Saturday, October 17, 2020

Hubrisween 2020 :: L is for The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)


We open in darkness with a dubious disclaimer, warning the viewer that what we are about to see is based on a true story, with the majority of the people in the picture actually portraying themselves in the interest of authenticity and, in most cases, at the actual location which spawned these coming testimonials.




And then, when the camera suddenly comes to life, giving us a sweeping pan of some water-logged marsh, all we hear are the ambient noises of these wetlands; insects, nutrias, frogs and lots of birds, doing what insects, nutrias, frogs and lots of birds do. But as our serene tour of nature continues, an ominous wind starts to blow; then, this natural, almost-droning animal symphony is shattered by a strange, guttural howl that doesn't really fit any of these indigenous critters, bringing all other noise to an abrupt stop. Was that the wind? The howling sounds again, scaring all the other animals off. No. It was definitely not the wind.




Cut to a young boy, running hell bent for the horizon through a sea of grass, away from the marshes and those strange and terrible noises. He pauses to look back and scan the tree line, keeping a watchful eye out for something. But, he sees nothing. Yet. More running, then, as the boy runs, and runs, and runs, until finally making the main road and a filling station, where he finds the man he’s been looking for, Willie Smith, gabbing with a few other locals.



Told he was sent by his mom to get help because there was a "wild man" prowling around their house again, Smith and the others laugh -- seems it’s the third time this week the boy’s mother has seen a “monster" lurking about their property. This lack of credence and credulity would also probably explain why there is no sense of concern or urgency when they just send the messenger back home with the barest of notions to check out their place sometime tomorrow.




With that, the boy shrugs and beats feet back the way he came, racing the setting sun to get home before dark. And though he does make it back in time, barely, before he can get inside the house proper, the boy hears those primal screams again. And as those unnatural sounds reverberate through the surrounding bogs and marshes, an older narrator finally chimes in, claiming to be that boy, and how this was his first encounter with the legendary Fouke Monster, a Sasquatch like creature, back when he was seven years old.




And this harrowing encounter scared him then, and it still scares him to this very day as the narrator (Stierman) continues, giving us some background information on the area and the nickel tour of Fouke, Arkansas (circa 1972); a small agricultural community of about 300 people just south of Texarkana and about 50 miles north of Shreveport, Louisiana, which will be the setting of our cryptozoological tale.




Surrounded by wetlands, creeks and rivers that often flood and inundate the surrounding woods, this makes the area around Fouke almost impenetrable and unwilling to give up its mysteries. And that, our narrator ominously intones, explains why Fouke is a nice and peaceful place to live -- until the sun goes down...





Back in the newly minted summer of 1971 it was a slow news day at the offices of The Texarkana Gazette. April had just given way to May and the inundating heat and humidity of the changing seasons was already establishing a foothold when reporter Jim Powell received a call from his friend, Dave Hall. Now, Hall was the news director at Texarkana's KTFS radio station, who had just received word that something odd was going on down the road apiece in the little town of Fouke. With nothing else to cover, both reporters followed the news trail to the rented home of Mr. Robert “Bobby” Ford about 8 miles south of Fouke just off U.S. Highway 71, where he and his family were quickly packing all their belongings into a U-Haul, determined to vacate the area as soon as possible. Obviously, the family was scared. But of what? And why? Well, that’s when this breaking story took a very strange and sinister turn.


"I'm not staying here anymore unless they kill that thing," said Ford’s wife, Elizabeth. As for her husband, he said he’d had it and they were all moving back to Ashdown. Now, Bobby and Elizabeth Ford had only moved into the old secluded Crank house with their children just five days prior to this inciting incident, and shared occupancy with Ford’s brother, Don, his wife Patricia, their children, and a visiting family friend, Charles Taylor. And according to the report Powell would later file and publish in the Monday, May 3, 1971, edition of The Texarkana Gazette it all began a few days prior, when, on Wednesday, April 28, while the men were away, their wives heard something big prowling around on the porch, who ignored their queries, but this went no further. But two nights later, on Friday, April 30, whatever it was had returned -- and this time, it tried to break into the house.


