Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1981)

(aka Croaked:  Frog Monster from Hell)

Wisconsin based filmmaker,  Bill Rebane, is probably best remembered (thanks to the efforts of MST3K) for the bungled mess Herschell Gordon Lewis made of his Monster a-Go Go and his later, more successful The Giant Spider Invasion.

In fact, if one accepts the flaws caused by his low budgets, his best films are reasonably well made B-movies, which take full advantage of the wild surroundings of the studio he built on his ranch.

While the titular creature here is a prehistoric frog man, this is basically a Bigfoot movie – and one of the better ones of the breed.

Which, I’ll admit, isn’t saying much.

At any rate, we’ve got a scientist investigating a fossil a young boy discovered on an isolated island, we’ve got a gang of loggers after the gold the legends say the Indians gave to their god Rana (yes, they used the French word for “frog” as its name) and a teen-aged girl in a swimsuit.  There are enough complications and secrets to keep it interesting and Bill keeps it all moving smoothly.

He keeps the creature in the shadows for most of the film and we never really get a good look at it (not even during the wraparound sequence featuring an older version of one of the main characters).  One suspects that this may have been a good idea, as the few glimpses we get of it don’t look particularly impressive, but it does make his creature much scarier than if we’d ever got a good look at it.

Trash film specialists, Troma films, would eventually get the rights and release this one under a particularly silly name, Croaked:  Frog Monster from Hell.  However, in true Troma style, they didn’t even bother changing the titles of the film, and merely slapped on the familiar Troma video logo.

This isn’t a great film by any means, but for a modest little film made for next to nothing in the middle of nowhere, it does manage to deliver its share of thrills and chills.

You could do a lot worse for a midnight movie.

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