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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Crater Lake Monster (1977)





Things kick off with “Doc” smoking a pipe and enjoying a good book when a car comes speeding up his driveway. It is one of his students from the College that has made an incredible discovery. Doc is driven back to a mine where he sees ancient cave drawings of Indians alongside a dinosaur. At that same exact time an asteroid hits the local lake and they have to flee as the mine caves in. Not to be deterred the same students go diving on the lake to recover the asteroid, but it is too hot to handle. That is important because it is heating up the bottom of the lake, which is normally freezing cold.

Months later the fish and game around the lake disappear. Why you might ask? Remember when the asteroid hit the lake? Well it heated up the mud and made a lost and forgotten dinosaur egg hatch. Now they have a Plesiosaur stomping around eating the locals because it is out of fish! It is up to a couple of goofball rednecks, Doc, and the sheriff to protect the citizens from The Crater Lake Monster. And by protect, I mean run away after bullets don’t work. Though they do eventually have a killer dinosaur vs. snowplow battle for the ages. 

Time for me to get back to my roots and talk some drive-in movies. Now I never got to see most of these under the stars but instead caught them as they made the rounds of the local late-night horror host shows. The Crater Lake Monster is one of those and I’ve always enjoyed it. This movie gets regularly savaged by critics and fans alike but I just don’t understand the reaction. Please allow me to try and convince you why this is a decent movie.

I’m going to start off with the plot. I understand that it might seem a bit forced and unimaginative because much of the movie consists of character A being introduced and immediately going out onto the lake to be eaten. Followed by character B doing the same thing. But having grown up on a steady diet of monster movies as a kid this was a common theme to the genre, so The Crater Lake Monster can’t be blamed for this. We do have some main characters including the very memorable redneck owners of the boat rental, Arnie and Mitch. The pair have some great lines and serve not only as the comic relief but help move the plot along thru their hijinks. While we get a lot of introduce and kill off there are also some that survive long enough to root for. And by the end I think that most viewers will be cheering for them.

One more thing to mention about the plot is that they jump right into the action and never let up. This isn’t one of those terrible movies filled with stock footage or padding, but instead they had a story to tell and action to show. That makes this one a fast and fun time where you will never be watching the clock. I’ve sat thru far too many low budget flicks that meander along and will cure anyone’s insomnia, but this one avoids that pitfall.

I love the creature effects work!
The coolest thing about the movie are the special effects work used to bring the monster to life. We get some stop motion, rear projection, and a giant rubber head used to make this happen. These are old school effects like they used on the original King Kong. For a lower budget monster movie in the seventies this is some pretty decent work and they do a good job blending the three together. I get that it might seem dated, even when the movie was new, but there is some quality creature work here that should be appreciated.

In addition to the above I’ve always been amused by some of the sillier things in The Crater Lake Monster. For example, the distributor, Crown International, had some financial issues and were unable to finish the movie. That means the blue filter to create the day for night shots weren’t done. Pay attention and you have characters acting like it is dark out while in broad daylight. There is even one scene where an actress talks about how beautiful the stars are tonight while shielding her eyes from the sun. I call this drive-in gold and it makes me love the movie all that much more.

The Crater Lake Monster is a fun bit of cheese that I highly recommend all fans of either monster movies or the drive-in check out. I have a copy on one of those Mill Creek sets and I’m sure it isn’t that hard to find. It is worth the effort, trust me.



© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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