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The Legend of Boggy Creek

On May 1, 1971, an Arkansas family had a run-in with an apparent Bigfoot that reached into a window to grab at the lady of the house, pushing the screen in with its paw to do so. Her husband ran outside and shot at it with a rifle, but was knocked to the ground; so frightened was he that he ran back into the house, running right through the screen door.

The Legend of Boggy Creek This incident was reenacted in a small independent movie called The Legend of Boggy Creek, which was the brainchild of Charles B. Pierce, director and producer. An advertising salesman, Pierce was intrigued enough by the story of the monstrous encounter that he borrowed $160,000 to put the incident on film. Shot entirely in the Texarcana region, TLOBC used local folks as actors and ended up grossing about $20 million at the box office, making it a modest hit but fantastically profitable.

TLOBC is a curious film - part documentary and part fiction, it's not quite either one; but as odd as that sounds today, it was pretty much the norm for Bigfoot films of the 1970's (their heyday). Mysterious Monsters (1976) was a documentary hosted by Peter Graves with dramatized footage; and Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1975) was a piece of fiction dressed up as a documentary. This small genre of films - the Bigfoot horrors - all sprouted up about the same time, mostly as a response to an increasing number of man-ape sightings around the country at the beginning of the decade. Nearly all of them took their primary inspiration from the allegedly real clip of the creature shot by Roger Patterson in 1967.

Here, the result is fun, odd pastiche of styles, mainly owing to Pierce not quite knowing whether his little movie was going to be fish or fowl. It has a narrator, and certain scenes have their dates and locations given in white text onscreen, as if real events are being reported on. Also, as previously mentioned, supposedly actual events (well, a few, anyway) are being dramatized, with the respective participants named. Plenty of nature footage of the area swamps are shown as well as local citizens in their natural habitat, warts and all. All of this combined gives the film a certain goofy verisimilitude, especially at this late date, so that we don't quite settle comfortably into the thought that's it's going to be just another monster movie.

Boggy Creek II To be sure, though, it is a fiction. Not all of the performances are entirely convincing (why should they be - these are ordinary people, not actors); and not all of the set-pieces quite work. The monster looks okay - actually not bad, but as in the Patterson film, the creature is portrayed with a glossy black coat: wouldn't he get kind of dirty out there in the woods and swamp water all the time? Shouldn't he have plenty of muck and dead leaves sticking to him? One positive aspect of Pierce's creative decision-making is that he never actually shows us the monster's face. This may be seen by some as a cop-out, but it's actually a cheap-but-effective way of making sure that the final look of the creature is left to our imaginations. He is a Legend, after all, and seeing him almost entirely in silhouette maintains the mystique.

Pierce would continue to work in the film industry after this, producing and directing his own films as well as taking work on others' projects. One notable sequel is Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues, which is even more fun, goofier, and more light-hearted than its forebear. Pierce himself starred in that film (as well as writing, producing, and directing it); in the original, he only appeared (unless I missed him) as a voice, interviewing a witness. In BGII his character was named Brian C. Lockhart; if we assume Pierce's middle name is Brian, then he simply switched his first two names for that role... and I suspect it also means that the 'Charles Bryant' who sings the theme to TLOBG is also Pierce.

As a small boy, I recall seeing the televison ads for this film and being scared shitless by them. We lived at the time in a regular suburban neighborhood, but I knew that nearby were some patches of forest, and that the creature could step out of them and come get me.... I don't remember when I first heard of Bigfoot, but somehow I knew the Boggy Creek Creature was some sort of misshapen, horrible man-ape. The image my little mind conjured has stayed with me. I can't say I quite believe in such monsters as Sasquatch, the Boggy Creek creature, or the Fouke Monster anymore; but part of my mind thinks there's just a small chance that there's some evolutionary throwback out there, waiting and watching. And I live a lot closer to the woods now than I did back then.

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