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Friday, December 05, 2008


In the glorious days of pre-cable TV wherein one could find any number of local movie shows, cash-strapped regional stations would occasionally fill out their film schedules with bottom-of-the-barrel and most likely public domain flicks that would be broadcast at Jesus o’clock in the morning and be viewed mostly by insomniacs or the heavily self-medicated. These celluloid stink bombs would mostly come and go, being run only once, but every now and then there would be one that stood above the pack and would be remembered for all time as a movie so mind-bendingly terrible that it was literally unbelievable, and in the days of my misspent East Coast youth no film exemplified this misbegotten breed like 1976’s CURSE OF BIGFOOT, a movie that ran with surprising frequency on New York’s WOR-TV (aka Channel 9) and became a minor cult classic to myself and several of my like-minded friends. We first witnessed its anti-spectacle in the late 1970’s and we’ve been devoted to it ever since, it being the first film I ever saw that lead to me to describe it as being so boring, worthless and bad that it somehow manages to transcend its own awfulness and become a thing of perverse fascination.

It’s probably impossible these days to convey to those who weren’t there for it just how much of the 1970’s seemed like
everybody was stoned, including the president, and this perceived pot haze clouded pop culture with many strange fads and manias, among which could be counted “weird phenomena” stories of shit like the Bermuda Triangle, U.F.O.’s and other assorted strangeness that became mesmerizing after a few bowls of Indica. But the heavy-hitter of the genre had to be the nation’s fascination with Sasquatch, more commonly known as “Bigfoot,” a shaggy forest-dwelling specimen of cryptozoology who memorably teamed up with the Six-Million Dollar Man. I don’t recall exactly when the Bigfoot craze caught on but I do remember the country being inundated, seemingly overnight, with books, cheapjack horror movies, TV specials and pseudo-documentaries about the hairy bastard, and while I dig the idea of the missing link/nature spirit or whatever the fuck Bigfoot was supposed to be, I must admit that I never really got exactly why the creature was so popular. There was never much by way of concrete proof of its existence, the most famous example of which is the short out-of-focus 1967 film purported to be of an actual Bigfoot crossing a road that looks to me like some Amazonian woman in a rented gorilla costume; I say “woman” because in the famous out-of-focus still shot of Bigfoot taken from the film it looks like Bigfoot’s rockin’ a decent rack.

The alleged real-life Bigfoot from the famous 1967 film. Is it just me, or does it look like Bigfoot's sportin' titties?

But whatever the case, Bigfoot became an indelible part of the Seventies zeitgeist and low-budget filmmakers were only too willing to crank out shitty flicks to cash in on the craze and rook moviegoers out of their hard-earned greenbacks. None of the Bigfoot movies were any good, in fact most of them were downright terrible, but not one of them even begin to approach the nadir of quality that is CURSE OF BIGFOOT, a work that appears to have been cobbled together from a poorly-made and totally-unrelated-to-Bigfoot attempt at a horror film, a scene taking place in a classroom that looks worse than one of the educational flicks they used to run in health class, a staggering amount of seemingly random stock footage and, last but certainly least, what meager footage was available from an apparently unfinished 1958 would-be monster movie entitled TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING. A true oddity, the film was not inaccurately described on the Internet Movie Database’s “user comments” section with the headline “A Sasquatch could make a better movie,” a sentiment I share after having sat many times, slack-jawed in disbelief, through this sole effort of director Don Fields.

NOTE: as of this point, this review becomes an in-depth examination of CURSE OF BIGFOOT's anti-grandeur, so if you want to see it for yourself and save the threadbare surprises I advise you to stop reading right now and get your hands on the DVD or check it out in chapters on YouTube.

The legs of Bigfoot as seen during the pre-credits sequence. Note the stunning cinematography.

The film opens with a glimpse of the distant past that wouldn’t have passed muster on IT'S ABOUT TIME as a narrator “ominously” fills us in on a strange creature that would kill cavemen for no apparent reason. That creature was known as…(Wait for it!)…Bigfoot!!!

Oh, shit! It's Bigfoot!!!

Suddenly, in what is unquestionably the film’s only almost-exciting moment, a monster meant to be Bigfoot runs face-first and full-tilt into the camera and mauls an unseen caveman to death (unseen save for an arm with crepe hair crudely glued to it, that is), causing chocolate syrup to run down a boulder in a poor substitution for stage blood. The titles then roll and list a cast of non-stars (such as Ken Kleopfer, Ruth Ann Manella, and Bill Simonsen as Dr. Bill Wyman) as the camera for some reason delights our eyes with what appears to be elementary school documentary footage of Native American cliff-dwellings and caves which has squat to do with Bigfoot.

The film then shifts to a nigh-interminable sequence featuring a nighttime scene in which a woman scolds her dog for barking at what she assumes is some wild animal but is in actuality the slowest-moving, most nondescript and bogus-looking monster in recent memory.

