Review Date: March 4, 2007
Released by: Retromedia
Release date: 6/20/2006
Region 0, NTSC
Full-frame 1.33:1 and Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: No
As both a horror fan and as someone who genuinely believes in Bigfoot, I am sometimes conflicted in my feelings over the way he is depicted in the average genre film. Most eyewitness accounts describe the creature as standing between seven and ten feet tall, and weighing five hundred pounds or more. In other words, the real Bigfoot is probably even stronger and more powerful than in most movies, since low budget filmmakers usually have to settle for human-sized monsters. On the other hand, most eyewitness accounts also describe a Bigfoot that is by and large a harmless creature. Of the thousands of reported encounters across the world, only a small fraction have described the animals committing acts of violence, and with no more than a handful of fatalities. The animals seem more than happy just to be left alone. But the conventions of the horror genre don't usually allow for this depiction. Although some movies depict Bigfoot as being violent but misunderstood, others depict him as being a bloodthirsty marauder, a threat to humans. This quadruple feature from Retromedia showcases multiple viewpoints of how the creature might behave, and each presents its own opinion of what Bigfoot really is.
The Capture of Bigfoot
(1979) opens in the snowy wilderness of Wisconsin. Two bobsledding trappers, John (Durwood McDonald
) and Hank (William Dexter
), are making their way back to civilization. They are travelling with a large, covered cage, which is holding an unseen animal. They stop to make camp for the night, and are attacked by a giant hairy creature, which kills John and leaves Hank badly wounded. Hank is able to make it back to the nearest town, where he is taken to the hospital.
The two men worked for Harvey Olsen (Richard Kennedy
), a local businessman who has an obsession with the Native American legend of Arak. According to folklore, Arak was a hairy man-beast that protected a local tribe. Nearly thirty years earlier, a party of surveyors ventured into the wilderness near the tribe's ancestral lands, and seven men were brutally killed. Ever since then, Olsen has been convinced that "Arak" is real, and has been trying to capture the creature.
Olsen hires two local poachers, Jason (Otis Young
) and Burt (John F. Goff
), and sends them into the woods to search for the creature. Instead, they come across its offspring, and put a bullet in it. But before they can bring their catch back to civilization, the adult monster attacks them, and they just barely get away with their lives. Their failure enrages Olsen, who sets about developing a foolproof plan to capture the adult. But with the beast already enraged by the assault on its offspring, Olsen's idea is flirting with disaster, and it's up to local game warden Dave Garrett (Stafford Morgan
) and a crusty old trapper named Jake (George "Buck" Flower
) to defeat the greedy madman before be brings destruction on the entire town.
Although its flaws are significant, The Capture of Bigfoot
is almost a masterpiece when compared to the earlier films of its director, the Wisconsin-based Bill Rebane (after all, we are talking about the same man who blessed the world with both Monster a Go-Go
and The Giant Spider Invasion
). By 1979, Rebane had become competent enough as a filmmaker that he could produce movies which were at least somewhat watchable. Gone was the type of static, lifeless staging that had defined Monster a Go-Go
. Also gone was the type of boring "nothing happens" plot that was seen in his next feature, Invasion from Inner Earth
. In The Capture of Bigfoot
, we see Rebane as a more mature and confident filmmaker, someone whose writing skills have clearly improved, and whose grasp of the basics of filmmaking has become more advanced. The movie, while somewhat slow paced, is not overly boring, and the script throws in a few exciting scenes.
What kills The Capture of Bigfoot
is how very unexceptional it is as a movie. Every time it threatens to become truly good or interesting, Rebane messes it up. For example, midway through the movie there is a scene in which Garrett goes to talk to a local Native American man for information on "Arak". The two of them sit down to talk...and then Rebane abruptly cuts away from the scene, never to return. Instead of exploring the Native American mythology around Bigfoot - one of the most interesting ideas in the film - we get a scene of a couple people in the woods getting mauled by the creature, something which surely could have waited a few minutes while the legend of the creature was fully explained.
