Stars-Richard Cardella as sourpuss sheriff Steve (he also wrote the screenplay), Glenn Roberts as co-boat salesmen Arnie and part of a really annoying duo along with his work partner who was Mark Siegel as Mitch, Bob Hyman plays the rather stiff Richard ‘Doc’ Calkins who I guess is supposed to add seriousness to this film because he has a touch of white in his hair and one of his major hobbies is posing with a pipe, Richard Garrison plays the rather bland Dan who knows something about caves, early civilizations and dinosaur type creatures, Kasey Cobb plays Dans’s girlfriend Susan who also knows something about the same topics and bet this couple was a real blast at parties.
*I also have to add Michael F. Hoover as nightclub entertainer Ross Conway. His part wasn’t that big in this film. However given that most of this people in this film only had 2-3 credits their whole careers I am mentioning Hoover because since the 80’s he has worked as a digital effects artist and miniatures artist on a lot of films including Ghostbusters, The Abyss and Spider-man 2.
**Even though Mark Siegel was no good as an actor (more to come in a minute). I also have to note that like Michael Hoover, Siegel also went on to have a solid career in the visual aspects of the film industry. He has been a model maker and sculptor whose work has been used in Return of the Jedi, Star Trek III-The search for Spock, Men in black, both Ghostbusters films, the Back to the Future sequels, the 2nd and 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean films and many more.
***Even though the two above would go on to do solid work in the visual departments of films neither did any of that on this film. The main stop motion person on this movie was Dave Allen who later went on to work on The Howling , Young Sherlock Holmes and other films.
Now on to the movie whether I like it or not.
What’s this about?
Please don’t say it’s about a Monster from Crater Lake. Okay, but eventually it is about that. Doc, Dan and Susan go looking at a discovery made in some nearby caverns. They discover a drawing that looks it was done with a sharpie marker, but wait if it was done a long time ago so it’s not vandalism, but instead it’s a cave drawing. This one shows some stick dudes with spears fighting a dinosaur type beast. Whoa, the scientists immediately deduce that this means that dinosaurs and people were around at the same time in their area. They begin to leave the area at this point going back long tunnels. Meanwhile Sheriff Steve is on one side of the lake and witnesses an animated fireball going splash into the lake or as he would later describe it as being “one hell of a big ball of fire”. The first thing this ball of fire does is cause lots of dust and rubble to fall as the three scientists are exiting the caverns. The second thing it does will become known later in the film. Victim number one is a hiker who likes to turn, stare and wait to get to be slaughtered by the recently awakened beast who at this point looks like a cheap bath toy come to life in semi-stop motion animation. Next we get a monster spotting as a guy roaming neither the lake with counter/meter thingie spots something in the water that looks like a stuff black trash bag with some bumps on it. He calls into the sheriff who promptly blows him off. However the monster has gotten hungry for beef and was seen last seen eyeing up some cows. So after the crackpot call the sheriff gets a another call from a farmer whose cows have been whacked and now it get’s serious because livestock are involved. Shortly after this we witness boat salesmen Arnie and Mitch is their first speaking scenes because we saw them briefly in a restaurant earlier, but they were fortunately not speaking at that point. They overcharge an out of town would be fisherman for one of their second rate boats and send him out on the lake. I wish I could say this was the last time we see Arnie and Mitch, but oh no someone thought they were the B monster movie answer to Laurel and Hardy and we are submitted to their antics throughout the rest of the film. Meanwhile the would be fisherman doesn’t catch any fish but he does manage to get a big ol’ nasty attack from the hungry sea serpent and he unofficially becomes victim number two (if you don’t count the cows). Later Mitch, Arnie and the Sheriff find the empty boat with some bloody water in it but they don’t know for sure what the fate of victim two has been. Next we are introduced to a couple of entertainers going from Las Vegas to LA and the husband apparently recently made a drunken ass of himself on stage in their last show. To smooth things over they pull in to the town where the monster lives, rent a messed up boat from the most obnoxious pair of boat salesmen ever (guess who?) and set out onto the lake. They crash because the idiots they rented the boat from don’t know what they are doing and soon the monster slithers up behind them. The guy of the couple knows how to deal with this critter, he throws gas all over the boat and lights it on fire. Yes, siree watch that monster slowly turn around and slink away. While all this drama with the entertainer couple is going on Mitch and Artie have the lamest fight ever because I guess both finally realized that the other one was a complete tool. Unfortunately they can’t even kick each other’s asses right. The sheriff comes upon them rolling around in the lake and the two idiots find the head of the fisherman from earlier who can now officially become victim number two. Don’t get overwhelmed by all this action becomes here comes another clever part. We see a guy in denim with scraggly hair that I will refer to as Mr. Scruffy for the sake of this review. Well, Mr. Scruffy owns a gun and ends up at a liquor store ready to rob it. As he holds the gun on the cashier a woman walks into the store with a huge bag full of something, that’s right she walked into the store with a full bag of stuff. Well, before we think about why this is the cashier goes for his gun, Mr. Scruffy is no amatuer so blam the cashier goes down. Don’t need witnesses so blam a bullet goes right through the bag the woman is carrying and red splatters out of the bag. What was she carrying? Ripe tomatoes or did they think this would make a brilliant