Image Entertainment // 1997 // 352 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // August 10th, 2006
I saw the little creature!
Growing up in the early '70s, teenagers were obsessed with three main things -- and no, it wasn't sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (or their country equivalent, cigarettes, whisky, and wild, wild women). No, thanks to the supbar Sun Classic Pictures and their urban legend-oriented output, we addled adolescents were constantly on the lookout for ancient astronauts (read: aliens from another world), the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie, to her friends and familiars), and a certain hairy ape-man known as Bigfoot. After weeding through our paperback version of Chariots of the Gods and silently sitting by as Rod Serling narrated another exciting exposé on the proof of such post-modern myths, we put on our best Me Decade thinking caps and proceeded to ponder the possibilities. Typically, topics would veer from extraterrestrials with bad timing and some Scottish sea serpent to the only "Amurican" monster we could get behind. For anyone living near a possible Sasquatch stomping ground, the beast represented an intriguing element of the idle wild landscape. While some tried to politicize the creature, using the then- current call to environmentalism to make the smelly manimal the poster "it" for ecology, the truth was far more telling. For many, Bigfoot was a campfire tale come to life, and it wasn't long before Hollywood (and its hack hangers-on) gave us what we wanted. Representing three prime examples of '70s schlock (and one late '90s throwback), the Bigfoot Terror Collection offers excellent examples of how the Yeti was used to pad out even the most oddball cinematic contribution. As a sampler, it's sensational. As examples of entertainment, well ...
One DVD, four films, two sides of silly Sasquatch goodness. With the title character acting as the only link between the films, we get divergent plots and even more uneven production values. From straight-ahead horror to a pseudo-serious mock-documentary, this queer quartet provides more unintentional laughs and downright dopiness than a special ed class. Individually, each one attempts to meld nature with narrative to turn our heroic hairy homunculus into a fiendish, foul presence. Sadly, the only thing frightening here is how bad most of the filmmaking is. Still, the aroma of skunk ape cheese is strong, and may just satisfy those of us who are avid bad movie mavens. Let's look at each plot individually to see how Bigfoot is being bent to match some moviemaker's misguided ideas. We begin with:
Search for the Beast (1997)
When his son suffers a clear case of skunk-ape coitus interruptus, an Alabama bigwig hires Dr. David Stone to find the fiend's whereabouts. The only catch is that Stone must bring along the boss man's hired goons, each one packing multiple firearms. To make matters worse, the waif-like Wendy, whose voice sounds like she swallowed some chipmunks, is determined to be the only skirt amongst this corrupt company of hefty hitmen. Naturally, there is an ulterior motive to this weird woodland outing. The chief doesn't want just revenge -- he's looking for a little revenue as well.
The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)
Ivan Marx is a well known adventurer and explorer, kind of like Ross Allen without the homicidal rage toward critters. Angry at all the "so-called experts" who don't believe in the existence of Bigfoot, he decides to track the creature using his own foolproof (or is it crackpot) theory about the beast's migratory patterns. As he moves up the Pacific toward Alaska, he runs into all manner of hearsay and speculation. Yet Marx knows the only way to shut up the scholars is to provide actual film footage of the hairy humanoid -- and that's just what he intends to do.
Shriek of the Mutilated (1974)
Another fine Northern New York day, another University sponsored expedition into the woods to look for Yetis. The decidedly fey Dr. Ernst Prell gets several undergraduates to go on a weekend trek into the forest to find proof of the Abominable Snowman. When they arrive, however, they realize that there is something strangely homoerotic going on. Their host is equally effete and has a shirtless Indian manservant at his beck and call. Turns out, it's all a front. These men aren't interested in Bigfoot. They're more concerned over the "meaty" make-up of the present student bodies.
The Capture of Bigfoot (1979)
When a pair of trappers captures a baby Sasquatch, Mommyfoot gets mad and goes monster on the men. A search team is created to find the corpses. When town logging magnate and resident psycho Mr. Olsen discovers that there's a Bigfoot involved, he goes ballistic. It seems he has a plan to resurrect the city and needs a smelly hirsute creature to add to his tourist trap in the making. Unfortunately, Park Ranger Steve Garrett and his drunken buddy Jake mean to protect the beast. After all, it's some sort of shaman to the local Indian tribe.
