Treating myself to a very indulgent post here, a review of a film better left submerged, The Crater Lake Monster.
(note the monster’s hands as depicted above)
This B-Movie gem boasts the cerebral underpinnings of a Scooby-Doo episode: random meteor plunges into lake and nestles up to an old dinosaur egg; meteor’s radiant heat incubates egg and POW, we’ve got some action! Soon after the hatching, terra firma, two scientists discover a hieroglyph, in an abandoned mine (so Scooby-Doo!), depicting what appear to be humans battling a Plesiosaur (what a coincidence!). Let the fossil record show, this dinosaur etching clearing illustrates flippers, not hands. Judging by the above poster, we’ve been anatomically misled. This is but one of many wonderful fallacies.
Carefully reviewing the cave wall, his fingers tracing minute fissures, Doc Calkins absently pulls from his obviously unlit pipe (throughout the film, pull after pull, nary a plume). With resolute confidence he asserts, “This will change the world… as we know it.” Doc’s diction is admirable, but as a whole, the acting is exceptionally poor, so unsophisticated the performances are sublime.
It’s not long before we get a glimpse of this Jurassic creature, a stop motion animation train wreck, but, to be fair, for its time, this was a bad-ass monster. Remember people, this is 1977, barely post-Land of the Lost. It would be a while before Rick Baker, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston enter their prime, pioneering kick-ass monster make-up and animatronics, which, in many ways, trumps CGI. Why? Because you could touch their creations. The tactile is real.
So, Crater Lake isn’t even circular. It easily resembles the widest parts of the Mississippi. And the soundtrack! Most of the creepy tones are easily replicated through Retronym’s Synth app, a whopping 99 cents in the app store. But the orchestral arrangements are fairly ambitious, evocative even, especially when paired with sweeping shots of the lake and teeming tree line. During one underwater attack, we’re shamelessly treated to the two repeating notes with which we’re dreadfully familiar, only a half step apart—the Jaws soundtrack was tattooed into our psyche in 1975, 2 years prior to this film’s release.
The Crater Lake Monster was never meant to be a “period” film, but it assumes this role because it’s a product of its time. The late 70s clothing, wood-paneled vehicles and warm sundown cinematography remind me of my childhood. Watching a man get eviscerated by a hokey dinosaur, I become 7-years-old again. And the adult in me happily sits through this memory lane schlock-fest, amused by the densely ribbed turtlenecks and boat-like Country Squire Wagons. But I’m baffled by the MPAA‘s 1977 standards, in particular, why is this film rated R? My 4-year-old would equate the violence in this film to an edgy episode of Yo-Gabba-Gabba (think “Don’t Bite Your Friends” skit).
Considering current cinematic accomplishments, it’s easy to see this flick, and this post, as insipid. Please know, I’m a firm believer in kitsch, and its redemption. Evidently I’m not alone–the faithful over at IMDB offer multiple reviews of Cratey as well.
In the end, The Crater Lake Monster is an immature wink at Nessie and old Loch Ness, and I can’t get enough of it. Witness the loveable inelegance…
Yes, the Plesiosaur did throw a hay bale at the poor policeman’s car.