I’ve had some good luck lately in the Amazon Prime Dungeon, so I fired up that bad boy on a Friday night. Beer in hand, I sat back and enjoyed this completely forgotten, nutty Bigfoot Movie from the ’70s, featuring legendary coots Jack Elam and Dub Taylor. You know you want to check this out.
Creature From Black Lake (1976)
I am a fan of coots. They are the scruffy, often drunken geezers from Westerns and Hillbilly movies. And Jack Elam and Dub Taylor would both appear on the Mount Rushmore of Coots. Jack Elam is the grizzled, legendary slow-eyed character actor who has over 200 credits including classic Westerns and hard-boiled films such as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Comancheros, Rio Lobo and Kiss Me Deadly. A quick sampling of characters he portrayed all have legendary coot names like Gimp, Tacket, Mescal Jack, Tug Swann, Jug Alverson, Boot Coby, Boot McGraw, and Hezekiah Crow. And according to IMDB, he appeared in Gunsmoke fourteen times, The Rifleman five times, and another three times on Bonanza, playing completely different characters each time. I’d bet good money they were all coots. Dub Taylor’s Hall of Coot Fame credentials are also superb, notching 256 credits including roles in classics like Wild Bunch, The Getaway, and Bonnie and Clyde.
You know the movie is going to be good when it starts off with Jack Elam and his buddy riding a dinghy through a real Louisiana Swamp. They are promptly attacked by a hairy Creature who pops up and grabs the boat from underneath the water. Nice. Then we are introduced to our two goofball heroes, University students on the trail of the Sasquatch. John David Carlson plays Rives, the handsome one and Dennis Fimple is the doofus Pahoo. Dennis Fimple is too young to be considered a coot here, but he aged nicely into coot-dom including playing Grampa Hugo in his final role in House of a Thousand Corpses. In one early scene, they are camping in the woods and get fake jump-scared by a bearded hippie and Pahoo soils himself. That scamp Pahoo.
So the dumb-asses’ idea of scientific investigation is to drive to different towns in their white stoner van and ask random people if they’ve seen Joe Canton, the coot who was attacked, or “the Creature.” Well, luckily this works when they stumble across Orville, who confides that “I’ve seen him.” Pahoo excitedly replies: “You’ve seen Joe Canton?” No you idiot, who cares about Joe Canton? He’s trying to tell you he saw the Creature.
Orville flashbacks to when he and his family were attacked by a Bigfoot-type thing in the woods. This is a pretty funny scene, where an overalls and no shirt-wearing toddler Orville is attacked by a Bigfoot in silhouette and Dub Taylor rushes the family into the Studebaker, where they promptly crash into a tree. Ha.
Pahoo and Rives are taken back to Dub Taylor’s farmhouse where they accidentally mention the Bigfoot, and then are forced to sleep in the barn. Before long, there are loud animal noises outside and they rush back into the house. I guess the farmhouse has some Sasquatch repellent or something because the scene promptly ends and Bigfoot never tries to break into the house.
Being a ’70s movie, there is a lot of bad fashion, goofy hats, indifferent acting, helmet hair, a Sheriff in a white suit, and many scenes of eating country food. The story meanders a lot as the boys pick up some Southern girls at the local diner and have a beer party back at their camp. Of course they play a tape recording of the Bigfoot as a practical joke, because horror movies always have jackasses scaring people with practical jokes. The Sheriff then fake-scares them when he suddenly pops out of the shadows. It turns out he’s the father of the girls. This will be important later.
So the boys are arrested where they meet Jack Elam, who is in jail after drunkenly shooting at Bigfoot outside of his house with a shotgun. They team up to go find Bigfoot. Jack Elam plays a mean drunk. He’s always snorting and bellowing, and wearing ancient, soiled long johns, which makes him far scarier than any guy in a gorilla suit. He should secretly be the monster protecting his gold or moonshine still from meddling kids, or something.
At this point the movie stops being a goofy romp and actually gets really good. The confrontation is pretty well-directed and well-acted. As soon as Bigfoot pops up and gorilla punches Pahoo, the next 20 minutes is Rives silently going mano-a-beasto with The Creature. And sure, the Bigfoot, when he’s shown looks like a guy in a gorilla suit, but the ’70s-style long static wide shots actually create some tension as you are waiting for the monster to pop up behind Rives at any moment.
The final showdown has shades of Predator, 10 years before that movie was made. Rives has his hunting rifle and knife and The Creature just has his brute awesomeness. In one great sequence, Rives desperately tries to call the Sheriff for help on the CB radio, but the Sheriff ignores him for almost getting it on with his daughter. Then Bigfoot attacks Rives in the stoner van, pushing it down the hill where it blows up. The whole scene is pretty tense. Like any good horror monster, The Creature won’t stay dead, shaking off bullets and knife wounds to continue rampaging. Rives gets the living crap beat out of him, at one point falling face down in a swamp puddle and just staying there through exhaustion. You don’t want to get that water in your cuts, dude, or you’ll have some bigger problems than a bloodthirsty Bigfoot after you.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The movie is pretty funny, intentionally and unintentionally, and the ending is terrific. And there’s the great drunken Jack Elam performance. The Producer’s son even sings a song over the closing credits, and it’s surprisingly not bad. At the end, Jack Elam gets the best line of the movie muttering, “Creature’d drive a man to drink. I’m going to get my shotgun and make a rug out of that damn thing… It sure stinks in here.”
I highly recommend this movie, which goes good with a slow Friday night and a cold brew. It’s everything you’d want in a cheesy VOD streaming movie. I’d have to say it’s one of the best Bigfoot movies I’ve seen. There’s Harry and the Hendersons, and then this one, and this movie is funnier.
SPOILER ALERT: In a truly hilarious scene, Rives thinks the creature is sneaking up behind him, so he stabs it in the chest with his hunting knife and wah-wah, wouldn’t you know, it was the almost but not quite mortally wounded Pahoo coming back to help him. I laughed deliriously for about five solid minutes. Because I’m demented like that.