“I saw the curtain moving on the front window and a hand sticking through it,” testified Elizabeth Ford in Powell’s article. “At first I thought it was a bear's paw but it didn't look like that. It had heavy hair all over it and it had claws. I could see its eyes. They looked like coals of fire, real red," she said. "It didn't make any noise. Except you could hear it breathing." Shouting for the menfolk, by the time they mobilized the intruder had once more disappeared and a search of the grounds found no trace of it.



Turns out this was all just a preamble for a true night of terror when this nocturnal visitor returned yet again late Saturday night, May 1, around midnight, and once more tried to gain entrance into the house -- only this time, the men were armed and ready for it. Bobby Ford reported they spotted the creature in the backyard, catching it in a pool of light from a flashlight. “We shot at it several times,” said Ford, sure they had hit the thing, but it would not fall. When it disappeared, they phoned the Miller County Sheriff's Department, who dispatched Constable Ernest Walraven.



Walraven arrived on scene at about 12:35 am on Sunday, May 2, took a statement, searched the area, but didn’t find anything. "I looked through the surrounding fields and woods for about an hour,” said Walraven. As things quieted down, and figuring some kind of wild cat was responsible, before he left, Walraven lent the Fords his shotgun and a better flashlight, as they intended to keep a vigil for the rest of the night, and said to call if the “animal” came back again. It did.



And this time, it allegedly kicked the back door in before it fled. Here, the Ford brothers and Taylor shot at it again, seven times in total. This time, their target seemed to fall as it disappeared back into the trees and the three men hastily pursued to check on the carcass and discover just exactly what in the hell it was they had been shooting at all night. Like his wife, at first, “I thought it was a bear,” said Ford, “but it runs upright and moves real fast.” Ford would later describe the creature as being at least seven feet tall and about three feet wide, shaped like a man, but covered in long brown hair. But as they searched around for a blood trail, none could be found. Then, the men heard the women shouting back at the house and Bobby Ford was sent back to see what was wrong.



"I was walking the rungs of a ladder to get up on the porch when the thing grabbed me,” Ford later testified. “I felt a hairy arm come over my shoulder and the next thing I knew we were on the ground. The thing was breathing real hard and his eyes were about the size of a half dollar and real red.” When Ford did manage to break free, he ran around to the front of the house, away from the creature. “The only thing I could think about was to get out of there. After the thing grabbed me and I broke free, I was moving so fast I didn't stop to open the door. I just ran through it," he said. Hearing the ruckus, the other two men also returned to the house but were too late. "We heard Bobby shouting and by the time we got there everything was over. We didn't see a thing," Don Ford said. And Bobby Ford concluded, “I don't know where he went."


After this harrowing close encounter with the, hell, whatever it was, the besieged house was quickly abandoned and the entire Ford clan drove into Texarkana and St. Michael Hospital, where Bobby Ford was treated for “minor abrasions and mild shock” before he was released. The family then contacted Walraven again to relate what had happened in the interim. He returned to the house with several other constables, and remained there until 5am. Nothing else happened.


Walraven added that several years prior residents of Jonesville, about six miles southwest of Fouke, also reported seeing a "hairy monster" in the area. "Several persons saw the thing and shot at it, some from close range. They said nothing seemed to stop it. They described it as being about seven feet tall and looking just like a naked man covered with brown hair," Walraven said.


As the sun came up, some tangible evidence was revealed: the toppled door; a few claw-marks in the exterior woodwork of the porch; several pieces of tin violently torn from the foundation; a punctured window screen; broken tree limbs and trampled saplings; but the most curious thing were some elongated, three-toed footprints found at the scene, which were corroborated, somewhat, in a later documented sighting a few weeks later. (See photos below.) But in the end, "Members of my department searched the area but didn't find a thing. I don't know what it could've been," Sheriff Leslie Greer said.


Amazingly enough, both the AP and UPI wire services picked up Powell’s newsflash and the tale of "The Fouke Monster" soon became a national sensation. And soon after, the little town of Fouke was overrun by a cryptid-addled public, hoping to catch a glimpse of America's newest folk legend. But like its cousin, the Sasquatch, the creature remained maddeningly elusive.


