“I’ve always said that to be a decent director, you had to play well as a kid,” Pierce says with a laugh, one of many that punctuate his comments. “I played cowboys and Indians and cars, built stick bridges and roads my mother couldn’t have a decent yard. The boy next door was a year younger than me, and we were always scarin’ each other to death. He got a old 8mm camera one time when we were kids, and we made a movie in the backyard.
“When we left Hampton, he went one way and I went another, and we didn’t see each other until I was doin’ Boggy Creek. He came up and said, ‘Charlie, I just finished my first picture.’ He’d just done a film in Little Rock called Encounter With The Unknown (1973), narrated by Rod Serling. Then he went on to make one called So Sad About Gloria (1973), and I remember another thing with some zombie walking the streets of Little Rock, dragging a chain.”
Pierce laughs again. “His name is Harry Thomason, of Harry and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, (who created the TV shows) Designing Women and Evening Shade. And he and I grew up next door to each other in a town of 500 people.”
While Thomason has made his biggest mark to date in television, his old neighbor has done just the opposite, using production jobs at TV stations in Arkansas. Texas and Louisiana as a springboard for his feature-film entree. In 1969, he settled in Texarkana, a city of some 50,000 that, as its name indicates, spreads across the borders of Arkansas and Texas. There, armed with his hands-on knowledge of television production, he bought “a old 16mm handheld camera that held a hundred-foot roll of film” and opened an advertising agency. Soon, he landed a contract with Ledwell & Son Enterprises, a local outfit that built 18-wheeI trailers and farm and ranch equipment. “I developed a series of commercials for ’em that went to television all through the Southwest, and that gave me an opportunity to get out in the country and film big trucks on the highway and heavy equipment in the fields gathering com. It was a very important step for me, because when I decided I was going to do a film and began to talk to people about it, they took me seriously.”
As it turned out. one of the first people he talked to was the head man at Ledwell & Son. Mr. Ledwell was a no-nonsense, self-made man with a fondness for cowboy hats and boots and a low tolerance for tomfoolery. “I went to him and told him I wanted to do a movie,” says Pierce, chuckling at the memory. “He about swallowed his cigar. He said, ‘Boy, you’ve lost it now. You want to do a movie? Doin’ my commercials is one thing. I can’t see you doin’ no movie.
I said, Yep, I can do one.’ He said, ‘What kind of movie do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘I want to do one about that booger that’s jumpin’ on folks down the road there.’ It was in the papers every morning, you know, about the Fouke Monster and how it’d jumped on somebody else. He said, You don’t believe that, do you?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if I believe it or not, but it sure will make a good movie!’ ’’
Fouke, Arkansas, lies a half-hour away from Texarkana, down U.S. 71 toward the Louisiana border. In the early ’70s, sleepy little Fouke suddenly became well-known as the spot where a Bigfoot-Iike creature began showing up about as often as the mailman. Pierce went down to talk to some of the people who’d had close Fouke Monster encounters, and he came away impressed. They were sincere,” he remembers. ‘They didn’t know what they were seeing. They had no way of explaining it. They just said that it stood very tall, had hair that completely covered its body and had long arms. It was not a gorilla, because under stress a gorilla will go down on all fours to run. This thing, when it ran, went upright like a man.
They didn’t want to make a movie,” Pierce continues. “They didn’t ask for money. They didn’t want anything. They wanted to be left alone, in fact. But they were seeing something.”
One man took Pierce down to his barn and pointed to a stall where the beast had suddenly appeared one evening. “He told me. ‘When I came in here to milk, he was standln’ there, looking at me. He stepped out, and the back barn door was open, and the light was at his back. He twisted his head and looked at me very curiously, backed up a couple of steps, and then started walkin’ off across my back pasture toward the woods. And as he walked, he looked back at me. The hair drooped off his shoulders, off his arms, and he didn’t have any clothes on. The hair completely covered his body.’
