Bigfoot: Man Or Beast? (1975)

Directed by Lawrence Crowley
Family Home Video, Inc. VHS

At one point, Bigfoot tracker Bob Morgan talks about the crestfallen state of 1970s American culture:

“Air conditioning, neon lights, one-way streets, parking meters…GOOD LORD. Hell, Bigfoot doesn’t even carry a [back] pack.”

With that, any review of Bigfoot: Man Or Beast? is rendered moot.

To the uninitiated, this film appears to be just another rung on the ladder of ‘Squatch-ploitation, a sub-sub-genre which works like a latter-day Marx Brothers movie — it’s not so much what you’re going to get, but how you’re going to get it. Leaning towards the vérité strangeness of Ivan Marx’s The Legend Of Bigfoot rather than the travelogue mockery of Sasquatch: The Legend Of Bigfoot, Man Or Beast strolls down a predictable path. Nature shots. Narration. Interviews. Then, ultimately, a bonafide Bigfoot expedition. Taken at face value, this structure may summon a charmed yawn. Luckily, face value has little to do with Bob Morgan.

“This experience has been a tribal initiation…into manhood.”

Bigfoot: Man Or Beast? is about a fervent man who (possibly) takes Bigfoot too seriously. And that’s why it’s a magical piece of filmmaking. For the first twenty minutes, a guy named J. English Smith accompanies us on an hilariously unenthusiastic smorgasbord of Sasquatch particulars. Strange accents. Disruptive edits. Repeated use of the term “Sasquash.” And of course, the Patterson film, complete with narration that’s not by Patterson. A guy in a gorilla suit chimes in and Mr. Smith informs us that, through the use of modern technology (computer reports, CBs, trucks), Bigfoot will surely be captured. Soon. By Bob Morgan.

The plan is simple. A rigorous Morgan and his group of Bigfoot hunters launch a three-month stake out in the woods surrounding Mount St. Helens. None of the onscreen participants are particularly charismatic. So, the film’s clashing tones serve as our welcoming committee. And that, in turn, provides a nice framework for Morgan’s impassioned-yet-slightly-mislaid philosophies. Dull harmonicas duelling with duller scenes of squirrels cavorting? Sit tight. The next jump-cut will reveal a solemn, synth-quaking mountain while Morgan states, “The youth of today has had enough killing.” Two guys walking through an underground cave for five minutes with no real outcome? No problem. Morgan interviews a woman who describes what happens when Bigfoot gives birth. Then, they talk about God, a woman skinny dips, and everything catches on fire. Whose Bigfoot movie is this?

Sometime in the early 70s, someone made an ultra-cheap Bigfoot film which was differentiated by nothing but its ultra-cheapness. Then, someone else pointed a camera at Bob Morgan. Inevitably, the two projects were combined together to create the gentle, schizophrenic wonder now known as Bigfoot: Man Or Beast?. Tribal initiations don’t get much better.

Two things. One, this over-saturated print is an experience unto itself. Exploding with greens, pinks, and extreme contrast, it assumes the mannerisms of a living Polaroid — a bit like Demon Lover Diary, but even further removed from reality. Two, this tape was distributed in a generic black clamshell case with a gold and black sticker on the front. The sticker contains an outline of Bigfoot’s foot, while the film’s title resides in the center. Thank you, Family Home Video, Inc.

Bob Morgan also appears briefly in The Mysterious Monsters. The guy’s legit.

Man, beast, or sociological seer? Bigfoot: Man Or Beast? divides its time between rock-bottom Bigfoot assessment and Bob Morgan’s intensity. What results is a routine Bigfoot docudrama with the added gifts of awkward subtlety, chaotic technique, and touching ridiculousness. If you’re not enchanted by this film, it may be a good time to assess your relationship with air conditioning. Or parking meters. Probably both.