Now, it should be noted this recent rash of sightings weren't the first appearance of this creature. No. There had been sightings of the beast as far back as 1908; walking along the creek bed here, crossing the road there, slaughtering a few pigs now and again, and at least one documented case of the creature attacking someone while they were taking a crap in an outhouse. 


Some say it's all a hoax. Others say it's a gorilla or an orangutan that escaped from a derailed circus train. Who knows for sure. But sometimes, usually at night, something big and hairy crawls out of the wetlands along the Boggy Creek and prowls the house-trailers and shot-gun shacks around Fouke and its surrounding community, growling and shrieking and making a general nuisance of itself.


Geographically speaking, Boggy Creek runs nearly the whole length of Miller County, Arkansas. A distributary of the Sulphur River, it runs a winding, serpentine course from the Texas border to the east, branching off into several other creeks -- Mill Creek, Chicken Creek, cutting under Highway 71 and I-49, through thick woodlands, but also through pastures and farmlands, expanding into several reuse irrigation pits before flowing on until it eventually comes to an end just past the junction of Williams Road and the County 40 blacktop near the border with neighboring Lafayette County.


And over the years since these first sightings near its occluded banks began, a general description of this local legend solidified: tall, ape-like features, covered in long brown hair, three toes, three fingered claws, supernaturally fast, with fiery red eyes. But strangely enough, with over 100-years of sightings, unlike its other cryptid brethren, no known photos or film of the Fouke Monster, or Boggy Creek Monster, disputed or faked, exist -- well, with one notable exception. Sort of.


See, one individual who wanted to cash-in on and exploit this rash of sightings was Texarkana's very own Charles Bryant Pierce. Pierce was a local, as he grew up in the nearby town of Hampton, Arkansas, where he and his best friend, Harry Thomason, spent their youth making Super-8 home movies together. Fascinated by the medium of moving pictures, Pierce decided to make this his profession. 


He landed his first job as an art director for KTAL-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the mid 1960s, where he was later promoted to weatherman and played Mayor Chuckles, the host of a children’s cartoon show, The Laffalot Club. And after bouncing around TV stations in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, Pierce finally settled in Texarkana, bought himself a 16mm camera, and went into the advertising business, where he made industrial shorts and commercials for local businesses and eateries.


Thomason, meanwhile, had pretty much followed the same career path but took it one step further by writing, directing, and producing his own feature; the paranormal thriller, Encounter With the Unknown (1972), which was filmed in and around Little Rock, Arkansas, and made a tidy profit on the initial regional roll-out before being picked up by American National Enterprises and released nationally.


Inspired by his old friend’s success, Pierce felt he could also shoot a movie locally and also make some of that money. Originally, he had intended to do a western based on a script written by his friend, Earl C. Smith. The two then went to Hollywood to try to find financing and round up some actors. But then, while driving down Sunset Boulevard they spotted something odd. “I saw some hippies with t-shirts walking along the street. On the shirts was written, Save the Fouke Monster, so I started checking out how much publicity there had been about it,” Pierce said in an August, 1972, interview with Lane Crockett for The Shreveport Journal. Pierce added it was originally intended as an hour-long TV special, but after more research there was enough to make a feature film.Thus, the western was out, and the local legend was in.


In a later interview with the Arkansas-Democratic Gazette in 2008, Pierce said, “Just the thought of a Bigfoot was enough to give people the willies back then,” and had been since the Patterson-Gimlin footage first came to light in late 1967. (It’s true. I was there, and remember being one of millions of Bigfoot-addled sentients. Even Bro’ Smith’s “Bigfoot” novelty song gave me the drizzles. Sing it with me, “Bigfoot’s comin’ gonna getcha gonna getcha…”) And so, Fouke’s very own Bigfoot -- which Pierce affectionately dubbed “The Booger” would be the focus of his film, an ersatz nature documentary, based in “fact,” under the shooting title of Tracking the Fouke Monster.


