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Once again, the lure of civilisation had brought him out of the wilderness.


The Legend of Boggy Creek


Perhaps there’s something to Pauline Kael’s position of only watching a film the once. That way, The Legend of Boggy Creek would forever remain a classic of hairy giants – well okay, just the one – terrorising poor, law-abiding folk in the Arkansas wilds. Rather than a slightly tedious docudrama, big on amateur performances and splendidly shot sunsets, but less compelling as a tale with any real bite. Or yowl.

I would have been nine when I last saw this. It was shown as part of the Monster Movie! season on BBC2 (at 6pm on 17 December 1981). The selection included Gorgo, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. It was thus the only (British TV) premiere, despite being almost a decade old. The BBC was having a good year for genre (or genre fans), since The Five Faces of Doctor Who had screened throughout November and into early December, and they also gave us, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Day of the Triffids and the final season of Blake’s 7. I’m sure the most scarring sight out of the lot was a hirsute hand reaching through an open window. A hand that, rather less compellingly, promptly relinquished its grip on a nearby sofa. Perhaps the creature realised it was only fake leather (I didn’t recall the subsequent sequence in which an unnerved Bobby Ford, understandably compelled to head for the nearest Boggy Creek bog, is interrupted in his efforts by the interloper; Bobby promptly flees with his trousers round his ankles). 

In its favour, Pierce’s approach – with writer Earl E Smith – is a canny one, selling this as real. Which it is, to some degree, with some of the actual participants playing themselves in reconstructions. The Legend of Boggy Creek became a drive-in hit and guaranteed Pierce a directing career; the makers of the execrable The Blair Witch Project picked up on the canny element and sold their microbudget, found-footage hit in a similar manner (as real, which it isn’t, to any degree). In contrast to Pierce, however, they singularly failed to capitalise on that success. Probably, in part, because their movie wasn’t really directed; it was sold (I know, some swear by it, but I found it unutterably tedious). 

The Legend of Boggy Creek has an undeniable sensibility going for it, aided by Vern Stierman’s assured, wiser-now narration, those sunsets/rises, reconstructions in a (mostly) sufficiently long-shot ape suit, and some curious but almost-genius folk – or Foulke – songs establishing both mood (as a contrast) and narrative (offering us some plot on characters and creature).

But no, I’m not sceptical the creature exists. I see no reason this should be dismissed as a shaggy ape story. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t some biggest-fish inflation of the stakes involved. It seems an archaeologist at the time attested to Bigfoot tracks he examined being a hoax. Archaeologists, of course, are among the foremost perpetrators of historical hoaxes unveiled upon an unblinking world, so he probably knew what he was talking about. I have to admit, however, that the three-toed part of the Fouke Monster description did give me pause (it doesn’t reflect the commonly agreed number of Sasquatch digits).

Pierce and Smith curate the territory well enough, establishing the scene with the narrator as a boy, running to warn of the creature causing a nuisance again, to the deaf ears of an old boy dismissive of a “big old hairy monster down in my field”. Jim recalls of the creature’s roar “It scared me then, and it scares me now”. It seems there were sightings back in the 19th century, but the modern account dates from the mid-60s to mid-70s (the Ford residence incident is alleged to have taken place in ’71). 

Following the introduction, we’re told it wasn’t seen again for eight years, and we’re prepped with such ominous instruction that “Foulke is a right pleasant place to live. until the Sun goes down”, and “I doubt you can find a lonelier of spookier place in this country than down around Boggy Creek”. Those disparate sightings (usually out hunting) or menacings (usually young folks alone and isolated: “It was a long night of terror!”) are depicted with varying degrees of stolidity. A kitten scared to death. Really? But hunting dogs refusing to take the scent is a nice touch.

The narrator volunteers a lusty/forlorn creature, one who falls to menacing girls due to “lonely frustration”, “for he is apparently the only one of his kind”. This leads to the Ford residence disturbance, where it seems that Boggy has decided Bobby is more his type, what with the aforementioned toilet terror and a subsequent altercation outside. Indeed, rather like the Yeti in Bugs Bunny, it seems the creature only wanted to hug Bobby and squeeze him and call him George, or Bobby. This climactic set piece includes the enterprising creature trying to open the front door, leading the narrator to ponder “What the creature was after inside the house is perhaps the biggest mystery of all”. Except that you’ve even composed a signature song about Boggy, who “wonders why, there’s no other such as I” (the other ditty begins “Hey Travis Crabtree, do you see what I see?”, the Crabtree family’s experiences being particularly essential to the tale).

Of course, the most likely explanation is that the creature(s) strayed into the Foulke area after being dragged through a portal backwards, from the other side of the Ice Wall. And, being somewhat distraught at the way folks kept firing guns at him, when all he wanted was a tasty hog for supper or connubial jollies with a fair human, made himself scarce again. 

This origins theory suggests the various varieties of hairy man found on Earth are originally denizens of Maldek. Not a destroyed world – per the Ra Material, which forwards the Sasquatch/Maldek connection – but rather a continent in the realm beyond the Ice Wall. It seems the Maldekians did some pretty destructive things to themselves/their environment way back when and agreed to work through the accumulated karma in 2D consciousness (having been in 3D, but in the same basic form). Ra has it that they can be found both in deep forest and deeper underground passageways; if we forget his suggestion that they are indigenous to Earth, it’s surely more likely they were expressly brought here than that they continually, blithely blunder through portals to this destination.

Did Jeeves and Wooster’s “Boggy be about” get its inspiration from The Legend of Boggy Creek? Not that anyone is covering their faces with boot polish and being mistaken for a West Country horror. The Legend of Boggy Creek does not, alas, withstand the 40-years-later sniff test, but it seems it’s generally agreed to be superior to any further attempts since to dramatise the story. What it has going for it, including an evocative piece of Ralph McQuarrie poster art (his work on Pierce productions would lead him to greater Hollywood fame), is a sure understanding of the appeal of all-things Forteana and cryptozoological. The Legend of Boggy Creek does little to investigate the lore of such happenings, but it’s commendably straight-faced about depicting them.

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