Okay, I admit it. I used to be afraid of Bigfoot. It's all The Legend of Boggy Creek's fault. I saw that film when it arrived in theaters and it completely freaked me out. What can I say? I was 11, so sue me. I lived in a small town in Indiana and dense woods surrounded my grade school and junior high. Being a tad highly strung, my rapid imagination started spying all kinds of hairy man-beasts bopping around the neighborhood, all of them waiting to scare me spitless. Riding my bicycle at night was terrifying. I half expected some stinky ape man to paw me as I peddled to the dime store for some more Wacky Packages. Age ruins all such adolescent adventures and nowadays I couldn't tell a Bigfoot from Borat. But thanks to Fred Olen Ray's regressive Retromedia label, I can sit back and reminisce about the days when Sasquatch made me soil myself. Since each film here is different, they will be discussed individually. Before I start having Abominable flashbacks, let's begin:
Search for the Beast(Score: 65)
With legendary grindhouse goodfella David F. Friedman in the cast, Search for the Beastshould have been a big fat belly full of baloney -- and laughs. Friedman is one of the original 40 thieves and reigning Mighty Monarch of the Exploitation industry. If anyone can save a hackneyed homemade Bigfoot romp, it's Herschell Gordon Lewis's partner in perverted production. Sadly, very little of Dave's demented magic is on display here. Instead, some low-rent Grizzly Adams, a Dan Haggerty wannabe named Rick Montana, is front and center in this Alabama backwoods balderdash. Since the story is set up so poorly to begin with (first time filmmaker R. G. Arledge avoids obvious cinematic tricks like logic, characterization, and continuity) and the motivations are all so unclear, we never know who's doing what, for whom, and most importantly, why. Instead, we are treated to random shots of Holli Day's string-bean sexlessness, Montana's modified mullet, and more Gold's gym rejects than in a dozen Governator schlockfests. Arledge obviously misunderstands the tenets of action movies. Instead of creating tension and a kinetic sense of suspense, he creates confusion with endless recycled insert shots and a crappy sense of stupidity. Our leads aren't heroes or zeroes. In fact, mathematics and the ever-shifting science of quantum physics have yet to determine their lack of value.
Like Charles B. Pierce and his own canon of Bigfoot-obsessed movies, Arledge wants that genial good ol' boy goofiness of the Deep South setting to add some necessary atmosphere to his efforts. Unfortunately, all we end up with is a couple of cooters named Blind Joe and Crazy Otis. Sitting on hay bales like all retarded rednecks, they do their Deliverance kid routine and then shuffle off to subplot-ville. Even more baffling are a pair of sexed-up nature lovers who are listed in the cast as "Trixie" and "Stupid D. Klown." Their only purpose in this otherwise pointless exercise in exasperation is to fake fornication in the forest. Whoopee! Add in a Bigfoot whose nothing more than a lame ape outfit from a local costume shop (the store gets a nod at the end of the credits) and a weird wrap-up that seems to suggest that our swamp creature may be nothing more than a pimp for a pair of regressed reprobates, and you have something that's not quite a comedy, not quite a horror film...in fact, it's not really much of anything. Friedman's appearance aside, there is nothing to recommend this turgid tour of moonshine country. All that's missing is a jug with three "X"s etched on the side and we'd have a perfect representation of inbred idjit territory.
The Legend of Bigfoot (Score: 75)
Look up the name Ivan Marx on your handy-dandy Web browser and you'll find individuals who both lionize and loathe this so-called nature photographer and hunter. Claiming to have authentic images of Bigfoot and not ashamed to berate those who question his veracity, Marx is either the merriest of possible pranksters or a shameless self-promoter who stumbled onto something that few can fathom. Now you have a chance to decide for yourself in the incredibly odd "docudrama" of Marx's search for the skunk ape. In this retort to all the "so-called experts" who call into question his overall findings, Marx traces his initial interest in Bigfoot, following up on stories both intriguing and manufactured. Eventually believing in the beast's existence, Marx decides to use what he knows about nature and, specifically, patterns of migration and procreation, to track his prey. He almost catches up to Bigfoot several times, and uses hundreds of sightings and anecdotes to bolster his position. With camera always at the ready, he travels far up into Alaskan Yukon territory, and eventually captures some images of the beast. Proven right, he regales the audience with his "undeniable proof" that the North American ape man is no myth. He's as real as Marx himself.