To finance the project, Pierce started looking for investors and turned to one of his biggest advertising clients, Ledwell and Son Enterprises, an outfit out of Texarkana, Texas, which had specialized in custom built trailers and flatbeds since the 1940s. And when Pierce approached the owner, L.W. "Buddy" Ledwell, and made his pitch, Ledwell wasn’t completely sold on the idea at first but came around and ponied up $100,000, which earned Ledwell an executive producer’s credit.


As I mentioned in my review of Pierce’s later film, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976), those who worked with the eccentric writer, producer and director over the years always complimented him on his unbridled enthusiasm but also admitted Pierce really didn’t know what he was doing half the time. However, he always knew exactly what he wanted and usually got it on film -- by any means necessary. And what he got after heading out into the wilderness in October, 1971, with a borrowed and very ancient (but Techniscope-capable) camera, shooting for nearly six months, serving as his own cinematographer, with an inexperienced crew of nine high schoolers, was something truly unique and borderline unprecedented: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972).


For Pierce, despite his inexperience, really tapped into something with this faux, fact-or-fiction docudrama, using a scholarly narrator to give it some weight and an air of authenticity, employing flashbacks and local raconteurs to drive his narrative, achieving a folksy verisimilitude -- all on top of some beautiful cinematography, which captures the whole hick mise en scene and lets audiences feel the heat and humidity of the wetlands and bogs, smell the peat moss, be mesmerized by the chorus of insects, and feel all those psychosomatic skeeter bites, making the mundane feel menacing and pushing the whole enterprise into something that felt like it should’ve been shown on PBS and not at the Drive-In. Well, at least until the third act when things go a little bit … bonkers.


And we’ll be addressing that pants-on-fire climax in a sec, trust me; but before that last reel hit, audiences weren’t really sure where Earl E. Smith’s script ended and the recollecting began as these locals narrated several dramatic reenactments of their own harrowing encounters with some truly fascinating results:





Willie Smith soon learned his lesson for doubting the creature's existence. John Hixon saw it jump a fence and ramble across his yard; and the beast killed two of John Oates' prized hogs. When Fred Crabtree saw it bathing itself in a creek, he couldn't bring himself to shoot the thing because he thought it might be a man. Later that same day, his brother James also caught a glimpse of the creature roaming the woods. 






On another night, it prowled around the Searcy house, scaring the hell out of the womenfolk trapped inside, where they watched and listened, horrified, to the strange grunting noises the creature made as it circled closer and closer to their house until the attack culminated with the monster scaring the family cat to death!



As these sightings of the beast continued, the testimonials kept piling up, too, until, one day, a young hunter stumbled upon the creature, who fired off several rounds, apparently wounding the beast. And while the monster howled in pain, the boy quickly abandoned his gun, ran for help, and, after changing his soiled britches, gathered up some friends and returned to the spot of the shooting -- but it was too late, the monster was long gone. However, there was evidence left behind as several stout trees had been snapped off or uprooted. Also, a blood trail was found but it led to nothing. And worse yet, in all the excitement, no samples were collected or saved for later analysis.




Thus, as sightings and encounters continued to mount, a massive search was finally organized to try and flush the thing out. But these efforts failed miserably because all the well-trained hunting dogs shied away from the scent and refused to track the creature due to it's awful odor (-- one of the few defining characteristics the Fouke Monster does have in common with its acrid Sasquatch cousins).




However, after this organized attempt to catch or kill it fizzled, the creature wasn't spotted again for nearly eight years. To help bridge this gap, the film shifts gears and throttles back for some more nature footage and another extended tour of those marshlands while Pierce, himself, warbles a ballad he concocted about The Booger’s place in the circle of life -- or something. Again, this should not work but it totally does.




After, we shift into yet another gear because it’s finally time to hear from the skeptics, who don’t believe the creature really exists. Old Herb is one such skeptic, and a real cranky one at that. Having lived out in the boonies in a shanty for over twenty years, and having blown part of his foot off with a shotgun in a "boating accident" establishing his bona fides, in all that time Old Herb has never seen this Fouke Monster and thinks it's all a load of bull-twaddle. Well, Herb, you'd better tell that to the monster because he's back again -- and developed a taste for chicken, apparently, as we watch him run amok inside a chicken coop.




