|Charles Bronson's prop head used in House of Wax|
The World 3-D Film Expo is in full swing, screening classic 3-D films from the fifties and onward. If you haven’t made it out yet, there are still plenty of horror titles to be seen, all in eye-popping 3-D. Classics like It Came From Outer Space and Revenge of the Creature, the lesser know Vincent Price film, The Mad Magician (only his second in the horror genre) and some camp favorites like Gorilla at Large and the outrageously strange Robot Monster. It’s all happening in Hollywood at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater and you can find out more about it at their website, 3-dfilmexpo.com.
Special guest Q&A sessions at this 10 day event have really helped to highlight the rarity of these screenings, even if sometimes they don’t always go as planned. Although the announced stars of Jaws 3-D couldn’t make the show, the ruckus audience that turned out that night didn’t seem to mind their replacement guests; director Joe Alves, producer Rupert Hitzig and location manager Carl Mazzocone. But a true personal thrill was the presence of Julie Adams at the Creature from the Black Lagoon screening. I got a chance to talk with Ms. Adams and her son Mitch Dalton, about the film, 3-D and her autobiography, Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon that she co-authored with Mitch.
You’ve had a lengthy career that has spanned seven decades, but you’re still widely recognized for your role as Kay Lawrence in The Creature From The Black Lagoon. How does if feel to have “Scream Queen” status?
Julia Adams: It feels very good. Twenty some years ago when I got [CFTBL], I had to scream, and I discovered that I had a pretty good scream. So I’ve done some screaming along the way. We make movies to entertain people and many people are entertained by scary movies. It is so amazing that this movie is still popular all these years later. It pleases me to have been a part of something people have enjoyed so much.
CFTBL wasn’t the first 3-D film you were in. You played a Mexican guerilla in Wings of the Hawk, another film that will be screening at the Expo. Do you recall the first time you saw yourself in 3-D?
JA: Oh yes, of course I can remember. I didn’t like it much. I though, ‘Oh gee, it all looks so weird’. It seemed to me to be that way. But it was all very successful, so who’s going to argue with a picture being successful.
Did you enjoy working with the film’s director, Jack Arnold?
JA: Jack Arnold was a very good director. He was helpful with the actors and he knew what he was doing all the time. So there were very little delays about this, that and the other. I know he was very good technically but he was fine with the actors too. We had rehearsal before the shooting of the movie and that was wonderful because we all got very accustomed to each other. I enjoyed working with him very much.
How about working with your leading man, Richard Carlson?
JA: Richard Carlson was an absolutely charming gentleman and also a very good screen actor. I enjoyed working with him very much. A really nice man, he had a good sense of humor and it was all very pleasant.
And what about the star of the film, The Gill-man. What was it like to be carried off by that rubber suit?
JA: It’s hard to describe what it was like. It was a unique experience; lets put it that way. Ben (Chapman) was a wonderful “strong” man, he was also extremely considerate, so I felt very safe being carried by Ben.
But I understand there was an incident, while being carried by Ben.
JA: The incident in the cave? [laughs] Well, yes. This was on the set of the interior of the cave. The cave was quite realistically done so that there were sharp points out of the wall of the cave as caves often have. So Ben was carrying me and of course he has the goggles on, so he really couldn’t see very well. So he’s carrying me, and I’m in his arms, and all of a sudden one of these points sticking out of the wall hit my head. Ben felt terrible about it and the studio made a whole big fuss about it. They called the doctor. They had a nurse and doctor on the lot, so they were called down and so the nurse was patching up the scrape on my head with bandages, they made a thing about it and publicity came down and took some shots. So it became a big number even though it was quite simple and non-life threatening, shall we say.
Mitch Danton: The tank wasn’t heated that day, so that added to the drama. So when Ben and Julie went to get in the water it was freezing cold, so that added to her shivering and Ben not being able to see very well through his goggles when the fogged up when the cold water hit the warm set.
I’m sure there were a few technical difficulties. Working with the 3-D camera, did that affect your performance at all?
JA: Not really. I was playing my part, as I had in mind, and there was really not a lot [of difficulties], because they staged it well for the camera and I knew exactly where my marks were. You can’t ad-lib your movements when you’re shooting 3-D. We rehearsed it very well first. Then I played the scene within those marks that we had set. Technically it was not that difficult.
Do you consider your role as Kay to be a strong female character?
JA: Yes definitely. She was a scientist, and there were certain dangers in what she did, like when she was in the jungle. So I felt she was a very strong woman, who loved her work and wanted to do a good job in it. That’s my vision of her. She was very dedicated to her work.
Your biography, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon was co-authored with your son. What was the experience of re-living your career with your son like?
JA: I sat down and wrote a great many things in long hand and then my son Mitch and I, we worked on it together. Mitch did a great job, he’s a film editor and he also turned out to be a very good book editor. It was a pleasure working with my son, telling these stories and going back over them. He would ask me questions, or [question] where I made a mistake.
And Mitch, what did you learn about your mother while writing the book?
MD: What I really learned was just how dedicated she was to her craft and how she managed to navigate the ups and downs of an acting career. She kinda’ made a big splash with Creature and some of the other films at Universal and then contract ended in the late 50’s and television exploded and in the late fifties and sixties she did just about every [type of show]. When television slowed down for her she did theatre. I think the main thing people take away from the book is that she is so much more than just Creature from the Black Lagoon. I think that was one of our secret goals, to get people to watch some of her other movies. The festival is doing Wings of the Hawk, it doesn’t run a lot and I don’t think it’s run in Los Angeles in 3-D in years.
JA: Yes I am. I loved working on it too. It’s nice to be in an audience for a movie I enjoyed working on and have people enjoy it. They like to ask questions afterwards and I enjoy answering them and talking with them because what do we make these movies for? We make them for people to enjoy and so it’s a great pleasure to be present when they enjoy it.
If you’d like to grab a copy of Julie Adams book, she’ll be signing copies at the World 3-D Film Expo on Friday starting at 2:30 PM during the screening of Wings of the Hawk, or you can order it on-line from her website: http://www.julieadams.biz