This must mean that Legend is a legitimate travelogue teaming with scientific certainty and unquestionable fact. Unfortunately, Marx failed logic in explorer's school and comes up with some incredibly specious reasoning in pursuit of his evidence. Some half-potted native tells of a creature which walks on two legs and smells like crap, and Marx challenges one and all to deny his story. Granted, since the premise is verifying the legitimacy of Bigfoot, the story sounds plausible. Still, wouldn't the same tale confirm the existence of a drunken businessman on a post-layoff bender? Marx also wants to make a statement about man's incongruity with the natural order of things. He does this by focusing on a pair of squirrels, happily frolicking, and enjoying life -- until one gets too close to the road and becomes a truck-stop trophy. As the camera lingers on its mate, desperate to pull its barely-living brethren to safety, Marx makes some kind of arcane comment about man and animals getting along, and then this sparks a revelation about Bigfoot's supposed habitat. Huh? As the stock footage of forests and mountains piles up, we get more and more of Marx's peculiar pronouncements -- Bigfoot is friendly, Bigfoot is a vegetarian, Bigfoot enjoys ambient techno -- and not a single theory supports his certainty. Instead of searching for Bigfoot, Marx should look for a more meaningful purpose in life -- like establishing that Lindsay Lohan is a gifted, considerate performer. Sadly, that probably is never going to happen either.
Shriek of the Mutilated (Score: 85)
A real find, especially for us fans of Michael Findlay's deranged cinematic showcases, Shriek of the Mutilated is not really a Bigfoot movie, at least not in the traditional sense. Sure, it utilizes the Sasquatch legend as a means of driving its storyline, but this is more of a mind-boggling murder mystery than a clear-cut creature feature. We do become interested in discovering the truth behind the white-furred fiend stumbling around in the woods outside the tumbledown manor of our mincing hosts and their hulky himbo valet, but it's really unimportant to the plot. As with most Findlay forays, we get caught up in his conflicting pretzel logic and can't quite make heads or tales of what is going on. We need the final few scenes, sequences where everything is explained (with intermittent fact-checking flashbacks to prove the points) in order to cement our satisfaction. Until then, we get by on casual cruelty, the electric Kool-Aid acid test cinematics, and the overwhelming sense that what we are seeing is something, springing forth, fully formed, from Findlay's solidly unhinged proclivities. Even in this clear attempt to cash in on the Bigfoot craze, we feel we are taking a jaundiced, jokey trip through one man's misguided psyche. How else would you explain an oeuvre that contains not only the Flesh Trilogy, but a selection of decidedly sick sleazoid epics?
Starting things off with a poolside decapitation (which is never explained or connected to the narrative), we get a collection of classic Findlay characters, each one more than happy to express whatever emotion comes bubbling up in their brain. One guy wants sex, and isn't afraid to discuss it -- ad nauseam. Another is too devoted to his professor to get busy with his babe -- and he reminds her of this fact over and over again. One young lady longs for the oversexed student, but instead of telling him, she tells us, constantly. When our heroine becomes the lone resident of this house of horrors, she too wigs out -- and lets us in on the insanity process until we know it by heart. Similarly, the last-minute twist designed to redirect the storyline is clarified in not one, or two, but four separate scenes. We even get a last-minute escape and retrieval, allowing the premise to be repeated yet again. Findlay's films are a lot like this -- either all action or all talk. There is never a clear combination of the two, and when he does try to mix them, the movie tends to go a bit wonky. It's as if this filmmaker has only two modes -- exposition or exploitation. Thankfully, Shriek of the Mutilated is such a mean-spirited mixture of the two. It makes the rest of the films offered on this DVD feel hopelessly amateurish by comparison.
