Monday, February 9, 2015

Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975)

... aka: Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell
... aka: La leyenda del lago de las sombras (The Legend of Shadow Lake)
... aka: Rana
... aka: Rana: The Creature from Shadow Lake

Directed by:
Bill Rebane

Eleven-year-old Kelly Morgan (Brad Ellingson) lives on a desolate and almost completely uninhabited island called Rana with his rancher father John (Alan Ross). The boy finds a strange fossil / bone fragment, sends it off to a local university where it's revealed to be 125 million years old and soon enough the two have a few visitors. Paleontologist Dr. Eleanor "Elli" Hatley (Karen McDiarmind) and her teenage niece Susan (Julie Wheaton) set up camp and start poking around and a trio of men claiming to work for a logging company but are actually treasure hunters who've gotten wind there's a possible goldmine there also show up. None of that sits well with the island's only other full-time inhabitant; an old, territorial, crazed "half Indian" trapper named Charlie (co-writer / producer Jerry Gregoris). The island is situated on the legendary Shadow Lake, which is steeped in Indian legend about curses, monsters and a hidden treasure and has uncommonly warm temperatures year round. The lake also doesn't appear to have any bottom to it... at least not one anyone's been able to reach yet.

Unbeknownst to Dr. Hatley, a colleague of hers has already beaten her there and been killed by an upright-walking lizard creature that lurks in the lake, which will claim many more victims by the time all is said and done. A delirious Charlie screws his head on long enough to explain the legend to everyone. A long, long time ago an Indian tribe who lived there found themselves starving and unable to catch game or fish... that is until a hunter found a "yellow pebble" and tossed it into the lake. Soon after the forests and waters came to life and everyone was eating well. As it turns out, in these parts if you make an offering of gold to the half-man, half-amphibian "frog people" living in the lake, things are fine and dandy. If not, well... You can probably guess the rest. The entire story is told in partially-narrated flashback-form as a now-grown Kelly (Glenn Scherer) and his wife Chris (Doreen Moze) make a return trip to the cursed island for a reason we won't discover until the end.

Rana is your typical ultra-low-budget Rebane offering filmed entirely in his home turf of Wisconsin. Like nearly everything else this guy made, it's extremely cheap-looking, amateurishly acted and written, talky, slow-paced, mild on the exploitation elements (there's hardly even any profanity) and poorly-made right across the board. These movies do benefit a little from their sincerity and regional charm but those aspects are never quite enough to overcome all the other issues at hand, including an insufferable amount of boring filler used to pad out the first hour or so. The only things I really liked about this one was the fact certain characters I didn't expect to die did and the wrap- around does lead somewhere pretty cool. However, just making it that far is a true test of will and most people aren't gonna care by that point.

The creature in this one is an awful-looking Creature from the Black Lagoon-style man-in-a-suit monster (designed by Tom Schwartz) that's not even seen until the very end, and even then it's difficult to really make out. There's not much in the way of violence either. Several people are stabbed with a harpoon arrow, a face is smashed against a tree and the monster gets a few of its fingers chopped off with an axe, but other than that it's pretty dry. I do love the fact Rebane tends to give top- billing to the "actors" inhabiting the monster suits in his films, like the "Rana" here (played by Paul Callaway and Richard Lange) and the "Arak" in his The Capture of Bigfoot (1979). This was also a family production and there's something charming about that, too. His wife, Barbara J. Rebane. was the first assistant director, assistant editor and production manager. Alan Rebane (his brother?) was the second assistant director and gaffer and there are costumes by Jutta Boettcher, who is probably the Jutta Rebane credited in many of these other films. Bill not only directed but also produced, edited and partially shot it (using the alias "Ito" for the latter). The associate producer was actress Cheri Caffaro (then known for the Ginger drive-in films).

After the initial VHS release from Active Home Video, this was acquired by Troma, who did their usual schlock re-title job and started calling it Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell so that people would want to watch it. Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman has called it one of the five worst films Troma has ever distributed. I don't agree. Sure, it's bad alright, but it's not nearly as bad as many other films in the Troma catalogue.



Unknown said...

Doreen Moze looks smoking hot in her skintight rubber wetsuit, flippers & scuba gear at the end of the film, especially in the cave with her wetsuit unzipped, naked underneath it & revealing a few glimpses of her boobs!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Too bad the quality is so awful any of that is hard appreciate, eh?

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