I met Ben Chapman at one of those monster conventions in Pasadena, maybe ten years ago. Like millions of folks I’ve been a fan of the film “Creature from the Black Lagoon” ever since I was a little kid, and Ben Chapman was the guy who played the Creature. Actually, there were 2 guys who played the “gill man.” The other was a fella named Nicou Browning, who did a lot of the underwater stuff. Ben was the guy on the surface, grabbing the chicks and threatening the camera.
Ben was a very friendly guy, and a very tall guy, and I figure because he was so tall at 6′ 5″ they chose him to play the part of the monster. When I met him he was still tall and still very friendly, and he took the time to chat it up with me for an hour or two about his experiences as the much beloved, greatly feared Lagoon Creature. Ben had some great behind the scenes photos of himself being decked out in his Creature gear, and he graciously shared them with me.
We became friends. Over the years, we stayed in touch. He sent me a couple of letters and I sent him some pieces to autograph for me, which I still hold and cherish. He sent me some “Creature Bucks”, which was a fake 100 dollar bill with the creature on it that he’d autographed. He autographed a great photo for me that Julie Adams also signed, and I keep that on display in my office. Sadly, Ben passed away in February of 2008.
The Creature was probably the last of the great Universal Monsters, sort of the ultimate “fish out of water” story with a “Beauty and the Beast” plotline. . . the story of the creature’s unrequited love of the sizzling hot Julie Adams. The Creature did his best though. . . . he crept onboard the exploration ship and dove overboard with Julie in his arms, not wasting a lot of time with formalities. You’ve got to love a guy like that who confronts his problems and takes prompt action.
Produced in 1954, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” has a famous scene in which a very sexy Julie Adams in her sensational white one-piece swims along the surface of the water as the Creature watches from below, swimming along beneath her. I think all of us teenage boys could relate to the creature as he gazed up at that uber-babe, knowing that she was way out of his league. Or in his case, way out of his species.