Monday, October 17, 2016

My Top Five Favorite Bigfoot Movies

It's kind of funny, but the topic of Bigfoot has been a life-long interest of mine since I was a little kid--pretty much as long as I remember.  Yet, I've somehow managed to avoid writing much about the subject here at Monster Dad.  I think I've always felt that I simply have TOO MUCH to say about it to really know just WHAT to write, or where to start.  Bigfoot has appeared numerous times around here, but mainly in supporting roles in posts like Bigfoot Sighting in Foxboro, MA, Review of Bobcat Goldthwaite's "Willow Creek", Bigfoots or Bigfeet?, Separated at Birth 2: Tim Tebow and Bigfoot, The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw, 2011 October Horror Challenge Recap (as well as many of the actual installments of that challenge), Movies My Sister Made Me Watch, The Horror That Is "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" , and An Absolutely Horrible Month.  So the topic of Bigfoot certainly has been raised on Monster Dad before, but I've so far avoided anything that really delved deeply into the subject.  There have been several posts floating around in my head all these years that I simply haven't been able to put down on paper (or type into the computer).  This is one of those posts.  I've wanted to write this for a long time, but never got around to it until now.  Why now?  Well, let's just say that there is a pretty direct reason for that.  More on that reason at the end of the post...

As I mentioned, I've been interested in Bigfoot (and all the other BHMs--or "Big Hairy Monsters"--around the world like Sasquatch and The Abominable Snowman or Yeti) for pretty much as long as I can remember.  And I don't recall just what (if anything) sparked that interest in the first place.  I remember going to the library to try to find books on the subject and being riveted by any movie or TV show about Bigfoot that would happen to show up on pre-cable TV back in the 1970s and early-80s.  This is a list of five of my favorite Bigfoot movies.  Note that I'm not saying that these are the "Best Bigfoot Movies of All Time".  Most of the ones I'm picking as my faves certainly wouldn't qualify as "good" movies, but they all have a lot of meaning to me personally.  First, let's give a little background on the subject of Bigfoot on film.

I believe that the first wave of Bigfoot-type movies were the Abominable Snowman films of the 1950s inspired by the discovery of huge footprints on Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.  There were a number of these films that really could probably be considered a genre unto themselves.  One of these films (and it's certainly not the "best" of them) makes my list.

For whatever reason (most likely having something to do with Roger Patterson's famous 1967 film footage of a large bipedal creature in Bluff Creek, California), Bigfoot movies really flourished in the 1970s.  I always refer to the 1970s as the "Golden Age of Bigfoot" (and have been meaning to write about that for years too).  The other four films on this list come from that period--and it's pretty tough to limit it to just four.  Many of the Bigfoot films from this time were actually documentaries, pseudo-documentaries or just felt like documentaries even if they weren't.

Over the past ten years or so Bigfoot-type creatures have really made a big comeback in movies.  As much as I was excited to see new Bigfoot flicks popping up in my local video store (when those still existed), I was almost always very disappointed in the films themselves.  They were nearly all straight-up horror movies with a Bigfoot-type creature taking on the part of the slasher or killer.  None of these movies appear on this list.  It might have more to do with my frame of mind (childhood) when I saw the old movies than any actual measure of quality, but I always tend to prefer older Bigfoot movies to newer ones.  That's a personal fact which might be helpful to know while reading this list.

There were some other films between the "Golden Age" of the 70s and the "Crappy Age" of the 2000s.  One of the few examples from the 1980s, "Harry and the Hendersons" (1987) would probably be at or near the top of my list if it was a list of "Best" rather than "Favorite" films.  I think it ranks up there with the best because, unlike most Bigfoot movies it was actually a real Hollywood movie with a real budget, real special effects and a real cast that included names like John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Don Ameche and M. Emmet Walsh.  This one holds a special place in my heart because it came out when I was in high school and I remember going to see it with my friends.  I couldn't believe that there was a real, honest-to-goodness movie about Bigfoot that we could go see in a real movie theater!  My only experience with Bigfoot movies up to that point was mainly with old, low-budget and often low-quality films and documentaries.  Despite the higher quality of "Harry and the Hendersons" and what it meant to me, it still doesn't make it into my top five.  So, I guess now it's time to see what those top five movies are, and just why they're my favorites.  For the most part this list is not in any particular order, with the exception of number one--which is indeed my favorite Bigfoot movie of all time!

