The 1970s holds a special place in the hearts Bigfoot aficionados everywhere as the decade that cemented the furry ape’s place in pop culture, giving fans and would-be investigators the inspiration to continue to celebrate and document the creature’s existence ever since.
And while the Patterson-Gimlin film footage from 1967 lit the fuse for Bigfoot mania, three theatrical productions from the era helped boost the big guy’s profile on the silver screen, starting with 1972’s first found-footage horror film The Legend of Boggy Creek, followed by two from 1976 entitled Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot and the newly-remastered film from Synapse Films, The Creature From Black Lake.
Making its Blu-ray debut, Creature From Black Lake looks better than ever with a new 4K restoration that brings the film back to its original 2.35:1 ratio sourced from the original 35mm camera negative. The quality of the images from the opening scenes of the Louisiana Bayou to last ones filmed in a hospital intensive care unit are better than any low-budget film from the ’70s has a right to be.
Creature from Black Lake (also screened under the title Demon of the Lake and written and directed by Joy N. Houck Jr.) stars Jack Elam, Dub Taylor, Dennis Fimple, John David Carson, and Bill Thurman in a restrained PG horror film that would have been many kids first exposure to the Bigfoot phenomenon through the lens of a classic B-Movie. Unlike Boggy Creek, Black Lake is an unadulterated programmer, and includes the standard plot of most creature features, with two college students journeying to the Louisiana-Arkansas border in search of proof of a “bipedal creature”.
As expected, the locals don’t take kindly to two college boys from Chicago stirring up trouble, and while the residents of the Deep South one-horse-town are not completely stereotypical, movie and TV industry stalwarts Elam and Taylor do an excellent job of chewing the scenery in this vein.
Fimple and Carson are a serviceable odd couple and do their best as the snoops looking for answers (and with the script) as the duo gets more and more dangerously close to their quarry. The quarry in this case is a fairly well-designed Bigfoot (more Skunk Ape in this part of the world) and when the creature is seen on camera, is convincing enough.
The film ends with an unexpected ending for the pair of amateur investigators, and “all’s well that ends well” when the curtain drops.
In terms of special features, Black Lake doesn’t disappoint with a commentary track provided by author Michael Gingold and film historian Chris Poggiali, a twenty minute chat with director of photography Dean Cundey (who remembers his work on the film fondly), and the original trailer and radio spot.
Noted Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie’s original poster is also included as the sleeve, further helping to elevate the film (and its marketing).
If you have only viewed the film as part of a horror host’s movie of the week or on a grainy DVD or VHS transfer, be prepared to be wowed at the upgrades to one of the Bigfoot gems of the ’70s.