The ape-like creature known as Bigfoot/Sasquatch was popular in the 1970s, thanks to the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film footage that purported to show a real Bigfoot strolling through the wilderness. Movies about Bigfoot were in vogue thanks to the huge success of Charles B. Pierce's 1972 docudrama horror classic The Legend of Boggy Creek about the "Fouke Monster," a southern Bigfoot-type creature that reportedly haunted the small town of Fouke, Arkansas. Many movie rip-offs ensued, most of which were junk, except for the Louisiana shot Creature from Black Lake from 1976, which is quite good and well made.
The story in Creature from Black Lake is pretty simple. Two Chicago college students, Pahoo (Dennis Fimple) and Rives (John David Carson), decide to travel down to the Louisiana swamps to investigate supposed sightings of a fabled Bigfoot-like beast. Most of the townsfolk don't want to talk to them, but eventually, they find "crazy" Joe Canton (Jack Elam), who claims to have witnessed the monster murder his friend. Of course, Pahoo and Rives find themselves deep in the woods looking for the hairy thing.
Now, the movie does ramble a little, and the bumbling grad students don't seem to have a concrete plan other than to find people who will talk to them about the creature, but the final 15 minutes are filled with well-executed tension and scares. The movie also has a good sense of humor, and the performances are solid. The two main characters are well-written. Rives seems like a well-off rich kid, while Pahoo is a Vietnam vet, so there is a good dynamic between them. And I love the little side plot of Pahoo just wanting the simple pleasure of a hamburger, fries, and a Coke, but he keeps getting denied.
Creature from Black Lake was made by Louisiana filmmakers, director Joy N. Houck Jr., and screenwriter Jim McCullough Jr., and it was shot on location in Oil City, Shreveport, and Bossier City, Louisiana. Houck's father, Joy Houck Sr., founded Howco, a production and distribution company for low-budget films, and also owned a chain of movie theaters throughout the south. I would see movies at Joy's Panorama 6 located on Airline Highway, but my main stomping ground was Joy's Cinema City 8 on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Kenner. I even worked at Cinema City in my teens, and eventually got fired too. Still, I miss those theaters.
Creature from Black Lake doesn't seem to be available to stream from any reputable source. It's on YouTube, but it's the old washed out, pan and scan print I would see on TV as a child. However, Synapse Films just released a Blu-ray (oh no, physical media!) of a gorgeous 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, so you can see the sparkling widescreen cinematography by Dean Cundey (Back to the Future, Halloween) in all its glory.
Creature from Black Lake is homegrown Louisiana horror, and it's a fun watch.