One fine day, when I discovered my current favorite used video store, I predictably walked out with a double armload of tapes - the most costly one may have set me back seven bucks (and that was in trade - I had a lot of dusty Playstation titles that needed a new home). You may have already benefited from that fateful day - that was when I picked up Shogun Assassin (which was the costly one - I barely refrained from hooting in joy when I found it on the shelf), The Time Travelers, and Journey to the Center of Time. Many more will appear. One of the lowball titles ($2.99) was Bog.
Bog had semi-intrigued me for a while; I have seen it in two different video boxes. One has a fairly cartoonish illustration of a woman thrashing about in water, an enormous crab claw at her throat. The Prism video (the version I bought) shows a barely seen primordial monster peering at you from above the word BOG. Now, I can't claim to have seen every low-budget monster movie ever made, but I'm working on it; so I decreased my Playstation Credit by three bucks, figuring, what the hell. I'll finally have seen this one. And at least I won't get scooped by another site - with reason, as it turns out.
I mean, has anybody seen this? Either on the big screen or TV? The big screen part is really, really dubious, for reasons we will soon examine. Doubtless the very same reasons I had never heard of it. Bog is a complex movie of many parts, a Mystery inside a Riddle wrapped in an Enigma (okay, it's actually a terribly mediocre and dull film; it's just more fun to pretend it is, like Laura Palmer, full of mysteries).
The movie begins with an idyllic, remote lake, where we observe a nameless redneck in the timeless pursuit of dynamite fishing. In case you do not number a redneck amongst your coterie of friends, or have never seen the hunting episode of South Park, dynamite fishing entails tossing a stick of dynamite into the water, watching the explosion, then skimming up all the fish killed by the concussion. A character later refers to this as "fishing with a DuPont lure", which doubtless would have left the movie open for lawsuits had more people than the cast, crew, and their families seen it.
Anyway, this is cheating in a big way, or "poaching" as The Man likes to refer to it. Our Jeff Foxworthy wannabe, however, runs afoul of the fate awaiting such cheaters in low budget movies: he is eaten by the monster which his boomsticks have awakened. Well, his boat turns over and he screams, which is just as good. Then comes the first of many many camera/editing misfires (and mystery #1), as something hairy is watching these proceedings from the woods. It moves, the camera moves, and we cut to the titles before our brains can take in just what the heck that was; my first guess was some refugee creature from the set of Willow or Labyrinth, or possibly a wild Pokemon. Fortunately, I was watching on videotape, and I could rewind. It's a person with long, wavy unkempt hair. Okay. Let's go back to the titles.
Mystery #2: for some reason, the opening credits (and the end credits, if you get that far) are overlaid with a blue video frame. I can see no discernible reason for this, except perhaps that the overly fancy logo for Marshall Films may also be a video overlay, and the frame may stay up as a sort of unifying motif. Mystery #3: the extraordinary credit, "Director of Cinematography: Wings". Who is this enigmatic Wings, and why did he (or she) choose to name him(her)self after Paul McCartney's group? Wings could also, I suppose, be more than one person, as the photography goes from the bad to the extraordinarily simple and basic to the occasionally beautiful. Since the 'beautiful' is in main aerial photography, it could even be a charter air travel company. (the IMDb entry on Bog lists the cinematographer as Jack Willoughby, who performed similar duties on The Giant Spider Invasion. Mystery #4!)
Two married couples next show up at the lake. The two men (Glenn Voros, Rohay North) are total jerks and the women (Carol Terry, Lou Hunt) are not much better (Mystery #5: WHY even agree to come on a fishing/camping trip you know you aren't going to enjoy?) Not much preparation went into this little outdoors getaway, either: apparently their station wagon is loaded down with one tent and a BUTTLOAD of beer (the buttload is an internationally recognized unit of volume, second in popularity only to the liter). So the men are overjoyed to find the poacher's boat on the lakeside, complete with fishing tackle (but no dynamite, more's the pity).
One couple goes out on the lake in the boat, while the other bickers on the shore, the man eventually walking to a better fishing spot and leaving grumbling wifey behind. Cut to the boat. Wifey's screams are heard! While the boat is rowed madly to shore, the errant husband runs back to where he left his wife, finding only her Popeil Pocket Fisherman! Surely foul play is afoot! (Mystery #6: no, I never saw her take out or use the Pocket Fisherman, either. But there it is.) The second husband shows beer has not dulled his judgment where being in a Monster Movie is concerned; he tells his wife to "get your ass to the car and lock yourself in!". She attempts to do this, but finds the car already locked. (Mystery #7: who locks their car in the middle of nowhere?) The sneaky monster is waiting for her there, however. Maybe it locked the car doors.