“Man.” Pierce remembers, “I walked out of there, and I said, ‘I promise you I will do that scene.’ He said, ‘I don’t want nothin’ to do with your movie.’ I said. ‘You won’t. I won’t even mention your name.’ But I’ll tell you: I knew right then I was fixin’ to make that picture.”
Armed with this scene and other eyewitness tales. Pierce persuaded Ledwell to bankroll The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972). For his scriptwriter. Pierce hired an advertising-biz acquaintance named Earl Smith who Pierce recalls, was a dead ringer for fast-food icon Colonel Sanders. (“We’d go to the airport, and he’d get so mad,” laughs Pierce, “because somebody’d always come up and ask for his autograph.”) For his crew, he hired a few high school boys to help load and move equipment. “Some of the kids had to milk and farm and do other stuff, so they weren’t always available.” he says. “So we shot over several months, two or three days out of the week.”
For his cast. Pierce set up at a local gas station and waited. “When someone pulled in, we’d say, ‘Now, she’d be a good Peggy Sue.’ And we’d walk out there to the gas pumps and say. ’Ma’am, we’re shootin’ a little movie. Would you like to be in it?’ ” He laughs. “She’d say. ‘Well, what do I have to do?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, you just run across this field out here.’ We’d get out there in the field and she’d say. ‘What do I do?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, I want you to come across over there screamin’, and run real fast.’ We never did makeup or any of that, unless the creature got on ’em, and then we’d put on a little ketchup for blood.
“Once we got to the ending, I knew we had to do something for some kind of payoff.” he adds. “So we ordered a gorilla suit from some costume house in Los Angeles, and I went down to the five-and-dime store and bought a bunch of old wigs, and we cut ’em into pieces and sewed ’em all over the top of the gorilla’s head, and that was it.
“I’m pokin’ at it,” he concedes. “But if you look at Boggy Creek cinematography wise, it was beautifully shot, and that’s what saved the picture. I very carefully planned how to shoot that thing, and how to make it work.”
From the beginning. Pierce cut his own trail with Boggy Creek, getting it done in ways that would make Hollywood types do spit-takes into their cappuccino. The unorthodoxy hardly stopped when principal photography was over: Pierce took the raw movie, stuck it in the trunk of his car and headed for LA. “At that time, Mr. Ledwell had put in about all he was going to put in we had about $100,000 in it,” he recalls. “I didn’t know anybody in LA. but I found a fellow out there and told him I had a movie and needed some help. He said, Where is it?’ I raised up my trunk lid and he said, ‘Oh, my God. Why don’t you come by my office in the morning?’ ” The man was Jamie Mendoza-Nava, who owned a small post-production house. Pierce offered him enough money to pay his cutter, along with a small percentage of Boggy Creek in lieu of further upfront cash. A year later, Pierce called Mendoza-Nava to Texarkana and laid a $150,000 check on him.
But before that could happen. Pierce had to endure the kind of major studio treatment most first-time Arkansas filmmakers could expect. If the studio reps didn’t simply hang up on him, they suggested icily that he submit his movie to them through an agent. Meanwhile, Mr. Ledwell was calling every day from Texarkana, hoping to hear that the picture was sold. Finally, Pierce put the now-completed feature back in his trunk and drove home rejected, but hardly defeated. “When I got back, I went to the old Paramount Theater in downtown Texarkana,” he says. “I went in, and I saw that the projectors and stuff were still there.
I talked to an old projectionist, and he said. ‘Oh yeah. They’ll run.’ So I called the company that owned the theater and asked if I could use it to have a world premiere. And they said, ‘Well, Mr. Pierce, we’ll sure rent you that theater.’ ”
Settling on a one-week rental for $3,500, Pierce went to a reluctant Ledwell and convinced him to come up with the cash to hire ticket- takers, concessionaires and a projectionist. This process, in which a theater chain rents a building and equipment for a flat rate to a distributor, who brings in the staff and the movie, is known as four-walling. At the time of Boggy Creek, the Salt Lake City-based distributor Sunn Classics had been successfully four walling quasi-documentaries including one or two featuring Bigfoot scenes for years. Pierce readily acknowledges the influence of Sunn Classic Pictures movies on Boggy Creek.
