Directed By: William R. Stromberg
Starring: Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts, Mark Siegel
Tag line: "A Beast More Frightening Than Your Most Terrifying Nightmare!"
There are so many adjectives that leap to mind as I sit down to write about 1977's The Crater Lake Monster, words like “amateurish”, “ridiculous”, “pathetic” and “sad”, just to name a few. I've seen my share of bad movies over the years, but this one is jaw-dropping bad, a truly awful horror / comedy that's only funny when it's trying to scare you, and only horrific when it's trying to be funny.
And I loved every damn minute of it!
When a large, fiery asteroid crashes into peaceful Crater Lake, it causes a chain reaction that brings about the reemergence of a large prehistoric sea creature, which immediately begins gobbling up all of the fish it can find. Several months go by (at least they say it's several months...nobody bothered changing their clothes to mark the passage of time), during which time the monster has kept itself hidden in the deep waters of Crater Lake. That is, until the day Mitch (Mark Siegel) and Arnie (Glen Roberts), two entrepreneurs who run a rowboat rental business, send a wealthy fisherman out onto the lake by himself. When the fisherman's head (with no trace of his body) washes up the next day, the Sheriff (Richard Cardella) and the town's resident scientist (Bob Hyman) team up to try and figure out what could have possibly killed him.
Each new scene in The Crater Lake Monster is more inept than the last, and it all starts with a particularly confusing one right as the film opens. The scientist, whose affectionately known as “Doc” to everyone in town, is sitting on his front porch, smoking his pipe. Suddenly, a car speeds towards him, skidding to a halt in his driveway. The car is driven by Dan (Richard Garrison), a young scientist whose been doing some excavation work in a nearby cave. He tells Doc that they've just made a remarkable discovery deep within the cave, and that he's gotta come along immediately to see it. When Doc inquires as to the nature of this discovery, Dan shouts out there's no time to explain, and begs Doc to hurry. So off they go. A short while later, the two arrive at the cave entrance, and are greeted by Dan's assistant/girlfriend, Susan (Kacey Cobb). Doc gets out of the car, and again asks why he's been dragged out here in the middle of the night. Like a broken record, Dan once again tells Doc there's no time to explain. He throws a helmet onto the confused elder scientist, and away they go into the cave. Now, I'm guessing the car ride that the two took from Doc's house to the cave was a good 5-10 minutes, so why the hell didn't Dan explain it to him on the way over? He had plenty of time then to do so. But I digress. Once deep inside the cave, Dan and Susan reveal their great discovery: ancient cave paintings! Supposedly, these paintings have been on the wall of this cave for thousands of years, which immediately raised another question: why couldn't Doc at least have finished smoking his pipe before rushing off to see them? What's another five minutes when you're dealing with something that's been around for dozens and dozens of centuries? At this point, we're only a few minutes into the movie, and I already know exactly what kind of film The Crater Lake Monster is going to be!
But this was only the beginning of my journey into the hilarious sub-mediocrity that is this film. So much more would soon make itself known to me, like the “fireball” streaming across the sky that looked more like a “fire-splat”, the down-home humor of Mitch and Arnie that proved more painful than a bite from a dinosaur, and, of course, the dinosaur itself. Now, I'm a fan of stop-motion animation (Ray Harryhausen is one of my idols), but this particular dinosaur looked as if it'd be more at home in a 70's Saturday morning kids show than a feature-length motion picture. This is a mere sampling of what awaits you in The Crater Lake Monster, and trust me when I say I haven't even touched on the “best” parts!
But I dare not take this any further, for it would only ruin what will undoubtedly prove a memorable experience for you. If you've enjoyed tossing sarcastic barbs at films like Plan 9 From Outer Space and Troll 2 over the years, then rush out right now and get yourself a copy of The Crater Lake Monster. This movie deserves an honorary plaque in the pantheon of crappy motion pictures, and you will absolutely love ripping it to shreds.