J. English Smith narrates the first part of the fantastic Sasquatch documentary, Bigfoot: Man or Beast? I say first part because the documentary is abruptly split into two halves. After a quick flight over a heavily wooded Northwest forest, the documentary cuts to our narrator for this first half of the documentary. Smith, who looks the part of a serious investigator (check out the trench coat???), is standing in a camp awaiting the arrival of Bigfoot hunting team leader Ron Olsen. Ron rolls off a trailer and a few feet up to where Smith is waiting in a pretty sweet Cushman Trackster, which is deserving of its own Retroist article.
I surely hope they don’t expect to find anything with that smoke belching, annoyingly loud fiberglass tank? Bigfoot would hear you in the next county! But man, that thing is back woods, lumberjackin’ 1972 sweet isn’t it?
The first part is packed with Bigfoot “facts” and some historic eye-witness accounts! Fred Beck, one of the miners involved in the Ape Canyon encounter back in 1924 (key bigfoot lore folks!) briefly tells the story about his experience in a cabin with his other fellow miners when they are attacked by “hairy apes” in the Mount St. Helens area of Washington State. More on the details of the Ape Canyon encounter as told by Beck here: http://www.bigfootencounters.com/classics/beck.htm
Next, we hear from another famous Bigfoot encounter. This one told by Albert Ostman. Ostman was abducted by a large, hairy creature in the middle of the night while camping on Toba Inlet in British Columbia, Canada. His story is another classic, and the details are fantastic to say the least. If you’re curious to know a little more about his reported encounter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Ostman.
We talk further with other witnesses, and famously documented events including the Patterson/Gimlin footage filmed at Bluff Creek, California in 1967. As we watch this classic footage we hear Roger Patterson himself recall the events as he remembered them. This is quite a treat for Bigfoot enthusiasts because Patterson died of cancer later that year (1972). I might be wrong but this might be the first time this footage is shown to a wide audience.
From here we get a dissection of the footage, some estimations of the size and weight of the creature. We also listen to experts who were asked if the film’s subject could have been hoaxed. It’s all very new here as the span of time from Bluff Creek to this documentary is only 3-4 years. J Smith knocks it out of the park with his seriousness and thoughtfulness of the subject. Up to this point in the show, the accounts and presentation are all very genuine. The best known experts ever put together in a documentary are here! Fred Beck, Albert Ostman, John Green, Rene Dahinden, Grover Krantz, Roger Patterson? That’s a Sasquatch all-star lineup, and J Smith’s narration bookends this part of the show nicely.
From here Bigfoot: Man or Beast? switches gears completely! Now that we’ve gotten all this eye-witness and existing footage nonsense out-of-the-way, we can get down to Sasquatch hunting business (Sponsored by Jeep!)! We follow Robert Morgan and his team of hippi…scientists, and bigfoot enthusiasts as they set up camp at the base of Mount St. Helens to look for the being they call Bigfoot….or Sasquatch…or Skookum…or Omaa, or the Abominable Snowman of America…or whatever! One thing I can say is that Morgan is a no-nonsense kind of cat! He won’t take crap from his team! He’s fun to watch and one thing’s for sure, HE BELIEVES IN THE EXISTENCE OF BIGFOOT!
After a personal encounter in 1957, his goal is to show the world that Bigfoot exists! And we get to watch him try, no doubt about that! Morgan team takes the task seriously, following every lead, and every report in the area. We are treated to some entertaining, if over dramatized but under delivered situations we never see. Narration can’t really hide the fact that most of the team is just sorta loafing around. Oh well, this is the era of being mellow, and all sorta far out spiritual mumbo jumbo so you can’t blame the team for over selling a bunch of nuthin. Morgan is convinced a family (or more?) of Bigfoot (Bigfeet?) is nearby and he’s closing in! The investigation is halted by a convenient forest fire which wraps up the program. Oh well, in a long line of disappointing Bigfoot related documentaries, this one might be the grand pappy of them all.
Bigfoot: Man or Beast? is still a rarely seen gem. The contents ooze of spirit and seriousness that makes one appreciate the possibility. The eye-witness accounts, and recollections toward the beginning of the show are already worth the price of admission. Now if I could get that damn harmonica riff outta my head!!!