BIGFOOT WEEK: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

The Legend of Boggy Creek is my favorite kind of movie. It’s at once a narrative story and a documentary so that there will be times that you have no idea whether you’re learning the unvarnished truth or being spun a tale. It’s kind of like that movie in Orson Welles’ F for Fake where he tells you that his promise to be truthful ended several minutes ago, except that it lasts for an entire movie and there are no promises whatsoever.

This journey to discover the Fouke Monster tells its story with staged interviews with Arkansas locals while also presenting reenactments of their tales. It comes straight from the fevered imagination of Charles B. Pierce. Once an advertising salesman from Texarkana, he borrowed over $100,000 from local trucking company Ledwell & Son Enterprises, used a movie camera he built himself and relied on an all-local cast that he discovered one by one at a gas station to create this opus.

While Pierce didn’t believe in the local legends himself, he was impressed by the “authenticity and down-to-earth qualities” that the locals brought to their tall tales. He turned to another ad man, Earl eE. Smith, to work their stories into a narrative and shot the film in Fouke, Texarkana and Shreveport.

Unable to find a theater willing to show his film, Pierce bought his own and cleaned it up himself called the Perot Theatre. Within three weeks, lines stretched around the block and Pierce was up $55,000 before selling international and TV rights to AIP.

The Fouke Monster is a skunk ape, a Sasquatch creature that the residents of Fouke have seen since the 1940’s. It has reddish-brown fur, a horrifying smell and three toes.

Locals regale us with stories, such as the time the Fouke monster carried off two 200 pound pigs. Or the time it scared a kitten to death. Or the time when hunters had the beast cornered, but their dogs refused to follow it any closer.

Finally, actual newspaper stories are cited in regards to the beast attacking a family and injuring one of them. The creature was never captured and is said to still stalk the swamps of southern Arkansas to this day. This is a real auteur work, with Pierce not only directing and producing but also interviewing the locals and singing the theme song.

This is my favorite era of cryptozoology when regional legends of the past contended with Cold War mania to create creatures that broke from their dimensions — like some pop culture Ancient Ones — to invade our popular consciousness. If only Pierce had grown up near Point Pleasant, WV, he would have made this movie about mothman!

Pierce would continue to make films about and for his unique Texarcana audiences, such as Bootleggers, the Western films Winterhawk and Winds of Autumn, and 1976’s transcendent The Town That Dreaded Sundown. He’d go on to be an in-demand set decorator, the writer of the Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact (he may have originated the line “Go ahead. Make my day.”) and directed other films like The Evictors and the nowhere near as good sequel to this film.

You can watch this on Shudder with and without Joe Bob Briggs commentary.

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