Friday, October 16, 2015

Creature From Black Lake!

How I've lived this long possessed of a fascination with the legendary Bigfoot and have never seen Creature from Black Lake is beyond me. (It was  recently the focus of the Finding Bigfoot show, which of course after several seasons now have still not done so.) But a few weeks ago I solved that dilemma when I found the 1976 epic online. To see it for yourself check out this link.

From this point on I'm going to be discussing the movie as if you've seen it, so if you haven't and want to, stop now before Jack Elam. It will be safe to read again when you see Dub Taylor (bet that's never been said before).

Jack Elam Says To Be Wary! SPOILERS BEGIN!
Creature from Black Lake begins in the swamps of Louisiana, specifically a place called Caddo Lake. There we find two trappers Joe Canton and his partner Willie, (Joe is played by the scene-stealing Jack Elam.) who are finding their traps have been tampered with. The switches back and forth between these two idling across the swamplands and a Chicago professor who is talking about the legendary creatures known as "Bigfoot", "Sasquatch", and "Skunk Ape".  As the Prof drone on about how harmless the creatures are, a furry hand reaches out of the swamp and pulls the hapless Willie into the drink from where he never returns. Joe skedaddles.

Then the Prof talks to our heroes Pahoo and Rives, two college students who want to prove the existence of the creature. The two head off in their obligatory 70's van to the wilds of the South to find Joe Canton who has reported the loss of Willie to the authorities. There is quite a bit of hijinks which occur after this point to establish the rapport the two have and to waste time as the look for witnesses. Despite being told by the Sheriff to drop their inquiry, they find a young man who tells how his family saw the Creature and how his parents were killed in a car wreck as a result. He takes them to meet his grandparents who also witnessed the event and who are scared to this day. (The Grandpa is played by character actor supreme  Dub Taylor.)The meeting goes well enough enough they scare the Granny and have to leave.

They then meet two girls who agree to meet them at their camp in the swamp and no sooner do the two pairs of youngsters begin spooning but the Creature appears to take a peek and scare them. He's scared off by the Sheriff who promptly takes the two Bigfoot researchers to jail where they at last find the man they've been searching for Joe, who has since had another encounter.

He tells them where to search and when they get out of jail they head deep into the swamp and once again engage with the Creature who attacks them, destroys their van, and creates enough havoc that Pahoo is seriously injured and Rives is hurt too. They are saved by the Sheriff who hears their calls for help on the radio and the story ends with the pair licking their not-insignificant wounds and vowing to strike out again to solve the mystery.

Dub Taylor Says Its Okay! END Of SPOILERS!
The story is a solid enough effort, and many folks pick at it for the antics of the two men who have to fill the screen with material while they wait for the Creature to show up and make things more interesting. The acting is adequate, with seasoned pros like Elam, Taylor, and Bill Thurman as the Sheriff adding a lot of credibility to the effort. The younger actors are uneven, though the leads are competent, especially the somewhat older Dennis Fimple as Pahoo. The weakest effort is by the producer Jim McCullough Jr. who plays the role of the young man who first befriends the searchers and takes them to see his grandparents. His acting is weak and made even more so when forced up against a master like Taylor.

The Creature itself is handled rather smartly I think. The special effects would have been limited, but they do a good job keeping it off screen or just out of sight in the shadows. Its presence then becomes more felt than seen, which is just what you want in a movie of this kind. That said, this isn't really in any shape or form a scary movie. The Creature is threatening and there is a bit of tension at the end, but for the most part the movie delivers characters and atmosphere more than events.

I'd love to own a copy of this flick, but the movie sells for prohibitively high prices. This screams for someone to reissue it into a market which is ripe for this kind of offbeat material. Hopefully sooner than later, I can find a copy, maybe with some neat extras. For now, though it's satisfying just having seen it through.

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