splattering blood effect to have the bag burst like that? Anyways before you can think much about why this part is in the movie Mr. Scruffy makes a hasty exit and we are left wandering why this part was in here. Oh, boy next we get Mitch and Artie getting drunk. They are so fun sober you can imagine the hi-jinx they have when they get intoxicated. Ho, boy they wonder out into the woods and get scared by a dead tree that looks like a monster. Woo-eee, that’s one to tell your grandkids about years from now. Anyways Mr. Scruffy is now at the local dinner spending some of that liquor store money no doubt. Sheriff Steve pulls up and recognizes the car, but goes over to his car to call from his car, but Mr Scruffy saw the law poking around and he slips into the car while the Sheriff has his back turned and takes off. Sheriff Steve might be able to look sour, but he can’t shoot worth a shit and misses the car completely, but takes off after him. Mr. Scruffy can shoot through a grocery bag, but his escape driving techniques leave much to be desired because he runs the car off a cliff. He manages to run on foot towards the lake of course with the Sheriff running behind him. Look out, Mr Scruffy it’s the monster! Snarl, gash, slurp Mr. Scruffy becomes victim number three although the Sheriff only finds some blood on a rock and a little in the water. This lawmen is bothered by not finding the body so he goes back later and runs into the slippery monster. He shoots wildly mostly while falling on his rear end and then hightails it back to the Doc because having seen plenty of 50’s B monster films he knows he should ask the guy with the pipe about a monster. The Sheriff, the Doc, Dan and Susan all confer over pictures of tracks left by the monster. The Sheriff claims to have shot the monster several times (yeah right) with no results. He also describes the monster as looking like a cross between a seal and a lizard. I guess the makers of the film did the right thing in calling this film The Crater Lake monster instead of going by Sheriff Steve’s description and calling it the Sealizard. Now this scene is where the science people decide that the ball of fire/metorite that fell into the lake caused a dinosaur to emerge and this is a great scientific discovery, but Steve is the law and this a dangerous beastie so it needs to be stopped and now. Since they cannot agree it’s now time to bring in everyone in town together so that every idiot can have a say at a town meeting. So naturally at the meeting Mitch and Arnie chime in and say let’s capture this creature so we can make money from it because that always works in the movies. Just then the local mechanic stumbles in all cut up and says the monster is out where he was working. The Sheriff, Mitch, Arnie, Dan and Susan all drive out there. Sure enough there’s the monster awaiting their arrival. Mitch and Dan say they need to capture it, but the Sheriff makes up his mind and decides the beast needs to die. He jumps in a track vehicle with a scoop with prongs on the front and starts it up. Let’s just say that pretty soon one of the great boat salesmen duo gets what he deserves and we get victim number four. The Sheriff may not be able to shoot worth a damn, but he can sure operate this machine and with a couple of stabs of the pronged scoop he slays the beast. Play the sad music, wonder if the Sheriff made the right decision and roll the credits.
Negatives-Well all of the above is too easy of an answer and not totally true. I don’t know if the actors playing Mitch and Arnie were related to someone high up in this movie or maybe they invested money in it. Whatever the reason they have way too much screen time and add nothing to the film whatsoever. Their performances made me want to chew on tin foil and stab my eyes out with a rusty screwdriver. However if you removed their parts there would not be enough left to make a full length movie. So they got too much screen time and there was not enough else going on. The film has a monster and killings, but they never manage to really build much of any suspense at all. That is really an essential for a monster/horror film to work. Beyond that none of the characters are terribly likable which again doesn’t make people want to keep watching your film. I think that covers most of it except for that lady walking into the store a bag thing which will always bug me. The film was obviously trying to cash in on the nature gone wild craze of the time that had been caused by Jaws and also the interest in the Loch Ness monster which was pretty high during the 70’s.
Positives-Actually there were some because if there weren’t then I woudn’t have watched the whole film. The locations which were Huntington Lake and Palomer Mountain in California were quite stunning particularly the lake. For the most part the photography made fine use of the locations and that was a plus as well. Now I am a huge stop-motion fan which is the main reason I wanted to see this film in the first place. The stop motion is hit and miss as we get some underdone shots and some quite decent ones. They should however have used all stop motion and refrained from using the lumpy garbage bag prop they used floating in the water. Also Mr. Scruffy’s car crash was done well. A big old car going over a good size cliff, nicely done. Uh, oh the movie poster looks good, but of course if you think the film will be like that then you are going to be greatly disapointed.
Who should see this? Wow, gee….yeah..stop motion fanatics should see it at least once. Although the effects are not perfect it would be of slight intereste to fans of the style. Other than that even fans of bad movies will likely be bored. There are parts where I felt briefly likely this could have been a nice homage to 1950’s B monster movie films. Yet they didn’t really capitalize on that idea enough for it to work.
Kills by the monster-4 people and an undisclosed number of cows, although the mechanic at the end was injured, he is last shown breathing so he doesn’t count as a kill.
Grocery bags blasted by scruffy robbers-1
Amount of time Sheriff Steve shot something-just a wild guess here, but I’ll go with zero
Times Mitch and Arnie annoyed the crap out of me-more times than I can count
There you go.