Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vinegar Syndrome - IN SEARCH OF BIGFOOT / CRY WILDERNESS ""

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


IN SEARCH OF BIGFOOT (1975; Lawrence Crowley/ William Miller)
I have a real fondness for this sort of documentary especially when made in the 1970s. Heavy on narration and banjo/harmonica music, this has the feeling of an educational film crossed with something 3M might have put out around this time. There's something really pleasant about it all though. These days we have become quite accustomed to documentaries and documentary-style filmmaking. It's part of our TV culture in such a way as to be obligatory at this point. That said, it's easy to see how today's audiences may be a bit fatigued in regards to this stuff. IN SEARCH OF BIGFOOT feels quite anachronistic in comparison. It really feels like something your 6th grade science teacher might have spooled up on the old AV Club 16mm projector back in the day. I think that's why this kind of movie just clicks with me. It reminds me of a lazy day in school. A day wherein we needn't even pay attention to the film being shown to us, but we could and could end up liking it even. Watching a documentary or film in that way was ideal in terms of the lack of expectations it created from the outset. that That sort of calming nostalgia that the movie gave me might be interpreted in a comic way by youngsters today.  They might find the Researcher Robert Morgan to be a little silly the earnestness of his pursuit.
When Morgan says things like, "He belongs with this earth. He belongs here, he lives with nature. We, unfortunately, live in spite of it. He's part of nature. We create our own: air conditioning, neon lights, one way streets, parking meters...", he may come off a little out of touch. This stuff for me is also part of the charm of the film. 
Not only the style, but the topic here is quite an intriguing thing. Bigfoot (or sasquatch as he is also known) is one of those mythical creatures that seems to continue on even today. I am always fascinated by the way this sort of myth continues to perpetuate itself in a time where information and research is so readily available instantly. It feels like this sort of thing would have been much easier to keep alive in a time like the 1970s and prior. At this very moment, I can type the phrase "Is Bigfoot Real?" into google and some of the sop (and most recent) responses I get back completely contradict each other. One says "Top 10 Reasons Bigfoot is a Bust" and the next Features some recent photos taken by a man on his cell phone that he claims are of a sasquatch. It's hard to not start to think that the folks in this documentary come off a little nutty, but I do respect that they really want to believe. There' something really neat about that. In these cynical times we live in, when people online will not hesitate to try to stomp on any incident that could lead others to believe in something paranormal or magical at an instant's notice, it's nice to know and hope that there are still "believers" out there. I don't mean this in a remotely religious sense, but I do like to see people wanting to believe in something larger than themselves. Something that fascinates them, that they cannot explain. It's that sort of hunger for answers that I respect, even if the execution is far from up to today's standards of documentary filmmaking.

CRY WILDERNESS (1987; Jay Cohen)
Preceding HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS by about 1 year, this movie slides much more into WTF movie territory than it's Spielberg-washed follow-up, which may make it more memorable in some way. It really feels to me like the the type of film that would be shown as part of the Alamo Drafthouse's Weird Wednesday series. it's just a bewildering, bizarro film that is ostensibly for kids, but falls into that category of perhaps being too strange for them. It makes very little sense as a whole and features some dubbing that makes it feel slightly otherworldly. For some reason I was reminded of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic POD PEOPLE, though the dubbing isn't nearly as hilarious as it is in that film. The dubbing and illogical nature of the film make it feel like it's from another world, or is maybe an Italian production. 
In CRY WILDERNESS, a little boy claims to have seen Bigfoot and it gets him in very hot water with his teacher (who thinks he's a liar). When Bigfoot starts delivering messages to the boy in the middle of the night from a distance ("You're father is in danger!"), the youngster loses a bit of credibility with his peers. While the kid's dad (a park ranger), hunts a tiger on the loose the kid himself must try to keep the secret of his big furry werido pal.
Director Jay Cohen makes some interesting stylistic choices along the way here. The way he shoots Bigfoot in general and the fact that he occasionally mixes in video footage of bears and deer running through the forest with his animal montages was a particularly memorable choice. Did he think that would be unnoticeable and would match with the film footage? This kind of Ed Wood-style filmmaking always amuses me. I can just imagine Johnny Depp, gleefully sifting through military stock footage and thinking of a storyline to fit with it. Jay Cohen wouldn't have done that exactly, but he may have seen some nature specials and had a similar epiphany about filling in some gaps in his montages which, up to that point, were just not quite right. In peeking at Cohen's resume, I noticed that he played a part NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR, another films that is lacking in the logic department, but is nonetheless fascinating for some reason. Fans of NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR and Bigfoot will certainly find some enjoyment in this film I think. Oh and the cover art for this film on the DVD reminds me of an old Choose Your Own Adventure paperback or something, which I love.
This Bigfoot Double feature is an interesting and welcome turn from the type of films the type of film they typically put out and  is a pretty fun release from Vinegar Syndrome. For all my comments here, I'd still love to see VS put out more movies along these lines if they see fit.

This Two-Movie set is available via Vinegar Syndrome:

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