Pierce himself took a crew to the theater and washed the place out with hoses. Then, after getting the old venue presentable, he called every friend he had in town and asked them to send flowers to the theater for the premiere. “I didn’t know.” he laughs. “I thought that was the thing to do. And I’m telling you: In that front lobby, there were so many flowers and wreaths, it looked like somebody had died. They were clean out in the street. You never saw such a mess.”
But any worries that the flowers portended a real-life death of a picture, and perhaps a career were dispelled by the first night’s audience. “There were people lined up for four or five blocks,” says Pierce of the crowds that greeted Boggy Creek. “People had brown-bag lunches with ’em because they knew they couldn’t get into the next showing, but they didn’t want to lose their place in line. I knew it was gonna work when they started laughin’ and getting excited, and screamin’ whenever that booger’d jump out. Of course, I got a G rating, and so the kids were in there screaming it was scarin’ the devil out of ’em. I knew then I had a winner.” He also had exactly one other print of the movie, a reject the lab had thrown in for nothing after he’d plunked down the cash for his answer print. So he took the reject print and headed for Shreveport, LA, to another abandoned theater, where he fourwalled his way into a concurrent big run. By that time, he’d begin to hear from the Hollywood that had spurned him a few short months before. “They’d tell me, ‘Well, we can’t give you any money, but we’d like to test it for you down in Florida or somewhere.’ And I’d say, ‘Naw. I’ll tell you what, I’ll take care of my business, and you take care of yours out there.’ So I just kept on playin’ it, and in a little bit over four weeks, I took enough cash from the two box-office windows in those two houses, dumping it every morning on my banker’s desk, to pay that picture off.”
Eventually, he did enter into a distribution deal but not with a major. Instead, he hooked up with Southern film magnate Joy N. Houck, whose Howco International was a significant regional distributor. Houck looked Pierce up at home on a Saturday: Pierce, who had always wanted to be a millionaire, offered to sell him a 50 percent interest in Boggy Creek for “a million dollars, plus whatever it costs to pay the taxes on it.” Houck sputtered and told him that was ridiculous. But on Monday morning. “We went down to the First National Bank in Texarkana and he wrote us a check for 1 million, 286 thousand and some-odd dollars. The IRS was there, we put a million dollars in the bank and I still owned half the film.”
For the next several months. Pierce and Houck worked together on promotion and distribution, moving Boggy Creek from four-walled phenomenon to national hit. (They also cut a deal with American International Pictures for foreign and TV distribution, beginning a long relationship between Pierce and AIP.) Of course, the idea of a second Boggy Creek came up in due time, but Pierce wasn’t interested. “I didn’t want to do another Boggy Creek not for a while,” he explains. “I was still trying to prove myself as a film- maker: I didn’t want to have to turn around and shoot the same thing all over again. I wanted to do something different.”
Pierce noted in the Los Angeles Times article that he captured the film’s sound by putting “a microphone up against a tree.” The sound was created almost wholly in pre-production, using a process dubbed “Poly-dimensional sound,” which, according to the article, included the creation of “primitive” Foley sound effects. Many reviews remarked on the detailed sound. In addition, Pierce stated in the Los Angeles Times article that he had originally hired a local boy to sing the theme song, but when the recording session did not work out, he stepped in to record the song himself.
Many reviewers commented on the amateurish look and feel of the film, but most found it endearing and scary. The Legend of Boggy Creek proved a surprise box-office success. Within two weeks of its Los Angeles run, according to the 1973 Hollywood Reporter article, it had grossed $500,000. In that article, Howco vice president Joy Houck, Jr. credited much of the film’s success to word-of-mouth advertising. By 1974, according to the Daily Variety article, the picture had earned over $22 million.