Rebane is able to coax a few decent performances out of his cast members (particularly George "Buck" Flower as Jake), but the rest of the cast members either come across as flat or amateurish. As the villain of the story, Richard Kennedy is handed a badly written role that he is unable to perform with any sense of believability. Harvey Olsen is absolutely committed to capturing Bigfoot, but nonetheless his characterization still manages to change from scene to scene. Sometimes, Olsen comes across as wanting the creature simply because he can make a lot of money off of it, but other times the script hints at something darker. Olsen seems to have an Ahab-like obsession with the beast dating back decades to when the party of surveyors was killed. Unfortunately, his character is never developed, so any potentially interesting aspects of his obsession are never explored.
All in all, the movie is a tolerable but ultimately uninteresting time killer.
In Shriek of the Mutilated
(1974), we are introduced to anthropology professor Dr. Ernst Prell (Alan Brock
) and four of his graduate students, Karen (Jennifer Stock
), Keith (Michael Harris
), Lynn (Darcy Brown
) and Tom (Jack Neubeck
). Prell's big academic interest is the Yeti, which he has spent many years investigating, and he is now planning on leading his four students on an expedition to search for the creature.
Dr. Prell has taken a special interest in Keith, and the night before the expedition departs he takes him out to dinner at a special restaurant where they enjoy an exotic meal of something called "gin sung". Meanwhile, back on campus, the other three students are attending a party where they meet a mentally unbalanced man named Spencer (Tom Grail
), who was once a student of Prell's and now is a groundskeeper for the school. Upon hearing that the students plan on going with Prell, he becomes distraught, and as it turns out he went on one of Prell's trips seven years earlier. While hiking near a village on Hudson's Bay they were attacked by a Yeti, and him and Prell were the only survivors.
The next morning the group hits the road, and after a long journey they arrive at their destination, a desolate island in the middle of a lake. There they meet the island's sole inhabitants, a friend of Prell's named Dr. Karl Werner (Tawm Ellis
) and his mute Indian housekeeper Laughing Crow (Ivan Agar
). Werner tells them a story of how, several nights earlier, he had unexpectedly woken up at four in the morning. Going downstairs to his kitchen, he had heard the sound of growling outside the house. Going outside to investigate, he had caught a fleeting glimpse of what appeared to be a Yeti. Prell theorizes that the creature came across the lake during the winter, and is now stuck there because the ice has melted. The next day the group sets out to find the beast, with tragic results for Tom, and as their numbers begin to dwindle it becomes apparent that there may be something else going on that is even stranger and more gruesome than the Yeti...
For what it's worth, Shriek of the Mutilated
is probably the most entertaining of the four films in this set. No, it's not a good movie, but it is deliriously enjoyable for those with the right sense of humor. It has that special vibe to it that only the most notable "bad" movies have, the kind that makes a crummy movie lovable instead of tedious and painful. The story, the acting, the "Yeti" costume and all the other facets of the production almost seamlessly combine into a unique viewing experience. The story is a mishmash of horror and black comedy, and it builds to climax that features an appropriately wacky plot twist that, while disappointing to those looking for a straight Bigfoot film, somehow makes more sense in the universe of the movie (however, "plot twist" is only a relative term in this case - the build-up to the big reveal is so clumsily handled that the only real surprise is just how off-the-wall the twist turns out to be).
To a bad movie lover, there is just so much to love about the film. The guffaws start even before the opening credits, where we are treated to a scene of decapitation that has nothing to do with the rest of the film. From there, we get the hilariously over-the-top performance of Tom Grail as Spencer, whose hammy monologue about being attacked by the Yeti must be seen to be believed. We are then treated to a hilariously bizarre and pointless scene of domestic violence, resulting in Spencer's wife being killed with an electric carving knife and Spencer himself having a plugged-in toaster dropped into the bathtub with him. During the early scenes characters make several references to the presence of snow on the ground, or the fact that it is snowing, even though there is no snow anywhere
. The flashback scene where Dr. Werner describes seeing the Yeti in the middle of the night looks like it was shot a one o'clock in the afternoon, since someone clearly neglected to apply day-for-night tinting.
