Crater Lake Monster
THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER. 1977

Director: William R. Stromberg

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Crater Lake Monster A little birdy calls this one, "Cheap, Cheap, Cheap." Archeologists discover a new chamber of an old Indian cavern with cave art, including stick-man figures of Indians fighting a plesiosaur.

But then the cave collapses & there's no more of that, & just as well, since the cave art looked like a dinosaur-lovin' kid drew it with a black laundry marker scant minutes before the film shoot.

Pretending to be set at Crater Lake in Oregon, it is no such thing. It's actually set in Huntington Lake, Mount Palomar, California.

Crater Lake with its sheer cliffs & shockingly blue motionless water is so uniqiuely recognizable, it would've been a great location for such a film, but it was a big mistake to pretend that location then not have even token shots of the real deal.

The the story further asserts that divers can go to the bottom, fifty feet down, like that's really deep. Crater Lake is in reality only a little bit shy of a 2,000 foot depth.

Crater Lake MonsterAmong the posters & video boxes that exist for this film there are many dinosaur images that suggest an allosaurus or the like. One poster even suggest robot-like creature with squid-arms.

But what we get in the film is definitely a plesiosaur. A meteor strikes Crater Lake causing an earthquake & awakening the flippered plesiosaur.

The primary theory offered within the tale is not that the adult plesiosaur thawed out in the lake (the explanation in The Beast from 10,000 Fathoms, 19-), but that the meteor heated up the lake waters to ninety degrees, which caused a long-frozen egg to hatch in the dark deep depths of Crater Lake (previoiusly revealed to be fifty feet down), & it grew to adulthood practically overnight.


Crater Lake MonsterThe first glimpse we get of the dino is a stop motion puppet for less than ten seconds & I loved it!

Most of the FX are charming as all-get-out. In small bites throughout the film, we get to see enough old-school stop-motion animation to please anyone, though the story still has to be padded out with a lot of nonsense in order to be feature length.

So we're treated to the adventures of Dumb & Dumber with their bait & tackle company. Dumb & Dumber are just barely entertaining enough to forgive. When Mitch calls to his boyfriend "Arnie" it sounds an awfully lot like "Honey," & their little "romance" provides the only moment of emotion for the tale's climax.

Arnie is played by Glen Roberts who like just about everyone in the story was not a real actor & this is the biggest role of his two-film career, & two films makes him twice as successful as most of the other actors.

But Mitch, ah, he was played by Mark Siegel, a special FX guy who worked on such franchises as Star Trek & Pirates of the Caribbean, & cut his teeth behind the scenes on John Carpenter films.

Crater Lake MonsterOddly enough, Siegel had nothing to do with Crater's FX, at least not officially in the credits, though I find it impossible to believe he didn't join the FX crew here & there.

But if the stop motion animation seems awfully good compared to just about everything else about the film, it's because the miniature builders & animators were friends with the great stop-motion artist Jim Danford. He unofficially helped them out whenever they got befuddled.

While the director & most of the actors went on to have no careers in the film industry, the FX crew is riddled with names who're still around animating everything from the dolls in the Puppetmaster series to Mr. Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings & King Kong, the latter attaching them to the whole damned history of stop-motion FX whose first landmark expression was in Willis O'Brien's King Kong.


Crater Lake Monster Whimsical continuity problems abound. Like the magician & his wife: He seems more or less sober when they're driving down the road, too drunk to stand when they get to the lake, & again sober in the next scene, shot in bright of day as they speak of it being a nice night out with the moon & the stars (someone apparently forgot the day-for-night filter).

Also despite the big to-do made of him being a magician, waiting for him to perform some legedermain on the dinosaur will disappoint, as it was a completely missed opportunity.

I'd've had him doing two or three tricks in a vain attempt to fool the dinosaur in his & his wife's fleeing sequence, rather than setting fire to the boat then going catatonic.

The primary "action padding" is provided by the sudden appearance of a murdering liquor store hold-up guy. After killing two people in the liquor store, he ends up in a car chase then a fast hike through the woods with the sheriff (Richard Cardella, who co-wrote the script with the director) in hot pursuit, until the dinosaur eats him.

The local doctor has a super-seriois demeanor, which is terribly cute given what a bad actor he is. He's the first to believe the dinosaur is legit, so when the sheriff sees it himself, he runs straight to the doc, who calls in the archeologists at the beginning of the story, like they'd know what to do.

They argue about whether to capture it for science or to kill it, with no real plan for doing either. Then it starts rampaging near town & the issue is solved by the sheriff getting in a tractor-shovel & poking the dinosaur in the neck with the front of the shovel & it falls down dead.

This is one of those bad films that manages wholy to entertain. The old-timey FX are cool, the bad acting really might be intentionally funny, the lapses of logic make for a nice "find the mistake" pictorial puzzle, accidental jokes like the laundry-markered Indian hieroglyphs, & the flippered dinosaur with its poked-in-the-neck demise -- it's all just plain fun.

Continue to three more prehistoric survival tales:
Loch Ness (1996), Magic in the Water (1995)
& Mee-Shee the Water Giant (2005)


copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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