12 December 2011

Creature From Black Lake

United States - 1976
Director - Joy Houck Jr.
Simitar Entertainment, 198?, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 30 minutes

There is an appealing charisma to Cryptozoology. It’s as if the beliefs themselves are contagious; the more you are around a believer, or the more of the “evidence” you consume the more you want to believe it. It is a bit like drinking actually, the more you consume, the less logical you become. Oh, it might be laughed at and shunned by other more “hard science” advocates, but the disappearance of the PhD in Cryptozoology is indisputably one of the great academic tragedies of the last 50 years. Most people aren’t aware, but as recently as the early 1980’s, respectable institutions of higher education were actually just wildly throwing money at cryptid research.

Drinking deeply a heady draught of Bigfoot lore in class, University of Chicago anthropology students Pahoo and Rives decide that this is the perfect subject for their graduate research project. After a casual chat in the hall secures the necessary funding, they’re off on a leisurely swing through the Southern United States in pursuit of a vague rumor. I’m sure it must have sounded brilliant at the time. “Check it out, we’ll drive south on the Department’s dime, do a few interviews and take a few pictures to justify the expenditure and dazzle those dumb backwards yokels with our big city educated vocabulary. They’ll probably worship us as gods the poor inbred fools.” While we may lament the general lack of respect that cryptozoologists now receive from the rest of the academy, it is perhaps understandable considering their unconventional research methods.

You see, tracking down a bigfoot, yeti, bipedal primate, skunk-ape or whatever you want to call it, may have been the excuse, but freedom and adventure is the reason. That’s because Creature From Black Lake is at its core just a buddy road movie and there’s nothing for a good time like a couple of long-hairs stirrin’ up trouble in a small southern town. Our Yankees may be full of ivory-tower assumptions about Southern backwardness and a mandate to analyze and catalogue the local fauna, but they still have to deepen their friendship and learn something about life along the way.

The hitch is that between pull tabs of beer, pawing underage southern belles and nights in the county jail the boys do more or less accidentally succeed in experiencing “Southern Culture,” or at least a movie stereotype modicum of it. And in spite of themselves they do stumble across a “Creature”, or at least, the silhouette of some guy in a fuzzy sweater. Of course, nobody back at the University believes them, but that’s to be expected. After all, it is more about the process than the product isn’t it?

This nice poster (which also made it to a DVD cover) from Wrong Side features art from Ralph McQuarrie, one of the primary artists behind much of the visual design that became Star Wars.


Ed said...

Goof stuff. I remember seeing this at about three in the morning on KTLA when I was in high school.

The Goodkind said...

Nice, in some ways I wish that TV was still like that. What do I know, I gave up on the stuff years ago. I first saw this movie when I worked in a video shop in Albuquerque.