Slamdance short spoofs ’50s classic
Sea monsters in movies, generally, are considered dangerous, if not cruel killers.
But, never gay.
The enigmatic gilled beast seen in the Slamdance short film "The Caress of the Creature," may never have been surrounded in a sea of so much ambiguity since Loch Ness or "The Creature of the Black Lagoon," which screened in 1954.
In fact, the 1954 classic is what inspired this film that will have its final screening today in the Shorts Block 2 at 11 a.m. in Treasure Mountain Inn.
Recently, writer and director Stewart McAlpine saw "Creature of the Black Lagoon" for the first time and envisioned a potentially humorous spoof idea.
"It was one of those late night state-of-minds," McAlpine said. "I thought the movie was kind of gay."
He didn’t mean "gay" in the sense of happy or poor quality, but in sexual orientation.
"There were all these men wearing tight clothing and there’s an attractive woman in the movie and they never paid attention to her," McAlpine said.
In the late hours of watching the old black and white, possibly gay thriller, he thought, "I never saw a film of a gay monster."
The idea of a story about a potentially gay sea monster was born. Florida State University produced the film and McAlpine, a graduate student, finished it at the end of this last summer after approximately six months.
"It’s like an action film done in the 1950s B-movie style," McAlpine said. "It’s a spoof of ‘Creature of the Black Lagoon.’"
McAlpine used a 16 millimeter camera and filmed in black and white to emulate a similar atmosphere in the film. McAlpine even tried to film in the same swamp.
"We shot many of the scenes at the original locations of the movie," McAlpine said.
The original film followed a group of paleontologists on an exhibition to the Amazon River. The group discovers the fabled Black Lagoon and a fish-human hybrid. The fish-man kills their native guides and kidnaps the female assistant, carries her away to his lair and the others try to rescue her.
In "The Caress of the Creature," a crew of construction men, preparing a swamp for new condominiums, takes a lunch break. The foreman decides to have a dip in Lake Habagappee and is tickled in a "tender, yet masculine" manner on his foot by an unknown, slimy finger," McAlpine said.
"This caress from the creature sets off all these conflicting emotions," McAlpine said. "(The foreman) has to battle his feelings for other men."
One of "the other men" is Pablo, the feminine immigrant worker boy who is rumored to dream about gay sea creatures. Pablo disappears into the water’s depths one night and the town is more concerned the creature might be gay than for Pablo. The foreman takes it upon himself and leads a two-man expedition to rescue Pablo from the clutches of the creature.
"The foreman doesn’t want to recognize his feelings for other men," McAlpine said. "It manifests itself in his quest to capture this creature."
When the foreman confronts the creature, he must face its innocent wrath and his own clashing emotions.
The dry-comedy, based on homosexuality, wasn’t created without some controversy.
"Some members of the homosexual community didn’t quite agree with the story," McAlpine said.
The film tells the story in a tongue-in-cheek way and wasn’t meant for anyone to take offense, the director said. People who initially protested the film, found out it wasn’t threatening to either side.
"I think people were initially frightened by the ideas," McAlpine said. "It’s a comedy and some people thought we were taking it too far."
But, McAlpine said, when people saw the film they changed their minds.
"The screening on the FSU campus was well received," McAlpine said. "After that, we’ve been getting a few acceptances into festivals. We were even accepted into a gay and lesbian film festival."
McAlpine wanted to capture Florida’s landscapes but didn’t consider the potential dangers of filming in wild Florida.
"We tried to think of what is the best for the story but every day there was a problem," McAlpine said. "We didn’t consider the aquatic wildlife, it’s a bit nerve-racking to have alligators sitting right next to us as we were filming."
But, McAlpine added, "There were no medical traumas or anything like that."
"The Caress of the Creature will screen during Slamdance’s "Shorts Block 2" at the Treasure Mountain Inn today at 11 a.m. Other shorts that will screen at that time are:
*"Red Timber (Rotes Holz)," a 2006 German film directed by Agnes Karow. Emma Spengler is informed by the police, that her husband has had a serious car accident. But Emma persistently claims that this man is not her husband. Commissioner Le Couture tries to find out Emma’s secret. *"Hijo," a 2005 Spain film directed by Nicolás Melini. Berta is watching TV and her son calls her behind the door.
*"Swerve," a 2006 USA film directed by Andrew Piccone. A drive through a storm of city lights and pouring rain becomes the last chance for a doomed love. A real couple in the midst of a break-up were cast to play themselves in this movie. The resulting mix of fact and filmmaking became "Swerve."
*"Happy Birthday 2 You," a 2006 Spain film directed by David Alcalde. Clara, a social worker, is going to discover a dark secret on her way to help a child. But nobody, even herself, is who they pretend to be in this story about obsession, cats and birthday presents.
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Hotel occupancy in the Park City area during Sundance is projected to drop dramatically from a typical year as organizers shift the event online.