The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

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The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

Post  BoG on Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:09 pm

The poster above is deceptive; as explained below, the monster does not look like that standard dinosaur. I did see this a long time ago  in a theater, back in the late seventies. A DVD was released in 2001 and I acquired it in 2002. I noted that the credits on the front of the DVD are wrong, claiming that it stars Stuart Whitman & Stella Stevens (Whitman did appear in Eaten Alive around the same time). The credits are correct on the back.  David Allen did the FX work; he started out with Equinox (in the late sixties; it was redone for 1970) and worked on a lot of low budget sci-fi/horror pictures through the nineties; he passed away in 1999.
I will say that it takes a lot of effort on my part to appreciate this - a LOT of effort. This definitely has an amateurish quality; my impression was that there were no professional actors, just locals or friends of the producer/director. Since the monster scenes are brief (very low budget, remember), this results in many dull, drawn out scenes of characters either doing something or speaking about something in an uninteresting manner. One scene has a couple on a boat in broad daylight and the lady comments on all the stars above  - all I could see was blue sky. I guess it's no coincidence that Jaws, one of the biggest movies of that decade, had just come out a couple of years earlier; this seems to draw inspiration from that water-based thriller: instead of a shark, there's a Plesiosaur, able to crawl onto land if it has to.
Even when I was much younger and first checked this out, I could recognize all these drawbacks to the film. I'm pretty sure I sat aghast in the theater as a couple of the more embarrassing characters, some local clownish dolts, wasted my time for minutes on end which seemed like hours. It was especially disappointing because there had been talk & rumors about this forthcoming film for a couple of years before it was released. I and many others were envisioning a dinosaur epic of Harryhausen proportions. It was quite a letdown.
Ironically, I CAN appreciate this film a little better now, many years later. Back in the seventies, stop-motion animation was still all the rage; Harryhausen had yet to complete his Clash of the Titans; I figured stop-motion work would dominate films of the eighties & nineties, so I could dismiss this little picture as just one of many stop-motion extravaganzas I would see in the next couple of decades. Now, it's something of a rarity, an opportunity to glimpse that special stop-motion work which fell out of style as the eighties began. Just keep in mind, that's all we get here - brief glimpses. I will say, the climactic battle is close to spectacular, letting Dave Allen do his stuff, but it's just a 5-minute sequence near the very end. BoG's Score: 3 out of 10
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