Regrettably, this version of Shriek of the Mutilated
has been altered, apparently for copyright reasons. On the original versions (including the Lightning Video VHS that most fans are familiar with), the party scene near the beginning features a worldess tune called "Popcorn" (those into techno music will probably recognize it, since it seems to have been remixed constantly over the past decade). On this DVD, though, the song has been replaced by another, more generic tune, apparently because Retromedia couldn't secure the rights to the original.
Search for the Beast
(1997) tells the story of Dr. David Stone (Rick Montana
), an anthropology professor with a keen interest in legends about the Okaloosa Wilderness, where a vicious, man-like beast is said to dwell. Forty-seven campers have disappeared in the Okaloosa over the past twenty-five years, and it is suspected by many that the "beast" was responsible for them. After reading one of Dr. Stone's papers, local moneyman Milton St. John (David F. Friedman
) offers to fund an expedition to search for the beast. Stone agrees, with the understanding that this is purely a research endeavor and that the creature itself will not be killed or captured.
The expedition commences, consisting of Dr. Stone, a nubile graduate student named Wendy (Holli Day
) and a bunch of rednecks that Milton St. John hired to accompany them. What Stone doesn't realize is that his investor doesn't have any intention of letting the beast get away. His son was one of those missing campers, and he is determined that the expedition brings the creature back, dead or alive.
Search for the Beast
is a real oddity. Shot on video and running less than seventy minutes, this incredibly obscure regional production boggles the mind. It is horribly put together. The videography is amateurish to the point where many outdoor scenes feature performers whose faces remain blocked by heavy shadows from trees, a big no-no that they teach in any freshman-level video class. The staging is bad, with static camera angles for indoor scenes, shaky camerawork for exteriors and sluggish editing to tie it all together. The sound recording is often atrocious, and it's very difficult to hear the actors on many occasions. The sound editing doesn't help, drowning many scenes in porno-ish music tunes, and seemingly the only formal sound effect used is a clip of a crow cawing that is repeated over and over.
Despite having an incredibly simple plot, the middle third of the movie still manages to become a jumbled, confusing mess. I suspect that there was either a lot of footage that was supposed to be shot but wasn't, or that it was shot and had to be discarded. The reason for this is that the middle of the movie, which details the actual hunt for the monster, is very jumpy, with characters dying offscreen or simply disappearing with no explanation, and characters moving from one geographic location to another because of events that are never shown and only vaguely explained. It feels like there are quite a few scenes missing.
The most unusual thing about this production is the presence in its cast of legendary drive-in filmmaker David F. Friedman as Milton St. John. I suspect that the producers either knew Friedman personally, or knew someone who did (I also suspect that it was Friedman who helped them get this title distributed by Something Weird Video, which as of this writing still offers it for sale on VHS). He's actually the best actor in the entire production, and seems to be enjoying playing a role that requires him to do little except smoke cigars and talk on the phone. Friedman's scenes all look like they were shot in the space of one day, using only a few different camera set-ups. They are some of the most entertaining scenes in the movie, while simultaneously being the most badly shot.
The Legend of Bigfoot
(1976) presents itself as a documentary. We are introduced to outdoorsman Ivan Marx, who chronicles the evolution of his thinking from Bigfoot skeptic to hardcore Bigfoot believer. We follow Marx's journeys from Arizona to the Arctic Circle where he explores folklore surrounding the monster, presents his theories on the creature's migratory patterns and occasionally even captures footage of the beast!
There are two things that The Legend of Bigfoot
is not. First, it is not a documentary. Second, it is not a movie.