The monster is also presented only in POV for most of the movie, and the POV which attacks the second wife presents us with Mystery #8: in this scene, the monster appears to be extraordinarily tall, perhaps twenty feet or so in height, giving the viewer the image of perhaps a sea-serpenty, Nessie type of creature. But to continually confound the viewer, the monster will seem to shrink throughout the picture, eventually becoming the size of a man.
Cut to what must surely be the Sheriff's Office (Mystery #9: in another bid to keep the viewer off-kilter, the movie is devoid of any sort of establishing shot). The two hubbies tell Sheriff Neal (Aldo Ray!) and, for whatever ever reason, local sawbones Dr. Brad Wednesday (Marshall Thompson!) about the mysterious goings-on at the lake; Neal gets a search party together. It isn't long before this crack team of extras finds the dead bodies of the two women.
In Neal's office, the Sheriff and Brad discuss the deaths, and the preliminary findings of the coroner: that the two women were drained of blood, with very little in the way of external injuries. Said coroner, Dr. Ginny Glenn (Gloria DeHaven)arrives to confirm the exsanguinations, telling Neal and Brad that a long, needle-like device, very like an embalmer's needle, was shoved into the women's aortas; the kicker is, she found chitinous material in the wounds, indicating that the needle was somehow organic. (Mystery #10, incidentally, concerns the fact that these three are the only authority figures we shall see; apparently this triumvirate rules the town with an iron grip)
The two hubbies arrive to see their wives' bodies. Mystery #11: Neal orders his Chief Deputy, Jensen (Ed Clark) to stop them. Perhaps Ginny hasn't stitched the corpses back up yet - Neal doesn't like to explain himself. Jensen shows himself to be a compassionate law officer, convincing the two men that they don't want to see their wives' remains by roughing one of them up (Mystery #12), leading us to Mystery #13: instead of contacting Eyewitness News, the hubbies go to the local Gun Shop and buy the Biggest Damn Guns in stock. They also run into Local Character and Bad Actor Wallace Fry (Robert Fry), who promises to reveal to them what exactly happened to their wives.
Fry takes them to a shack in the woods, where they meet the ancient crone (as opposed to young crone) Adrianna (also played by Gloria DeHaven, Mystery #14), who was the human Pokemon we saw at the beginning. Adrianna tells them of an ancient beast that slept at the bottom of the lake, only waking every few centuries to feed on blood; it was awakened prematurely by the dynamite-tossing idiot, and it won't go away until it's drunk its fill, or something. She waxes quite poetic, talking about creatures slumbering for centuries in primordial slime... that or she's reciting "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". The four people huddled in the shack hear the monster moving about outside. Adrianna assures them that as long as they are with her, they won't be harmed. Fry, however, overacts one last time and runs outside; we hear his death scream.
Well, our boys waste no time in telling the Sheriff about their discovery, and as some of his coppers have cropped up on the Monster Smorgasbord, Neal is willing to listen. He and another deputy, along with the the two hubbies go to the lake and lay down "a block of that new RDX" to blow up the lake. Confident that nothing could live through that blast, Neal and the deputy drive off. They are summoned back by the sounds of gunfire, and return just in time to see an enormous crab claw drag a human arm underwater. The Deputy goes down to the shore to pick up the hubbys' useless guns, and Neal stands by the car and does nothing but emote as the monster eats his deputy (offscreen).
And what are the other two members of the Triumvirate doing during all this? Endlessly discussing the nature of the beast, using such telling phrases as "Could there be a Dracula among us?" Oh, and romancing each other, while the ballad we heard under the titles, "Walk With Me" plays, bringing the proceedings to an even deader stop.
Though Neal is (we are told) in a funk, he first orders all roads and trails to the Lake of Doom blocked off, then calls his friend, Terry, to ask his help in "finding some drowned bodies". No mention is made of a monster that has already racked up a score of at least 10.
Meanwhile, at one of the roadblocks to the Lake O' Doom, Jensen is so deeply involved in explaining to a motorist why he can't go to the Lake (at least he doesn't rough the citizen up this time), he doesn't notice the two women blithely bicycling past his patrol car. Hm... patrol car, lights flashing, parked across a road, blocking it, and they simply pedal around it. Mystery #15? No, simply Darwinism at work.
