Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) & Return to Boggy Creek (1977)


          Hollywood set decorator Charles B. Pierce launched his career as a low-budget auteur by producing, directing, and photographing this ersatz documentary about sightings of a Sasquatch-like creature in the swamps of Fouke, Arkansas. Presented with very little synchronized sound (most of the commentary is provided by a narrator), the movie trudges through dull re-creations of encounters with the shambling man-beast. Pierce isn’t a bad cinematographer, at least when he’s got enough light for proper exposures (which isn’t always), so some sequences have passable atmosphere. With Pierce’s camera picking out evocative details like the way tree shadows fall across murky water, the best images in The Legend of Boggy Creek reveal why Pierce made his living embellishing cinematic visuals. Unfortunately, every other aspect of the picture explains why his directorial endeavors were limited to cheap drive-in attractions. Working with screenwriter Earl E. Smith, Pierce fails to generate any narrative momentum. It’s true that certain vignettes of slow-witted rednecks tromping around their backwoods hovels have a certain lurid appeal, but Pierce’s inability to deliver the horror-flick goods grows tiresome—since the picture comprises scenes of people reacting to something the audience cannot see, the whole movie is a tease.
          Worse, the movie feels padded, even though it runs less than 90 minutes. This is especially true when Pierce cuts to montages featuring godawful original songs. Yes, there’s actually a “Creature Theme,” a melancholy country ballad explaining the loneliness felt by the unseen monster. (Sample lyrics: “Perhaps he dimly wonders why/ there is no other such as I.”) Still, many ’70s moviegoers found The Legend of Boggy Creek sufficiently unsettling to make it a substantial hit—the movie earned a reported $20 million despite costing only $100,000 to make.
          An inevitable sequel followed in 1977, but Return to Boggy Creek was made without Pierce’s involvement; furthermore, Return to Boggy Creek is a fiction film rather than a fake documentary, and its also a kiddie movie. The plot concerns redneck children getting rescued from danger by a benevolent Bigfoot, and the biggest star in the cast is “Mary Ann” from Gilligan’s Island, the one and only Dawn Wells, who plays the kids’ worried mama. (Still cute as hell, by the way!) Interminably slow and stuffed with embarrassingly bad acting—the main character is played by amateurish teenager Dana Plato, who later achieved fame on the sitcom Diff’rent StrokesReturn to Boggy Creek is vanilla-flavored tripe of the least digestible variety. Apparently content to pretend Return to Boggy Creek didnt exist, franchise originator Pierce returned with an “official” sequel, 1985’s The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II, widely regarded as one of the worst movies of the ’80s. After Pierce died in 2010, a new gang of no-budget filmmakers created the quasi-remake The Legend of Boggy Creek (2011), a home-video production featuring a guy in a gorilla suit.

The Legend of Boggy Creek: LAME
Return to Boggy Creek: SQUARE

2 comments:

The Mutt said...

This movie defines the 70s for me. To this day, the most scared I ever got from a movie. I saw it at the Bristol Theater in Memphis when I was 14. The Bristol was between two thrift stores in a sketchy part of town. They couldn't afford to replace broken seats, so there was a gulf of blackness between the front row and the screen. They couldn't afford light bulbs either, so when the lights went down, they went DOWN. You could buy a soda in a cup the size of a wastebasket that was 99 percent ice. Which came in handy, since you could ball the ice up and chuck it at the rats running around in the inky darkness. Gawd, I miss the Bristol.

This was one of those movies that was advertised on the radio with those "Starts Wednesday in Oceola! Thursday night only in Marked Tree! Friday and Saturday in Itta Benna!"

The production values are on par with those movies made by some hunter who went to Alaska and brought a camera with him, got a country singer to record a narration and called it a movie.

But, boy do I love this movie. It truly scared the crap out of me. I think because it was so low-budget and amateurish you couldn't imagine that it wasn't real. This is the proto-Blair Witch Project. In fact, there is a scene in Blair Witch of a fisherman in a blue checked shirt that I'd swear is inspired by Boggy Creek. I've never heard anyone say so, and the Blair Witch guys seem a little young to have been inspire by this movie, but watch them both and you'll see.

I'd recommend that everyone should watch this movie, but sadly it seems to be impossible to find. I haven't seen it since I saw it at The Bristol. So I could be totally wrong.

But I'm a dancing fool.

Sammy Preston said...

I have watched the film but never really know its story.