This really is a review of the DVD release of The Legend of Boggy Creek. Trust and bear with me I will get into the analysis of what has to be the fourth or fifth best use a rented gorilla suit in cinematic history (and by the way, the best use of a rented gorilla suit goes to 1953’s Robot Monster). But first, I have to get this off my chest:
DVDs are just too damned expensive. Allow me to modify that statement; Good DVDs are too damned expensive. There’s no shortage of public domain garbage, obscure and unwatchable kung-fu theatre rejects (Bruce Li?) and the latest in Disney inspired cartoon knock-offs (who are they fooling?) readily available at rock-bottom prices. As tempting as these cheap DVDs may be, they nearly always prove to be complete disappointments. In the end, you wind up with a shelf full of lousy movies with ugly box art that even the least reputable second-hand dealer won’t give you trade credit for. Although the average retail price of a typical DVD is around $25 and still a far cry from the cost of a VHS movie in the early days of the VCR (I remember seeing an ad for the original Thorne/EMI VHS release of Dawn of the Dead for $100 back in 1985 and thinking that was just about the price of a man’s soul — but if you ordered it from Fantaco, it came with a poster!), the digital entertainment revolution remains tantalizingly out of reach for many videophiles who are just not willing to replace a library of tape or laserdiscs with DVDs. However, if your taste in movies is obsessive and leans toward the weird, you just can’t survive without the latest and greatest in special edition discs that are regularly updated and/or put on moratorium to create “instant” collector’s items. Specialty companies like Anchor Bay Video, while being the horror and cult aficionado’s best friend by regularly re-issuing once rare genre favorites like The Evil Dead, can also be deadly enemies of the superfan’s wallet. Anchor Bay, while not as insidious as Disney who regularly pulls their animated “classics” out of circulation for as long as 5 or more years at a time merely to inflate “collectibility” or Lucasfilm who seemingly releases a new edition of the Star Wars Trilogy on the quarter hour (another one is coming by summer’s end — ante up, geeks), knows its customers and knows that they, being the rabid completists they are, must have every shred of memorabilia and frame of video associated with the films they love. How many extended/collector’s/director’s editions of say, Army of Darkness can the market bear? Well, so far, three and if so much as any previously unreleased footage of Bruce Campbell’s tonsillectomy turns up you can bet there will be more. But, fear not fright fans, you need not be at the mercy of big entertainment conglomerates, specialty distributors, boutique mail order outlets or, God help us all, ebay for your entertainment fix. There is real treasure to be found on the DVD bargain rack if you’re willing to wade through the dreck.
Which brings us back to The Legend of Boggy Creek, the “Citizen Kane” (or, at least, the “Smokey and the Bandit”) of fake bigfoot docudramas. There I was, rummaging through the cheap DVD pile at Wal Mart, waist high in Spanish language translations of Little LuLu cartoons and multi-disc collections of “The Andy Griffith Show” when this semi-forgotten gem from 1973 beckoned to me. As a child growing up in the 1970’s the trailer for Boggy Creek alone scared me in a way from which I’m not sure I ever completely recovered. I had to own this disc to conquer those childhood demons. It would be a kind of therapy and besides it was only about nine bucks. See a shrink for that kind of cash.
Long before The Blair Witch Project, this horror “documentary” pioneered the no-budget school of using a shaky camera in the woods at night without benefit of a script, actors or coherent direction. In the 1970’s there was a sudden wave of interest in all things paranormal which resulted in a deluge of movies and TV specials about Big Foot, ESP, UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster. It was the golden age of “In Search Of”. At the forefront of this cultural phenomenon was The Legend of Boggy Creek, a grainy exploration of the legend of Arkansas’ Fouke County Monster, sort of a poor southern relation of the Pacific Northwest’s Sasquatch. Shot by Charles B. Pierce (The Town that Dreaded Sundown) in the Arkansas Bottom Lands with a “cast” of locals, who were allegedly never paid, re-enacting their real life encounters with the legendary beast, Boggy Creek is a magnificent bad movie that is long on atmosphere and short on virtually everything else. With a framework couched in the nostalgic, boyhood musings of an unnamed narrator, that we are led to assume is the filmmaker (although the film is not actually narrated by Pierce), Boggy Creek has the tone of a skid-row version of The Waltons crossbred with a Halloween spookshow. Everything about this film has the mark of schizophrenia. It is at times meandering and boring, best resembling a travelog for insomniacs, yet the verite of some of the monster attack scenes is brilliant lending an authenticity that the film just doesn’t deserve. Pierce mercifully keeps shots of the monster short, out of focus, obscured by tree branches and in the dark in a successful attempt to heighten the terror and avoid having to credit Don Post Studios for the aforementioned off-the-rack monkey get-up.
Parts of The Legend of Boggy Creek are eerily effective, particularly a shot of the creature’s hairy hand coming through an open window (incidentally, this was the shot used in the TV ads that sent me over the edge as a tyke) or the protracted, truly suspenseful assault on a family staying in a cabin that not even Bruce Campbell would spend a night in.. Unfortunately, for every shot and sequences in Boggy Creek that works, there are a dozen or more lingering scenes of such compelling subject matter as tree branches swaying in the wind . . . Not to mention all the heart wrenching and totally out of place folk music — monster folk music seemingly written by someone whose benchmark for great horror movie music is David Hess’ “Villain’s Theme” from The Last House on the Left.
Like all great bad movies, The Legend of Boggy Creek is incredibly self-assured in its complete awfulness. The deadpan narration features some lines that the infamous Edward D. Wood jr. would blush at, my personal favorite being: “He shot part of his foot off in a boating accident” (huh?). The disc, distributed by Sterling Entertainment as Charles B. Pierce’s Original The Legend of Boggy Creek, A True Story (Pierce is really angling for autuer status here) boasts some of the most laughably threadbare bonus features every committed to DVD. The alleged “production notes” are merely still frames from the opening credits reduced to the size of postage stamps and arranged artfully on the screen. I have never seen a film so desperately in need of a filmmaker’s commentary or extensive “making of” material. Just imagine what it would have been like to be on the set of this picture in the backwoods of Arkansas in the early 1970’s. I am praying that one of the bigger specialty distributors (and I’m talking to you, Anchor Bay) will pick up the Boggy Creek rights and do this monster justice. In addition, Pierce and the fine folks over at Sterling have also taken the stand of “remastering is for the weak.” The film looks as lousy, underexposed and grainy as it ever has, but don’t get wrong, that’s part of the film’s charm. This material shouldn’t look too clean.
So, is this a negative review? Even I’m not absolutely certain. Somehow, this bad little film works its way into your psyche and amplifies its own worth. This film is utterly awful and I love ever frame of it. It must be seen to be believed. The Boggy Creek DVD definitely proves the old adage about “one man’s trash.” The irony for me is that it’s a “treasure” as well. Love it or hate it, The Legend of Boggy Creek at least is sincere in it’s intent — whatever that might be.
Seek it out, watch it and use it for a beer coaster. For added enjoyment, test your endurance by trying not to laugh every time the narrator says “Fouke Monster.”