Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

The Legend of Bigfoot, 1975

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Recently there was another Bigfoot farce. The hoaxers held a press conference claiming they had a Bigfoot body ((Which was clearly a costume in a box with some entrails thrown on it, even before they were forced to admit it. )), but brought little to show — a couple blurry pictures, and DNA test results that led to some truly entertaining rationalizations.

I’ve always been fascinated by cryptozoology. When I was quite young, and gullible, I tended to believe such things. It was a thrill to think that dour, methodical authorities had missed something big, and that some upstart could prove them silly. I’m pretty sure this is a big part of the enduring allure of fringe science.

But as I matured and gained more experience in how things actually work in reality, I became more interested in the ways people tried to fake reality to serve their own emotional needs. It never works, and it’s almost always blindingly obvious that a hoax is occurring. Whether it be the endless shenanigans of L. Ron Hubbard, creationists trying to prove that men walked with dinosaurs, or a hick police officer trying to gain attention for bagging the body of a supposed Bigfoot, the mental gymnastics they must engage in to evade what’s really going on interest me greatly.

The surest sign that the recent brouhaha was a hoax was not the picture of the costume in a box, funnily enough. It was the involvement of Tom Biscardi. ((Another excellent sign of a hoax — the story kept changing, seemingly every time the “discoverers” opened their mouths. ))

Mr. Biscardi is held in contempt even within the Bigfoot community (or rather, the community of people who believe that Bigfoot exists, and keep looking for actual proof of it). He was involved in a silly hoax just a few years ago, claiming to have a live Bigfoot in captivity, then forced to “admit” that he himself had been hoaxed by someone who had claimed to have the captive cryptid, which he claimed never to have seen himself ((Contradicting his own earlier claims. )).

And Mr. Biscardi is the reason I decided to review this movie. It is available in the Mill Creek Entertainment Drive-In Movie Classics 50 Movie Pack ((The name of the pack is something of a misnomer. There are, indeed, several movies in it that are pure drive-in fare. But there are also television pilots for series that never got made. )) — widescreen, even! ((But not anamorphic, of course. )) — and others you can find links for at the bottom of the post.

Biscardi was mentored by Ivan Marx. And Ivan Marx is the star and narrator of this film. Not to mention a well-known Bigfoot hoaxer his own self. His widow, Peggy, was involved in Biscardi’s previous hoax in 2005, as well.

Ivan Marx, as you shall soon see, was a real piece of work.

Now, on to the review.


Oh goodness, what can one possibly say?

The Legend of Bigfoot is a towering work of intellectual genius, an example for the ages.

It demonstrates at excruciating length: how not to think; how not to analyze; and why, if you absolutely must have an entire film narrated by a single individual, you had damned well better get Morgan Freeman to do it.

It also shows you how not to fake a documentary.

Ivan Marx claims ((Ivan Marx made a lot of claims, apparently. Given how he makes them in this movie, it’s a wonder that anyone ever took him seriously about anything. )) at the outset that he’s a nature boy ((Not a nudist, just someone that prefers nature to civilization. If you get to the end of the movie, each subsequent assertion of this “fact”, overt or implicit, becomes more and more comical. )) and that he never believed in Bigfoot. You can listen to the opening minutes of the film here, including the oh-so-1970s opening credits music (dour, atonal flute solo!), played under still photos washed out in In Search Of… fashion:

Our narrator.

[audio:http://blog.ianhamet.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/legendofbigfoot-opening.mp3%5D

And right off the bat, post-credits, we get a sense of just what a muddle the movie is going to be. The pre-credit narration says that the story covers “the last ten years”. An early shot of life on Marx’s Bear Ranch shows a calendar from 1951. As the movie is copyright 1975 ((Which is the reason that I give that as the year of the movie, rather than IMDb’s 1976. We’re both right — I’m using the year of copyright, and IMDb is using year of release. )), already there’s some funny business going on.

Time, in this movie, is a vague concept, a floating abstraction mostly unconnected to anything at all. This opening, in fact, is the only part of the movie that gives you any real idea at all of what time period it’s supposed to cover. And since “the last ten years” would mean roughly 1964 to 1974, but an opening shot tells us it’s 1951, you can guess how accurate, precise, and clear things are going to get later.

