Monday, October 6, 2014

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Bigfoot Double Feature

Sasquatch, The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)
This movie scared the poop out of me when I was a kid. Even now the Ape Canyon story and the ululating wail of the creature still cause a shiver.

 The 1970's were a really weird time in general, and Bigfoot seemed a part of that. He was everywhere on TV - a segment of In Search Of was devoted to him, there was a kids show called Bigfoot and Wildboy. He was even on The Six Million Dollar Man (where he was actually robot from outer space)!

Multiple movies also explored the Bigfoot legend and associated "ape men" stories from around the country. The Legend of Boggy Creek is probably the most famous of these (though you could make a case for that title going to Shriek of the Mutilated instead). Certainly the docu-drama format it pioneered was the inspiration for the two movies I watched for this theme weekend.

Sasquatch, TLoB was the only one of the Bigfoot movies that I can remember seeing as a kid, however. I'm not sure where or when that was - I almost think it must have been on HBO. Regardless, it made an impression.

The Medium
I watched this streaming on Amazon, mostly because I'd heard it was - if not exactly 'restored' - cleaned up and of a higher quality than you'd get on YouTube. I'm not sure if that's true, though, as it's a pretty poor quality video. That may just be down to source material, as it appears to be shot on 16mm (and in spots appears to have been shot on Super8 instead).

The Movie
Sasquatch ostensibly follows an expedition into the wilderness of British Columbia on a mission to track, capture and tag a Bigfoot. It's a long expedition and they bring along quite the cast of notable 70's characters, including The Skeptical Newsman, the Indian Tracker, the Wise Old Mountain Man and the Comic Relief Cook. All these roles are written and portrayed pretty large, but they're not completely awful.

The opening sequence sets the tone as we're shown a lot of footage of various animals in their naturals setting. Then the music gets menacing and we're treated to some POV shots of... something big moving through the forest. The animals are startled and flee before we finally see the shadow of something man-like at the edge of a mountain pond.

It's creepy, really it is!

That's actually the whole movie in a nutshell. Lots of nature shots followed by some vaguely menacing music and a sketchy look at the title monster.

For what it is - that being a 1970's low budget creature-feature disguised as a nature docu-drama - it's fairly effective. There are way too many nature shots and some obviously staged animal attacks, but there's also some good character moments, some creepy photography and one good musical cue. The monster itself is barely glimpsed, even in the final attack on the expedition camp - that's for the best, as it works quite well in tiny doses, but I get the impression it would not do so well in the full light of day.

The best parts of the movie are the two stories told about Bigfoot attacks in the past. There's a decent one about two trappers at a distant pond - and only one of them makes it out alive. The one about the Ape Canyon attack is the one that sticks in the mind, however. It's told by the Wise Old Mountain Man and relates the story of an attack on some miners in the area of Mt. St. Helens. It's portrayed in pretty tame terms, but it really left an impression on the young me and has some good jump scares. The wail of the Bigfoot is really showcased here and is pretty effective, even now.

The movie culminates in a remote valley where the crew sets up a technological barrier to track the bigfoot. Things go awry, of course, and the camp is assaulted by multiple creatures. It's frenetic and pretty dark, but effective.

The Bottom Line
Well, it's not quite as scary as I remember. It's not even really that good a movie - I don't think there IS a really good Bigfoot movie (let me know if you've seen something you think qualifies). That being said, there's still some fun to be had with the cheesiness of it all and the stories aren't bad.

And that wail. Gah.

The Legend of Bigfoot (1977)
"Whatta bunch of hogwash!"

This is another Bigfoot docudrama and in the big picture it's very similar to the earlier film. However, it's immensely boring and there's no tension to be had at all. And the voice over guy sounds like the animated DNA strand in Jurassic Park. I'd seen it once before, but it's been a long time and I thought, "it can't be as boring as I remember it being."

Well, yeah, it can.

The Medium
I saw this via The quality is atrocious, but about the same as YouTube. I've never seen this one for sale in DVD format, actually.

The Movie
The Legend of Bigfoot is a bunch of footage shot by a guy named Ivan Marx. He purports to be an animal tracker and filmmaker and is also the narrator. The film is supposedly a culmination of his 10 year research into Bigfoot.

There is a lot of nature footage. I mean A LOT. It's 95% of the film. Marx tries to connect Bigfoot to various blurry and dark shots of the woods, but there's not a lot of it. There ARE several shots of Bigfoot, but they're even less convincing than in Sasquatch, TLoB - and they're supposed to be actual footage! (That is always, somehow, far less clear and in focus than every other wildlife shot the guy makes.)

Tiptoe... through the tulips...

After the obligatory "I was a skeptic too" moments the narrator formulates a theory of Bigfoot migration by staring at a map full of dots (at least he didn't put a ruler on the map and connect them). He decides to follow the dots north and try and prove his theory.

After a long, boring trip in which the biggest piece of excitement is a sequence with glowing dots in the distance (supposedly Bigfoot's eyes - it looks like muppet, or maybe a distant car) Marx returns to a place near his house and proceeds to photograph some Bigfoots. Bigfeet? More than one Bigfoot, anyway. There's some moralizing about them being part of nature. I dunno - at a certain point I really stopped paying attention to the guy (especially when he'd grouse about all those 'scientists' and the people 'making money of my footage').

The Bottom Line
It's a terrible, slow, boring movie. Some of the wildlife photography might have been good for its time, but it's all blurry and faded now. Good if you need something to fall asleep to.

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