The 1970s: The Decade of Bigfoot
The latest issue of FilmFax magazine features an interview with Philip Morris, a man of various talents who, among other things, had established a considerable reputation in the entertainment industry for his work in creating high-quality gorilla costumes. (Note: This has nothing to do with the tobacco company of the same name or the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor flick, I Love You Phillip Morris.) An interesting side article to this interview focuses on one of Morris' lesser known (but no less important) career accomplishments: his unwitting involvement in the notorious 1967 Bigfoot hoax known as the "Patterson film". According to Morris, Roger Patterson purchased one of Morris' ape costumes shortly before his Bigfoot film made its rounds at news outlets around the country. Morris' recount of this incident is a fascinating read, and I highly recommend that you pick up this issue to see it for yourself. This issue also has an articles about movie monster memorabilia collector extraordinaire Bob Burns, classic B-movie producer Richard Gordon, and the special effects of Jaws 3-D--in particular, why the 3-D effects shots didn't turn out so well for the final edit and why Jaws 3-D is long overdue for a restoration and re-release in all of its anaglyphic three-dimensional glory.
Reading about the hoaxed Bigfoot film brought back quite a few memories. Say what you will about cryptozoology, but one thing is unquestionably true: it's a great source of monsters for novels, movies, TV shows, and ancillary merchandising. In this case, it seemed that the Patterson film's appearance in the late 60s helped to spur a wave of Bigfoot-mania in the 70s. Plenty of Bigfoot stuff has been produced in the decades since then; in fact, Fisher-Price recently released a remote-controlled Bigfoot toy complete with a footprint-shaped controller. Yet none of this other Bigfoot stuff is nearly as goofy or bizarre as what was done in the 70s (then again, what is?). Read on for a list that highlights some of the more notorious Bigfoot-flavored pop culture cheese that was popular during the polyester decade.
Bigfoot on TV: It seemed that when Bigfoot appeared on television in a fictitious context in the 70s, some of the more outlandish aspects of Bigfoot folklore went right along with him. For example, while many Bigfoot believers think that the creature is some kind of unidentified species of bipedal primate, there are a few who insist that there is some kind of connection between Bigfoot and UFOs. (That's right, Bigfoot and UFOs--two crazy modern legends for the price of one!) Naturally, someone had to take the stranger of the two views of Bigfoot and run it all the way to the bank. That someone happened to be Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man.
Between 1976 and 1977, Bigfoot appeared on the four episodes of Six Million Dollar Man (and one episode of its spin-off, The Bionic Woman) as an android built by aliens for the purpose of covering up an invasion of Earth. (Why The X-Files didn't do their own version of this plot, I'll never know.) Some say that the introduction of the Bigfoot character was when Six Million Dollar Man "jumped the shark". However, if the robot Bigfoot was the equivalent of jumping the shark, then the TV series Bigfoot and Wildboy would be the equivalent of rocketing over the shark with a jet pack, a sequined jumpsuit and a sparkler-adorned crash helmet.
Bigfoot and Wildboy was a live-action TV series by Sid and Marty Krofft about an orphaned boy who is raised by Bigfoot, and each week they went on adventures together. (You can watch the show's opening credits on YouTube.) Yes, this 1977-1979 show was aimed squarely at the Saturday morning cartoons crowd, but the premise alone (to say nothing of its production values or individual episodes) sounds like the perfect headline from the Weekly World News: "I WAS RAISED BY BIGFOOT!" Throw in some of the other villains that appeared on the show, which included mummies, werewolves, vampires and aliens, and you've got a tabloid-a-palooza unequaled by other Bigfoot movie and TV appearances since then--except for, perhaps, Bigfoot's 2004 appearance on the Venture Bros. TV series.
Bigfoot (right) with his adopted charge Wildboy,
after the long, bitter custody dispute
with the Loch Ness Monster.
Bigfoot Toys, Models and Games: Among the many figures that were included in the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman toy lines, the bionic Bigfoot was one of them. There have been other Bigfoot action figures over the years with greater detail and more points of articulation, but none of them have the pop-off chest plate that reveals the bionic insides that this one did. This figure stood at over 12 inches tall, which made him the perfect drinking buddy for Kenner's 15 inch jumbo-sized Chewbacca figure that was released a few years later.
If giant action figures weren't your thing, there was the 10 inch tall glow-in-the-dark Bigfoot model kit that was released in 1978 by AMT, which included a base that featured various human bones. (Note: This same kit is being re-issued this spring. Pre-order your copy today!)
There was also a Bigfoot board game that was released in 1977 by Milton Bradley. I played it a few times soon after it hit the toy store shelves and from what I remember, it wasn't a particularly complicated or challenging game. Nevertheless, it would fit into the category of "survival horror" games, because the goal of the game was to avoid Bigfoot while exploring the mountains of Alaska and the last player left on the board who didn't encounter Bigfoot was the winner.
Milton Bradley's Bigfoot board game, which features a
picture on the box that depicts the game's titular monster
as he quietly decides which kid he's going to maul first.
What exactly Bigfoot does to the player in the game's make-believe world that causes him/her to "lose" is left up to the player's naive, prepubescent imagination. (The game says that players who encounter Bigfoot "must leave the mountains forever", but it fails to specify whether that means leaving alive on two feet or leaving dead in a body bag, most likely in multiple, broken pieces.) Adding to the game's latent morbidity is the rule that allows players to sic Bigfoot against other players--you sure won't see that in a Resident Evil game.
Bigfoot in the Movies: There were a handful of movies that depicted Bigfoot, the Yeti, or some kind of creatures like them before the 70s; of particular note is Hammer Film Productions' The Abominable Snowman (1957), which featured Peter Cushing. Yet Bigfoot's silver screen stardom really didn't happen until the 70s, when he appeared in a series of films that varied greatly in quality from above average to god-awful and all points in between. Yes, Bigfoot has been in many films since then, but none of those titles equal the unbridled campiness and kitsch of the Bigfoot films that arrived in the 70s. A sampling of 70s-era Bigfoot movie poster art is featured below.