The later part of the 70s was brimming with publicity evolving around the revived interest in the Loch Ness Monster. Because of this, silly movies like THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER surfaced and disappeared as fast as any belief that Nessie still (or ever) existed.
Set in a very hickish California town, CRATER LAKE starts off promising when scientists Dan Turner and Susan Patterson (Richard Garrison and Kacey Cobb) take the local doctor (Bob Hyman) to an abandoned coal mine to show him their new discover. What they find is ancient drawings of men fighting dinosaurs. Although these sketches look like something a kid would do with his Crayolas, they now believe in the theory that humans and dinosaurs did exist together at one time.
Soon after, a meteor crashes in the local lake, causing the coal mine to seal up, just in time for them to escape. Dan and Susan do further research, discovering that the lake is 90 degrees and that all the fish are dying off. At this point, those two characters virtually disappear to make room for two bumpkins named Arnie and Mitch (red-bearded Glen Roberts and Mitch Kowalski--who looks a lot like Kevin Pollak). Arnie and Mitch are introduced in a restaurant, ogling at a waitress, making faces that surely express, "Boy, I'll never get anything like that." Great acting on display here.
You would suspect that Arnie and Mitch would get killed right away, but they turn out to be the main characters and they play it for laughs! They run a boat rental shop, and you might find it very funny that they can't even spell "tackle" on their business sign shop. Arnie and Mitch sit around trying to figure out how to make more money, showing off their good shows that they plan to wear to a dance--the highlight of their exciting lives. After a childish splash fight in the lake, they stumble upon the head of a senator that they rented a boat to for five bucks.
Sheriff Hanson (Richard Cardella) of course doesn't believe the reports of a monster but has to investigate the disappearance of some cattle. By this time, if the padding with Arnie and Mitch isn't enough, we're introduced to some secondary characters that go absolutely nowhere. A husband and wife magic act on route to Vegas rent a boat and set it on fire to ward off the monster. The husband has the worst faked British accent since Keanu Reeves' in Coppola's DRACULA. Then there's this nut who goes into a liquor store and kills two people over a $4.75 bottle of booze. When the sheriff catches up with him, he shoots the guy in the leg, but he's quickly swallowed by the monster. Of course, the sheriff doesn't see this happen, but later he's convinced of the creature's existence and holds a town meeting--in a restaurant.
Ah yes, the monster. Well, he's a giant Plesiosaur that's hatched from the boiling lake. It's actually stop motion animation by the late, great Dave Allen, and it looks pretty good, but close-ups of a puppet monster head gnawing on helpless victims are less convincing. Add a soundtrack of library banjo music, some insipid dashes of blood, and lethargic-paced direction by one-timer William R. Stromberg, and you have one of the worst giant monster flicks of all time!
Rhino's DVD of THE CRATER LAKE
MONSTER is a very attractive, solid transfer with bold 70s colors and the audio
is equally smooth. It's full screen and that's fine as the film almost looks
like it was shot for the TV format (heads constantly tip the top of the screen).
Anyone used to United Home Video's dreadful out-of-print VHS transfer will be
more than happy with this disc, and it retails for $10 or less. A trailer is
also included, but that's a bit of a cheat as it's actually a brief TV spot.
By the way, the cover says "Starring: Stuart Whitman, Stella Stevens, Tony
Bill." Don't expect to see any big names like that--Rhino must have gotten
this mixed up with LAS VEGAS LADY! (George R. Reis)
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