But of all the accounts heard thus far, the hardest evidence of the creature's existence was a trail of strange, three-toed tracks found in a bean field, preserved in plaster by William Kennedy. According to his testimony, Kennedy had never actually seen the creature but always felt uneasy -- like he was being watched, while working in that particular field. Interviewed by several experts, who ask if he thinks the Fouke Monster could be a Sasquatch, Kennedy doesn't even know what that is. When they explain it to him, he still isn't sure but these experts don't believe there's a connection because a Sasquatch’s footprints are much bigger and have five toes. These same experts also rule out a gorilla or an orangutan.



So what is it then? No one can say for sure. But whatever it was, the sightings continue to escalate as a group of children drag their mother out to see a monster they spotted down by the creek. Of course, she doesn't believe them; but sure enough, there it is and they all flee in screaming terror.





Here, the film notes there seems to be something different about this latest rash of sightings: the creature appears to be growing more belligerent and more brazen in it's attacks; moving out of the bogs and circling ever closer to civilization; and after it harasses a group of teenage girls at a slumber party, the narrator theorizes perhaps the creature is the last of its kind, and therefore, must be very lonely (-- and looking for a little nookie, perhaps? Git your hands off’n our wimmenfolk, you dern Kumquatch, you!). And having struck out at the slumber party, the creature takes it's frustration out on a couple of tethered dogs by tearing the hide clean off of them. Relating the carnage, the angered owner vows bloody revenge against the creature if he ever runs into it again.


And with that, we finally reach that climax and the film’s showpiece as the creature’s rash behavior culminates with a reenactment of the siege and attack on the Ford family home. Like with his adaptation of the Phantom Killer’s murder spree in The Town that Dreaded Sundown, Pierce plays pretty loose with the facts, such as they were reported, when relating his tale. In his condensed version, the Fords (Garruth, Dees) share the home with the (fabricated) Turner family (O’Brien, Coble), because both men were recently hired to work on a nearby ranch, explaining why they weren’t around and their wives and children were home alone when the first attack occurred.





Hearing the creature lurking about outside, circling the house, those guttural grunts getting closer and closer, the creature eventually makes its way onto the porch. But luckily for those trapped inside, the critter doesn't quite grasp the concept of a door knob and is thwarted. When the men finally come home, this is enough to scare the intruder off. But it returned the very next night and started probing through the windows.




This time, the men were home, who rounded up their guns and drove it away with a hailstorm of buckshot. They also call in the Sheriff, who dispatches a deputy (Walraven, as himself), but can find no evidence of the creature they described. Though he assures it was most likely just a cougar, the deputy sees the occupants are truly and genuinely scared. And so, he offers them another shotgun for more protection and promises to return in the morning when the light is better to track down the rogue animal -- whatever it may be.




Thus, as things simmer down, the Fords and Turners settle in for the night. But things don't stay quiet for long when one of the men uses the restroom, allowing the creature to attack him through a window! After beating it back, the men rush outside, spot the creature with their flashlights, and fire several rounds until it falls out of sight. 




Cautiously, they leave the lit porch to try and follow it. Behind them, in the house, the women are needling well past hysterical; and when Bobby Ford tries to quiet them down so he can hear, he's jumped and savaged by the creature!




Here, Pierce makes his one and only tactical mistake, revealing too much, breaking the film’s spell, as the off-the-rack costume shop origins of his creature are painfully obvious because we can easily see it's just a plain old gorilla suit, with eye-holes in the mask big enough we can clearly see the stuntman who’s wearing it underneath as Ford manages to break away, flee, and crash through the front door to get away from those *ahem* “claws and teeth.” Once he’s safely clear, Turner opens fire, driving the monster off yet again. Only this time, before it can come back, the families abandon the house, vowing to never return again.



With that, our film then ends with the narrator revisiting his long-abandoned childhood home, where he first heard the creature's mournful howl those many years ago. What was the creature after that night at the Ford's house, he asks? Who knows for sure. But one thing he is certain of, is that the monster is still out there, somewhere, lurking in the backwaters and creeks around Fouke to this very day.