The production fails to be a documentary because its Bigfoot footage is so obviously fake, and because its "scientific" theories about the creature are little more than the uninformed speculation of a charlatan. Never for one frame does Marx's footage of the monster look genuine. It never appears to be anything but a man in a seedy-looking ape suit stomping through the woods. Not only does the suit itself look fake, but its construction and the height of the person wearing it does not match any credible sightings of what an adult Bigfoot actually looks like. I found myself descending into gales of laughter upon first seeing Marx's "footage", and the way that the editor even freeze-frames the image, allowing for even closer inspection of its fraudulent nature. By 1976, faking Bigfoot footage was hardly a new career for Marx. Peter Byrne, of the Bigfoot Research Project, claims that in 1971 he and his colleagues were approached by Marx with what he claimed was authentic Bigfoot footage and still photographs. Marx was put on the payroll while the experts analyzed the evidence, subsequently disappearing when the nature of his forgery was revealed.
Marx's pseudo-science adds to the craziness of what he puts on camera. The most questionable aspect is his idea that the creatures undertake a seasonal migration from the lower reaches of North America to the Arctic Circle, where they breed. This ignores the fact that most terrestrial mammals do not have a seasonal migration pattern, and that such cycles are typically limited to birds, bats and marine animals.
The Legend of Bigfoot
is also not a movie because it lacks almost anything that would make it one. There is practically no characterization (Marx reveals a few limited and uninteresting details about himself and his wife through his droning narration) and very little action. There are no conflicts, and practically no plot. What there is in abundance is badly shot nature footage of almost every North American animal but Bigfoot (the creature gets relatively little screen time; perhaps Marx, realizing how bad his suit was, decided that was wiser). Moose, birds, wolves and coyotes all make appearances. There is a surprisingly moving scene where a squirrel desperately tries to rescue its mate after it is hit by a car, and then another hilariously bizarre scene that seems to be on the verge of descending into moose pornography until it is abruptly ended. Marx's narration makes attempts to connect Bigfoot sightings to the Alaskan gold rush, but like all the other potentially interesting aspects of the production, the idea goes nowhere.
Ultimately, the film is not even that interesting as a "bad" movie. It is simply too boring to have any interest to all but the most devoted fans of Bigfoot films. Marx's cynical showmanship essentially ruins what could have an interesting mockumentary had he bothered to try and do a decent forgery. Ultimately, men like Marx ruin it for those of us who actually believe in Bigfoot. They cause confusion over what material is real and what isn't (amazingly, there are still those out there trying to pass off some of Marx's photographic work as legitimate). They create additional skeptics within the public and scientific community and bring discredit to the field of cryptozoology in general. They also force dedicated believers to sit through crap like The Legend of Bigfoot
The 1.33:1 transfer of The Capture of Bigfoot
looks atrocious. The level of clarity and detail is on par with an old VHS tape (which I believe was the source, since there are lines of distortion on the transfer that resemble those of a tape that has been played too many times and is worn out). Colors are faded and dull, and flesh tones are overly pinkish. Night scenes are dark and murky, and there are a considerable number of compression artifacts on display.
Retromedia originally released Shriek of the Mutilated
in 2003, and presumably this is the same transfer that graced that earlier disc. Its presentation is adequate. The 1.33:1 image looks rather washed out, with faded colors. Clarity and contrast are acceptable. The most annoying aspect of the presentation is the presence of frequent, greenish vertical lines and scratches. Basically, the movie does not fare much better on DVD than it did on VHS and TV in past decades.
Search for the Beast
is presented 1.33:1, and looks pretty bad. Granted, some of this is because of the incompetence of the filmmakers themselves. Had they known how to properly frame a shot, light a scene or hold a camera steady, some of the issues might not have been so bad. Even taking these things into account, however, this is still a problematic transfer. Color quality is inconsistent, shadow detail is abysmal and dark scenes break up into big blocky pixels. However, for an actual letter grade I am going to settle for a 'C', which I think is a fair compromise between problems originating with the production and problems resulting from Retromedia's shoddy authoring.
