The Crater Lake Monster (1977)
Article 5507 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by William R. Stromberg
Featuring Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts, Mark Siegel
What it is: Dinosaur on the loose
A meteor causes a plesiosaur egg to hatch at the bottom of Crater Lake, and the monster begins chowing down on vacationers on the lake.
I found several odd touches in this one, the first of which was even before the movie started; on the DVD menu, I couldn’t help but notice that the music underlying the menu was muted and somber, hardly the usual choice for a “monster on the loose” movie. It certainly wasn’t what I would have expected for a low-budget movie with a poor reputation (3.1 on IMDB) and a (mostly) stop-motion dinosaur. And, for the most part, its reputation is earned; the script is slipshod and clumsy at times, the stop-motion animation is competent but uninspired, the acting is uneven, many of the plot points are way too familiar (it’s a rare scientific discovery that should be preserved, but it’s also a monster eating people), and it’s not the least bit scary. Furthermore, even though it does dovetail with the main story, the subplot about the liquor store killer feels like it’s in the wrong movie. The biggest question I had was why it was that the comic-relief characters (a pair of doofuses that run a boat rental business on the lake) took over the movie. Still, it struck me as curious that the comedy bits with these two characters were driven by character rather than slapstick, but there’s a reason for this; as unlikely as it seems, these two are the emotional center of the movie. And, for all its flaws, I have to admit that I was struck by the poignant end to the movie, a touch that is quite surprising and far more effective than I ever could have guessed. For this reason alone, I feel a great fondness for this one.