So, How big was Bigfoot-mania back in the 1970s, really, for those of you who were not there to partake in it? Well, if you’ll pardon a personal anecdote, when Star Wars (1977) first came out, me and my friends were ecstatic because we were under the mistaken assumption from the previews, posters, and comics that Chewbacca was a Space Bigfoot, and dare I say, a little disappointed when we found out he was just a Wookie. And a big contributing factor to all of this mass-cryptid psychosis was the surprising box-office success of The Legend of Boggy Creek, which literally came out of nowhere.


In an interview with Daniel Kremer in Filmmaker Magazine in 2017, Pierce’s daughter, Amanda Squitiero, said of her father, “He really did believe that the Fouke Monster existed, so he thought that the documentary form best suited it. I think he also knew it would be scarier if people had to consider the possible truth of everything."




Kremer continued on this thread, writing, “To elaborate on the motives behind Pierce’s structural design, the on-camera interviews unfold much like folk stories, giving the film the rich, resonating impact of oral history. Boggy Creek is a cross-genre essay on collective memory and shared experience, and specifically how memory and common experience can unite and forever bind communities. This gives the interspersed horror sequences an unexpected weight. And this notion of oral history and heritage would furnish Pierce with a sense of thematics that pervade all his work."





When Pierce wrapped principal photography in April, 1972, he packed all of his exposed film into the trunk of his car and headed west; destination, a lab in Burbank, California, for processing. He would stay in Los Angeles for the entire post-production, assisted by editor, Tom Boutross -- The Hideous Sun Demon (1958), Rat Fink (1968), and landed a huge coup when he struck up a friendship with composer Jaime Mendoza-Nava, which netted him a beautiful, rustic, old-timey score for his docudrama, which both grounds the film and provides the glue that holds Pierce’s lofty narrative notions together and pushed it forward whenever it teetered toward schlock or even self-parody at times. Pierce also made the right choice when he commissioned Ralph McQuarrie to design his essential poster art, who produced a simple but highly provocative one sheet.


When the film was finished, Pierce shopped The Legend of Boggy Creek around to several second-tier studios, looking for a distribution deal, but found no takers. And so, he returned to Arkansas, where he tried to four-wall it with several local chains but was once again rebuffed. Undaunted, Pierce rented an abandoned movie theater in Texarkana; and after a little clean-up and renovation, exhibited the film himself, coaxing family and friends to stand in line for tickets, then go inside, swap out clothes, sneak out the back, and then get in line again to help lure in the curious.


It worked, word of mouth spread, the film had legs, with box-office receipts of around $50,000, drawing the attention of Joy Houck and Howco International Pictures; a conglomeration of several southern theater chain owners who got into the production and distribution business in the 1950s, who agreed to release the film nationally; first in the rural drive-ins and then into urban hard-tops, where it went on to earn over $25-million in ticket sales, which put it in the Top-10 in grosses for 1972 right beside the likes of The Poseidon Adventure, Deep Throat, and Deliverance. Not too bad for a small regional film made by a guy who didn’t know what he was doing -- but apparently did.


And with the film's financial success, others were quick to follow, inspiring a rash of exploitative films and pseudo-documentaries on other cryptids that helped fuel the fire of that Bigfoot-Mania sweeping the country at the time -- Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), The Mysterious Monsters (1975), Creature from Black Lake (1976), and The Legend of Bigfoot (1976), but none managed to capture the alchemy Pierce achieved both artistically or financially with The Legend of Boggy Creek.




Pierce's matter-of-fact style, coupled with a keen cinematographer’s eye, and a knack for cagey staging in the reenactments, somehow, puts the hypno-whammy on your brain, making even the most jaded viewer actually believe this stuff is not only possible but plausible.


Right from the beginning, the film's opening sequence really grabs you and sets the tone as you watch the young boy (played by Pierce’s son, Timothy,) running through the tall brush and weeds, where he stops -- ever so suddenly -- to peer back to make sure nothing is following him; and with the editing and Nava’s ominous soundtrack wheedling into your brain, you suddenly find yourself urging the kid to keep moving; and faster at that, because you're feeling just as exposed as he is when he gets hung up on a fence. 





