In 1967 Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin filmed an encounter with a supposed Sasquatch or Bigfoot – you’ll have almost definitely seen the famous ‘Patterson-Gimlin film’ or at least a image taken from it. Whether you believe the footage is a fake or a genuine encounter with a cryptid (an animal unknown by science – cryptozoologists love to talk about Coelacanth, but it seems to me that they really just like running after Nessie, Bigfoot and the like), it did fan the flames of Bigfoot enthusiasts and monster fans in general, meaning there was an explosion of Bigfoot or similar films produced throughout the 70s.
In 1971 a Bigfoot-like creature in the town of Fouke, Arkansas made headlines when it allegedly attacked the house of Elizabeth and Bobby Ford, apparently reaching into the window of the house for Elizabeth. This encounter, and the string of sightings around this time, prompted nearby advertising salesman Charles B. Pierce, to borrow a little over $100,000 and make this film, The Legend of Boggy Creek, named after the river and swamplands the local creature (known as the Fouke monster) supposedly inhabits.
So enough history, onto the film itself- The Legend of Boggy Creek is a docu-drama, narrated by Vern Stierman (The local TV weatherman when this film was made) and featuring some nice footage of the beautiful and creepy swamps, interviews with locals and dramatic recreations of creature sightings, culminating in the previously mentioned Ford house attack, oh, and some really strange bluegrass songs, performed by the director himself.
In almost every measurable metric, this film is pretty bad. There isn’t really a narrative, and certainly no protagonist, just a collection of vignettes linked by narration and (usually, but not always) the presence of the creature. The acting in The Legend of Boggy Creek hovers between barely passable and terrible. It’s notable that many of the people in this film play themselves and very few have any other acting credit. I will however, note that Vern Stierman’s narration is wonderfully warm, slow and enjoyable.
The creature is not shown in much detail, mostly lurking in the dark and the distance. The 70’s low-budget quality of the film (I’m not sure if this is due to the original filmstock, or the quality of the transfer) makes any view of the creature you get pretty poor though, which is probably a strength of the film, keeping some degree of mystery (and I can name a raft of films ruined when the ability to show on-screen fell well short of the writer or director’s intention).
The pacing is also very slow by modern standards, but that’s true of a lot of older films, even classics like 2001 take their sweet time getting anywhere, so it’s not a fault of the film, but it is very noticeable if you are used to watching more modern fare.
And then there is the music… it’s really hard to describe the two folksy, blugrass musical numbers in this film… ummm… tell you what, have a listen to “Travis Crabtree’s song.”
That said, for all these points against it, The Legend of Boggy Creek has a rustic, easy charm about it. As it unhurriedly meanders from tale to sighting it has an enjoyable, mellow feel. It’s also worth noting that some of the scenes are quite effective, and suitably creepy. In fact, for it’s low budget the film was a modest success, especially at drive-ins, making it into the top 10 grossing films in the US in 1972.
The film also has it’s place in influencing some of the modern cinema trends, the makers of The Blair Witch Project cited this as an inspiration for their found-footage film, which itself then revitalized that particular sub-genre. The Legend of Boggy Creek‘s earnest efforts, effective locations and lazy southern charm do make it one of the best of the Bigfoot films, but unfortunately, that is a pretty low bar.