Monday, March 27, 2017

lake flaccid.

Way back in 2010 I actually got asked to write something for a proper blog (I've never been asked since, go figure) about that genius of horror cinema the late great Paul Naschy.

You can read it here if you're interested, it's actually quite good for me.

Anyway it was during this fine piece of cinema scribbling that I mentioned how as a 7 year old The Crater Lake Monster looked like it could quite possibly be THE greatest monster movie ever.

Well scarily 40 years on and finally someone took the hint and sent me a copy.

So, was it worth the wait?

Go on, guess.

The Crater Lake Monster (1977).
Dir: William R. Stromberg.
Cast: Richard Cardella, Glenn Roberts, Mark Siegel, Bob Hyman, Richard Garrison, Kacey Cobb, Michael Hoover, Sonny Shepard, Suzanne Lewis, Marv Eliot, Garry Johnston, Susy Claycomb, Joe Sasway and Jim Goeppinger.

I've been stuffin' my shoes with newspaper for so long, my feet know more about what's goin' on than my head.

In the small town of Crater Lake, Northern California (twinned with West Bromwich), local science guy - the Lego-haired Dr. Richard Calkins (the sniggeringly named Hyman best known as the Desk Sergeant in the hit TeeVee show Insight) is annoyed to find his nightly tearful wank and Pot Noodle rudely interrupted by his over-excited colleague Desperate Dan Turner (Garrison who you might recall from his top turn as a Doctor in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master).

It appears that he and his girlfriend Susan (Cobb who went on to be a technical advisor on A Bunny's Tale fact fans) have come across (look there's not much else to do around there) some remarkable cave drawings in the local woods (well in a cave in the local woods but I thought that would be obvious) that appear to depict a group of cavemen types fighting a Plesiosaurus, thus proving that dinosaurs existed at the same time as man.


Look I went to art school I've fuck all idea how 'the science' works...I mean why would they lie?

Plesiosaurus in mah hand!

Their excitement is short lived however when a hastily scribbled cartoon light - sorry I mean a flaming meteorite - appears from nowhere and crashes into the lake causing the cave system to collapse.

Coughing and spluttering in the darkness after barely escaping with their lives (their dignity however is totally destroyed) the trio are greeted by the porn 'tached local sheriff "Stubbly" Steve Hanson (Cardella who also wrote the screenplay) who offers them a lift back to town.

Several weeks pass before the Sheriff suddenly remembers the meteorite (he must have been busy) so he arranges to meet with the three scientists to go look for it.

Diving down to the bottom of the lake Susan and Dan discover it still smoldering away inbetween the usual shopping trolleys and dead gypsies resulting in the temperature of the water rising to approximately 90 degrees and all the fish dying.

To get a feeling of how fucking inane the whole thing feels so far just imagine a really bad episode of the X-Files genetically spliced with the much missed cult TeeVee show Rentaghost and you'd be halfway there.

Meanwhile in an attempt to add some excitement to the proceedings a local birdwatcher (sound man Scharn) is busy setting up his equipment.

In arse numbing detail.

For 15 minutes.

Luckily a monster suddenly rises out of the lake and eats him.

Well I say rises, it actually just appears to float shamefully against the background but they meant well.

Michael Jackson Vs Gojira.....FIGHT!

Obviously fearing for the viewers health (and sanity) after such a shit-scary scene the director wisely decides now is the time to introduce the movie's comic relief in the form of the bush bearded Arnie (Roberts not Eric) and the baw-headed Mitch (Siegel not George or Steven) a pair of denim clad stoners who've decided to start a boat rental service in order to make a fast buck and meet girls.

No, seriously.

It's not too long before they get their first customer - famed U.S. senator Jack Fuller (Eliot but not the small boy from ET) who, wanting a break from doing political type stuff (and your mum) decides to rent a boat for a quick fishing trip.

Luckily for viewer sanity he is soon killed by the monster. leaving only a blood stained (well paint stained if I'm honest) boat and a crusty old sports sock to show he was ever there.

Arnie and Mitch bring the boat back to shore and quickly call the Sheriff before trying to figure out how they'll explain it to their nan.

Shite in mah bearded hipster fuck mooth ya gentrified bastard!

Obviously the fact that anyone hiring a boat off them ends up getting eaten by a huge beast doesn't seem to bother the pair as in no time at all they're renting another boat (and one with an engine and everything this time) to top light entertainment couple Ross and Paula Conway (Hoover and Lewis - look is it really worth listing them as no-one in this movie went on to do anything of worth - except Lewis but more on him later....I need a reason to keep you reading) who,  on their way to a perform at a children's party have a wee bit of car trouble and need to get to the other side of the lake ASAP.

You can see where this is going can't you?

Yup, whilst puttering across the lake the polyester clad pair are viciously attacked by the monster and in the film's most terrifying and nail biting scene* attempt to outrun the beast as it chases them to shore.

The monster has flippers tho' so continues to pursue them even on land and is only stopped when Ross empties a handy can of petrol into the boat and sets light to it scaring the beast away.


With neither of their boats being returned to them within the alloted time and understandably annoyed by the fact that their business seems to be failing,  Arnie and Mitch have a massive fight on the waterfront only to stumble across the severed head of Fuller before things get too exciting.

Luckily the sheriff shows up and takes it away as 'evidence', ordering the pair to stay out of the lake and to stop their frankly homo-erotic wrestling escapades before they scare any children.

Kylie and Jason: The Pikey Years.

The pair hung uncomfortably and agree to pull together for the sake of the business before realizing that Ross and Paula are still out there somewhere.

Which means that they may just be able to charge them overdue boating fees.


