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Monday, March 8, 2010

CHARLES B. PIERCE, 1938-2010: The Filmmaker is Gone, But the Legend Lives On

Pioneer indy filmmaker Charles B. Pierce, who gave us some of the scariest and most popular homegrown horror flicks of all time, passed away in Dover, Tennessee on March 5th at the age of 71.

Pierce started making independent films in the 1970s while working as an advertising salesman in Texarkana, Arkansas, where he also hosted his own popular local children's TV show, "The Laff-a-Lot Club", as Mayor Chuckles. Working as a set decorator on such films as DILLINGER, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, and many others, he hit the big time in 1972 as producer-cinematographer-director of the now-classic THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK. This dark, semi-documentary-style tale of an elusive sasquatch known as "The Fouke Monster" roaming the backwoods of Arkansas scared the wits out of audiences to the tune of $20 million.

Later, in 1977, Pierce produced and directed another fact-based chiller, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, about a hooded serial killer who held 1940s Texarkana in a grip of fear as he struck at random and eluded capture. This film, which many who viewed it at the time still recall with a shiver, proved influential and predated such blockbuster slasher films as HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET by several years. Pierce himself can be seen in a cameo role as a bumbling deputy.

Other films directed by Pierce over the years include WINTERHAWK, BOOTLEGGERS, THE EVICTORS, and the sequel BOGGY CREEK II: AND THE LEGEND CONTINUES, which inspired a popular episode of MST3K. Among his screenwriting credits are the "Dirty Harry" sequel SUDDEN IMPACT, in which he gave us Clint Eastwood's immortal line: "Go ahead, punk...make my day."

Daniel Myrick, director of the cult classic THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, told the Tulsa World newspaper of Pierce's influence over him in 1999: "We just wanted to make a movie that tapped into the primal fear generated by the fact-or-fiction format, like 'Legend of Boggy Creek.' That was one of my favorites; it freaked me out when I was a little kid. I was beside myself with fear for weeks after seeing that thing."

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