For despite being out in the open country, the atmosphere of dread is as thick as the chorus of mosquitoes drowning out the soundtrack. And as the camera teases you along, keeping the boy in frame to the right, just so, it appears he's never quite out of danger and something could loom into frame from the left and overtake him at any second.




And this is where The Legend of Boggy Creek excels, keeping the actual sightings to nothing more than brief or obscured glimpses. And that’s why, for me at least, the film kinda falls apart in the third act when it moves away from Pierce’s strengths as a filmmaker and exposes his weaknesses as we shift from a documentary to pure exploitation film with the attack and siege on the Ford house. From a technical stand-point, it’s sound enough -- and even has a few suspenseful turns, but the actors can’t quite pull it off; and then it’s all nearly undone completely with that lingering shot on the shoddy gorilla costume worn by Keith Crabtree.


Somewhat ironically, Pierce resolved this issue with a much better creature costume in the long awaited sequel, Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues (1984), but his attempt to recapture the oral documentarian vibe of the original falls flat as the narrative of a college professor (Pierce) and his students heading out into the wilderness to prove the creature exists to tie all of these flashback encounters together is pretty risible. It should also be noted that Pierce had nothing to do with Tom Moore’s Return to Boggy Creek (1977), which boasted both Dana Plato and Dawn Wells and a less belligerent monster doing good deeds.


However, Pierce did recapture some of that magic with The Town that Dreaded Sundown, which was based on another local legend -- though it was less a documentary and more of a procedural but no less effective. And then he completed his southern-fried horror trilogy with the equally fulfilling The Evictors (1979) for American International Pictures.


All told, Pierce parlayed the financial success of The Legend of Boggy Creek into producing and directing about a dozen regional features in total; most were elegiac westerns -- Winterhawk (1974), The Winds of Autumn (1976), Grayeagle (1977); but there was also some hicksploitation -- Bootleggers (1974); and his notorious historical epic, The Norseman (1978), where a group of vikings led by Lee Majors reach the new world and make war with the natives, which, upon reflection, really comes off as a feature length version of one of those old “Less Filling, Tastes Great” Miller Lite All-Star beer commercials dressed up in horned helmets and furs.


Personally, I don't need that much convincing when it comes to this crypto-zoological stuff, but I'm just weird that way. I like the idea of cryptids, not necessarily in their actual existence. Don't get me wrong, The Legend of Boggy Creek has plenty of snark value -- and it’s easy enough to snark over the toothless bumpkin and inbred yahoo factor, but coming from a rural background myself I tend to bristle at such notions. 


As Pierce told Dala McKinnsey in a 1972 interview for the Associated Press, “We intend, under no circumstances, to humiliate these people. We are going to tell it as they tell us.” And I personally think the film overachieves well beyond this threshold.





And that's what you should be hoping for in this type of pseudo-cryptid-documentary of this era. Those scenes where John or Jane Q tells you about how it all started out as just another normal day; and we follow them around for awhile; and then the camera pans on past them -- ever so slightly, and, WHAMMO! Holy shit! There it is! The creature suddenly comes into focus and is looking right at you. Sure, you may laugh later, but if you had that little knot of dread in the pit of your stomach right before you got that first glimpse, that is what separates The Legend of Boggy Creek from others of its ilk.


Well, if you don't know what Hubrisween is by now, Boils and Ghouls, I don't think I can help you. Anyhoo, that's 12 films down with 14 yet to go. Up next, Get Your Passports Ready because We're Off to the Isle of Evil for a Convention of Notable Notables and a Boisterous Bash You Will Never Forget. 


The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) P&L :: Howco International Pictures / EP: L.W. Ledwell / P: Charles B. Pierce / AP: Earl E. Smith / D: Charles B. Pierce / W: Earl E. Smith / C: Charles B. Pierce / E: Tom Boutross / M: Jaime Mendoza-Nava / S: Vern Stierman, Chuck Pierce Jr., William Stumpp, Willie E. Smith, John P. Hixon, Louise Searcy

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...