Seeing is believing … or is it?
THE WEIRDEST MOVIE EVER MADE: THE PATTERSON – GIMLIN BIGFOOT FILM by Phil Hall. Published by BearManor Media. 122 pages. $14.95 (softcover), $24.95 (hardcover).
Author Phil Hall, the film historian whose previous works include The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time (2013) and In Search of Lost Films (2016) – the latter having been reviewed in this very column – now examines a cinematic phenomenon of somewhat dubious origin and reputation.
In October 1967, in the wilds of Northern California, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin claimed to have taken film of a strange and hairy beast loping along the banks of a creek, claiming it to be proof positive of the existence of Bigfoot. They called it the “Sasquatch of Bluff Creek,” and they were all set to reap the rewards of fame. Only they didn’t.
In this slim but entertaining volume, Hall delves into the history of Bigfoot lore and goes over the various theories regarding the origin of the film – beyond, of course, the simple opinion that it could be genuine. (Indeed, Hall seems to lean toward the opinion that it isn’t.)
Initial reaction to the footage was generally indifferent, and in many cases outright dismissive, but come the conspiracy-theory era of the 1970s, when Vietnam and Watergate began to chip away at the public’s faith of the establishment, the Bigfoot phenomenon became just that – a phenomenon. When it came to discussing the existence of Bigfoot (or “Sasquatch,” if you prefer), the Patterson-Gimlin film became a major component of the mystery.
The Weirdest Movie Ever Made can’t really be classified as an academic treatise, but it does approach its subject with a modicum of seriousness. It’s unlikely to sway the opinion of Bigfoot believers but provides ample fodder for skeptics.
To sum things up (and further lighten the mood), Hall enlists a group of filmmakers and historians to offer their own memories and opinions of the Patterson-Gimlin film, billed as “a cinematic appreciation,” although that term may be somewhat loosely applied.
Patterson and Gimlin are long gone, neither having achieved much in the way of recompense or recognition, yet as is so often the case it’s the film that lives on, continuing to baffle, fascinate and, yes, entertain the masses. Their place in history is assured, such as it is.
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