Then we get another claim from Marx:

“You see, I’m a tracker. And belieeeve me, I’m the last of a vanishing breed.”

That’s more or less how he intones it, too. In fact, he overemphasizes words all the time. It’s meant to come off as corny-but-sincere, I’m guessing. But after a while, it becomes “he doth protest too much”.

He claims to have been a tracker — “I know tracks like the FBI knows fingerprints” — who was paid to hunt renegades “so that innocent [animals] might be spared.”

We see him track and trap a bobcat.

He gets called up to Kodiak, Alaska (When? Unknown. We are only told “There was a time when…”) to take care of a bear that’s been killing cattle. Cue the wild bear stock footage. Marx doesn’t believe that bears are doing the killing, and a rancher agrees. Then the rancher tells him it was Bigfoot.

“I checked the carcass and found the cow had died naturally.” How he determined that the cow died of malnutrition is weak — the grass is too wet, and therefore doesn’t have enough nutrients in it.

So the bears weren’t guilty, and neither was Bigfoot. Marx scoffs at “those crazies in Alaska.”

Off to Arizona to help his wife’s brother track a wild pig, and the brother in law believes in Bigfoot, too. Brother in law takes Marx to “what Indians called The Land Of Petrified Wood,” where there are drawings of creatures with big hands and feet. The drawings are supposed to be seven hundred years old, and “told a story” about how Bigfoot stole Indian babies, causing the village to be abandoned in fear. Gee, you would think that if this were some kind of sign of Bigfoot, anthropologists would have made some real hay with it by now, wouldn’t you?

Then he goes “up tracking a mountain lion” — time unknown, might be a day later, or a year — and finds bigfoot tracks in the snow, along with hair Marx cannot identify.

Here we get some humorous footage of Marx investigating the tracks. As his own voiceover tells you that the stride is too big for a man to have made — fifty inches versus thirty for man — we watch as Marx makes the strides himself (with some stretching). Even as he walks through the footprints without much effort, he asserts in the voiceover that for them to be fake, they would have had to have been made by a machine. Uh huh.

He also sees a “hand-print” that is “so man-like” and has no claws. He takes casts, then goes back home and returns us to stock footage of coyote pups ((Yes, those coyote pups from the beginning are still pups, meaning Ivan Marx would have us believe that he made three significant tracking/hunting journeys in a short amount of time. Except that the footage in Alaska was anytime but winter or late fall — and that trip was first, remember — and the mountain lion tracking, location unstated, is in the snow. OK, it could have been higher altitude than in Kodiak, but it’s rather suspicious. )), for no good reason other than some folksy music to play under it.

Then it’s off again to track down another bear, and we are about to get more “evidence” that gets contradicted later on, but still is supposed to convince us that Bigfoot exists.

“Tests had shown the hair samples and tracks couldn’t be matched with any known animal!”

What tests? By whom? Against what 1960s (or earlier) database? He doesn’t tell us.

“The animals were even acting strange.” The reason why is the bear he was there to track down — shown with its lower half a bloody mess. Marx immediately concludes that it was killed by a broken neck. There’s a bigfoot track next to the carcass. And Bigfoot hair between its teeth.

Uh huh.

Marx decides to investigate Bigfoot, putting out advertisements for anyone with stories.

He then tells us, in a scoffing voice, about all the ludicrous stories he heard, how many kids he found with plywood cutouts making fake tracks, how scientifically impossible the creatures he heard about were — then says in a sober voice: “But four features all the reports shared were the dark hair, the domed head, the large footprints, and the glowing red eyes!” Glowing red eyes! Glowing red eyes! So help me God, Glowing Red Eyes!!! Okay, he doesn’t pre-quote A Christmas Story, but under his sinister intonation of “glowing red eyes” there’s a music stinger, the kind of thing you’d hear in a thriller.

“Nature’s my home. How could some missing link be wandering around up here without me knowing it?”

Marx again goes from vagaries like this to more specific anecdote, this time about his first encounter with Bigfoot directly, again without giving any clear indication of when this happened, either objectively, or even in relation to what has come before. Was it immediately after interviewing an unknown number of Bigfoot witnesses? How many? And for how long? Or was it years later? Or what? He gives no indication.

