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The Creature Returns to Florida
The crystal-clear water and lush greenery at Florida’s Silver Springs served as the backdrop for many Hollywood films starting in the late 1930s. Six Tarzan films, The Barefoot Mailman, Jupiter’s Darling and scenes from a number of other movies and television programs were filmed at the springs. Revenge of the Creature, the sequel to the hit monster flick Creature from the Black Lagoon, was filmed at the springs in the summer of 1954, and photographer Bruce Mozert was on set taking behind-the-scenes photographs of the cast and crew at work above and below the water.
Ginger Stanley in the grip of the Gill Man for a promo still at Silver Springs, 1955. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Mozert was a freelance photographer in New York before settling in Florida. On his way to photograph women’s shoes in Miami in 1938, he stopped in St. Augustine and learned that actor Johnny Weissmuller was shooting a Tarzan movie at Silver Springs. Mozert took a detour to the springs and photographed the actor and crew on set. After seeing how the Tarzan crew was able to film underwater, Mozert designed his own underwater camera housings. Impressed with these on-set photographs, Silver Springs managers offered Mozert a job as the attraction’s official photographer.
Johnny Weissmuller (right) and Ross Allen (center) with a baby elephant at Ross Allen's Reptile Institute during the filming of Tarzan Finds a Son! at Silver Springs, 1939. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Florida became an increasingly popular destination for filmmakers in the 1950s. After the success of Creature from the Black Lagoon in early 1954, Universal gave the green light for a sequel. In Revenge of the Creature, starring John Agar and Lori Nelson, the Gill Man is captured and studied before eventually escaping. Director Jack Arnold and the cast and crew traveled to Silver Springs and Marineland Studios in St. Augustine for filming. At Silver Springs, Mozert photographed Florida native Ricou Browning reprising his role as the Gill Man for the underwater scenes.
Filming underwater presented many challenges for the cast and crew. Since Browning would have to hold his breath for the entirety of the scene, he received direction and rehearsed on land before anyone got into the water to film. Once the director was ready to shoot the scene, the cameras were sealed in their waterproof cases and placed in the water with two or more divers. Then it was time for the actors to get in the water.
Director Jack Arnold (right), Ricou Browning as Gill Man and crew on the set of Revenge of the Creature at Silver Springs, 1954. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Film crew with underwater cameras and equipment on the set of Revenge of the Creature, 1954. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Browning in his rubber Creature suit would be rowed to the filming location in the springs. Then he would get in the water and dive under with a safety diver nearby to assist. The camera crew and safety divers were equipped with air tanks for long-term underwater breathing. Between takes, Browning used an air hose to breathe underwater, a technique he learned from famed swimmer Newt Perry.
A crew member in a rowboat with Ricou Browning as Gill Man during filming of Revenge of the Creature at Silver Springs, 1954. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
The underwater camera crew working on the set of Revenge of the Creature at Silver Springs, 1954. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Ricou Browning as Gill Man breathing through an air hose while filming Revenge of the Creature at Silver Springs, 1954. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Spectators watching crew members work on a floating platform during filming of Revenge of the Creature at Silver Springs, 1954. Photo by Bruce Mozert.
Filming in Florida wrapped up a few weeks later, and the movie was released in early 1955. Mozert continued taking photographs at Silver Springs for the next 30 years.
The State Archives of Florida accessioned the Bruce Mozert Photographic Collection (N2018-20) in 2018. The collection contains approximately 25,000 negatives, thousands of prints and hundreds of films. You can see more behind-the-scenes photographs from the set of Revenge of the Creature, as well as a selection of other photographs taken by Mozert at the springs, on Florida Memory.