Crater Lake Monster (1977) – Movie review

Crater Lake Monster 1977 - pic 14

Crater Lake Monster (1977)

If it weren’t for my love of stop-motion animation, this film would be too difficult for me to watch. There is tons of goopy dialogue that offer exposition we don’t need and character development of people with no character. It takes nearly a half hour before this Monster sneaks up on an unsuspecting camper. This thing is 30ft long and several tons, don’t know how this thing would sneak up on anyone. Bad hair cuts (or lack of them) and 70s porn star Crater Lake Monster 1977 - postermustaches abound. We’re forced to follow the antics of two stooges who are not funny, (maybe if I was 6), and a Sheriff who is supposedly the smart one…supposedly.

The Monster is a Plesiosaur let loose from its underwater cave during a small earthquake. It eats a cow, it eats a chicken, it eats a camper and a guy that goes fishin’ – but nobody notices these people gone missing. The stop motion is outstandingly smooth and the plesiosaur model has great character (at least one character in this film does). The close up shots are terrible and consist of a large, stiff, fiberglass head that has no life in it. The soundtrack music consists of 70’s light fm and elevator music. Then, when the monster shows up it turns to 1950’s style sci-fi music used plenty of times in The Beast, the Deadly Mantis, and the Giant Behemoth.


David Allen:
If you like stop motion animation you have about ten minutes of great monster footage in this flick. The animation was done by David Allen. Allen was an active animator in film starting in his early career on the series, Davey and Goliath and the Gumby Show. He went on to animate sequences in Equinox and Flesh Gordon in the 70s. His work can be seen in Q, the Winged Serpent, Puppet Master, Caveman, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Batteries Not Included. In the circles of effects people he is most praised for his animation of Kong in the VW commercial in 1972. Perhaps his most known work was animating The Pillsbury Dough Boy.

If you like the art of stop motion animation you will find some nice work in this film. For the rest of you, leave this in the crater it had crawled from.

Crater Lake Monster 1977 - pic 2

Fun Facts:
Stop Motion Animation is not necessarily claymation. In fact most films do not use clay for their stop motion effects. They use sophisticated puppets with metal skeletons inside called an armature, that enabled the animator to move it in small increments. The skeleton is covered with foam, rubber and latex, sculpted to simulate dinosaur skin and sometimes covered in fur (King Kong, Mighty Joe Young).

The Lost World (1960) – Movie review

The Lost World 1960 - pic 8

The Lost World (1960)

Directed by Irwin Allen
Screenplay by Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett
Based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Michael Rennie
Jill St. John
David Hedison
Claude Rains
Fernando Lamas
Richard Haydn
Ray Stricklyn
Jay Novello
Vitina Marcus

A brash scientist, Dr. George Challenge (Claude Rains), convinces the London Zoological Society to sponsor an expedition into the Amazon. There, he claims, is an uncharted plateau, cut off from evolution for millions of years and home to giant prehistoric creatures. We are introduced to a host of characters during the build up to this expedition, each with their own eccentricities and quirks, a hunter (Michael Rennie), a reporter The Lost World 1960 - dvd(David Hedison), a woman adventurer (Jill St. John), a Latino helicopter pilot who plays guitar (Fernando Lamas) and another jungle guide, Costa (Jay Novello), to name a few. Each have their own motivations for attending this trip. The dialogue is dated to the time and script reveals a comical edge, especially concerning Dr. Challenge and the Latino guide.

The dinosaurs: This is a film that would forgo the success of stop-motion animation of the preceding decade and regress to using live reptiles with matting techniques upon scaled jungle sets. One of the dinosaurs is a Monitor Lizard with a Cerotopian frill behind its head and Stegosaurus-like plates along its back. Another is an iguana with horns obviously glued to his head. Considering what they are the film does a good job at portraying them as giant creatures and the sound design helps to sell it as we hear roaring and trees snapping in their paths. However, they look nothing at all like real dinosaurs. They call the Iguana thing a Brontosaurus and it was laughable to think that they would even use a real dinosaur name for their Frankenstein creature design.

There’s a mega battle between the Monitor frill-head/Stegasaur lizard and an alligator with spikes on his head and a sail- fin back like a Dimetrodon. They seemed to have thrown these two reptiles onto the set and let them The Lost World 1960 - pic 18battle it out. They snap at each other, bite and claw each other in bloody battle. The gator finally grabs the lizards arm in its teeth and attempts the ‘death roll’ causing them to both tumble off the set…I mean, off a cliff. This battle is so wrong by animal rights standards, it would never be attempted today.

In the finale of the film, the crew is chased by a native tribe through volcanic caverns to the base of the mountain. Everyone falls in love with their suitors and Dr. Challenge gets his scientific proof of prehistoric creatures with an egg he had saved from the volcanic eruption. No one seems to consider that the plateau stood for millions of years, but a few days of modern man caused its demise, lol.

One of the big problems with the film, dinosaurs not-withstanding, was that the huge cast was hard to manage. You never really connect with any of the characters because so little time was available for their individual stories. I’d say that Irwin Allen got better at this aspect in future films such as, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, but in this film the viewer becomes a pedestrian outsider watching a bunch of strangers.

It’s a journey of adventure, but different than the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book. It’s intentionally comical at points, at points unintentionally comical. Despite the drawbacks, I tend to overlook the many faults of the film and enjoy it on some level. It’s appropriate for the dinosaur adventure fan and fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


The Lost World 1960 - pic 1

Fun Facts:

Irwin Allen used stock footage from the film for his various TV shows, including episodes of Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Jay Novello, the comical Latino guide, had played several small roles in I Love Lucy.

Jill St. John would go on to play one of my fave Bond girls in Diamonds Are Forever.

Michael Rennie was of course in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Stock Footage of the frilled dino also used in Rod Serling’s The Night Gallery episode, The Painted Mirror (1971)