Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SASQUATCH THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT 1977

Classic 70's Bigfoot-sploitation Mayhem !!


"The Incredible Story Of Seven Men Who Defied Death In A Primitive Wilderness Where 
No Man Had Gone Before.... And Survived To Tell The Story Of This Legendary Creature !"




     One of the almost countless Bigfoot themed movies that proliferated in the 1970's (and even into the 80's...) 1977's SASQUATCH that because of its "G" was one of those ones that seemed to constantly show up on late night TV and more recently has appeared in seemingly every one of those "Bigfoot" themed budget DVD collections.
     Sasquatch movies could go the the total exploitation route such as 1980's gore-fest NIGHT OF THE DEMON or the aptly titled BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST (which screams out for a legit release) in which Uschi Digard and her hippie friends are menaced by a peeping tom obsessed Bigfoot or go with the scientific/docu-drama plot such as here (the route that 1972's  THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK took and it was this film that become ground zero for the 70's Bigfoot phenomenon). Some such as 1976's CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE tried to combine a bit both the scientific and the drive-in exploitation atmosphere.
     Presenting itself as a narrated documentary style plot with the narration played out during the course of the film it purports to show an expedition to fictional Peckatoe River in British Columbia (actually filmed around Bend, OR.) in order the track down and electronically tag (!) the legendary creature.  Opening with a JAWS inspired POV shot as a heavily breathing large creature moves through the forest as the soundtrack plays ominously (which you'd think if John Williams would ever hear it would sent him scrambling to speed dial his lawyer). We're then treated to a hyperbole filled 60 Minutes- like prologue which gives us a brief history of  Bigfoot legend and lore which cumulates in the Patterson-Gimlin footage from 1967.



     Showing us the HQ of the impressively named "North American Wildlife Research Center" where expedition head (who also narrates the film) Chuck Evans (screenplay writer George Lauris) feeds all known data concerning Sasquatch into punch card computer where it magically spits out a line drawing in the exact same pose as the Patterson film and points to exact location in Canada where Bigfoot(s) are likely to be found !
     Heading up to"Canada" we're then introduced the rest of the expedition all of whom make up a bulls-eye of stock characters including the semi-hippie and Sasquatch scientist Dr. Paul Markham (William Emmons), noble and stoic Native American guide Techka Blackhawk (Joel Morello), a crusty curmudgeon old trapper Josh "Aloysius" (Ken Kenzie) - complete with his mule "Ted", serious & steel-eyed cowboy/ wrangler Hank Parshall (Steve Boergadine), bumbling cook (and comic relief) Barney Snipe (Jim Bradford) and skeptical NYC reporter Bob Vernon (Lou Salerni - who seems to be trying to imitate Jack Nicholson here). The cast is fascinating only for the fact that except for screenwriter/lead actor George Lauris this seems to be their only acting credit.
     On horseback the group begins their trek into the wilderness and for the next chunk of the plot we're shown panoramic views of mountainous wilderness and various Disney-like wildlife footage including grizzly bears fighting, nursing wolf cubs, ice sliding badgers and comic relief with cook Barney chasing a raccoon out his tent.
     In an attempt to ramp up the tension a bit (and remind us that we're not watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom) a cougar attacks the pack horses which is shot (of which the men ruefully agree "had to be done") and the whiny reporter from New "Yawk" gets mauled by a grizzly. They're two historical encounters with Sasquatch shown (as narrated by mountain-man Josh) including the 1924 attack on some miners and an 19th century encounter by a two trappers named Bauman and Jessep which was later recorded by Theodore Roosevelt in his book The Wilderness Hunter.




     At one point they make a crossing of the "dangerous Peckatoe River" and film's atmosphere attempts to draw the viewer in with a more ominous tone as Tecka intones ancient Native American legends and the group is beset by mysterious rockfalls, discover huge trees snapped off (which we're told is how the Sasquatch marks his territories) and the film cuts to pov shots of something peering through trees. Eventually entering a large valley which is their final destination they hear howling at night and discover large footprints. The group sets up an elaborate system of electric buzzers around the camp and soon the movie reaches the climax that we had all been waiting for - the hairy beast (albeit mostly in shadows) stalking through the nighttime camp causing much destruction and mayhem while tossing plastic rocks about.
     The sweeping vistas of mountain ranges and long shots of endless forested landscape give the film an almost epic-like grander that sets it apart from other genre efforts and although the travelogue footage drags a bit during the first 3/4 of the running time it does give the feeling of an actual journey with changing landscape into the remote wilderness with the anticipated climatic attack worth the wait (although full disclosure here - I'm a sucker for Bigfoot movies). The cast is likable if somewhat bland (especially in the case of lead George Lauris) with the broad stereotypes given each character sometimes invoking unintentional humor.
    The soundtrack is composed of gentle country rock style instrumentals (in keeping with the the mountain scenery and 70's feel hereabouts you keep expecting John Denver to pop in warbling away in the background) and it comes complete with a closing theme song ("There in God's country, he just wants to be left alone...")
     Long a murky DVD bargain bin staple SASQUATCH THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT recently got a Blu-ray release (Who'd a thunk it ?!?) from Code Red that contains a nice anamorphic print from 35mm with just a bit of wear and a few splices.
     The closing of the film invites theater attendees to pick up further Bigfoot information in the lobby and gives an address to send for additional material. Sign me up !









All Above Screen Caps Are From The Code Red Blu-Ray 



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