So we get a reeeeeeal authentic point of view shot ((Actually, you get many, many POV shots, cut together. With footsteps foleyed into the soundtrack.)) of running through the woods and glimpsing a man in a monkey suit, uh, Bigfoot.

From here on, Marx “knows” that Bigfoot is real, and after a while, he’s going to stop even worrying about convincing everyone else. He simply adopts the presumption that Bigfoot is real, and there’s no argument — everything else is nailing down the details. This is about fifteen minutes into the movie.

This first encounter is also the first appearance of the soon-to-be-horrific phrase “time was growing short!”

It also seems that he meets Bigfoot more or less in his own backyard, but he never says it straight out.

Anyway, rain keeps him from getting the tracks ((Which would, he tells us, keep his friends from laughing at him — but since they washed away, I guess his friends could laugh at him. )).

He then starts tracking Bigfoot in earnest. He finds tracks that turn out to be melted coyote tracks (!), searches caves in the roots of redwood trees for signs of Bigfoot — for no apparent reason. Except for a Bigfoot statue carved “nearby”. Um, okay. And he goes to the Oregon coast because it’s isolated and seems like a “perfect” place for Bigfoot. Until all kinds of people show up to fish. Ah well.

He laments that it was “one bum steer after another”, implying that he was following “leads”, but again giving the audience no idea of where the leads are coming from. (Except, of course, for the vague, non-specific advertisement for information, no specific instances of which he ever elucidates.)

At twenty-five minutes, we finally get Marx’s “actual” footage of Bigfoot. And it’s hilarious. It’s very clearly a man — most likely Ivan Marx himself — overacting a limp while dressed in an ape costume of some sort.

“But scientists challenged my film! It had stood up under every conceivable test!” Um, yeah, sure. He claims that some sort of test “revealed” Polio as the cause of the limp(!).

“But my documented evidence wasn’t good enough for the ‘experts’. Experts! Who still ask ‘How could such a creature survive?’, ‘Where does it live?’, ‘Show us its remains’, ‘What does it eat?’ Experts! Who challenged my word, but claimed credit for my film and profited by it on lecture circuits. Well, I didn’t care for these people.”

He loses the creature in a beaver swamp, where its tracks disappeared. This swamp will reappear at the end of the film. But for now, he finds tracks of several creatures, all heading north, and concludes that Bigfoot is migratory.

Plotting all “reliable” reports on a map, he finds a migratory pattern extending thousands of miles — all the way up to above the Arctic Circle!

Now Marx’s “logic” really starts getting … interesting. Bigfoot young, he tells us, have only ever been reported as seen above the Arctic Circle, in summer. Completely bypassing any consideration of where the young spend the rest of the year — or, perhaps even more stupidly, the notion that the young mature in a season or less — he leaps to the conclusion that the Arctic Circle is their breeding ground. So either they breed, birth, and mature all in the course of the very brief arctic summer, or else Lady Bigfoot walks around preggers for most of a year, walking all the way down to California, then all the way back the next year to give birth.

Oh, but it gets better. Just wait.

So Marx sets off on the road. Again, the voiceover and the footage we’re shown fail to match. We see shots of a red VW beetle driving back country roads, alone, while Marx tells us “Peg and I took our camper…”.

“If Bigfoot were a migratory animal, my theory had to hold up all along the way!”

He finds Bigfoot tracks in lava rock! Which leads, naturally, to two ground squirrels in love, then one gets hit by a car, the other is stricken by grief, and the hit one drags herself out of the road.

What does this have to do with Bigfoot, you ask? Well, it’s Nature’s way of reminding Ivan Marx that animals want to survive. It’s an instinct, you know.

“This same will to survive must have somehow kept Bigfoot going throughout all these years!”

Somehow.

The Marxes get to British Columbia, where people were different, taking the search seriously. Lumberjacks, it seems, took Bigfoot seriously.

Why? Because goats in the next valley over commit ritual suicide by eating dirt, then drinking water that turns the dirt to cement, killing them. Also in the valley is a “totally unexplainable natural phenomenon” — rock formations too large to have been made by man that kinda, sorta, look a little like Bigfoot. Proof!

Then on to the Yukon.

