The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

Plesiosaur chases cop car!
Plesiosaur chases cop car!

Directed by William R. Stromberg, THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER’s original story and screenplay was co-written by William R. Stromberg and Richard Cardella, and the film stars Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts, Mark Siegel and Sonny Shepard.

The monster on the poster doesn't resemble the monster in the movie
The monster on the poster doesn’t resemble the monster in the movie
The full-scale plesiosaur head used in the movie
The full-scale plesiosaur head used in the movie

The plot concerns a huge plesiosaur that starts attacking folks near Crater Lake in Northern California. So just how did a plesiosaur end up lurking around a modern day lake in the USA?

Ah, I’m glad you asked, please read on…

Run away!
Run away!
The grounded boat burns
The grounded boat burns

…Well, a meteorite just so happens to hit Crater Lake (that’s a coincidence!) and the hot rock comes to rest next to a plesiosaur egg.

The meteorite sinks to the bottom of the lake... right next to the plesiosaur egg!
The meteorite sinks to the bottom of the lake… right next to the plesiosaur egg!

But, I hear you ask now: how come an ancient, extinct reptile’s egg is lying at the bottom of this lake, which wouldn’t have been there when the creatures existed on Earth? Ah, well… at the start of the movie we see Native American cave paintings that show a plesiosaur. So, I guess we have to assume there had been plesiosaurs (who survived the Cretaceous mass extinction event) living in that area up until the arrival of man. The plesiosaurs were killed off by the humans, but an egg was preserved in the cold mud at the bottom of the lake (the cold mud is talked about in the movie) – and the heat from the meteorite hatched the egg.

Cave painting
Cave painting
Plesiosaur close-up!
Plesiosaur close-up!

After we see the meteorite land next to the egg we almost immediately get a scene with a full-grown plesiosaur lumbering on the shoreline. It turns out it’s now 6 months later, but you only find this out during a bit of dialogue later in the film and, even if we’re talking a 6 month gap, could a baby plesiosaur really grow that big in that time?!

I guess it’s really not worth quibbling over such points in a film that fills much of its running time with the endless, tiresome antics of a couple of dumb locals. At one point these characters get scared by a log!
There’s also an extended sequence focusing on a murderous liquor store robber, which comes across as yet more (violent) filler, although it does end with the dude getting eaten by the monster. Another scene features a female character talking about the wonderful stars she’s seeing… even though it’s obviously still daytime! (Actually, the film suffered from financing problems, which meant that no post production work was done on the movie – and the day for night scenes ended up being… just day).

So much time is wasted following these dumb guys around (played by Glen Roberts and Mark Siegel)
So much time is wasted following these dumb guys around (played by Glen Roberts and Mark Siegel)
The reason I'm showing you these buffoons again is because you must accept the fact you will be seeing them a LOT if you watch this flick...
The reason I’m showing you these buffoons again is because you must accept the fact you will be seeing them a LOT if you watch this flick…

The stop-motion plesiosaur is cool though.

Roaring plesiosaur!
Roaring plesiosaur!
The Crater Lake critter bites into a hay bale
The Crater Lake critter bites into a hay bale

I like the look of this long-necked, finned critter…

…but, boy, it really needed more screen time.

It seems a lot of the blame for the lack of on-screen monster moments can be attributed to Crown International Pictures, which was brought in mid-production to help with financing… and then everything fell apart. Effects sequences were dropped and even some of the completed animation got somehow lost.
This was a real wasted opportunity because a lot of top creative people were linked with the film’s stop-motion and the building of miniatures: David Allen, Randall William Cook, Jim Danforth, Jon Berg, Steve Neill and Phil Tippett.

It makes you wonder what this film would’ve been like if it had received more financing. What a shame.

Machine versus monster!
Machine versus monster…
Another shot from this showdown
…and another shot from this showdown
I love stop-motion monsters, so here's another pic of the plesiosaur!
I love stop-motion monsters, so here’s another pic of the plesiosaur!
Nom, nom, nom...
Nom, nom, nom…
The plesiosaur succumbs to its wounds
The plesiosaur succumbs to its wounds
poster

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