The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Hey guess what: it’s 10/10/10! To celebrate the once-in-a-century occasion I’ve chosen my favorite cryptid’s big screen debut. Bigfoot gets that special honor because it’s as close to a truly American monster as I can think of. Aside from Glenn Beck, of course.

The Sasquatch is a myth that goes back to indigenous tribes and has persisted fairly prominently in American culture ever since. A huge source of that persistence, and one that has escaped my clutches until now, was 1972’s The Legend of Boggy Creek. Credited as the first bigfoot movie ever, this low-budget drive-in special has given birth to an entire genre of film and television, not to mention the real name of my family’s first dachshund, Sassy – a name I CAME UP WITH, DAD.

The idea that such a powerful, majestic and shy creature might exist just beyond the reach of our ever-expanding civilization really resonates with western imaginations, and I’m not just talking Harry and the Hendersons and that cool episode of MacGyver. The big ape-man is on some cable channel on a weekly basis and there’s awesome stuff like January’s Bigfoot Film Festival, organized by the incomparable Alexis Dow Campbell of the Ned Smith Center in Pennsylvania. And on and on, all the way down to this little gem, which will hopefully find enough financing to earn its place on my shelf of shame next to Sharktopus. (For the record, Sasquatch would totally crush Yeti in a fight, unless the fight takes place in the Himalayas, in which case Sasquatch still wins but in a much closer match. America rules!)

Size 19, extra narrow.

The story: In the late 60s/early 70s, rural townsfolk in Fouke, Arkansas began reporting sightings of a monstrous, hairy, three-toed man-thing in the woods surrounding nearby Boggy Creek. It was blamed for livestock mutilations and scaring the bejesus out of the town’s 350 residents. Hunts were organized, the media got involved, and for a while the country was caught up in Bigfoot fever. Along came former salesman Charles B. Pierce, who decided he was going to make a movie about it. Driven by a lack of funds, he chose a pseudo-documentary style in which real-life participants would be mixed in with actors (by actors, I mean locals who were willing to ad lib dialogue and scream on cue for a few bucks a day) doing reenactments of some of the more noteworthy encounters. There are plenty of blemishes – innumerable technical failings and awkward custom folk ballads that all too literally narrate unnecessary montages, to name a few – but to see the beauty of the film you have to be willing to suspend critical opinion. If nothing else, its docudrama style, born out of necessity, has remained a staple of independent horror even today. It’s easy (and exciting) to imagine a big budget remake done entirely with quality actors and effects, using real sequences of original news footage as entr’actes. Someone should really be writing this down.

"It's madness to shoot a unique animal that hasn't hurt anybody." "Madness? THIS. IS. ARKANSAS!"

Biggest letdown: Given the meager budget and the absence of creative pedigree, you can’t fault the bad acting and lack of production values, although at times they are mighty distracting. What irked me most, and what will disappoint anyone who sees Boggy Creek from now until a decent special edition comes out, is the piss poor transfer quality of the DVD release. The 30-year-old film stock appears to have been transferred as-is to digital, with cigarette burns, crackles, and crooked frames intact. As a result, in addition to the grainy, soft focus look (which is actually nice and nostalgic), many crucial night-time scenes are so dark and degraded it’s impossible to see the subtly shifting shadow in the woods that repeatedly sends the characters into fits of screaming panic. You’d think a film with such an important role in the development of scary movies would have received at least a remastered transfer by now. Hopefully whoever owns the rights will remedy that in the near future.

Telestrator not included.

Why you should watch: Boggy Creek isn’t particularly noteworthy on its merits, except for its place in history as a Bigfoot movie pioneer. But even if that doesn’t move you, the one thing it still genuinely does well is remind us that, at its heart, the myth of the Sasquatch reflects a universal notion that no matter how much we explore, cultivate and civilize, the natural world will always hold secrets to be uncovered.

Memorable Moment: After the hokey, high-school filmstrip style narrator posits that the creature’s increasingly aggressive behavior stems from lonely frustration, we’re shown a cabin where two young women are alone at night while their menfolk are at work. Sure enough the monster steps up onto the porch, reaches out a hairy paw and tries to turn the doorknob, apparently giving up his previous strategy of ripping shit up to get attention. The new gentlemanly approach sympathetically shows just how badly our fuzzy friend needs to get some sascooch. Poor fella.

Choice quote: “You know I’d almost like to hear that terrible cry again, just to be reminded that there is still a bit of wilderness left. And there are still mysteries that remain unsolved. And strange, unexplained noises in the night.”

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5 Responses to “The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)”

  1. I would have said ‘sascrotch’ instead of ‘sascooch’, but to each their own.

  2. yup, that would have been way better. i hate you thom.

  3. […] The Legend of Boggy Creek – My favorite monster is ready for his close-up. […]

  4. […] has the myth of the Sasquatch, Eastern Europe gave us vampires, and zombies are generally thought to come from Haiti by way of […]

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