Monster Movie Monday: Sasquatch (1976)
Matthew Turner | On 05, Oct 2020
Director: Ed Ragozzino
Cast: George Lauris, Steve Boergadine, Jim Bradford, Ken Kenzle, William Emmons, Joel Morello, Lou Salerini
Watch Sasquatch online in the UK: Amazon Prime
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“Roams through the valley but makes the high mountain his home,
There in God’s country, he just wants to be left alone.”
Those are lines from Al Capps and Lane Caudell’s High in the Mountain, the theme song for 1976’s Sasquatch (aka Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot). The presence of the surprisingly catchy tune means Sasquatch joins Mothra (1961) in the distinguished sub-group of creature features with their own theme songs.
Produced by real-life Bigfoot researcher Ronald Olson and released at a time when the media was full of apparent Bigfoot sightings, Sasquatch is presented as a pseudo-documentary, in which narrator and Bigfoot expert Chuck Evans (George Lauris) leads a team of scientists, a couple of trackers and the camp cook (Jim Bradford) on an expedition through the wilds of British Columbia – although it was actually shot in Bend and Sisters, in Oregon – in search of the legendary Sasquatch. Along the way, the team encounter several other wild animals before thrillingly coming face to face with Bigfoot himself.
Modelling their version of Bigfoot on the real-life Patterson-Gimlin footage from 1967 (which appears in the film), the filmmakers do an excellent job with their creature creation. Sure, Bigfoot is played by a man in a suit (Jim Coffin), but some real thought has gone into the question of what a Sasquatch might actually look like and the face of the creature, when it’s eventually revealed, is far from the laughable special effect you might be expecting.
Of course, the film can’t peak too soon with its Bigfoot action, so there’s a handy flashback sequence for some early excitement, including a hilarious bit where a miner looks out of his cabin window, only to find a Sasquatch right there in front of him, horror movie-style (although his face is in shadow at that point). That attack sequence is an absolute joy, with Bigfoot smashing and reaching through windows and another Bigfoot (yes, there are more than one) hurling down plastic-looking rocks from a high vantage point.
The Bigfoot effects are heightened still further by the genuinely frightening sound it makes, like an anguished air raid siren. Let’s put it this way – if you heard that while camping one night, you’d be packing up and heading home pretty sharpish.
Sasquatch is a strange film in many respects. You don’t really get to know the characters (other than the cook – more on him in a minute), so there’s no additional plot other than the basic Sasquatch search. Instead, the film is padded out with some frankly spectacular wildlife photography, including an extremely impressive bear fight, which goes on for ages, with the editing giving the impression that the scientists are just watching it from a safe distance.
The predominance of wildlife footage makes more sense once you realise that Olson’s father was the founder of American National Enterprises, a Salt Lake City-based film production company that specialised in nature documentaries. However, there are also a couple of exciting action sequences that were filmed especially for Sasquatch, one involving a wild cougar attacking the crew (and seriously spooking the horses) and a scarily realistic bear attack sequence that rivals The Revenant and was apparently achieved by attaching Tootsie Rolls to a stuntman’s shirt so the trained bear would go for them.
It’s fair to say that the tone of the film varies weirdly at times – sometimes it’s a nature doc, sometimes it’s a horror film and sometimes it’s a bizarre knockabout comedy, most notably in a scene where the cook faces off against a badger that’s been stealing the camp grub and ends up spanking it with a frying pan, accompanied by comedy music on the score.
The film saves its best scene for last, though, as the team are attacked by multiple Sasquatches and you finally see their faces. Remember that bit in Aliens, where they’re looking at the movement detectors and suddenly realise there are loads of them and they’re getting closer? Well, there’s an almost identical version of that here, so we’re definitively saying it was a direct influence on Aliens and we hereby challenge James Cameron to prove otherwise.
Sasquatch (1976) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.