The Capture of Bigfoot (Score: 80)
Just when you thought the notoriously non-talented Bill Rebane couldn't make a movie more incompetent than The Giant Spider Invasion, along comes The Capture of Bigfoot to redefine this director's idea of cinematic aptitude. As much a love letter to the NRA as it is a look at the search for Sasquatch and his or her equally odiferous offspring, this gun-heavy hooey is rife with possibilities. After all, it begins with the title event and then gets more baffling from there. Centering on a forgotten Minnesota town that has loads of skiers once the snows arrive, but little else in the way of vacationer viability, Rebane lets loose a scenery-chewing villain by the name of Olsen, and makes sure everyone else gets out of his way. More than happy to shake a patient on life support just to get some Bigfoot-oriented information, this outrageous and overdone scoundrel is so unsympathetic that from the very moment you see him onscreen, you are counting the carnage until he gets his well-deserved comeuppance. Olsen only has one mode -- call it testosterone and tonic-laced terrorizing -- and when he bellows to his underlings to capture the creature at any cost, you can literally see the skidmarks forming in their shorts. Richard Kennedy turns this tyrant into a wilderness whack job of epic evil proportions.
Rebane almost gets away with it, of course, because he never ever doubts his ability behind the lens. From the way he sets up shots and controls his compositions, you can sense he feels like a full-fledged auteur. It doesn't bother him that the Bigfoot as a sympathetic, sensitive parent subplot doesn't work -- and even then, fails to pay off when it's plunked onto the conclusion. He's not the least bit miffed that the third-act arrival of a weird mineshaft theme park comes completely out of the blue. He is blissfully unaware that there is zero chemistry between our park ranger and his supposed ladylove, and has no problem showing preteens armed to the teeth taking pot shots at any and all woodland critters. Just as he did by combining Alan Hale, the Wisconsin Dells, and a lame VW outfitted like an insect, Rebane uses a guy in a gorilla getup, his slightly undersized progeny, and bathes them both in a lot of Native American mumbo jumbo (apparently, Bigfoot is also an original resident of the North American continent). Toss in a turn by genre great Buck Flowers as a moronic manchild who loves a good beer and you're ready for some underdeveloped fear factors. As with its fellow flicks in skunk ape arms, Capture wants to capitalize on the public's fascination with what may be the missing link. Too bad that Rebane decided to accent this acceptance by losing the connection between motion pictures and entertainment as well.
Technically, this DVD represents the bottom of the transfer barrel -- straight 1.33:1 full-frame images, most barely cleaned up and presentable. Legend looks especially shoddy, since the color is almost completely faded from the print. Shriek is much better, but still has substantial celluloid damage. Capture can occasionally look very good, but the night scenes are overpopulated with pixelization. Search was shot on video and, therefore, is more clear and colorful than the others. Still, the production is incredibly low budget and the cloudy camerawork shows. On the sound side, the Dolby Digital Mono is scarcely sufficient, while the only extra offered is a TV trailer for Shriek. As a digital presentation, the overall specs here are incredibly subpar.
It's hard to put a finger on when the entire Bigfoot/Loch Ness craze finally died out (it was Close Encounters that made ET's acceptable and endearing). Maybe it was the moment that the beast was turned into a co-star for a lumpy Lee Majors toward the end of The Six Million Dollar Man. Or even worse, when Pufnstuf's Sid and Marty Krofft turned Sasquatch into a superhero, unleashing the Bigfoot and Wildboy series to universal yawns. In either case, the minute a monster gets merchandised and marketed, it loses a lot of its ability to frighten. There's just not a lot of visceral terror emanating from a Saturday morning kid's show. Interestingly enough, the same can be said for the four films included here. Each one has its intermittent delights and elements of entertainment but, overall, they represent the dregs of the dying drive-in mentality. In fact, you can almost see the make-out pauses programmed into each one of these passion-pit pariahs. If you like your cinema on the sloppy, shoddy side (with just a pinch of Michael Findlay madness to make the entire experience go down like a spoonful of spoiled sugar), you'll definitely dig this crazy collection of off-title treats. Still, for those who remember the days when Bigfoot and his variously-named subsidiaries dominated underage dialogue, you'll feel betrayed and despondent. This may be exactly how the legend was exploited when you were a kid, but it seems a little rough upon a revisit.
Guilty as Sasquatch sin! All four films here fail as examples of perfected motion-picture making. As hackneyed efforts so bad that their bubblicious, the Court can render no other decision other culpable as crap. Relish at your own risk.
Review content copyright © 2006 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 352 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* TV Trailer for Shriek of the Mutilated
* IMDb: Search for the Beast
* IMDb: The Legend of Bigfoot
* IMDb: Shriek of the Mutilated
* IMDb: The Capture of Bigfoot