist in background and outlook: the Fish-Man might be seen as representative of every aspect of himself Lovecraft might have come to regard as failing to live up to his ideals of human perfection....)

At its most Gothic and Lovecraftian, the Fish-Man is a curious result of hypnotism which regresses its subject back through time and reincarnations to a previous life as a prehistoric gill-monster. (For some similar themes, see the standard-issue Gothic mummy and werewolf movies, or Altered States (1980 film), where the film's horror victim is reverted first to an ape-man and then to a primordial ooze through the use of meditation and psychedelic drugs, or perhaps a distant cousin in the ludicrous (but apparently serious) Blood Freak (1972 film) in which a hippie biker is transformed into a hideous, blood-thirsty, papier-mache turkey-monster after ingesting psychedelic drugs laced with turkey serum cooked up by a Bible-thumping mad scientist....)

Associated Mythos Elements

  • setting: typically locations where the interests of civilization, science, industry, and progress meet the savage beauty of nature's wilderness, in tropical islands, remote beaches, unexplored swamps, isolated lakes in the mountains, etc.
  • race: "Deep Ones" - after a fashion
  • race: "Serpent People" - after a fashion
  • The following "tropes" are rarely (if ever) actually present in this subgenre, but might add a "Lovecraftian" twist to the basic story:

See also:

  • Southern Gothic: (and more unusually its parent subgenre Gothic Horror) for related themes of watery, primeval genetic corruption that might be exhibited in the form of "degeneration" into fish, lizard, snake, or amphibian forms.


Keeper Notes

  • Keepers might get more mileage from subverting the themes and plots of these films by having a Lovecraftian theme (Man-vs.-Unknown, Man-vs.-Awful Truth, etc.) hidden behind the standard Nature-vs.-Man themes of the Fish-Man genre.

General Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

Synopses (SPOILERS)