Number Five: The Snow Creature (1954)

"The Snow Creature" was one of the wave of movies about the Abominable Snowman from the 1950s that I mentioned above.  True, some people might say that movies about the Abominable Snowman or Yeti don't count as "Bigfoot movies", but I do feel that these creatures are related--if not by genetics so much as by the nature of their respective legends and their elusiveness.  And
I should mention that I don't think "The Snow Creature" ranks as one of the "best" examples of an Abominable Snowman film.  Hammer's "The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas"--or simply "The Abominable Snowman" (1957), while similar, is probably superior in almost every way.  My reason for listing "The Snow Creature" so high is a very specific and personal one.  I found a VHS tape from Goodtimes Video that had a strange double feature of "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "The Show Creature" at Kmart in the mid-1980s.  This was a time when my little hometown didn't yet have cable TV.  It was a time WELL before the internet and streaming video and the capability of seeing pretty much whatever you want whenever you want.  To find a Bigfoot movie at a store (and on a tape that ALSO had a Godzilla movie too!) felt like one of the best things that had ever happened to me!  As I mentioned, I lived in a very small town.  Two of my best friends lived within walking distance of my house.  One Saturday I took my treasured videotape and went to visit one of them.  We planned on watching "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and enjoying the nostalgia of watching an old favorite from our (recent) youth while at the same time laughing at how downright kooky the movie is (even to a fifteen-year-old fan of Godzilla).  After the movie ended it was getting pretty late and I really should have said goodnight and headed home, but we decided to go ahead and watch "The Snow Creature" too.  The lateness of the hour seemed to add to the enjoyment of an otherwise low-quality film being watched on a low-quality VHS tape.  And there are a few moments of unintentional humor that we nearly died laughing over--and which we STILL laugh about over 30 years later!  It was a fun and lighthearted moment.  But, by the time I finally DID end up leaving my friend's house it was VERY late.  As I walked home on the quiet, dark night the humor and silliness of the movie suddenly turned into a somewhat scary moment fueled by the imagination of a teenager who had been interested in (and kind of scared of) all things Bigfoot for around ten years or more at that point.  I also haven't mentioned that the walk from my friend's house back to mine included a short jaunt through the woods at the end of a dead end street.  Where the street ended the streetlights that illuminated it also ended and I had to walk for a few minutes on a path through the dark woods that led to my house.  I was very familiar with that stretch of woods, but never enjoyed walking it in the dark.  So as you can see, my love of "The Snow Creature" has very little to do with its merit as a fine film and everything to do with the age I was when I saw it, the person I saw it with and the experience of finding such a silly film become much less silly when my surroundings became less friendly and well-lit.  Believe it or not, I actually still own that old VHS tape with the "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "The Snow Creature" double feature.  Of course I now have both of the films on DVD, but I don't plan on parting with that old tape any time soon.

My VHS tape of the "Godzilla vs. Meglon"/"The Snow Creature" double feature!

 Number Four: The Mysterious Monsters (1975)

"The Mysterious Monsters" was one of many somewhat interchangeable documentaries about Bigfoot and other monsters that were abundant in the 1970s.  Much of the science behind some of these films (as well as the similarly-themed show "in Search of..." that I also loved and which also covered Bigfoot, The Abominable Snowman, The Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, ghosts and all sorts of other strange phenomenon) was less than reliable, but the subject matter was all that mattered to me.  The fact that I was watching a "real" documentary about a monster that might itself be real was almost too much to bear and made these otherwise less-than-stellar productions much more riveting and suspenseful than most mainstream horror movies of the time for me.  While I'm putting "The Mysterious Monsters" at Number Four, there are probably a few others that could easily take its place there ("In Search of Bigfoot" (1976), "Bigfoot: Man or Beast" (1972), "Monsters! Mysteries or Myths?" (1974)...).  I suppose the reason for picking this one is because I was able to get it on DVD (not an "official" one of course) quite a few years back and was able to enjoy it again after many years.  I don't know if this one ranks higher than some of the others in quality or "scientific-ness", but it DOES have Peter Graves as its narrator, and that has to count for something.  It's also not solely about Bigfoot, as the plural "Monsters" of its title implies.  It also covers The Abominable Snowman and The Loch Ness Monster.  And, to top it all off, I actually own a genuine movie poster for this film!


