Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake

I never expected to review two Bill Rebane movies. A few months back, I tackled Blood Harvest, a slasher boasting a greasepainted Tiny Tim. It was strangely entertaining. I'm finding that the same could be said for the extant oeuvre of Mr. Rebane. Here is a filmmaker whose most celebrated masterstroke was japed and dotingly lampooned by a bevy of goofballs trapped aboard the Satellite of Love. Of course, I'm referring to The Giant Spider Invasion, which gave way to one of the funniest episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ("Cow tipping gone horribly wrong."). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that 1975's Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake served up competent acting and solid special effects on top of schlock appeal...well, in relative terms.

If you haven't built up an immunity to low-budget drive-in b-flicks (or hyphens), you won't take anything away from this froggy fright fest. It can only be recommended to the stalwart masochists among us. Even then, there is no guarantee that you'll enjoy Rana. It takes its sweet time assembling a cohesive plot. Relayed via flashbacks, the script sees a team of paleontologists pay a visit to a remote island where unusual fossils were excavated. Our narrator, a boy of eleven years, also informs the viewer of a group of loggers that he couldn't have possibly known about. At any rate, these grizzled, edacious lumberjack-offs are in search of treasure, treasure that may or may not be guarded by a frog monster.

That's right, kids; we've got a frog monster on our hands. I don't care what anyone says. Rana is superior to both Frogs and The Maze. At least this amphibious clambake (???) has an actual monster to offer. Granted, we don't get an eyeful of the rubber suit until the third act, but I'm a sucker for half-baked mutant miscreants. The first 45 minutes did test my patience. Everything lollygags at a torpid pace, and like I said, the titular pollywog is a no-show for far too long. NOTE TO SELF: Name your first-born Lollygag Pollywog. But at a certain juncture, something weird happened. I became intrigued. I started to warm up to the main characters, although they weren't exactly three-dimensional. Basically, I wanted to know how the story was going to end.

Considering that Rana was shot for pennies in the gallbladder of America (Wisconsin), that's an impressive feat. In my opinion, the cast is above average. I realize that I'm in the minority, but there is a decent amount of z-grade carnage for those who simply crave mindless beguilement. The shots of the webbed wrongdoer carrying a buxom blonde through an acreage of murky timber is straight out of a Universal classic. Heh, I have a feeling that I'm alone in digging Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake, but that's fine by me. This shit is an acquired taste. Troma released it on DVD as Croaked: Frog Monster From Hell, and I almost bought it. But then I would be missing out on the badass VHS artwork. No, thanks!

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