“Whatta bunch of hogwash!”
October 20th was the anniversary of the Patterson-Gimlin film – probably the most famous Bigfoot film in existence. Regardless of whether it was a hoax of not, the film had a huge impact on me as a kid, especially in relation to reruns of In Search of… and in particular the film Sasquatch, The Legend of Bigfoot. Those two artifacts of 1970’s pop-culture gave me a love of the weird and esoteric in my childhood and early teens, and I read everything I could find (which wasn’t much in Northern Maine) on cryptids, weird science and anything strange or unknown.
By college I’d pretty much forgotten all of that stuff, however, and had decided to focus on computers and communications in general. Then I took a documentary filmmaking class and one of the instructors turned out to be Loren Coleman.
If you’ve read anything about Bigfoot or cryptids in general, you probably know who he is. One of the foremost cryptozoologists and the founder and curator of the Cryptozoology museum. After discovering this fact, and that he wrote a column for a magazine called The Fortean Times, I renewed my interest in all things weird – or Fortean. And I quickly sought out my favorite Bigfoot related films from my childhood.
Not all of them held up, if I’m honest. In fact, most of them didn’t (though I still love a good episode of In Search of…), but there’s still something about Bigfoot (or Sasquatch if you’re being specific about large cryptids in the Northwest) that intrigues and fascinates and reminds me of how the 1970’s was just plain odd.
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 movies I watched this week.
The Legend of Boggy Creek is not currently available as part of any subscription, though it can be rented or purchased online. There IS a restored Blu-ray, so the online versions available may be from that master. Mine, alas, is not.
The Legend of Bigfoot is available for subs on Hoopla and free (with ads) on Vudu. It can be rented or purchased at the usual online vendors. Supposedly in HD the print is still very washed out and damaged. (Though much better than some versions on YouTube or Archive.org.) I don’t think there’s a Blu-ray available
Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot is available on Tubi for free (with ads). The only other option currently is a low-quality version on YouTube or a version in HD on Amazon for rent or purchase. There is a Blu-ray from Code Red that’s a double bill with Encounter with the Unknown, but good luck finding a reasonably priced copy.
The Legend of Boggy Creek
The Legend of Boggy Creek is the first and probably the best known of the 1970’s “hairy wild man” movies. It was imitated – in both style and substance – by The Legend of Bigfoot in 1975 and the (much better) Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot in 1977. It also spun off a series of sequels, which honestly seems hard to believe.
I’m sure I saw this movie on the couch at my Gram’s house. I didn’t remember much about it and had gotten some it mixed up with the previously mentioned Bigfoot movies. I DID remember the theme song, however. Something like that stays with you.
The Legend of Boggy Creek presents itself as a documentary about the “Fouke Monster” – a man-like creature that has supposedly been seen in and around the southwestern corner of Arkansas for decades. Through interviews and re-enactments, the film details encounters with and attacks by the creature over the course of several years. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say the monster is said to still stalk the “creeks” and swamps of Arkansas “to this day.”
I THINK The Legend of Boggy Creek is SUPPOSED to be scary. Certainly some of the scenes are constructed and shot in such a way that I think – in slightly more capable hands – you might achieve some modicum of suspense. Particularly a later sequence involving two families being harassed by the creature over a couple of nights. Unfortunately for the film (and me) the film is shot in such a slow, almost dispassionate way, that anything resembling tension is quickly undone by bad framing, acting, pacing, focus or sound. Often all of it at once.
And the weird, folksy way the narrator sets up each scene put me in mind less of horror movies and more of the old Disney True Life Adventures. Especially when describing some patriarch of the backwoods (with his missing toes and tree of bottles) or the endless sequences of the swamp – including poorly though out rack-focus shots. Hell, the narrator seems more excited about the inevitable manhunt because it includes “famous dogs from nearby states” than he does about the monster itself. (You know you’re in a rural area if you gotta import celebrity dogs for your manhunts.)
Then there’s the theme song. A twangy, folksy tune that reminds me, somehow, of songs from Rankin and Bass’ The Hobbit animated film. Here’s a sample stanza:
” Here the sulfur river flows,
Rising when the storm cloud blows.
And this is where the creature goes,
Safe within a world he knows.”
And we get to hear that song TWICE over the course of the film. As risible as that song is, it’s nothing compared to the song dedicated to the ‘swamp sage,’ Travis Crabtree (he of the bottle tree).
“Hey Travis Crabtree,
Wait a minute for me.
Let’s go back in the bottoms,
Back where the fish are bitin’,
Where all the world’s invitin’,
And nobody sees the flowers bloom but me.”
The Bottom Line
Somehow Boggy Creek became a major success and spawned no less than three follow up films (including one in 2011) AND a TV show in 2019. This was Charles B. Pierce’s first foray into movie making and he’d go on to make the much better The Town That Dreaded Sundown. For some folks this is a great, folksy horror film, but – while I like it better than the next film – it just doesn’t click for me.
The Legend of Bigfoot
This is another Bigfoot docudrama and in the big picture it’s very similar to the other two films in this triple feature. 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 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.)
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
The Legend of Bigfoot is 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.
Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot
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. Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot is the only one of the Bigfoot movies that I can actually remember seeing as a kid – that’s almost entirely due to that wail. Even my brother Jeff, who was probably a fetus when I first saw this, shudders when I mention it.
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.
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 are 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 it works in a very low-budget monster movie way.
The Bottom Line
Sasquatch: the Legend of Bigfoot isn’t 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 Bottom Bottom Line
There’s some low budget, cryptid enjoyment in these films, but your ability to find it will depend on how much shaky, low quality nature footage you’re willing to stomach. The Legend of Boggy Creek has some cheesy charms, The Legend of Bigfoot has none, but If you can only watch one 1970’s docudrama about hairy cryptids, I’d suggest my personal favorite – Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot.