Many of us look back at the 70’s with fond embarrassment. Feathered hair, down vests, CB radios. This was the decade in which Clint Eastwood co-starred with an Orangutan, and we liked the idea so much that for three years we tuned in to watch Greg Evigan and a truck-driving chimpanzee in BJ and the Bear, a show that arguably jumped the shark in its opening credits. In celebrity news, a drunken Grizzly Adams’ beard was set alight by a drink called the Flaming Eddy, while another famous big hairy guy did some even more embarrassing things, and I don’t mean Chewbacca.
The 70’s were a heady time for Bigfoot, with movie and TV deals and all the attendant merchandising, and stunned by the glare of Hollywood (or the omnipresent nose candy), the famously reclusive creature made some very bad decisions. I was reminded of this the other day when I noticed the library’s newly purchased Bionic Woman DVDs included a couple of episodes in which Bigfoot guest starred. I used to be the proud owner of a Bionic Bigfoot action toy, the necessary foil to my truly awesome Major Steve Austin doll, with its creeply peel-back-able arm and bionic eye you could peer right through. The pair could fight just like on TV, or even drag race! In The Six Million Dollar Man franchise, bigfoot actually turned out to be an android scarecrow left behind by space aliens, which was kind of a stretch, but these were crazy times remember, when the pairing of bigfoot and aliens seemed as natural as pairing roller & disco; The Captain & Tennille; BJ & the bear.
Employing my librarian skills, I ventured a subject heading: “Bigfoot – drama.” And hit gold, of a sort. The Bigfoot Terror Collection is a suite of downloadable films which casts its merciless glare on the nadir of Bigfoot’s filmography, before Harry and the Hendersons resurrected his career as a loveable, overgrown plush toy. The best title for true Bigfoot aficionados has to be Legend of Bigfoot, a 1976 shlockumentary in which noted sasquatch paparazzo Ivan Marx – a man who truly has bigfoot on the brain – scours the earth in hopes of capturing the gentle giant on film. When at last he corners his leading man in some far northern desolation, bigfoot is typically camera shy. Sadly, this was not always the case.
Just two years before, Bigfoot’s cousin the Yeti had appeared in Shriek of the Mutilated, a low budget slasher movie that falls well within the realm of so-bad-it’s-good. To attempt to explain the inspired illogic of this bizarre cinematic fever dream is beyond me. I loved every minute of it. In 1979, Bigfoot made another regrettable appearance in The Capture of Bigfoot. By far the scariest part of this movie is the gnashingly bad overacting of Richard Kennedy as the town baddy, Mr. Olsen. (You may remember Kennedy from his equally galvanizing appearances in C.B. Hustlers, Ilsa: Queen of the SS, or Invasion of the Blood Farmers). The less said about The Search for the Beast the better. Made in 1997, it is a softcore drive in flick featuring a goggle-eyed, amorous Alabama swamp ape. (Not that I watched the whole thing, or anything). You’ve been warned, or tempted.