Rhe monster's Meals on Wheels stop at a clearing, and begin to lay out blankets and such. In another bad camera-related incident, they seemed to bike right past a dead body; again, I had to rewind to confirm this. Ah, but Happy Meal To Go #1 notices something curious, and goes to check it out, so those of us who did not have the option to scan backwards can see that it is indeed a corpse, and maybe it was Fry's (we might get the impression I did not care too much at this point, which does not qualify as a mystery). She screams, and to belabor the fast food metaphor beyond all reason, this is the "fries are up" signal that the monster was waiting for, and #1 goes to the big audition in the sky while #2 hops on her bike and escapes.
Terry (Leroy Winbush) shows up with a station wagon full of scuba gear and only one other guy. "I figured just the two of us could handle it," he tells Neal, which means that Neal still hasn't told him about the monster. Jerry and the other Walking Dead Guy plunge into the lake, each carrying the bangsticks which were so effective in the Jaws movies. Now, usually, scuba scenes drag the pace of a movie down terribly, but in the case of Bog, this is actually a pleasant change of pace - scenes that are supposed to be slow and languid. Jerry finds an interesting cluster of transparent globes and takes it up to the boat; we see what may be a tiny monster in the cluster. This is the cue for the monster to take out Terry and his pal... and frankly, we still have no idea if Neal ever told them there was a monster wandering around down there. This, at last, is mystery #15.
Brad and Ginny examine the cluster and determine it is composed of eggs of some sort, but Jensen arrives and tells them that Escaped Happy Meal #2 has drawn a sketch of the creature, and Neal wants both of them to take a look at it. They obey Neal's whim and travel to his office, where the Sheriff hands them a large sheet of art paper and says that normally he would have suspected the girl of being on angel dust, a rather callous thing for a man who has watched a monster chow down on several of his friends to say. Ginny and Brad point out the needle like proboscis they had theorized, and describe other features. It's a good thing they do describe it, because we are never allowed to see the drawing (mystery #16). Meanwhile, back at the lab, we see the monster's crab claws grab and make off with the egg cluster.
Upon their return, Brad and Ginny are amazed to find the cluster gone; noticing the trail of slime, they theorize the monster found the eggs and took them back to the lake. They're amazed it came to town; we're mystified that it managed to operate not only a doorknob but a lockpick with those ungainly claws (or maybe the two doctors were just too dense to notice any signs of breaking and entering - in any case it's mystery #17).
How did a monster with crab claws for hands manage to walk through town unnoticed? Could be that everybody's at the gun store, fomenting revolution and such. Down with the monster and down with the Triumvirate, say they. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! Alright, they just muster up the courage to go tell the Sheriff to do something about the monster, but I can dream. Meantime, Brad and Ginny devise a plan to capture the monster utilizing a "blood scent generator" and some chemical used to kill entire lakes when the fish population gets too big. So when Neal is confronted by an angry mob wielding torches and those rake things you normally only see in Frankenstein movies.... no, I'm sorry, I got lost in fantasy again. When Neal is faced with a sullen group of extras, he has found the posse he needs for Brad and Ginny's plan.
This involves setting up their homemade "blood scent generator" on the lake shore and waiting for the beastie to come a-runnin'. The fish-killing chemical has been mixed with firefighting foam in the town's fire engine. When the beastie shows up, two things happen: Neal charges it, and Adrianna stumbles out of the forest screeching, "Go back! It's a trap!" Adrianna catches a bullet from somewhere( minor mystery - call it 17a. Probably someone who wasn't willing to sit through more T.S. Eliot ). Neal is drained in the space of a second or so - walking into town and back the night before must have made the monster powerful peckish. The townspeople cover the beastie with the poisoned foam, and it finally falls. "That's enough!" Brad calls, "we want it alive!" Since when? (mystery 18) But as the only other authority figure just got all his blood sucked out through a straw, the townspeople wrap the monster in a net and take it to Ginny's all-purpose lab.
Brad and Ginny call in their old friend Dr. John, the Night Tripper (sorry, that was fantasy sneaking in again. Hold on, I tell myself, this has got to be almost over.) That's Dr. John Warren, "noted ichthyologist", to tell them just what the hell that is on the table. John has no idea; he is just as dumbfounded as the other two that the deceased Adrianna's blood was chemically identical to the monster's.
