The Crater Lake Monster (Crown International, 1977) In this nostalgic throwback to the Creature Features of the 1950’s, a meteor sets things off by landing in an Oregon lake coincidentally near a dormant dinosaur egg. The incredible heat from the space rock raises the lake’s temperature considerably, so of course the still viable egg hatches. The little bundle of joy that emerges from the shell reveals itself to be a plesiosaur, and one growth spurt later, the local residents find themselves on the menu for the big flippered beastie. While the local scientist type tries to convince the local authorities that they now have a local dinosaur, a parade of goofs wander into the dino’s mouth and two yahoos work overtime to provide some comic relief. Eventually the good guys come up with a plan to stop the big lizard and it consists of two words: Heavy Equipment. Let the battle commence!
I have been a huge fan of stop motion animation ever since I first saw the original 1933 King Kong as a wee lad. It was also the effects process that got me interested in special effects, which informed a lot of my reading in those days. As a result, I was always gung ho to watch any movie with stop motion effects. Here we have another example of a movie I was aware of and champing at the bit to see that escaped me for something like three decades. It didn’t make it to any local theaters; and I never found it for rental at any of the dozens and dozens of video stores I frequented throughout the 80’s and 90’s across five states. I finally found it on a used VHS a year or so ago and bought it, throwing it onto my watch pile. Then, this year, after having had no access to the movie for all those years and finally owning it, imagine my surprise when it came out – not on DVD – but on Blu-Ray as a double feature with another Crown International classic: Galaxina. My mind boggles at some of the movies I now own on Blu-Ray.
But I digress.
So, after roughly 10,000 days of not watching the movie, how did it finally stand up to being watched? Okay, I guess. I’d heard over the years that the stop motion in the movie was minimal, and that pretty much everything else about the movie was pretty bad; so my expectations had been sinking lower and lower across the intervening time. Everything in the movie that isn’t stop motion is pretty bad, and it’s easy to see why this movie represents the only cinematic output for most of the people involved. For the effects they hired David Allan, one of those journeymen special effects guys and stop motion gurus from the 70’s like Jim Danforth who never got quite as famous as Ray Harryhausen but who turned out some really good work on films of varying quality. Allan’s work is here is not his best – I imagine he was at least somewhat hampered by budget and schedule – but it’s serviceable; and there’s actually a pretty good amount of it. I’m not 100% thrilled with the plesiosaur’s design either – I think the flippers are goofy and that legs would have looked cooler – but it’s still neat to see stop motion in these days of rampant CGI. So, based on that and a general nostalgia for nearly anything filmed 1977-1980, I give this one a qualifed recommendation – it’s mainly for stop motion fans and 70’s completists, but anyone looking for some PG rated low budget thrills might find this worth a look, so check it out!
|Chewy Sweet Tarts.|
Lady on a Train (1945) Mystery loving Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin) witnesses a murder in a building outside her train window, then can't convince anyone she saw it in this entertaining comedy mystery. When she can't get the police to believe her, (they think the death was an accident) she turns to mystery writer Wayne Morgan (David Bruce) but he is also skeptical. Nikki then mixes herself up with the dead man's family (including Ralph Bellamy-Trading Places) to try to prove there was a murder, even as the murderer continues to kill, making each murder look like an accident.
|They could have called it Legs on a Train as far as I'm concerned.|
This is a very entertaining blend of comedy and mystery, which was a vehicle to move singing star Durbin away from the romantic musicals she was hugely popular in. To ease the transition Durbin does sing three songs, which are spaced out well and aren't too obtrusive. The mystery is fun, there is some suspense, and Durbin is a very attractive lead. If you like a good old fashioned movie that throws in a little of everything to entertain, this is a safe bet.
That will complete our time together. And always remember - a kiss is but a kiss...