Friday, June 4, 2021


Directed by Bill Rebane
Brentwood DVD
It was back in 1982. My cousin, Kris, and I sat down with a tape recorder and a 60-minute tape…and the dream of comedy. We grabbed one of those Power Records book and record read-a-long deals for “Winnie The Pooh And The Blustery Day”. We turned on the recorder and started reading and goofing. “Winnie the Pooh-Pooh and the Blustered-Up Day!” We goofed like this for five minutes and turned the recorder off. When we listened to it, we realized that this was the funniest five minutes of anything ever recorded in the world.
So, we grabbed a couple more books and records and goofed it up! I remember there was a Disney’s Robin Hood and Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. In the end, we had about fifteen minutes of brilliance. Then, my cousin had to go home. I kept the tape and listened again and again. The next time she came over, we would do some more.
After several months of recording little bits here and there, we had all but the final 15 minutes of the tape filled up. Kris was no longer interested in “D & K Makes Fun of Books” (that was the title we thought up). I wanted that 60 minutes loaded. So, we grabbed a fat little book with an illustration on every other page. It was a Hulk story — “Lost In Time”. We started reading and goofed until the tape ended. Finally…
Kris would do no more. But, I didn’t care. We had 60 minutes of brilliance. Pure comedy genius.
Several months later, I started listening to it very intently and decided that certain jokes could be better. So, I started inserting new jokes over the old jokes. So, on average, once every two minutes, everything would pause and jump and I would say something “funny” and then we would return to the regular show. In the end, this wasn’t always the best idea.
So, what did I have?
A 60 minute tape filled with about 8 different parodies of books we had lying around that were recorded over about three months and overdubbed with new jokes later. I hadn’t thought about “D & K Makes Fun of Books” for years. For some reason, Rana: The Legend Of Shadow Lake brought it all flooding back.
At a very pretty lake in Wisconsin, a man tells a woman the story of his father, himself and some other folks who fought the legendary Rana! (Monster of the lake!) years ago. Most of the movie is a flashback to several groups of people trying to avoid one another and the strange half-frog/half-man monster guarding the treasure that is buried somewhere in the lake. There is the father (a forest ranger), his son, the paleontologist lady who is up to something and her niece. There is a group of “loggers” who never do anything but goof around and bug everyone else. There is an old coot with a strange series of facial expression who knows all about the legends. There is another paleontologist named Sorenson who dies pretty quick. One by one, the monster picks everyone off. In the last six or seven minutes, the flashback ends and the man and woman go looking for the treasure themselves.
In some of Bill Rebane’s films, the fact that nothing is happening becomes a virtue (Invasion From Inner Earth). In Rana, not so much. Folks chatter and then wander around. Someone gets attacked. Folks wander around some more. The viewer starts to guess which group we might cut to next. Most of the time you won’t be wrong. By an hour in, I discovered that, even thought the plot is very basic, I had lost all the connections that the characters had with one another. I’d forgotten why anyone was doing anything and just watched.
I enjoy Bill Rebane films. But, this one drives me a little goofy. There’s no narrative drive and it feels like the framing stuff is from the 80s and the rest is from the late 70s. I have no idea if this is true but that’s what it feels like. And, do you know what part of the framing scenes made me think it was the 80s? The woman’s bathrobe. She wears a big, blue bathrobe showing off her legs and, for some reason, I thought “This is the 80s!” I don’t quite know why.
Bill certainly knows how to put people in front of the camera. But, there just aren’t enough bits in this film that stand out to make it anything more than an evening’s viewing for a Rebaneist (a Bill Rebane completist). Regardless, I will say that one moment in the film made me laugh out loud at the “100% Pure Rebane-ness” of it all.
The man is randomly narrating the story. When it starts, he is seen facing the woman. They were sitting in chairs in front of the fireplace. The story is told. We see the events occurring. The man’s voice crops up every once in a while. Then, we return to the cabin…and the man and the woman are on the floor making out.
There’s no jump in the story. It just fades from the story to the making out. “Seduction Through Deliberately Paced Flashback!” Just the thought that, as the man told the story, he slowly moved her onto the floor and continued saying things like “The old trapper had a face twisted from a hunting accident long ago” as he was kissing her and trying to reach under her bathrobe makes me laugh. And, it’s pure Rebane. You throw in a touch of titillation whenever you can even if it doesn’t make much sense. This is why I love the films of Bill Rebane.
If Mr. Rebane made 60-minute films, his oeuvre would be one of the best. Unfortunately, each film has to hit 90 minutes. And, you can tell there’s some struggling going on. Folks run around in circles and stretch and stretch the time. Sometimes this works for his films. For Rana, it doesn’t quite. Which is too bad because the woods and the lake are awesome.
I saw it as part of the “Toxie’s Triple Terror Volume 3”, where it appears as Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell. It looks and sounds like a decent VHS circa 1984. The occasional line of dialogue here and there is a bit muffled but you’ll never miss much.
Well, the Toxie set does have two other movies. They’re worth watching once-or-twice. Video Demons Do Psychotown and the utterly wonderful The Hungan. Watch the latter again and again.
I had a hell of a time engaging with Rana, although I’ve watched it twice now. If you need to see all of Bill Rebane’s films or anything about monsters in the water, watch it. If not, give me a call. You can help me look for my “D & K Makes Fun of Books” tape. It’s around here somewhere.

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