So he made an action-adventure period piece called Bootleggers (1974), featuring Slim Pickens and a young Jaclyn Smith (“her first picture,” he notes), followed by a pair of Westerns, Winterhawk (1976) and the Montana lensed Winds of Autumn (1976). “I wanted to do Westerns, which a lot of people didn’t understand, but Winterhawk did more business than Boggy Creek,” he says.
For his return to the horror genre post-Boggy Creek, Pierce decided to mine another folk tale. This time, it concerned a real-life murderer known as the Phantom Killer, who had run up a body count in Texarkana in the late ’40s. “That took me back to my days in Hampton, with Harry and me being scared to death of that whole situation,” he remembers. “Hampton was about 85 miles from Texarkana, and this whole part of the country was paralyzed. My dad slept with a shotgun. And although I fell a little short of pulling off just how much the town was afraid. I didn’t fall short of how bad and how mean this guy was, and what he did.”
The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) was considered quite frightening in its time, although it was released with a “G” rating from the MPPA. The “monster” attack scenes were bloodless though surprisingly effective; the low budget unintentionally contributed to the seedy, oppressive atmosphere. The same effect is in evidence in The Town That Dreaded Sundown, though this film features some cruel and bloody violence, earning it an “R” rating. Stern narrator Vern Stierman (reprising his duties from The Legend of Boggy Creek) sets the tone when he informs the viewer, “the incredible story you are about to see is true, where it happened and how it happened. Only the names have been changed.“
A pre-credits sequence establishes the small town of Texarkana, which straddles the state line in the southwest corner of Arkansas, in the earliest post-war months of 1946. (Despite the low budget, a convincing portrait of a 30-years-earlier town emerges – not counting a few 1970s-era haircuts). On March 3rd, 1946, a young couple is necking on a local Lover’s Lane when they are brutally attacked by a man (Bud Davis) cloaked in a rough flour sack hood. While the young couple is badly beaten, and the girl has been assaulted (“her back, stomach and breasts were heavily bitten… literally chewed”), the couple cannot give much evidence. Police Chief Sullivan (Jim Citty), Deputy Ramsey (Andrew Prine) and Sheriff Barker (Robert Aquino) have no clue who the attacker may be and warn the locals about parking on lonely roads at night. Three weeks later, the pattern repeats itself although this time the young couple attacked while parking is shot and killed. The townsfolk buy guns and new locks for their doors to protect against “The Phantom Killer,” as the press dubs the criminal. The police get much-needed help when Austin authorities send a celebrity criminal investigator, Captain J. D. Morales (Ben Johnson) also known as “the Lone Wolf of the Texas Rangers,” to take over the case. Morales takes a more active approach to the investigation, for example sending officers out to Lovers Lane past sundown to act as decoys. The Phantom continues and the attacks become more brazen and bizarre. In the film’s most notorious sequence, the killer attacks a couple who had just played in a band at the local Prom; after the man is shot, The Phantom straps the girl to a tree, attaches a knife to the slide of her trombone, and impales her in the back while repeatedly and awkwardly playing notes on the instrument.
The script of The Town That Dreaded Sundown (by Earl E. Smith) sticks quite close to the known facts of the actual case; only some of the gorier details of the murders are elaborated upon. For example, the musical instrument of choice found near the scene of the murdered band members was a saxophone, not a trombone; it was found thrown in a nearby swamp and there was certainly no evidence that it was used as a murder weapon.
