‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ (1972)

Photo by Al Topich/Special to the Democrat-Gazette

It goes by many names: Skunk Ape, Wendigo, Sasquatch, Bigfoot. But the folks of southwest Arkansas only know it as The Boggy Creek Monster. The 8-foot tall, hairy, bipedal, humanoid monster that terrorizes livestock and young women is back to terrorize our televisions with the 50th anniversary 4K Blu-ray release of the 1972 drive-in, pseudo-documentary horror classic, "The Legend of Boggy Creek."

I recall the first time I watched Charlie B. Pierce's Southern Sasquatch film. It was during one summer while I was still in college that I stumbled upon a low-quality version of the film buried deep in the recesses of YouTube. My friend, Austin Watkins, and I were doing research on Sasquatch, as we were planning on making our own mockumentary on the subject. That film never panned out, but after watching Boggy Creek, the both of us were sucked into the Sasquatch subculture. We devoured everything Bigfoot; from books and televisions shows to conventions. We even went on our own expeditions in Northwest Arkansas, knocking on trees, hooping and hollering trying to find any signs of a big hairy ape. We never did find anything, and all we got for our troubles was almost getting eaten alive by some sort of wild hog.

After hearing about this 50th anniversary re-release of the film, the cryptozoologist in me had to immediately pre-order it. And I waited patiently until one day when I opened my mailbox and saw a brown package. It wasn't just any brown box. It was a custom made package with an image of the Boggy Creek Monster printed across the cover. I noticed that the package was sent by Pam Barcelou, Charlie Pierce's daughter, who has almost single-handedly been responsible for the restoration of her dad's film.

I ripped open the package and pulled out the Blu-ray. The cover features Ralph McQuarrie's haunting poster art which has the creature in silhouette as it marches through the Sulfur River bottoms. The first thing that caught my eye is the tagline that is printed on the box; "A True Story." Not "based on a true" or "inspired by true events," Pierce wanted audiences to know the creature in his film is real and is out there. Even though the tagline is a bit gimmicky, it was effective enough to make "Boggy Creek" one of the most successful independently produced films of the 1970s.

The movie has every right to call itself a true story as Pierce went down to Fouke (Miller County) to interview and talk to the locals about the monster that they share their land with. He even hired locals and non-actors to portray themselves in the film. The plot of "Boggy Creek" is fairly free-form, as it portrays a series of vignettes and dramatic re-creations of real eyewitness accounts of the Fouke Monster. There are scenes of hunters and fishermen spotting the creature in the distance through the dense brush, there are scenes of the creature prowling around houses on the hunt for food (be it farm or domesticated animals), but the film climaxes with an all out horrific assault as the monster repeatedly attacks a defenseless family in their house.

The film also doubles as a semi-nature documentary as there are long chunks of the film that linger on the wildlife in the swampy terrain of Fouke. As someone that has been to Fouke on several squatch-hunting occasions, the new Blu-ray adds a depth and beauty to the landscape and the cinematography I'd never noticed before. It's as if this movie is a time capsule, preserving the image of the Arkansas wilderness of the early '70s. There are even two original songs that have a pro-environmental message; one song that emphasizes the loneliness of the creature being the last of its kind, and another song that claims "nobody sees the flowers bloom but me." Both songs really don't fit the tone of a horror-esque drive-in movie, but they do give a certain level of empathy for the creature.

The restoration is great, and a must have for anyone interested in cryptids, Sasquatch or Arkansas wildlife. Though I will say, I was a little disappointed with the special features. For a 50th anniversary, I would have liked to have seen more on the disk. But the one feature that I really enjoyed was a special audio commentary track featuring cryptozoologist/musician/author Lyle Blackburn. Not only does he have an intense knowledge of the creature, he actually knows the lineage of the families down in Fouke and has even more details on what exactly those backwoods people saw running around the Sulfur bottoms.

It has been nearly a decade since I last went hunting for the elusive Sasquatch. But after watching this remastered version of "Boggy Creek," I'm itching to call up my friend so we can lace up our boots and head back down to the Monster Mart in the middle of Fouke and go sleuthing for some three-toed, 20-inch footprints.

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