As Ginny continues her tests on the beastie, John and Brad retire to a motel room for an evening of comradely exposition. John hypothesizes that the beastie is perhaps thousands, millions of years old, and somehow human females form a part of its life cycle, with the beastie "infusing" them with its blood, instead of vice versa. He feels this explains Adrianna's longevity, as she was ancient when Brad was but a child, and her curious bond with the beastie.
Wait, did I say the men leave Ginny alone? Why, that must mean that the beastie revives, escapes the netting (offscreen) and grabs Ginny, as it now needs a new mate.... or something. God, you can figure it out from here, I'm tired of typing. Brad and John track it down, there's a fight... I think... and a cop car arrives and smashes the beastie against a tree and bursts into flames, and Ginny is saved (wait a minute... that's not a cop car! That's the same damned station wagon everybody's been driving for the whole picture, with Mars lights strapped to the top! We never see a driver exit the car, either... Mystery #19!). Of course, there is still the matter of that egg cluster in the lake. The blue frame reappears, bringing with it the immortal words : The End .... ? Sigh.
This is one of those movies that makes you tired. Down in the bone tired. Tired like you get from sitting in a two-hour meeting while a consultant drones on and on pausing only to change monochromatic overhead transparencies that can be grasped in a fraction of a second but he has to explain it on and on... and on.... and ...... ......zzzzzzz...... zzzzzzzzzzz......
HA? WHA? There's no school today! Wha? Oh. Sorry. Dozed off. Where was I?
Bog, like a film reviewed earlier, The Slime People, knows its monster movie tropes and goes through the motions, but with a singular lack of urgency in any of the proceedings. The deaths seem to have no real impact on the characters; if there is, we are simply told about it. In a scriptwriting class, I once saw a scene where all the important scenes took place offstage, where we never saw or heard them, we were only told about the arguments and soul-searchings later, resulting in a singular lack of drama. There is a term for this: lazy writing. This is not a race against time, a struggle of man against the unknown - it's several people talking in rooms in undefined locations about a monster we never see, and a "man of action" who performs not a single action in the entire movie.
It is somewhat refreshing to see the usually young love interests played by two actors in their 50s. Thompson is identified as being in his 40s, and I can almost buy that. Dehaven looks even younger, so much so that (although it's not, say, Connery and Zeta Jones) the pair seem almost mismatched. DeHaven is sadly rather inadequate as Ginny - she handles the love scenes well, but seems to be afflicted with palsy during many of her lines, as she over-bobs her head for emphasis in the scientific bits. She's much better as Adrianna. Thompson is, well, Marshall Thompson. No more, no less. Aldo Ray looks like he wonders what the hell happened to his career.
Bog also cheats in that we never get a good look at the monster (not even the drawing of it!), and given the quality of the rest of the movie, that must mean the suit was really dreadful. There are a series of too-quick cuts at the very end that almost afford us a glimpse of it, but to no avail. I might be able to freeze frame it while vidcapping, but I don't hold much hope for that. Possibly I can sell my more unsucessful attempts to The Weekly World News. The only reason most of us sit through a movie as tedious as Bog is to see the damned monster, no matter how bad. Sometimes the worse, the better, as far as we are concerned. But no, Bog will deny us even that cold comfort.
And speaking of freeze-framing, for most of its running time Bog (my copy anyway; I look forward to hearing from anybody else who stayed awake during it) is afflicted by a bizarre glitch: each cut is preceded by a freeze-frame. There is action leading up to the cut, and the action stutters for a second, freezing. The only theory I have for this concerns the fact that most of what we consider to be cuts are actually one-frame dissolves - the frame of film that comprises the 'cut' actually combines the last frame of the previous scene and the first frame of the next. If this particular print of Bog was prepared for that last bit of processing, and it never occurred, that might explain the odd doubling of the last frame of each cut. As ever, I invite other theorists to send in their views on this - this is how I discovered the true story behind the crap ending of Gates of Hell, after all.
So: a by-the-number man-in-a-suit monster movie without the man-in-a-suit, starring faded near-stars, with a few novel script ideas but with no earthly concept of how to utilize them. It's not the only movie of this type out there, but this has to be one of the worst, by which I mean the most boring and meaningless. I did without watching it for close to thirty years; you can safely do the same.
Mystery #20: this movie's existence.
- January 16, 2000