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The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) was the first in a series of three Boggy Creek films loosely based on a legendary monster of southwest Arkansas. It was directed by Charles Pierce of Texarkana (Miller County) and written by Earl E. Smith.
The film, shot as a faux documentary-style drama, centers on the real town of Fouke (Miller County). Since the 1940s, many sightings of a creature known as the “Fouke Monster” have been reported. The film presents an interesting portrait of Southern swamp culture in the 1970s by juxtaposing interviews with local citizens, ranging from a police officer to hunters, talking about their experiences with the creature with dramatic recreations of some of these purported encounters. According to witnesses, the creature is similar to Bigfoot, standing more than six feet tall and covered with hair. Many claim to have fired upon it, and although some say it is dead, others think it is alive.
Long before the idea of independent film became popular, Pierce financed the film independently of Hollywood by borrowing $160,000 from a trucking company and using an old camera. He used locals as actors; many of the people he interviewed played themselves and talked about their experiences. He utilized many shots of local flora and fauna to capture the look and feel of the purported creature’s habitat. After its release, the film became a drive-in hit, grossing more than $20 million.
A sequel, Return to Boggy Creek, was released in 1977. Directed by television director Tom Moore and written by John David Woody, the film had little to do with its predecessor. Return centers on a woman (played by Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island) and her three daughters who are lost in a swamp along with two men. In this telling, the creature comes to the family’s aid.
Pierce also wrote, directed, and starred in The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, the third Boggy Creek film. In Beast, Pierce plays University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) professor Brian C. “Doc” Lockhart, who, along with his students, searches for the creature that still haunts Boggy Creek. Though it is the third in the series, Pierce subtitled this film Boggy Creek II because he had nothing to do with the second film. Beast features several recognizable shots of UA, including footage from a Razorbacks game. Pierce’s son plays Lockhart’s son in the movie. On May 9 and 15, 1999, Beast was featured on the cult favorite show Mystery Science Theatre 3000, which presented heavily edited versions of B movies accompanied by humorous commentary lampooning the films.
Pierce directed a dozen movies, most notably The Town That Dreaded Sundown, a 1976 thriller also written by Smith. It was also shot in a documentary style, investigating a real-life string of mysterious killings in Texarkana in 1946. The only description of the killer is that he was a hooded man, and he was never captured. Pierce also directed several westerns, including Winterhawk, Sacred Ground, Hawken’s Breed (which starred Peter Fonda), and Grayeagle. He also directed The Norseman, which starred Lee Majors, and co-wrote the screenplay for the Clint Eastwood vehicle Sudden Impact, featuring the popular Eastwood character “Dirty Harry.”
Pierce’s films are known for having a regional flair and presenting low-budget portraits of small-town life in Arkansas and Louisiana. With the success of The Legend of Boggy Creek, Pierce pioneered regional films—low-budget films with regional appeal—and his cinematic techniques have influenced many later films, such as The Blair Witch Project, which utilized a similar faux documentary style. In 2018, Pierce’s daughter, Pamula Pierce Barcelou, gained the copyright to The Legend of Boggy Creek and began the process of having the movie restored for future re-release.
For additional information:
“The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088772/ (accessed August 1, 2018).
Brand, Aaron. “Getting’ ‘Boggy’ with It.” Texarkana Gazette, August 1, 2018. Online at http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/texarkana/story/2018/aug/01/gettin-boggy-it/736988/ (accessed August 1, 2018).
“The Legend of Boggy Creek.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068837/ (accessed August 1, 2018).
“Return to Boggy Creek.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078159/ (accessed August 1, 2018).
C. L. Bledsoe
Last Updated 8/1/2018
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