I don't really have specific memories of this one from watching it as a kid, but I DO clearly remember how excited I was whenever I saw in TV Guide that there was going to be some old Bigfoot documentary on TV on a Sunday afternoon (regardless of which one it happened to be).  Another thing this one has going for it is that it features John Green, Peter Byrne and Grover Krantz, three of the Four Horsemen of Sasquatchery.  The fourth member of that club was Rene Dahinden.  I was familiar with all four of these Bigfoot researchers from books, newspaper articles and, of course, the documentaries.  Whenever a documentary had one, two, three or all four of these men together I just knew it was worth watching!

Number Three: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

"The Legend of Boggy Creek" has the feel of one of the documentaries listed above, but it's actually one of the hybrid documentary/dramas that the legend of Bigfoot (which itself seems kind of rooted in both reality and myth) lends itself to as subject matter.  This one is a classic of the Bigfoot film genre (if there's such a thing).  Like most of the other films on this list this one is a particular favorite more because of personal memories about it rather than because it's an actual "good" film.  I was only about three in 1972, so while I WAS around when it came out I didn't actually see it until years later when it was shown on TV.  It might be hard for kids of today to relate to, but back in the 80s when cable TV had not yet spread everywhere and there was no such thing as streaming video or movies on demand you actually had to know what was on TV and tune in when it was on--or risk not being able to see it again unless you happened to get lucky.  Before my family got our first VCR in the mid-80s I was completely at the mercy of what was on the small variety of Boston and Providence channels that our antenna could pick up at our home in southern Massachusetts.  When I saw that one of the UHF channels (WLVI Channel 56 in Boston) was going to be showing "The Legend of Boggy Creek" on a Friday night I just knew that I HAD to be around to watch it.  It was true must-see-TV!  It probably seems a bit odd to think of most of these movies as actually being scary, but whenever I was able to watch anything about Bigfoot (a movie, documentary, an episode of "in Search of...") I was ALWAYS scared.  I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the subject matter was something that maybe, possibly, potentially might be REAL!  Other monster movies could be scary, but usually they were accompanied by the comforting fact that "it's only a movie".  But as I watched these films my mind would always remind me that Bigfoot MIGHT actually be real.  That's why the re-enactments in "The Legend of Boggy Creek" so effectively creeped me out when I watched it for the first time that night.  "Boggy Creek" was successful enough that it spawned a number of official and unofficial sequels, including "Return to Boggy Creek" (1977) (which featured Dawn Wells and Dana Plato, one of the more "star-studded" Bigfoot movies until "Harry and the Hendersons") and "Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues" (1984) (which had the interesting use of the roman numeral II, even though this was the third Boggy Creek movie.  But I suppose that this one WAS directed by Charles B. Pierce, the director of the original).

 Number Two: Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)

"Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" was yet another of the 1970s documentary-style dramas that we've seen a lot already in the list.  Once again, that "realistic" aspect of the documentary style coupled with the potential that Bigfoot was real combined to scare the crap out of me as a kid.  This one took the direction of following a group of Bigfoot hunters/researchers into the woods to look for the creature (and ultimately find it of course).  Sprinkled throughout the story were some scary re-enactments of various Bigfoot encounters.  While none of these films on this list really qualify as "good" movies, this one might be the closest to actually being good that we've covered so far.  In addition to the fact that this one genuinely scared me as a kid, I also have to put it close to the top of the list because of my personal recollections of it.  This is the only one of these movies (and the only "true" Bigfoot movie from the "Golden Age" in general) that I actually saw in a theater.  My older sister brought my nephew and myself to see it, and it terrified me.  A couple of years later I remember being excited to see that it was going to be on TV.  Part of the legend of this movie (and what makes it unique and stand out from the crowd of 1970s Bigfoot films) is the fact that it became almost impossible to find for decades after its release.  After seeing it on TV that one time the movie receded into my mind.  I sort of forgot about it until I was looking around for all my old favorite Bigfoot movies (and others that I had never seen before) online in the mid-2000s.  Suddenly this kind of material was a lot easier to find.  If there wasn't an official release of a film, most likely someone had a bootleg copy or a rip from an old VHS tape that was put on a DVD.  There were a couple copies of an old VHS release of the movie on eBay, but they were selling for astronomical amounts.  After tons of fruitless searching all of a sudden I saw that Retromedia had released the Sasquatch Horror Triple Feature DVD.


