PLATTSBURGH — Be afraid...be very afraid because Champ’s cinematic cousin the Rhedosaurus is coming back to the big screen.
The first-ever Mayor’s Cup Movie Night will happen July 11 from 9:15 to 11 p.m. at the Newman Center.
“Thirty-seven years into their whole chronology, and they’ve never had an official movie night before, and so they recruited me for that because I’m basically the go-to guy for that,” said Andy MacDougall, former Press-Republican movie critic and film preservationist.
The event put on by MacDougall will show “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” in honor of the retired “Champ Day.”
“Champ Day” became a discontinued Port Henry annual event after 31 years of observing Lake Champlain’s oldest folklore, Champ.
"'Champ Day’ ended due to a lack of volunteers and participation,” Councilman Tim Garrison said. “It was sad to see it end, but it was not well attended.”
After the first of more than 300 documented encounters of Champ 405 years after Samuel de Champlain’s expedition, Champ was mostly seen in Port Henry’s Bulwagga Bay, a reason why “Champ Day,” created by chamber president Tim Bryant, came to be the first Saturday every August in Port Henry.
“It started out as something wonderful,” MacDougall said. “I guess I came along with this idea at the right time because the whole content needed to be reborn as something with a healthy respect.”
When MacDougall attended a press conference with the Mayor’s Cup Committee in March, he announced his plan of how to honor “Champ Day.” The committee liked his idea for two reasons: one, it was outside of the downtown Plattsburgh area, and two, it would tie into the annual regatta race.
Upon MacDougall’s collecting of old 16mm films, he came across a collection from a local senior citizen. Within that collection contained a small film of boating and beach-front footage from Coney Island, which will show after the main feature “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.”
“The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” is known as a 195 saurian spectacle that was selected not only for its Champ lore connection, but also for having godfathered a number of giant-monster action movies such as King Kong, Behemoth and Godzilla.
“Godzilla is a metaphor for the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that just wipes out Tokyo, and even though it’s interesting to watch, it’s an entirely one dimensional approach to the creature itself,” MacDougall said. “This dinosaur in this film is just kind of like this big, lost, orphan puppy that finds New York City where its original hunting ground is.
“They hold different dimensions of a giant monster on the lose that brings it closer to what Champ is.”
The black and white film was made entirely by “stop-motion” animation by Ray Harryhausen, who perfected the process. The movie takes place in the Hudson Valley region, neighboring the Champlain Valley with this beast that is released from the arctic by an atomic bomb testing blast.
As the beast starts making his way down, it destroys everything in its path until it reaches New York City, where it causes more destruction that leads to a dramatic ending, which will not be revealed until the movie showing.
“This film is very appropriate for the Champ recognition event because there are a lot of plot complications going on in the movie that mirror Champ folklore,” MacDougall said. “I thought this was the perfect movie for the occasion.”
To learn more about the event or the other events at the Mayor’s Cup, check out their website www.mayorscup.com. Also, to learn more about the history of “Champ Day,” check out Port Henry’s and Moriah’s website www.porthenrymoriah.com or stay tuned for another “Champ Day.”
“I believe the chamber president Tim Bryant is in the process of trying to recruit volunteers for a committee to restart ‘Champ Day’ in the near future,” Garrison said. “It is part of Port Henry, and I’m sure the chamber will be bringing it back better than ever.”
“Since we set up an office, we’ve been fielding more requests for information than we expected about Champ and Champ Day, and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect this level of interest,” Bryant said in an email. “With that being said, we had already made a decision to put Champ Day on hold until the area economy could recover.”