Charles B. Pierce’s “The Legend of Boggy Creek”: “You don’t have to believe any of this.”

By on May 16, 2016

In the early 70s, Charles B. Pierce’s directorial debut, The Legend of Boggy Creek — a murky, spooky docu-drama about a Bigfoot-like creature that stalked some of the local townsfolk in Fouke, Arkansas— was such huge box office smash due its popularity at drive-ins, despite the fact that it was rated “G,” that it spawned several sequels. It’s streaming now on our Night Flight Plus channel.


By the mid-60s, Pierce had worked both behind and in front of the camera: he worked as a weatherman and as “Mayor Chuckles,” host of a local children’s TV show in Shreveport, LA, and he would later work as an art director and set decorator in order to fund his future film projects (a random sampling of some of the movies he worked on include The Phantom Tollbooth, Dirty Dingus Magee, Coffy, The Outlaw Josie Wales, The Cheap Detective, and Roger Vadim’s first American movie Pretty Maids All in a Row, which we told you about here).


Pierce — who had grown up in Hampton, Arkansas, and as an adult lived in the nearby town of Texarkana — also ran an advertising agency, and it was in 1971 that he began to read in the local Texarkana Gazette and Daily News about a seven-foot tall reddish-brown beast-man creature that walked upright and smelled something awful, dubbed the “Fouke Monster,” which had been spotted in the Boggy Creek area in Miller County, Arkansas, near the town of Fouke.


The Fouke Monster had been sighted as far back as the 1940s, and was occasionally blamed for attacking dogs and livestock as well as harassing a couple of local families (there was at least one documented case of the beast attacking someone while they were taking a crap in an outhouse).

Pierce realized it was the perfect true-life story to base a mock documentary around, since he could patch together real and also faked-up interviews with local Fouke and Texarkana residents (playing themselves) who would help him tell his tale about the hairy man-like monster.

Pierce shot his film — originally called Tracking the Fouke Monster — on an older-model 16mm movie camera, with a very limited budget, estimated to be around $165,000 (some of it loaned to him by a local trucking company). He worked on it when he could, between jobs, adding scenes of mocked-up attacks and adding in creepy shrieks coming in the surrounding woods at night.


For added effect, Pierce has a voice-over narrator, “Vern Stierman” (it’s actually Pierce himself) ostensibly playing the part of a little boy, named Travis Crabtree, who we see in the opening moments of the movie, running across empty fields and stopping occasionally to glance back and make sure the creature isn’t following him, later telling the local men in the town that his mother was scared of a “Wildman” she’d seen lurking in the bogs near their family farm.


That narrator also shows up in the film’s final scene, and Stierman’s character — now a full-grown man — is walking through the dilapidated ruins of that same family farmhouse, wondering aloud if the Boggy Creek creature is “still watching me, even now.” He somberly adds: “You don’t have to believe any of this.”

There’s some occasional humor here, likely unintentional, which comes across in the horrifying eyewitness accounts of the people Pierce interviewed from these Arkansas locals (small town hicks, as well as police officers and hunters), all of them accompanied by dramatic recreations of their encounters, and talking in their thick southern accents while even occasionally hamming it up for the cameras (none of the cast never appeared in another film). Pierce used the interviews to also break up some the tension with home movie-style footage of the atmospheric and moody Boggy Creek.


Pierce originally couldn’t find distribution for his film (it runs 87-minutes), and so he took matters into his own hands again, premiering the film in an old Texarkana theater he rented in August 1972. Pierce began showing the movie regularly, and soon there were lines of moviegoers five blocks long lining up for tickets.


The Legend of Boggy Creek soon was picked up for distribution and went on to become a runaway low-budget smash hit, mostly due to its popularity at drive-in theaters and the fact that it was sought out by teenage couples who watched it while fogging up their car windows during heavy makeout sessions.

The movie went on to become one of the Top Ten highest grossing movies of the year, earning somewhere between $22-$25 million, making it the 11th highest grossing movie of 1972. According to Variety, the film earned $4.8 million in theatrical rentals in North America.

The original film also spawned several popular sequels. The first of these, Return to Boggy Creek, was released in 1977, directed by TV director Tom Moore and written by John David Woody and starring Dawn Wells (“Mary Ann” on TV’s “Gilligan’s Island”). Pierce himself returned to Boggy Creek with his own follow-up film, writing, directing and starring in Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II, which was re-titled Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues.


Pierce went on to direct nearly a dozen more movies, most notably The Town That Dreaded Sundown (distributed by AIP in 1976), which was also shot in a documentary style, investigating a real-life string of mysterious killings in Texarkana in 1946.

Pierce also directed Bootleggers (1974), The Evictors (1979), and Chasing The Wind (1998) amid a handful of westerns: Winterhawk (1975), Grayeagle (1977), Sacred Ground (1983), and Hawken’s Breed (1987, and starring Peter Fonda).


Charles B. Pierce, wearing a white T-shirt, with Lee Majors and hot model Susie Coelho on the set of the 1978 film The Norseman (American International Pictures/Photofest)

He also directed The Norseman (1978), which starred Lee Majors and model Susie Coelho (Sonny Bono’s former wife). He co-wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s Sudden Impact (1983), which featured the popular Eastwood character “Dirty Harry.” He’d become friends with Eastwood after moving to Carmel, California, a town that elected Eastwood to be its mayor in 1986.

Pierce died on March 5, 2010.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.