Not only did this set have "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" on it, but it also had "The Snow Creature" and "Snow Beast" (1977) as well!  "Snow Beast" boasts one of the more "distinguished" casts of people you've at least heard of in a Bigfoot movie: Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux, Clint Walker.  I quickly picked up a copy of this set and all of a sudden had the ever-elusive (not unlike Bigfoot itself) "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" in my very own collection!  One final thing to mention about this movie is that it should NEVER be confused with the similarly-titled "The Legend of Bigfoot" (1975).  "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" is actually a pretty good and effective film in many ways (at least as far as Bigfoot movies go anyway), but "The Legend of Bigfoot" is pretty close to being unwatchable, and in fact is barely even about Bigfoot.  Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has just told you that some of his favorite movies include "The Snow Creature", "The Mysterious Monsters", "The Legend of Boggy Creek" and "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot".  That should tell you something!

Number One: Creature from Black Lake (1976)

So here we are, at number one.  As I said in the beginning, for the most part this list is in no particular order.  But "Creature from Black Lake" IS indeed my favorite Bigfoot movie of all time--and for many of the same reasons already listed for the other films.  Once again--and this has become quite the recurring theme here--"Creature from Black Lake" (not to be confused with "The Creature from The Black Lagoon") takes the documentary-style drama route seen in so many classic Bigfoot films.  It's the story of two college students who take a road trip to try to prove/disprove the existence of a large, hairy, man-like creature.  There's no real doubt that we're watching actors in a film, but the way they go about their business feels very familiar in a documentary kind of way.  And it also employs the use of re-enactments of past encounters with the creature, generally when characters are sharing their stories with the students.  I know that "Creature from Black Lake" doesn't rank up there with the greats of cinematic history in terms of acting, directing or pretty much anything else, but I do feel that it's probably one of the best made (along with "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot") Bigfoot films ever.  That might not seem like very high praise, but it really is meant to be!  This one also features another cast with some familiar names in it: Dub Taylor, Jack Elam and Dennis Fimple.  I didn't know who Dennis Fimple was when I saw the film as a kid, but he had a very distinctive look that I remembered when I saw him in other stuff later.  He plays one of the two leads.  But Jack Elam really steals the show as the local drunk who lost his trapping partner to the creature.  So, why does this film rise above all the others on my list?  Well, first off, I saw it as a kid on Boston-area TV.  Perhaps it wouldn't mean as much to me if I never got around to seeing it until I was an adult?  Second, I really do enjoy the road trip aspect of the film.  I like getting to know the two leads and following them through their adventures.  There's some good humorous moments with them.  Third, it has those creepy (to that young version of myself) re-enactments of Bigfoot encounters.  Fourth, there is a genuine creepiness and sense of suspense in many of the scenes.  And, fifth, the climax of the movie is surprisingly scary and violent.  It almost doesn't fit in with the rest of the movie, but really makes it a complete experience--it has interesting characters, adventure, humor, suspense and horror!  There's very little negative that I can say about this movie.

So that's my list of favorite Bigfoot movies.  Along with all the others that were touched on in the list there are many more that I enjoy and would recommend to any Bigfoot fan.  Some of these include "Half Human" (1955), "Man Beast" (1956), "Bigfoot" (1970) (a silly one with bikers and John Carradine!), "The Beauties and the Beast" (1974) (a softcore Bigfoot movie!),  "Shriek of the Mutilated" (1974), "Curse of Bigfoot" (1975) (a pretty bad film all around, but fun for its ineptness), "The Capture of Bigfoot" (1979), "Night of the Demon" (1980) and many more!

I was inspired to finally get around to writing this blog post by an upcoming event that I can hardly believe is actually happening.  The Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton, PA has been exclusively running retro drive-in programming for the past two seasons.  It's been an amazing thing to see some of the shows they've been putting on and some of the movies (most in 35mm) that they've been screening.  I only got to one show in 2015 (a double feature of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom").  I wasn't able to get to ANY of the great shows they put on this year, but the season isn't quite over yet.   They're running right through October and this weekend (October 21 and 22, 2016) they're putting on a show with frequent collaborator Exhumed Films that I never thought I'd see the likes of.  It's called Bigfoot Weekend and it will feature no less than SIX classic Bigfoot flicks (including some from my list) over the two nights!  And, supposedly Bigfoot himself is going to make an appearance and will be stalking the grounds during the show!  Here's the lineup:

Friday, October 21: "Shriek of the Mutilated", "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" and "In Search of Bigfoot"

Saturday, October 22: "Creature from Black Lake", "Boggy Creek II" and "The Legend of Bigfoot"

I can't wait for this awesome event and, if I manage to survive the weekend, will hopefully report back here with all the gruesome details!  Wish me luck!

Menaced by a Bigfoot spotted on the way
home from the Mahoning Drive-In last year!

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