Friday, March 12, 2010

Legend Of Boggy Creek: A Tribute To Charles B. Pierce Best Worst Filmmaker

(Note some of the below, is taken from my application to Final Girl’s Legion Of Bloggenaire’s questionnaire. I just happened to fly off on a rant about how much I love Boggy Creek, and I summed up a lot of how the appeal of the film for me. Just thought I’d give a heads up lest it pop up later on FG and leave you scratching your head)

I was deeply saddened to read today on Freddy In Space that a filmmaker I have a huge soft spot for, Charles B. Pierce died last week. I’m even more deeply saddened by the fact that it took almost a week to hear the news. No one seems to have cared very much.

Pierce isn’t a name that most of you know. And those of you who do know it are probably wondering why I’m making such a big screaming deal out of it. After all, most of (if not all of) the movies Pierce made weren’t very good in any traditional sense.

Those who do know Charles Pierce most likely know him through Mystery Science Theater, as a bumbling Ed Wood like director. But I actually like Charles B. Pierce better then Ed Wood, because while Wood was just straight up incompetent, Pierce had this baseline of technical school proficiency that leads to his films being even more unbelievable.

He’s always fascinated me as a film goer. I can remember vividly the first time I saw Boggy Creek playing on the TV at The old Insomniac (may it rest in peace). It wasn’t quite like anything I’d ever seen before, it was dirty and real and had the look and authenticy of an old abandoned gas station. When I asked Kai Wada the guy on duty at the time (And the video store clerk against whom all other video store clerks shall be judged) what was playing, he just smiled and said “Boggy Creek, man” and was gracious enough to let me take it home for the night. Boggy Creek and Pierce still fascinate me. If you haven’t seen it words can’t do justice.

Boggy Creek is this schizoid movie about Pierce looking for this Monster in the Deep South. Half of it is this really effective proto Blair Witch, and the rest is just one of the most jaw droppingly bungling films ever made. Pierce cast the movie by waiting around gas stations waiting for people who looked like his roles to drop by. Its just these old southerners who clearly have no idea what they’re talking about rambling at the camera. So even though the subject matter is clearly fake, it almost becomes more of a documentary because of it. Like they go out to the middle of the swamp to talk to this old man about the monster, and they’re in front of this shack where he clearly actually lives miles from anything remotely approaching civilization, and suddenly it becomes this fascinating look at how this guy lives. Its like there’s this really interesting real documentary going behind this terrible fake one, its damn near Herzogian.

The best thing about it though, is that even though the film is only like Seventy minutes, Pierce didn’t have enough stuff to make it work. So there’s straight up twenty minutes of this terrible folksinger singing over B-Roll nature footage that Pierce shot in the swamp. It’s the most egregious filler I’ve ever seen in a movie.

But that was kind of Pierce’s way, he found work arounds. What makes Pierce’s films so fascinating to watch, is how he simply refused to allow himself to be constrained by the all too real concerns of means and ways. He was going to make his Viking Epic/ Period Piece/ Western/ Native American Epic and no one was going to stop him. Who needs a budget when you’ve got Ben Johnson and Jack Elam willing to star in it? Who needs a long boat when we've got a canoe we can put a sail on?

I feel like I’m selling Pierce short, he made some good films, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is still effective, and there are moments like in Boggy Creek that are all eerily beautiful, all the more so because they seem to be accidental.

But what I’ll truly miss about Pierce is his spirit. The determination in his films. He was in his own way, a brave filmmaker and the world would be a better place if there where more like him. Determined to make epics in their own backyard.

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