The Crater Lake Monster
THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)
PreCommentary: Animation work reportedy was done by Dave Allen who also createdthe Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Notes: ACrown International Pictures Release. 85 min.
Sheriff Steve Hanson: Richard Cardella
Arnie Chabot: Glenn Roberts
Mitch Kowalski: Mark Siegel
Richard “Doc” Calkins: Bob Hymen
Dan Turner: Richard Garrison
Susan Patterson: Kacey Cobb
Ross Conway: Michael Hoover
Paula Conway: Suzanne Lewis
Produced and Directed: William R. Stromberg
Screenplay: Richard Cardella and William R.Stromberg
Summary: Scientists Dan and Susan ask Doc to come see the cool junk andstuff they found in “High Peak Mine 1870.” It was anIndian cave before the mining, and in a new tunnel they’ve discovered”drawings over 1000 years old” of stick-figure peoplebattling a plesiosaur. This is considered “proof positive”that some dinosaurs “survived into the age of man.” But rumblings force them out of the cave.
A meteor has hit Crater Lake and, we’ll findout later, is incubating a prehistoric egg. We hear reports ofpaleontological interest in a local diner where two good-ole doofuses(or Latin plural: doofi) ogle a waitress. The scene is accompaniedby manic banjo music which was probably supposed to be in thebackground. Sheriff Steve Hanson boats Doc, Dan, and Susanout on the lake so that the latter two can dive. There’s worryabout the mine: “the university” could withdraw support. While waiting for the divers, the sheriff suggests that Doc comeover some time; he’s got a freezer full of “bass, trout,name your poison” (poisson?). The divers say that the wateris about 90 degrees near the meteor and they’ll have to wait untilthe thing cools off.
Nothing happens. Then, a subjective shot makesus the dinosaur. From its point of view, we eat a camper. Abird-watcher sees the dino in the lake and calls the sheriff,but he is cynical. Much more crucial to law enforcement is thefact that Mr. Ferguson’s cows have been traumatized. A shot ofthe dino approaching cows is a bizarre juxtaposition (but entirelylogical in our larger animal abuse context here at the Dino-Source). The sheriff admits it to Ferguson that he is baffled as to “whyanybody would want to come up here just to steal your bull.”
A fisherman (who we have no way of knowinguntil later is a Senator) rents a boat from the doofi, althoughunbeknownst to him no fish have been caught in the past two months. The dinosaur attacks, knocks him out of the boat, and eats him. The doofi hope he is late in order to charge him more for theboat, but the boat returns empty and bloodied. Doc and SheriffHanson (I know! a tall Sonny Bono!) are baffled.
It occurs to one at this point that everyonein this movie is going bald. A couple, Ross and Paula, is drivingto Las Vegas but their car breaks down. As it is being repaired,they rent a boat from Arnie and Mitch, who therefore must getto the hoedown on foot. The doofi fight lakeside until they discoverthe washed up head of the fisherman. The sheriff tells them notto rent any more boats and takes the bagged head to Doc. Meanwhile,the dino tries to strike the Vegas couple, but they drive theboat aground. When Ross regains consciousness, the dino attacksagain. Ross lights the boat on fire and the two weep among therocks as the dinosaur retreats.
We see oddly excessive footage of a derelictin his home, leaving, driving, entering a liquor store, and finallyholding up the clerk at gunpoint. The clerk pulls a gun, andthe derelict shoots him and a female witness. He leaves witha measly pint!
Now, through a subjective shot, we are thefisherman’s head being covered by Doc. The wounds were “madeby some sort of teeth,” but the teeth are unidentifiable. Doc notes, “The wildlife, they sense something is wrong.” Consensus is that it all has someting to do with the meteor;it’s been 6 months since the meteor plunged into the lake (althoughit feels like two days–albeit two long days).
The doofi, worried that they rented a boatto the Vegas two (before the sheriff’s order not to), find themtraumatized. The sheriff chews out the doofi. They get drunkand mistake a log for a monster.
Sheriff Dick Weed checks out a car at the diner. The killer/derelict sneaks back into it and drives off, shootingat the sheriff as he goes by. The subsequent car chase ends ina shoot-out by the lake. While the sheriff reloads, the dinosaureats the derelict. Finally the sheriff sees the dino, shoots,and careens away in his car. He tells Doc that the creature was”like a huge alligator . . . big as a house.” “Holycow! . . . Steve, we’re up against something here that goes againstevery natural law.” Talking with the scientists, Dan andSusan, the sheriff begins again to describe the animal: “Ithad a long neck–dammit, Dan, teeth and eyes is mostly what Isaw.” It had flippers and dragged itself along. It lookedlike a lizard. “It was 50, 60 feet long.” Dan: “Soundslike an aquatic dinosaur.” Yep, we’re “up against aliving dinosaur.” We decide that the heat from the meteorhatched the dino egg lodged in the near-freezing mud of the lake,a “natural incubator.” Susan announces that we havea case of a “dormant egg hatched by an incredible freak accident.” The sheriff is cynical still: “I’ve got missing cattle,missing persons; my phone’s ringing off the hook!” He wondershow to kill the “monster.” The scientists want to trapit instead and the rest of the film debates this issue. It ateall the fish, but the sheriff says, “I could name a coupleof things it’s added to its menu.”
We see the creature swimming. (Nessie!) Meanwhile,at a town meeting, backwoods booger-eating sister-marrying rednecksshout, “Kill it!” Arnie, however, objects that they’re”talkin’ about killin’ the goose that laid the golden egg”and thinks about the money that will pour into the town when thescientific community gets word. (So both sides of the issue aresupported by slimeballs.) An old man gets mauled and stumblesinto the meeting. Arnie (clearly paraphrasing Oscar Wilde) quipsto Mitch, “I think we better haul our butts outta here beforeour meal ticket gets shot.”
The sheriff and others run out to where thedinosaur was last seen. He jumps into a snowplow and Arnie initiallytries to stop him but jumps aboard. When the sheriff starts snowplowingthe animal to death, Arnie jumps out and is bitten but dropped. The dino staggers and drops dead from snowplow wounds. Everyonelooks at Arnie’s corpse as if to suggest some kind of nonverbalmeaning.
Mitch is alone. His final wailing: “Ourboats, Arnie, our boats. Damn you, Arnie.”
Commentary: “Damn you, Arnie” indeed. Actually, although the experienceis unbearable, the film begs for Marxist analysis. What is thepoint of showing the squalor of the derelict instead of just beginningwith his entering the liquor store, unless there is supposed tobe a vision of the poverty in this community? Concern about the”university” withdrawing funds is absolutely extraneousotherwise. And Arnie sees the dinosaur in terms of incoming dollars. Any such sustained consideration is difficult, however, becauseof the queasy backwoods feel of the film (it’s supposed to beCalifornia, but you’ll swear it’s Arkansas), and the fact thateveryone in it is balding.