Exactly what the fuck is this monster supposed to be? Anybody?

The monster lurks in the bushes or aimlessly shambles along while the camera can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to show us the monster, the dog, the woman or random shots of the house or the dripping spigot to which one would attach a garden hose. After what feels like a short suspense-free eternity, the monster finally makes it to within arm’s length of the woman and makes his move, but we don’t get to see what happens because the footage abruptly comes to a halt when it’s revealed that we’ve been watching a movie along with a classroom full of teenagers who have themselves been watching the pitiful horror movie; the film has been shut off by the class’ professor who states something to the effect of “Well, I think you all get the idea,” thus simultaneously leaving his students and the audience feeling distinctly gypped.

This teacher’s acting is smarmy to the nth degree and comes off just as vile and unctuous as any seventies-era gameshow host, only minus any shred of charm. Of far more interest (?) is the classroom full of students, comprised of a bunch of young actors whose faces betray the unmistakable look of being both bored and stoned, providing a screen image that in more artful hands would have been intentionally meant to comment on what was likely the mindset being experienced by the viewing audience.

The stoned and bored-looking students: an ironic comment on the audience?

Alas, the film does not give us time to consider such an artistic possibility and instead allows the teacher of what is apparently a myths & legends course to whip out a placard with an illustration of Bigfoot emblazoned upon it and expound upon the existence of the hairy bastard.

"And for those students who speak Ebonics, this here nigga is Bigfoot, muthafukkas!!!"

So begins a veritable Cannes Film Festival of stock footage meant to convey the search for Bigfoot, footage including incongruous shots of assorted radar arrays,

maps and shit,

light aircraft flying at an altitude guaranteed not to allow a clear look at anything other than miles of tree cover, let alone a Sasquatch,

and copious footage depicting the logging industry.

I shit you not; the fucking logging industry!!!

To further drive home his point — nebulous though it may be — the professor then regales us with the "true encounter" had by two gurk-gurks out driving aimlessly through the backwoods. After about three solid minutes of shots of their truck slooooooowly meandering over small hills and around trees, the yokels spot...Bigfoot!

The Hairy One casually saunters across the road and vanishes into the brush, causing the stunned (stoned?) drivers (about whom we know absolutely nothing) to stop the truck and get out to investigate. The pair consists of a dude who looks like a long-lost member of SCTV's MacKenzie Brothers

and a mulleted wonder who's pretty much the living embodiment of the mid-1970's burnout who hung around shopping malls, parking lots and fast food joints looking to score some weed or underage pussy.

The mid-1970's burnout, far removed from his natural habitat of shopping malls and parking lots.

These two veeeeeeeery sloooooooowly search the brush for any sign of Bigfoot, traipsing through brambles, random branches and such, wasting nearly ten suspense-free minutes during which time we get a brief glimpse of the monster's right foot that stiffly twitches.

The right foot of...Bigfoot!!!

Sadly, our intrepid explorers don't get to see that horrifying sight and instead continue to wander about aimlessly. Finally the burnout hears the sounds of his pal being horribly mauled — which is conveniently not depicted for the edification or entertainment of the audience — and runs to his friend's aid, but too late: the lost MacKenzie lays dead and the burnout reacts with less emotion than he would have expressed if he'd spilled his bong in the rear of his bitchin' customized van.

The lost Mackenzie Brother lays dead, viciously mauled by a rapacious Bigfoot...

...while his burnout pal reacts with a depth of emotion that fairly screams "Bummer, dude."
That sub-IN SEARCH OF re-enactment goes on for so long that you'll swear you'd felt your facial hair grow, an effect compounded by whatever intoxicants may be running rampant through your system. (Which reminds me that I neglected to mention that CURSE OF BIGFOOT should not be attempted without beers, hard liquor or copious amounts of weed within easy reach, although I'd make an exception to this rule in the case of my clean-livin' buddy Jared. Get ready for it, dude. One of these days I'm going to inflict this one on you!)

Before we're given a chance to regain our composure following that exercise in flesh-crawling horror, class resumes with the bored/stoned students identifying old woodcuts of mythic beasts while turning in performances that would have embarrassed the cast of Mrs. Gage's fifth grade production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? But then things take a turn for the worse when the professor's special guest shows up, a creepy bespectacled guy who claims to have firsthand experience with a vicious Bigfoot, an event from some fifteen years previous.

"Kids, I had an encounter in the woods with Bigfoot, and...Hey! Stop laughing! This shit's serious!!!"

Following what's supposed to be an ominous lead-in (that isn't the least bit ominous) to the tale he's about to tell, the movie suddenly turns into a no-budget horror flick from the 1950's, complete with obviously different film stock and another opening narration, a jarring effect that not only makes the viewer think they've downed some off-date Piel's, but also leads one to conclude they've been trapped in a cruel cinematic Moebius strip that will randomly re-start the film over and over again for all of eternity, with each new beginning helmed by a completely new director.