Searching the shoreline - and being careful not to put their feet in the water - they eventually discover the burnt-out and battered remains of the motorboat along with the distraught couple who are sitting shaking on a nearby rock covered in shit and piss.

Which scarily manages to make them the most attractive members of the cast.

Meanwhile in a totally unrelated incident in a nearby town pube-haired bad boy Harris Tweed (Shepard) is busy robbing the local Aldi, shooting Clark the clerk in the face before violently bumming a customer to death.

OK I lied, he actually shoots her too but I just wanted to add some much needed excitement to the movie.

Plus she did have a great arse.

A typical 1970s lady of the type not bummed in this film.

Driving off into the sunset he soon stops at the Crater Lake diner for a donut, coffee and a big poo.

Unfortunately - for him - sheriff Hanson is also there enjoy a bagel and quickly recognizes the vile villain from the description given over the radio.

Tweed sensing trouble legs it into the woods pursued by Hanson and a gunfight ensues.

Being a crack shot (he was in Vietnam probably) the Sheriff shoots Tweed in the bum before dipping behind a tree to reload.

It's during this brief pause in the action that the director remembers that it's meant to be a monster movie so the creature appears and eats Harris whole.

Yeah I'd have thought it'd spit that bit out too.

Jumping out from behind the tree the Sheriff is surprised to see Tweed has vanished, all that remains is a big red jam like smear snaking into the water.

Shrugging his shoulders Hanson heads back to town where he's accosted by  Doctor Calkins (you forgotten about him hadn't you?) who has just completed the autopsy report on Fuller's head.

It appears that the wounds were caused by a giant animal that lives in the lake.

But we kinda knew that.

I wouldn't want one of them swimming up my arse....then again...

Going back to investigate the scene Hanson soon discovers several massive footprints in the dirt (and no doubt in the butter) but as he takes out his tape measure he's surprised by the beast itself bursting forth from the lake.

Hanson isn't so easily spooked tho' and fires his revolver at it before jumping in his car and quickly driving back to the doctor's house where he excitedly tells Calkins and his pals about the incident.

Obviously excited at the idea of having a living dinosaur in the lake, the trio are quite disappointed when the Sheriff informs them that he's going to kill it.

But first they decide to call a town meeting.

There's teasing us with promises of monster mayhem then there's pulling down our undergarments, rubbing us up till we're about to explode with pleasure then fucking off to make a cup of tea.

Can you guess which this film is more  like?

With the sheriff slowly going kill crazy and the townsfolk insistent on keeping the beast alive Calkins suggests that it goes to a vote but just as it looks like the townsfolk will win the local dentist Craig Ferguson (Sasway - like it fucking matters) bursts into the diner having just narrowly avoided a buggery from the beast.

This act of attempted arse banditary is enough to turn the tide against the creature and the townsfolk head out to build a makeshift barricade to protect themselves as the Sheriff commandeers the town bulldozer.

Luckily the town bike was too busy making coffee or things may have turned out a wee bit differently.

"Put it in me!"

 Will bulldozing might beat prehistoric power?

Will Arnie and Mitch ever make any money?

Will anything exciting - or just anything at all - actually happen?

Funded off the back of a pile of cash (just under $100,000 or so I'm told) he received as part of an inheritance - he also got a collection of nodding dogs and a caravan - William R. Stromberg's sole directorial effort is a mighty mish-mash of half-baked ideas, dead eyed performances and misjudged comedy hi-jinks topped off with a scratchy library score saved from obscurity solely thanks to the stunning stop motion work of David W. Allen - aided here by Star Wars alumni Phil Tippett on his days off.

Tho' according to star/co-writer and producer Richard Cardella the blame for the movie's (many) failures can be laid at the feet of the film's distributors Crown International.

In an interview given to my gran back in 1979 he had this to say:

"Crown International was part of the financing and they just screwed up everything!"

Key scenes were - allegedly - either cut or never filmed (including one where the beast ripped the roof off a topless dance club and gobbled up the performers - why are things like this always the first casualties?), the cheap library score was added to save cash and the finished product was given over to a one-eyed alcoholic with hooks for hands to edit.

"The asshole didn't even use a fade or dissolve in the whole fuckin' picture!"
complained Cardella before spiking her drink and slowly undressing her, pawing at her clothes with his big sweaty sausage fingers.


It can't all be the fault of some nameless hack editor tho' as I'm sure it wasn't him that decided - in their infinite wisdom - to give over a larger proportion of the films running time to the frankly wank misadventures of comedy tinkers Arnie and Mitch, I mean surely as co-writer Cardella has to take some responsibility for this.

"Are you looking at my bra?"

As a scary aside, Mark Siegel that 'played' Mitch actually went on to have a pretty good motion picture career - as a special FX technician, cutting his teeth  on John Carpenter films (as in he worked on them, he didn't bite chunks out of Escape From New York in a fit of pique) before moving on to Star Trek and Pirates of The Caribbean.

It says a lot for Crater Lake that the director chose to put him in front of the camera then.

See? It must be real...the 'news' papers say so.

Mercifully running at a scant 85 minutes - which unfortunately includes at least 60 odd minutes of arse destroying padding - Crater Lake is one of those movies (alongside The Incredible Melting Man) that signaled the death knell of the drive-in, Star Wars and Close Encounters were just around the corner and the face of low budget cinema was about to change forever with the release of Halloween.

Lo-fi sci-fi shlock was a dying art and if Crater Lake was it's swansong then it was a mercy killing.

Scarily tho' despite being complete and utter shite from start to finish the film went on to make over $3 million at the box office which just goes to show that the American public are in general are quite, quite mad.

And probably goes a long way to explain the popularity of Donald Trump.

But don't worry American cousins, we still love you.

*This is what we Brits call being ironic.

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