Pierce proved to be a quirky director; his otherwise straightforward dramatics in The Legend of Boggy Creek were undercut by folk songs featuring some decidedly silly lyrics. The seemingly unintentional comic relief was one-upped by the extensive intentional comedy in The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Pierce cast himself as Patrolman A. C. Benson, nicknamed “Sparkplug” throughout the film and prone to wacky cop shenanigans, like dressing in drag for a sting operation to catch The Phantom Killer, and ineptly driving along country roads (scenes punctuated by unfortunate rib-poking ‘comedy’ music in the score by Jaime Mendosa-Nava). The juxtaposition of such scenes with the unflinching realism of The Phantom’s sadism makes for a jarring experience. The casting of one of the victim roles also held a surprise; the final crime shown is an unexpected home invasion and the target is a housewife played by Dawn Wells, well-known as the perky and wholesome “Mary Ann” from Sherwood Schwartz’s ubiquitous Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967) TV series. The filmmakers seem to take a rather perverse glee in showing Wells’ character shot in the face, bloodied, and crawling in a muddy cornfield for help.
Principal photography began on Monday, June 21, in the very hot summer of 1976 for about four weeks. Locations included Scott, Arkansas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Garland City, Arkansas, and Texarkana, Texas. The last scene filmed was the first attack, which was shot in front of Pierce’s home in Shreveport. About 19 Texarkana locals starred in the film along with several extras.
Pierce called Dawn Wells on July 8, 1976, to star in his film. She arrived by plane in Texarkana before noon the next day. She stayed in Texarkana for six days, but completed her scenes in the first two. While filming the cornfield scene, Wells was almost attacked by a bulldog, but the crew scared it away by shooting at it. Wells wanted to talk to the real-life survivor of her role, Katie Starks, but Katie refused. The Town That Dreaded Sundown was Wells’ fourth film and her second time working with Pierce. During her stay, she did not read the script; she relied on the director, instead. She said that was the way she wanted it. Wells explained, “Acting-wise, it’s an extremely emotional role. I didn’t want to pattern my interpretation after anything. I wanted to go on my own feelings.” Being shot was a new experience for the actress. “They planted a charge in the receiver, so I was standing there holding the phone, shaking, expecting the receiver to blow up in my face.”
Andrew Prine, who played Norman Ramsey, wrote the last fifth of the film because it had no ending. Both Ben Johnson and he were hung over while filming the train scene after partying the night before. During the rain scene with Ramsey, a snake made its way on the set. Crew members were yelling at Andrew that it was a moccasin, but Prine wanted to finish his scene without reshooting, so the crew killed the snake afterwards. The last shot of the film where the killer is seen standing in line at the movie theater was Pierce’s wife’s idea.
The beginning of the film states that the first attack occurred on Sunday, March 3. In real life, the attack happened on Friday, February 22nd. Jimmy Hollis (portrayed as “Sammy Fuller”) was not pulled out of the window. The girl, Mary Jeanne Larey (portrayed as “Linda Mae Jenkins”) was told to run. She was then chased down and sexually assaulted with the attacker’s gun. She soon escaped and received help at a house. In the film, the doctor claimed that she was bitten and chewed, but Mary Larey only had a cut on her head from being beaten.
The next attack in the film claims that it happened on Saturday, March 24; in 1946, March 24 was on a Sunday. In the film, “Howard Turner” and his girlfriend, “Emma Lou Cook”, were found dead outside of the vehicle. Emma Cook was shown tied to a tree with bite marks. In real life, both victims were found inside of the vehicle, shot to death. The character “Deputy Ramsey” was patrolling the area and found the bodies. Afterwards, he saw the Phantom getting into a car and leaving. On the real morning of March 24, a passing motorist spotted a car and found the bodies of Richard Griffin and Polly Ann Moore inside before calling the authorities. By the time the officers were on the scene, the killer was long gone.
The film states that locals soon started buying guns and locks, but this did not happen until two months later in May. The characters in the film then brought in Captain J.D. Morales of the Texas Rangers. Truthfully, “Lone Wolf” did not come to Texarkana until after the second double-murder near Spring Lake Park. The film has Morales naming the killer a phantom, but the naming of the killer did not come until after the murders in April, and by the executive editor of the Texarkana Gazette.
