Back in 1972, when I was just eight years old, a low-budget, based-on-a-true-story movie about a bigfoot-like creature roaming (and screaming) around the swampland near Fouke, Arkansas became a box office sensation. It was ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ and it thrilled and terrified that younger version of myself. It must have had that same effect on a lot of people, because, having cost only $160,000 to make, the film would earn close to $20 million. And, in 1972, that’s some real money we’re talkin’ about!
Why, in 1972, you could buy five brand, spankin’ new comic books for a dollar! But, I digress. Oh, and get off my lawn!
Anyway, I saw ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ several times back then and loved it. But it scared me. It kept me up at night, especially when my family would head to a cabin in the woods of western Wisconsin. I was so scared that a similar creature would come after me. Movie monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein didn’t scare me. I knew those were fake. But, the Boggy Creek monster was real! The movie says so!
I wouldn’t sleep next to a window in that cabin for fear that the monster would reach in and try to grab me. That happens in the film. Twice. Once with the hilarious result of a fellow stumbling out of his bedroom with his pants falling down around his ankles. The audience got quite a laugh at that.
So, the movie stayed in the back of my mind as a great and influential film that scared the bejeezuz out of me as a kid. Perhaps, I should have left it there.
But, I didn’t. Sometime in the mid-90s, I spotted the movie on the shelves of a local video store (remember those?) and I just had to rent it. I didn’t I expect I’d have the same reaction I had when I was eight, but it was far more amateurish than I remembered.
There were no “real” actors, many of the parts were played by locals, some even played themselves. So the acting was less than exceptional. The look of the film was a bit muddy, however that may have had to do with the quality of VHS tapes.
There were some nice touches to the film. The director Charles B Pierce (who also wrote the docudrama) uses the less-is-more technique with the creature. We never do get a good look at it, thereby making it seem more menacing. If we had gotten a better look at it, we’d see it looks more like a man in a costume.
There’s a scene with three high school girls in a trailer being terrorized by the creature that is pretty effective. The creature just lurks around outside screaming, while the girls, also screaming, fumble in their attempt to load a hunting rifle. Simple, but it works.
And the folksy narration of Vern Steirman is quite welcome. He’s no Jean Shepherd, but there’s something soothing in his tone.
Best of all (or worst, it depends on how you look at it) there are songs written for the film! How did I completely forget there were songs in the movie?! One of the songs is an ode to a teenage boy named Travis Crabtree. Young Travis plays himself in the film, which leads me to wonder if he still brags about being in a movie and having a song written about him.
“Hey, Travis Crabtree, wait a minute for me…” Great! Now that’s gonna be suck in my head all day.
Travis Crabtree meets up with ol’ Herb Jones, also playing himself. Herb is a kind of a hermit who has lived out in the “bottoms” all by his lonesome for better than twenty years and he flat out states he “ain’t never seen nor heard no monster.”
Herb also has a limp. Our friendly narrator tells us why in my favorite line in the movie. Vern tells us, without a hint of irony or any further explanation, “Herb limps because he once accidentally shot part of his foot away in a boating accident.”
Wait! Shot his foot in a boating… Huh?
OK, maybe this movie would have been something I should have kept as a memory. Something that was scary and emotionally effective. For an eight year old, I mean. It’s hard to believe anyone much older than that wouldn’t find the whole thing just plain silly. You can see for yourself. The entire film is on YouTube.
But, if I had left it as a memory I wouldn’t have remembered there were songs.
Hey, Travis Crabtree… Damn it!