Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weird Wednesdays: Bigfoot on the Big Screen


It’s safe to say that Bigfoot (or Sasquatch, if you prefer) was ubiquitous in the 1970s. Sightings of the supposed beast began decades prior, and the ‘Bigfoot’ name was coined in 1958 to describe the unusually large, human-like footprints found in logging areas in northern California. As a kid growing up in California in the 70s, I couldn’t remember a time when I hadn’t heard of Bigfoot. The legendary creature fueled many a nightmare, and made camping a real adventure! But the shaggy one’s popularity was never higher than in the 70s, when he was not only still sighted in the wilderness occasionally, but even more frequently on TV and movie screens around the country.

A number of documentaries were made on Bigfoot; the one that most readily springs to my mind was The Mysterious Monsters, hosted by actor Peter Graves, of the ultra-cool TV show Mission : Impossible. I actually saw this in a theater, and at the time, was quite terrified by it. Looking back now at clips of the film, courtesy of YouTube, I realize just how low-budget and schlocky it really was! How the seemingly-distinguished Mr. Graves got involved with this thing is the real mystery. Still, the flick had some great moments, like when our pal Bigfoot decides he’d like to hang out with a local cutie, and sends his hairy paw through a window for her!

Another Bigfoot film I saw in a theater was The Legend of Boggy Creek. OK, technically the creature in the film was not called “Bigfoot”, but it’s still about a big hairy weirdo who terrifies people, only these people live in the swamps of Arkansas (that’s kind of terrifying all by itself). My recollections are hazy, but I do know there were some young kids in this docu-drama (the littlest one was named T-Fish, which might make sense in Arkansas) and I know I empathized with them a lot, which is why I still remember this pathetic film. You really have to see this thing; it looked like it was made for about $3. I mean, was there no one with any money in the film industry who wanted to make a primo Bigfoot movie? Apparently, the answer is ‘no’.

In my judgment, TV probably did a slightly better job by Bigfoot than film. Of course, the most famous Bigfoot on TV has got to be the one from The Six Million Dollar Man. Well-known wrestler Andre the Giant, and later Ted Cassidy (aka Lurch from The Addams Family) both appeared as our hairy friend. Bigfoot’s story in the show was quite convoluted: he was a cyborg (or android) built by aliens! Of course, after initially fighting Steve Austin, Bigfoot became a good guy – well, most of the time. There were five episodes that featured Bigfoot in 1976-1977. Although both actors were impressively large, I always felt that facially, Bigfoot looked more like a freaky hippie than an ape-man.

Around the same time that ol’ BF was appearing in prime time, he was also stomping through the Saturday morning line up. Bigfoot and Wildboy was a segment of the Sid and Marty Kroft Supershow presented on ABC in 1976. It went off to become its own show in 1979. I’ll admit that I have no memory of seeing this show as a kid; but from what I’ve seen on YouTube and other places, I don’t think I missed anything. This Bigfoot seemed to have a very human-looking face – probably because they couldn’t afford any make-up or prosthetic appliances! Bigfoot finds and raises a young boy (‘Wildboy’) – I don’t even want to go any further with that. Actually, it sort of sounds like something Jack Kirby might have done; he did have Kamandi, and Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy. What a team-up that might have been –Bigfoot, Devil Dinosaur, Wildboy, and Moonboy. Get your popcorn ready!

Of course, any discussion of Bigfoot in the 70s would be incomplete if I did not bring up the most famous pseudo-Bigfoot of all time, Chewbacca. Sure, he’s a wookiee, and his face looks more like a dog than an ape, but come on: is there any doubt that Lucas wasn’t at least influenced by BF when he created Chewbacca? (Hmm, we could do a huge post on all the things that Lucas stole was influenced by when making Star Wars.) Chewie is a big, hairy powerful creature -sounds a lot like Bigfoot to me. Although I haven’t heard of many Bigfoots piloting spaceships. Then again, maybe that’s why no one can find them. I thought it was both appropriate and hilarious when I read that Peter Mayhew, the actor who plays Chewbacca, was worried that he would be mistaken for Bigfoot and shot while filming Return of the Jedi in the forests of northern California. That sort of brings it full circle!


Anonymous said...

There was also "Snowbeast" (1977), a TV movie about a Bigfoot-like creature terrorizing a Colorado ski resort, although I don't remember if it was ever called Bigfoot or Sasquatch; and "The Capture of Bigfoot" (1979), directed by Bill Rebane, aka the Ed Wood of the Midwest. The closest thing to a major "A" movie on the subject was probably "Harry and the Hendersons."

Edo Bosnar said...

Saw a link to this post in the "You might also like" section when scrolling through the page today, so I went and re-read it. We've actually discussed Bigfoot several times here as I recall, but for some reason I never left a comment here.
Anyway, I just love your theory about Bigfoot(s) flying spaceships to keep from being found. Excellent. In fact, I was thinking that maybe they're also some kind of benevolent, interstellar police force who chase down those pesky aliens that keep abducting people from trailer parks in the Midwest. Now I want to see a movie about that...

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