Today’s movie is the 1977 stop motion creature feature, The Crater Lake Monster.
The Crater Lake Monster was directed, produced, and cowritten by William Stromberg, in what would be his only film credit. Star Richard Cardella served as his co-writer, and likewise never appeared in a film again.
The cinematographer for The Crater Lake Monster was Paul Gentry, who is an accomplished visual effects artist who has worked on films such as The Stuff, Robot Jox, Laserblast, Predator 2, Fortress, RoboCop 3, and Space Truckers.
The primary editor for The Crater Lake Monster was Steven Nielson, who has also cut flicks like Blood Dolls, The Creeps, Head of the Family, and Inner Sanctum.
The effects on The Crater Lake Monster were provided by a team that included Steve Neill (The Stuff, It’s Alive III, Q, Full Moon High, Battle Beyond The Stars, Laserblast, God Told Me To), David Allen (Willow, Ghostbusters II, Robot Jox, Dolls), Tom Scherman (The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies), Jon Berg (RoboCop 2, Piranha, Gremlins), Randall Cook (Q, The Thing), Jim Danforth (Ninja III: The Domination, DeepStar Six), and Phil Tippett (Howard The Duck, RoboCop 3).
The music for movie was composed (uncredited) by Will Zens, who is best known for directing and writing the abysmal film, The Starfighters, which is among the IMDb’s Bottom 100 movies of all time, and was famously mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
The cast for the movie is composed of co-writer Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts (The Evictors), Richard Garrison (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4), Michael Hoover, who would later become a effects worker with credits on films like Ghostbusters, DeepStar Six, Foodfight!, and Torque, and Mark Siegel, who would likewise become an effects worker for films like Van Helsing, Son of the Mask, Dune, and Death Becomes Her.
The plot of The Crater Lake Monster takes place near the Crater Lake in Northern California. A number of locals begin to suspect that a Loch Ness Monster style creature is living in the lake after a meteorite falls nearby, and a number of mysterious disappearances follow.
Co-writer and star of The Crater Lake Monster Richard Cardella is quoted as saying the following about what went wrong with the production of the movie:
Crown International was part of the financing and they just screwed up everything. They pulled their support for some key scenes (that would have explained a lot and plugged some of the obvious holes), added a canned score that really sucked, and turned it over to some hack to edit. The asshole didn’t even use a fade or dissolve in the whole freakin’ picture
The Crater Lake Monster is widely considered to be one of the worst creature features of all time, in spite of relatively impressive stop motion effects. It currently holds a 3.0 rating on IMDb, along with an 11% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Crater Lake Monster was reportedly made on a $100,000 budget, and managed to make a significant profit in its theatrical run with a $3 million gross, in spite of the negative reviews.
I have a soft spot for stop motion effects work, but it is definitely something that isn’t beloved across the board. The effects work in The Crater Lake Monster looks fine for what it is if you ask me, but there are a lot of people who aren’t accustomed to watching stop motion monsters, and seeing stop motion in comparison to other kinds of effects just makes it look awful. For a generation raised on Jurassic Park, moviegoers today likely won’t have the patience to deal with stop motion monsters, which has contributed to flicks like The Crater Lake Monster getting further buried.
That said, The Crater Lake Monster is pretty dull outside of the stop motion effects. The writing tries to awkward work comedy into the movie in the form of a quasi-comedic duo of rednecks, the directing and cinematography struggle to keep actors lit and in frame, and the actors themselves are just wretchedly untalented. This was clearly the work of amateurs with high ambitions, which actually makes the effects work all the more impressive. By all accounts, this movie should have been forgotten to the ages entirely, but the stop motion work really made it stand out. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it had a memorable trailer that made the movie look way better than it is. In fact, I remember seeing the trailer on a compilation tape as a kid, and thinking that this looked like one of the coolest movies of the bunch. Unfortunately, I now know that isn’t the case.
Overall, this is a movie that I really hoped would be more entertaining than it is. It is more than worth looking up the trailer and the clips of the monster, but the rest of the movie built around those moments is totally forgettable. While the acting and film-making work across the board is all bad, it is regrettably not on an entertaining level. I recommend skipping over this one unless you are determined to sit through it, because the clips will give you all of the highlights that are worth seeing.