Review Date: October 10, 2009
Released by: World Video Pictures
Release date: ?
Here’s a real rarity – a 1970’s horror film starring John Carradine that actually stars
John Carradine. Okay, I realize that sounds a bit facetious, but the reality is that even though the late great Carradine headlined dozens upon dozens of horror films in the 60’s and 70’s, very few of those roles were of any substantial nature. Many were little more than cameo appearances. Carradine’s daily rate was expensive enough that many low budget filmmakers used him for only one day of shooting, maybe two at the most.
That’s what makes Bigfoot
such a curiosity. Besides being the very first feature about America’s abominable snowman (following an international mini-boom in Yeti movies in the 50’s), Carradine’s role in the film is quite large. From the very beginning of the film to the very last moments Carradine is present, and rarely do two scenes go by without him being in at least one of them. He doesn’t sit back and comment on the action like in so many other films – here he is part of the action, driving the story forward on many occasions. That alone should make Bigfoot
of interest to horror fans used to seeing the old man in one and two-scene roles lasting no more than a few minutes. But does the film itself have any other enduring qualities other than to showcase Carradine’s hammy talents? Let’s take a look at this long out of print release...
We open with two pre-credits sequences. In the first, a beautiful and shapely woman named Joi (Joi Lansing
) takes off from an airport in her private plane, only to have to bail out somewhere over northern California. She safely parachutes to the ground and is promptly captured by a giant hairy creature. As this is going on we also meet Jasper B. Hawks (John Carradine
) and his business partner Elmer Briggs (John Mitchum
). The two men are traveling salesmen whose ancient car has just broken down off to the side of a rural road. Hawks sends Briggs down to a find a stream and get some water to cool off the radiator. Briggs reluctantly complies, but when he finds a stream he discovers something very unsettling – giant human shaped footprints!
Arriving at a nearby general store just as a gang of bikers and their girlfriends are leaving, Hawks and Briggs introduce themselves to store owner Bennett (Ken Maynard
) and try to sell him some of their merchandise. Meanwhile, the gang of bikers who just left the store is driving down an old dirt logging trail when Rick (Christopher Mitchum
) and his girlfriend Chris (Judy Jordan
) decide to pull off the trail for Rick to work on his bike, and of course for a little necking. Chris wanders into the trees and makes a startling discovery in the form of what appear to be burial mounds with gravestones marked in an incomprehensible alphabet. She calls Rick to come see, and he pulls away the dirt on one of the graves, revealing the face of hairy, humanoid corpse. Just then a real living Bigfoot creature shows up and attacks them, knocking out Rick and carrying Chris off into the woods, where she is tied to a tree next to Joi. Both women are apparently being kept alive for purposes of breeding.
Rick comes to and races back to town where he finds that Hawks and Briggs are still trying to convince shop owner Bennett to buy some of their merchandise. He places a call to the local sheriff (James Craig
) who doesn’t believe his story, but then calls his biker buddies who do believe him. Overhearing the conversation, Hawks tells the young man that his traveling store stocks guns and flashlights and offers to accompany him back into the woods. Rick takes him up on the offer, and they both drag a reluctant Briggs with them. Of course, Hawks isn’t interested in rescuing Chris – he’s interested in capturing one of the creatures alive and making money off it! In the struggles that follows man will battle man, man will battle beast, and even beast will battle beast!
is a terrible movie that is capable of much unintentional humor, but which is still notable for the bizarre intersection of talent that it represents, pulling together a fascinatingly diverse cast. Not only is John Carradine given plenty of screen time to chew the scenery (and how he does chew it, with a laughably overdone Southern accent), but the film features both the brother (John) and
son (Christopher) of the great Robert Mitchum. Add to that Lindsay Crosby (son of the great Bing Crosby) as the leader of the biker gang, former Hollywood leading man James Craig and former model and starlet Joi Lansing and you have a movie that could easily serve as a link in any game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. But perhaps the most random casting decision comes with the brief appearance of Ken Maynard as Mr. Bennett. Maynard, though not well known today by younger generations, was once one of the biggest cowboy stars in Hollywood. Unfortunately Maynard was also a real son of a bitch who burned every bridge in the business. He was essentially forced into retirement in 1944, living destitute and penniless in the years that followed. Bigfoot
was his first film in a quarter of a century, and he would manage to make only one more before his death in 1973.
Other than some titillating shots of Joi Lansing running around in a skimpy outfit, director Robert F. Slatzer largely fails to build suspense, excitement or to develop the film’s exploitation potential. The bestiality aspect of Bigfoot wanting to mate with human women is handled rather tamely – so tamely that Man Beast
, a similarly-conceived Yeti movie made almost fifteen years earlier, starts to look risqué for the time period. The monster costumes are laughably bad, even by the standards of 1970 (this coming at a time when Planet of the Apes
had recently set a new standard for portraying primates on the screen), and the pace drags with far too many drably shot dialogue scenes. Perhaps the biggest cop-out is the promise of seeing a biker gang duel it out with Bigfoot. That’s sort of what we get. But not quite. In fact, this has to be the wimpiest group of bikers in any 60’s or 70’s movie that I have yet seen.
(You know folks, if I may be allowed to editorialize for a moment, I must say that every time I watch an American horror film made between 1965 and 1972 I usually see groups of carefree young men having fun before the monster or killer shows up, and it prompts me to wonder: why the hell aren’t these guys all off fighting in Vietnam? They can’t all have flat feet and perforated ear drums. What, are they still in college? Have they already served their tours of duty, or did mommy and daddy buy them a deferment? Does the local draft board know that they’re farting around and having a good time while men are dying in the jungle?)
When all is said and done, Bigfoot
is simply standard drive-in filler of the type that was readily becoming passé by time it was released. Failing to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the new MPAA rating system (it was given a GP rating when released, a precursor to the modern PG) by adding gore or sex, it very much seems like an older 50’s horror film. It’s passable for viewers like me who enjoy such films, but with this tape being long out of print and hard to find, it is by no means worth any special effort or expense to track down.
is presented in a full-frame 1.33:1 transfer. This is not a film that was shot in widescreen, thus 1.85:1 would presumably be its proper ratio for any future DVD release. The compositions on this tape, including the opening credits, have a tight and cropped look to them, raising the possibility that the video transfer was taken from a hard-matted letterboxed print.
For a VHS tape released in the 1980’s, the quality here is tolerable but no more. The print shows some signs of wear and tear with splices, scratches and dirt popping up every now and again. Colors look washed out much of the time, and when they don’t look washed out they tend to bleed. Night scenes are extremely dark and murky.
The tape is recorded in the higher quality SP mode.
Lots of hissing and popping can be heard on this Dolby 2.0 Mono track, although dialogue is still intelligible. Music and sound effects are decently reproduced. An undistinguished but serviceable soundtrack for an old release of an even older film.
No extras, not even any trailers for other World Video Pictures releases.
is mostly a curiosity piece that will primarily appeal to John Carradine fans and to those who enjoy Bigfoot movies. It is exactly the type of movie that Dark Sky Films would have released a year or two ago, but now, with the world economy tanked and the home video market increasingly unfriendly to niche product, it looks increasingly likely that viewers will have to settle with this VHS tape for a while longer. It can still be found on eBay occasionally for reasonable prices.
Movie – D
Image Quality – D+
Sound – C-
Supplements – N/A
- Running Time – 1 hour 23 minutes
- Rated GP
- 1 Tape
- English 2.0 Mono