Stop motion animator Dave Allen eventually found his professional groove, and he should have. While he was mostly stuck with no-budget schlock like Flesh Gordon and this clunker, The Crater Lake Monster, there’s some obviously talented hands manipulating those miniature puppets, stunted screen time or not.
He would deliver effects for Ghostbusters II, The Arrival, and a few other major studio pieces, but Crater Lake was one of his first. All of his animation of a killer, long dormant plesiosaur is sandwiched between some hilariously clunky dialogue, a completely random liquor store robbery (from a character who never actually says a word), and the comic relief that might be one of the biggest wastes of screen time ever.
It’s all there to disguise a complete lack of funds behind this thing, the practically immobile, full size puppet dinosaur prop even sitting in to further push the need for stop motion aside. Crater Lake sits in that late ’70s genre of, “don’t go near the water,” which for some reason seemed awfully prominent back then… maybe some day we’ll figure out why. Theories say it has something to do with a movie about a giant shark, but that almost seems too ridiculous to be true.
Anyway, Crater Lake is by no means a bad movie genre classic, or even that memorable. Without Allen’s hands on the puppet, it probably wouldn’t even garner a mention anymore. Any movie that takes this much patience to sit through generally doesn’t receive much of any credit, but that shows the power of what stop motion is capable of when done right. That, and the manipulative poster art that clearly shows a T-Rex rising from the fog is memorable for its blatant false advertising.
Mill Creek issues Crater Lake on a shared disc with Galaxina, cramming two films (both encoded with AVC) and four total uncompressed audio tracks onto a BD-25. Crater Lake is presented in 1080i, possibly to save space or some other reason not specified.
The compression, well, it’s readily apparent. The codec regularly drops into single digits, the image swarming with artifacts that are worse than YouTube in spots. When it sits at a typical, competent enough level for Blu-ray, there’s a pleasing grain structure at work, possibly a bit heightened due a minimal layer of sharpening that doesn’t leave much of any signs of its presence.
Source material here is adequate enough, the damage generally light. Minor specks, scratches, and other imperfections are acceptable given the age and the fact that no one in their right mind would perform a full restoration. Some frames show significant splotches, especially the double printed matte effects for the stop motion.
Despite this, detail is surprisingly high, the shots of the creature model well defined with all sorts of bumps and skin wrinkles completely visible. The same goes for the human characters, close-ups outstanding at times in resolving pores, beards, and other facial features. Static shots of the forested areas present all of the trees, light waves of the water, and rolling hills with excellent definition.
Colors take a few steps above natural, flesh tones appearing lightly pink-tinged. Primaries, especially the generic red/blue plaid worn by the comedy duo are particularly bold. Black levels are firm and consistent. A shred of aliasing tends to run along the fine lines of the vehicles, the only visible fault that could probably be sourced to the 1080i presentation.
There’s an interesting quirk with the audio presentation, or maybe the “quirk” is more of a quality control thing. There are two uncompressed 2.0 mono mixes here, DTS-HD and PCM, both identical aside from the DTS-HD being locked at 0.1 Mbps higher in the bitrate category (which is odd). There’s a third track available too, a Dolby Digital affair… except that it’s actually the audio for Galaxina. In other words, if you’re the one person on the planet who was forever looking for a way to watch Crater Lake Monster with Galaxina’s cheap knock-off audio effects, Mill Creek has done you a favor.
It’s doubtful you’d want to listen to Crater Lake compressed anyway; the uncompressed stuff is fairly hideous on its own. You know you’re in trouble when the dialogue outdoors is just as hollow, strained, and echo-y as the stuff inside a mineshaft. Fidelity is a loose term here, the track containing a few minor transitional pops and mild echo.
The score, which is about as hilarious as the movie at times, strains to present the high notes for the kooky comedy scenes. It’s amazing that is even holds together. The whole thing is muddy, saddled into a mid-range where it can never escape from. Sound mixing is fairly dreadful at the source anyway, while the years of wear and tear simply destroyed it further.
There are no extras here as clicking on the movie selection on the main menu boots the film right up.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Note on the screen shots: Some of these show an obvious level of interlacing within the images. This is not something that was seen during the review process. There seems to be an issue with how the software handles 1080i material. Everything else, from the compression to the detail, is accurate however.