The Legend of Bigfoot
is one of the most bizarre transfers I've dealt with during my long tenure at this website. The majority of the film is letterboxed at a ratio which measures out to be approximately 1.66:1. This is not letterboxing imposed by Retromedia. Rather, it seems that the transfer was taken from a print that was hard-matted at that ratio, since print damage occasionally pops up within the black bars themselves. What is even stranger is the fact that the letterboxing is uneven. Earlier in this review, I cropped off the black bars for my screenshots in order to save on download time. However, the image at left is unaltered. Notice how the bottom bar is appreciably taller than the top bar. But this isn't even the strangest aspect of the transfer. Occasionally the image will, for no apparent reason, become full frame. This will happen at seemingly random intervals. An entire scene may be letterboxed, and then all of a sudden one shot will be full-frame, then the rest of the scene will carry on letterboxed again.
After doing a little bit of research, I discovered that the long out of print World Premiere Home Video VHS also suffers from this bizarre letterboxing phenomenon, and that, combined with certain distortions on this transfer similar to those on The Capture of Bigfoot
, leads me to suspect that Retromedia simply ripped this transfer from that old tape.
As far as the image quality itself goes, the transfer is in pretty poor shape. Faded, dull colors, a flat, undetailed image and almost constant specks, scratches, vertical lines and blemishes. Compression artifacts also pop up frequently.
The 2.0 Mono soundtracks for The Capture of Bigfoot
and Shriek of the Mutilated
sound comparable. Dialogue is generally understandable, although there is some noticeable hissing and crackling now and again. Both sound slightly dull and muffled.
The 2.0 Stereo mix for Search for the Beast
is inadequate for most of the film. Again, much of it seems to be problems with the original production. The dialogue recording in exterior scenes is just too low, and the sound effects and music are mixed too high. There's lots of hissing on the soundtrack, as well as some audio drop-outs. Again, I will use some leniency with my letter grade.
The 2.0 Mono mix for The Legend of Bigfoot
sounds fine. There is a decent level of fidelity and little background noise or distortion. But then again, since the movie is nothing but narration and occasional background music, it hardly matters either way.
The only supplement on this release is a theatrical trailer for Shriek of the Mutilated
However, I will give some kudos for the menu designs on this release, which are a clever parody of the Weekly World News, the most far-out and wacky of the supermarket tabloids. It is a publication where Bigfoot, aliens, sea monsters and other supernatural entities are all commonplace.
The only film on this set which I legitimately (if perversely) enjoyed was Shriek of the Mutilated
. In contrast, The Capture of Bigfoot
was a painless but uninvolving experience. Search for the Beast
is atrocious, while The Legend of Bigfoot
is insulting and pointless.
This release is a typical example of Retromedia's business strategy: cobble together sub-par transfers of sub-par films, and then double, triple or quadruple the number of movies on a release to give the appearance of extra value. Unfortunately for them, the trick doesn't work this time around. Avoid this release, unless you can find it at a heavily discounted price.
The Capture of Bigfoot
Movie - C
Image Quality - F
Sound - C+
Shriek of the Mutilated
Movie - C-
Image Quality - C
Sound - C+
Search for the Beast
Movie - F
Image Quality - C
Sound - C
The Legend of Bigfoot
Movie - F
Image Quality - F
Sound - B-
Supplements – C
- Running Time - The Capture of Bigfoot - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Running Time - Shriek of the Mutilated - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Running Time - Search for the Beast - 1 hour 9 minutes
- Running Time - The Legend of Bigfoot - 1 hour 15 minutes
- Dolby 2.0 Mono
- Dolby 2.0 Stereo
- Not rated
- Chapter stops
- 1 Disc