Of far less interest than the patchwork incoherence/boredom festival/endurance test of the film's earlier segments, the 1950's mini-movie is merely a deadly-dull account of a teacher and his students discovering a mummified Bigfoot in a hillside cave and what happens when said critter gets loose. There's a little bit of dimestore mayhem before Bigfoot meets an untimely and uninteresting death by immolation, but before we're finally granted the mercy of the familiar words "The End" we're forced to endure scene after scene of some boring Eisenhower-era white folks wandering around some nondescript hills for what you'd swear was the entire running time of the U.S. version of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ.

Can your heart stand the excitement?
Even when the monster goes on the rampage, not one single thing of interest happens, and when "The End" does finally pop up the film just abruptly comes to a complete halt. No cutting back to the anguished Bigfoot massacre survivor, no summing up from the professor, no comments from the class, no twist ending, no anything. The shit just ends and the viewer is left to sit in silence for a few moments, reeling from the cumulative boredom and confusion, but thankful that they didn't spend the cash to see it in the theater. Yes, you read that right: CURSE OF BIGFOOT was apparently actually released onto the big screen, probably to the drive-in circuit, a wasteland where the attendees were more often than not too concerned with getting stoned or fucking to care if the movie being shown was the cinematic equivalent to an empty McDonald's Big Mac container.

But believe me when I say I'd have loved to have seen this monument to how
not to make a movie if it had played theatrically during my youth. Films of this ilk are best enjoyed with an unwitting audience of liquored-up grindhouse regulars who enliven such flicks with their non-stop barrage of often vulgar commentary and impromptu insinuation of themselves into the movie's events with observations such as "If I was in this movie I'd've kicked that muthafukkin' Bigfoot muthafukka right in the fuckin' nuts!" which would probably have been answered back with "You wouldn'ta done shit 'cuz Bigfoot would be too busy bonin' you up the ass!" We may not have seen it projected, but my friends and I had a field day with CURSE OF BIGFOOT whenever it aired on Channel 9, and just the other night myself and my friend of twenty-six years, Chris, sat through it yet again and laughed ourselves silly. There are those who slag off Ed Wood and his films as being the worst ever made, but at least Wood had a unique vision all his own and legitimate desire to make viable movies; CURSE OF BIGFOOT appears to have been cobbled together from spare parts with naught on its mind save ripping-off the moviegoing public, and it certainly succeeds at that dubious goal, and what entertainment can be garnered from its towering ineptness was almost certainly not intentional.

Bottom line: CURSE OF BIGFOOT is exactly the kind of film that should be considered when trying to define "the worst movie of all time," a flick lacking any of the things that make a movie legitimately entertaining in the first place, such as characters you care about in any way, thrills, romance, a coherent plot, gratuitous titties, graphic violence, talking dogs,
anything. Being wholly without merit, CURSE OF BIGFOOT is recommended only for those who have worked their way through the Thirty-Six Chambers of Bad Moviedom and attained the Zen-like mastery needed to weather its complete and utter inertia. That said, I would also recommend it to those who think they may be ready to handle it; if you newcomers can make it all the way through CURSE OF BIGFOOT's eighty-eight minute running time you may find yourself among the growing legion of moviegoers who love it for a number of indefensible reasons, and may even find yourself attempting to lure the innocent down the path of ruin that you yourself have trod upon, becoming sort of a bad movie "pusher," if you will. A pusher just like Yer Bunche.


Satyrblade said...

You win today's "Blog of the Week" award, partly for name-checking Fassbinder's 10-hour endurance test and partly for using "zeitgeist" in a sentence without sounding like a twat.

John Bligh said...

This movie, TRACK OF THE MOONBEAST and THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK seemed to run on a constant cycle back in those days. I miss them all.

Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

The U.S. version of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ is longer than the original by an added four hours.

Anonymous said...

There are really bad horror movies out there that are totally unwatchable (House of the Dead), then there are those that have a devoted following because their uniquely horrid badness is so very entertaining (Plan 9).

Curse of Bigfoot inhabits a nebulous region, somewhere between these two extremes.

Yet I love it to this day.

ps: Never saw Track of the Moonbeast, but I love Boggy Creek!

Satyrblade said...

15 1/2 hours. Holy shit. I could have sworn the version that played at V.C.U's Alternative Film Society(*) in '83 or '84 was billed as being 10 hours long, but I may be mistaken - it WAS 24 years ago, after all.


Speaking of "fuck," Forry Ackerman died last night. Dammit.

* - The place I first got skull-fucked by films like Liquid Sky, Subway, Smithereens and Polyester, among others. I was tempted to see Berlin Alexanderplatz, but did not have the time to catch all 4 or 5 installments of it in order.

John Bligh said...

15.5 hours of Fassbinder???? I'd rather swallow broken glass.

Mindlesskirby said...

I feel like watching this movie now