The film then shows a high school prom with the character “Peggy Loomis” playing a trombone. The officers were setting up decoys in an attempt to capture the Phantom. Betty Jo Booker, who played saxophone (not a trombone) was playing at a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) social event (not a prom), and officers did not set up decoys until after her friend Paul Martin and her murders. In the film, “Peggy” and “Roy” are a couple, but Booker and Martin were only friends in real life. Martin and she were shot to death, and her saxophone was missing for six months.
In the film, “Deputy Ramsey” collects the victim’s instrument as evidence.
In the film, “Helen Reed” sees the attacker before being shot. However, Katie Starks was shot through the same window as her husband and did not see her attacker until he tried crawling through the kitchen window. Mrs. Starks ran out of the house, but was not chased. At the end of the film, the officers chase the Phantom and shoot him in the leg, but the real Phantom was never chased or shot at all.
In February 1977, Texarkana city officials voted to file a lawsuit against the ad campaign. When city officials visited Washington, DC, they were kidded about the film’s tagline. Mayor Harvey Nelson explained: “The ad is too much; that’s just not true. There’s objection that this whole thing will be spreading fear in the community. There are relatives of the victims still living here, and this is very unpleasant to them.” Pierce worked with American International Pictures to remove the “still lurking” statement, but it remained on the posters.
In 1978, Mark Melton Moore, the brother of real-life victim Polly Ann Moore, took Pierce to court for $1.3 million for invading his privacy. He claimed his sister, who was portrayed as “Emma Lou Cook” in the film, was depicted “as a high school dropout and a woman with loose and low morals; when in fact none of such was true.” In real life, Polly Ann Moore graduated high school at the age of 16. The court denied his claim in 1979. Mr. Moore filed again in 1980 to the Texas Supreme Court. The Sixth Court of Civil Appeals in Texarkana agreed again that the film’s producers did not invade his privacy and that he was not entitled to any money.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown became another box-office winner for Pierce and is still a home video favorite; it’s even referenced in a line of dialogue in Wes Craven’s hit Scream. But instead of the G-rated spookiness of Legend of Boggy Creek, Pierce played horror hardball with Town. The R-rated flick features, among other scenes, a protracted and sadistic set piece involving the killer, a female victim and a trombone with a knife blade affixed to it. “It was a horrible situation, and I wasn’t going to play around with that,” he explains. “I was gonna show it for what it was. I’ve been accused of going a little too far off the deep end with that trombone scene, and it was right on the edge of going to the extreme. But it worked. When that picture played opening night in Texarkana, a lot of people were there who had grown up during that time. When that trombone scene was over, you could’ve heard a pin drop. I’m telling you, everybody was just frozen. So I knew it was workin’.
“When I was a boy and I played, I played hard, and when I make a film and I’m trying to create something scary. I’m gonna play hard,” he continues. “I just finished a little holiday movie called Renfroe’s Christmas (1997) which is so G that you would not believe it. And you look at that, and then look at Town That Dreaded Sundown, and you’d say, ‘No way it could be the same man’.”
One of Pierce’s trademarks is his use of himself and his friends and relatives in his movies; in Town, he essayed the role of a comic patrolman, while his then-wife, Cindy Butler, played the tortured woman on the other end of the trombone. “She’d never done a picture before, and I got her scared to death” he says gleefully. “When I shoot something like that, I build to the drama. I don’t even come out of the bus until the last minute. I don’t let anybody talk. I clear the set, with the exception of the ones who have to be there. I create that mood.
“Incidentally, Cindy and I are still very good friends.” he adds. “But I got remarried not too long ago, and the first thing my new wife said to me was, I’m not going to be in any damn movie!’ ’’
In general. Pierce has nothing but good memories of making of Town, particularly working with star Ben Johnson, who played the sheriff on the killer’s trail. “Ben was a joy,” he praises. “I later came back and did another picture with him, and he was very nice to work with. Town was a very easy shoot; I had no problems on that picture. Some of ’em you can get into and boy! I liked to kill myself on Winterhawk, weather, and problems with the horses. I almost never got that picture shot. But then one comes along that just goes so easy, like Town That Dreaded Sundown.”
