1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Robert F. Slatzer wrote and directed Bigfoot. This film would normally fall outside of this study of science fiction movies, since there is virtually no "science" involved. It squeaks in as a James Craig double-feature, as he starred in the Frankenstein-with-plants film The Revenge of Dr. X. He plays a secondary role here. Bigfoot starred John Carradine, star of many other low-B-grade sci-fi from the 50s and 60s. He was the Cosmic Man ('59) and Wizard of Mars ('65) among others. Then too, there were other Yeti films in the ranks of semi-sci-fi. So, it is by these peripheral connections, that Bigfoot is included here. Completed in 1969, it was released in late October of 1970.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A buxom blonde pilot (Joi Lansing) has engine trouble over the rugged California mountains. He bails out. Once on the ground, she quickly strips off her functional jumpsuit, down to a skimpy deep-v micro-dress. (perfect for surviving in the woods!) A bigfoot comes out of the woods. She faints. It captures her. Meanwhile, a "gang" of youths ride their buzzy Yamaha motorcycles through the woods. One couple stop to neck. The buxom Chris is also captured by a bigfoot. Her boyfriend Rick is knocked out. Both Joi and Chris are tied to small trees. A group of "female" bigfeet clamor nearby. Rick comes to and goes for help. The sheriff (Craig) is condescending. A traveling peddler (Carradine) and his partner agree to help because they sense a lucrative carnival attraction. The rest of Rick's motorcycle friends eventually join in too. (apparently you can call a gang of bikers in the woods from a pay phone) Long scenes of searching through the woods pad out the runtime. The female bigfeet take Joi up the mountain to be "given" to the big bad bigfoot. While she is tied to trees, a bear "attacks". Big Bad Bigfoot (BBB) fights the bear. Joi gets loose and runs away. BBB wins and chases Joi. She faints, so he captures her. Jasper, Elmer and Rick have been captured by the female bigfeet and tied to trees beside Chris. The biker youths arrive and rescue them. Jasper and others go to save Joi and/or capture BBB for fun and prizes. BBB carries the unconscious Joi up into the mountains. When he stops to throw a foam boulder at them, Joi runs off again. BBB chases her again, and again captures her. The gang catch up and wound BBB in the leg. He sets down Joi and is shot several more times. One of the youth throws dynamite at him which blows him up. All walk away happy. Jasper tries to recruit Joi as an alternate sideshow attraction. Beauty and the Beast. Pan up. Fade to black. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
Aside from the visual appeal of Joi Lansing, John Carradine's hammy portrayal of a grizzled southern "Johnny Reb" traveling pot salesman, is quite amusing.

Cultural Connection
The Patterson film, shot in 1967, purported to show "actual footage" of a bigfoot. This amateur footage invigorated a whole new round of bigfoot-mania. Slatzer's story and movie (only two years later) sought to capitalize on the craze. Slatzer tried to align his film with the new Patterson-film meme by filming his men in ape suits in the same sort of rocky woodlands that Patterson had shot his film. The fact that Slatzer and Patterson's imagery look so similar, actually undermines Patterson somewhat. We know Slatzer's bigfeet are men in ape suits.

Shallow Joi -- Slatzer cast Joi for her obvious and ample cheesecake qualities, but his script leaves her character hugely under-developed (irony intended). On the one hand, she's a pilot, which takes some brains, courage and skill. She also seems to know some anthropology, so she's well-read. Not a bad start. Modern intelligent women could be cute too. No rule against that. But, she's also written as a shallow "blonde". Where was she flying to, dressed in a skimpy micro-dress? Her line about the bigfeet is an enigma. "They're subhuman, but they live like animals." Huh? On the one hand, she's plucky and athletic enough to keep escaping and running through the woods barefoot, but she passes out more often than a fainting goat. In the end, this amateur anthropologist pilot had nothing better to do with her life than be a sideshow attraction? Seriously? Joi deserved so much better. Sadly, she died of cancer only a few years after this film.

They're After Our Women! -- The age-old trope was still going strong. That ancient tribal anxiety that rival tribes are out to steal out prime womenfolk, is told without any subtlety in Bigfoot. Rather blatantly, (it's even on the poster) the purpose of Bigfoot stealing OUR buxom babes, is to breed with them. Quite a few Abduction Scenes are sprinkled through the film. Big Bad Bigfoot even gets to capture Joi several times. One suspects that the writer was himself intrigued with the Abduction trope. The three "other" bigfeet were supposed to be females (you can't tell), but apparently, Big Bad covets the same thing human males covet -- a very buxom blonde in a skimpy micro-dress, or a pretty brunette in a bikini (this was her idea of motorcycling in the woods attire?). The baby bigfoot is then hinted to be a crossbreed human-bigfoot from a prior abduction of "a pretty young thing," told as backstory. Apparently, Big Bad liked "our" women better than his own.

Kong Gone Wrong -- There is more than a passing resemblance to King Kong in Slatzer's story. A large ape-like creature is "given" a pretty platinum blonde, tied to trees. The creature abducts pretty blonde and tries to climb high to get away. In the end, the creature puts down his blonde and is shot dead. Jasper even says, once the creature is dead, "Twas beauty that killed the beast." All too Kong-like. Slatzer's script, however, makes his mini-Kong so unsympathetic (he's basically a furry serial kidnapper/rapist) that there is no remorse at his death.

Small Star Gazing -- Judy Jordan, who plays the first captive girl, Chris, also played in The Love War ('70) as the (uncredited) perky information girl. Christopher Mitchum, who plays her boyfriend Rick, is the son of actor Robert Mitchum. Christopher's acting would get better, but after this film.

Scant "Science" -- What little science there is in Bigfoot lies in how Slatzer advanced the mythos of "bigfeet" that they were clearly primitive humanoids -- with enough DNA similarity to allow cross-breeding. They bury their dead and make tools (stone clubs). They can, apparently, make their own rope and can tie knots! Joi muses to Chris that the bigfeet were the "missing link" between Neanderthal and modern man. The shaggy ape costumes, however, look more a step before Neanderthal, if one buys the whole "steps" notion.

Bottom line? Bigfoot is a poorly done film, typical of low-budget B grade drive-in fodder. Yet, after watching The Revenge of Dr.X, a film like Bigfoot seems more polished…or at least coherent. The far-too-abundant filler scenes of trudging through the woods (real and sound stage), and motorcycles buzzing annoyingly along woodland paths, get tedious. There is precious little for a sci-fi fan. Fans of John Carradine or Joi Lansing get healthy doses of both. Otherwise, Bigfoot is a fairly forgettable film from the silly early 70s.

No comments: