Creature feature fans may soon swamp the Texas Theatre. It’s been nearly five decades since indie filmmaker Charles B. Pierce brought The Legend of Boggy Creek to life on the big screen. Now, a remaster of the documentary-style, cult classic is making its way back to Dallas.
“I’m thrilled it will be at the historic Texas Theatre,” says Pamula Pierce Barcelou of the film directed by her late father. “It’s the same original film from ’72. It’s just back to the way it was created to be seen.”
Screenings will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, and at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd.
“I spent several years looking for a good print,” Pierce Barcelou says. “We found it, fully restored and remastered it back into Techniscope wide-angle format, and now we have that color [and audio] back.”
She was a third-grader when Pierce recruited her to play one of Bessie Smith’s children in the film she says he created based on firsthand accounts of “life-altering encounters from God-fearing people,” as well as newspaper clippings, describing something tall and hairy that roved around Fouke, Arkansas, a small town 11 miles southeast of Texarkana.
“My dad goes out in the swamp with, like, nine high school guys, and they shoot [the scenes] kind of guerrilla style,” she says, adding “My father loved to scare me. And it wasn’t just me. My father loved to scare people. He liked to test out things. I spent most of my youth terrified.”
Texas Theatre calls The Legend of Boggy Creek one of the most successful, groundbreaking independent films of all time. It was among 1972’s top 10 highest-grossing films. According to online film database IMDb, Pierce directed 13 films during his career, including a 1976 slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
“I was actually more afraid of the phantom killer [in The Town That Dreaded Sundown] than I was the Fouke monster,” recalls Pierce Barcelou, now 57. “We lived in Texarkana, in the town, and so I knew there weren’t any Bigfoots going to be coming and trying to get in. Now, if I’d lived in the country, it would have probably scared me.”
Pierce did not own copyrights to The Legend of Boggy Creek, but his daughter says she’s since been assigned them by Steve Ledwell, whose father, L.W. Ledwell, helped finance the movie. In addition, she has original artwork from the film, which was created by Ralph McQuarrie, an artist who later created illustrations for the original Star Wars. Pierce Barcelou says she bought the artwork from monster-chasing author Lyle Blackburn, who’s written several books about Bigfoot legends and will be on hand during the Texas Theatre screenings.
“The Legend of Boggy Creek was very influential to both Lyle Blackburn and myself,” says Craig Woolheater, co-founder of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center.
The remastered film premiered last year at the Perot Theatre in Texarkana the weekend of June 16, which is Pierce’s birthday.
“People came from all over the country,” Pierce Barcelou says, adding that it’s since screened in places like Shreveport, Philadelphia, Miami and Brooklyn.
Recalling the ups, downs and expense involved with remastering the film, she remembers first buying the film on eBay. It turned out to be too expensive to restore, but another was located at the British Film Institute. Then, there was concern about the film credits being out of focus. Pierce Barcelou says her father meant for things to be fuzzy, like an unsolved mystery.
“Then, you’re dealing with artistic expression,” she says.
The film was restored by the George Eastman Museum in New York and Audio Mechanics in California. And Pierce Barcelou says the sound of the actual vocalization of the Fouke monster is something that can’t be faked. Whether man, myth or monster, the narrator of the G-rated film says, “The creature, whatever it is, emits one of the most terrifying sounds ever recorded.”
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Although she appeared in numerous films by her father and had moved to California briefly while in her 20s, she says Pierce didn’t want her to become an actress.
“If I were doing something in film, I needed to be working for him,” she says. “He was very protective, my father.”
Now, after raising five children, she says she feels like she’s “being thrown in at the deep end” of destiny.
“It feels like every single thing prior to this led to this point,” she says. “The Legend of Boggy Creek brings people joy, as crazy as that sounds.”