We get more folksy music, some rather neat pictures of the gold rush from the late 1800s, and then —

“Sure enough, an old miner’s story told how the glaciers up there were the burial grounds of the Bigfoot. That would explain why there were no remains — the creatures carried their dead over thousands of miles just to deposit them in crevices that opened up in the spring thaw.”

Wrap your mind around that, if you can. The reason that no Bigfoot body has ever been found is that each and every single Bigfoot that has ever lived and died has had its body carried by other Bigfoots ((What is the plural of Bigfoot? )) thousands of miles, from northern California up to the Arctic Circle, in order to drop them into glacial crevices. No exceptions!

What about Stinky Mediumfoot, who died early in the season, just as they arrived in California? They just kept his carcass around for six or eight months, then carried it with them — along with each and every other member of their tribe ((Or whatever you call a group of Bigfoots. )) that had joined the choir invisible in the intervening time — thousands of miles, bloated, rotting, and smelly, just to drop them into glacial crevices?

That’s another question Marx never even thinks about. Witness the power of rationalization — working overtime to try to hammer the facts into a shape that kinda, sorta fits your pet theory, and therefore “proves” all who think you’re nuts to be wrong.

Since each and every Bigfoot that ever died was dropped into glacial crevices, all their bodies conveniently get crushed and washed out to sea.

Oh, and since when did Yukon prospectors ever tell any tales about Bigfoot? The name “Bigfoot” didn’t even come about till 1959, for pete’s sake!

This is now 41 minutes into the “documentary”, a bit more than halfway through. Marx speculates that Bigfoot somehow survived small pox, measles, and tuberculosis, without ever explaining why he thought they’d be vulnerable to every disease of humanity in the first place.

Further north, he meets “Yukon Frieda”, an artist who paints Bigfoot from others’ descriptions. But she just gets a mention and a few shots, then is gone.

Marx relates an Indian story of Bigfoot channeling a dead woman’s spirit, speaking in a strange tongue, warning her family to move. How they understood the strange tongue goes unexplained, and the story has nothing to do with anything.

There follows more Indian hokum about Bigfoot. Complete with sinister piano music and crappy special effects.

“The fisherman said, ‘Bigfoot smiles upon you [Ivan Marx]. You will bring word of him to the people below.”

So apparently Ivan Marx was The Chosen One.

Marx follows more hokum to go meet Bigfoot, and sees some car headlights or, if you’re still buying this, the “glowing eyes of bigfoot”. Which, when dawn breaks, disappear behind a rainbow. ((I only wish I was kidding. ))

Passing over moose mating habits, elk cleaning their antlers, and other nature footage that also has nothing to do with Bigfoot, we skip closer to the end of this beast.

Marx gets some distant footage of a young Bigfoot in the Arctic Circle, then heads back south.

‘Seeing the young Bigfoot confirmed my theory!”

Along the way, Marx decides that Bigfoot is a vegetarian.

He heads back to Beaver Swamp (apparently it is a proper name), using “every trick I learned in my years as a trapper” to set up a blind where he can observe the Bigfoots. We never get to see the blind, nor more than one bigfoot in a single shot ((Gee, think that’s a sign of a hoax? )), but we do get to see more hilarious footage of Bigfoot. If Harry Knowles were reviewing this movie, here’s where he’d start chanting “MAN IN SUIT! MAN IN SUIT!”

The young one is supposedly five feet five and two hundred fifty pounds. But not fat. Wonder how Marx reckons that one out?

Marx views this truly awesome footage as unchallengeable proof, indisputable evidence, so that now we can try to understand this creature’s place in nature.

Given that Bigfoot is still a cryptid, and the recent hoax, you can reckon how well that prediction turned out.

Limpy

Anyway, the film ends with a shot of the limpy Bigfoot limping off into the sunset. Yes, really. With no indication of whether the shot is meant to be real, or what.

So there you have it, one hour and fourteen minutes of genius, courtesy hoaxmaster extraordinaire Ivan Marx.

He rationalizes, leaps to conclusions based on scant or nonexistent evidence, he expounds in very annoying, hammy, over-emphatic voiceover, and he cobbles together a bunch of stock footage that bears, at best, only the most tenuous connection to the subject at hand. The whole movie is like a primer in what not to do, and how not to do it.

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