After Town. Pierce traveled to Florida and shot The Norseman (1978), a Lee Majors Viking movie, and then went into his third reality-based horror effort The Evictors (1979). “I still say that’s one of my better pictures,” he says. “It didn’t do that well, and people may not even know what I’m talking about, but The Evictors is not a bad little picture. It’s well-shot, and it’s well-acted, with Michael Parks. Sue Ann Langdon, Vic Morrow. It’s the last picture Vic completed before he got killed (on the Twilight Zone movie set).
“I did something on The Evictors that as a filmmaker I was really proud of, and I don’t know if anybody else had ever done it or not,” he continues. “As a cinematographer. I love late-evening light. There’s no light in the world that can match it. So I took all the reflectors, set ’em outside that big old house where we were shooting, bounced the sunlight through the windows and lit the people sitting inside with late-evening light. And when I put those little old curtains up on the windows, and bounced that sunlight through that sheer white curtain over their faces man, it made an eerie, eerie glow.”
The most downbeat film in Pierce’s oeuvre (“I probably just didn’t have any other way to end it,” he laughs). The Evictors was inspired by a story in a true-detective magazine some- one handed the filmmaker one day. “It was about a family that lived back in Kansas or somewhere,” he remembers. “People were trying to evict ’em, and they had hidden in the cellar. The man had actually killed someone over it. So I just let my imagination go wild.” The resulting story has Parks and Jessica Harper playing new owners of a house where three former residents who refused eviction were supposedly killed by police, but a series of frightening events suggests they may not be dead after all.
“It didn’t do as well as I thought it would,” Pierce admits. “AlP wasn’t disappointed in it, because it made a little money. It didn’t make a lot, but it certainly didn’t lose any.”
Pierce’s next horror film and his last to date wasn’t a barn burner, either. But then again, he wasn’t too pumped about doing it in the first place. “AIP had been after me for years to make one more Boggy Creek, and I wanted to see if I could make more money out of it,” he laughs.
“But I really didn’t want to do Boggy Creek II. I think it’s probably my worst picture. This time, I spent almost as much on the creature suit as I did on the film itself. I brought in somebody who did prosthetics, and we did the face and the hands, so it looked fantastic from that viewpoint. But. I don’t know. I played too big a role in the picture, and I had too many of my friends in it. It’s all right, but it’s not one of my favorites.”
The sequel (advertised in some territories as The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek Part II) stars Pierce himself as an anthropologist who treks into the bayou with a trio of students (including Butler and his real-life son Chuck) in search of the rampaging creature. The climax finds the cast gathered at the house of a swamp dweller who has captured a baby monster, precipitating its parent’s mean streak. The film wasn’t even the first follow-up to Pierce’s original hit; that was Return to Boggy Creek (1977), which featured an early appearance by future Different Strokes star Dana Plato. “I was asked to do Return to Boggy Creek,” Pierce reveals, “and I did not want to do it. To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was too good. It was done by Tom Moore; everything (on the business side) was done above board, and everything was fine. Tom worked on several pictures with me. and he’s a very qualified person, but the movie just fell short. But I don’t think Boggy Creek II’s a good picture, so I’m not saying anything about his. or anyone else’s, that I won’t say about my own.”
There’s much more to this uniquely independent filmmaker’s story besides horror, of course, from his and Smith’s original story for the ultraviolent Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact (1983), starring his pal Clint Eastwood, to Renfroe’s Christmas (1997), his adaptation of the classic kids’ book. At this writing, he’s working on another Western, a mountain-man epic called Chasing the Wind, which he describes as “beautiful but rough. Clint would be proud of it.”
After wrapping that one, Pierce plans a return to Texarkana, and to the true-life tale that frightened him so much as a kid: Upcoming, he says, is a sequel to The Town That Dreaded Sundown. He prefers not to reveal the details of the new Town screenplay at this point. “But what happened there.” he promises slyly, “will make another good picture.”