"Sasquatch," nearing the end of a hit-and-run, four-wall engagement at several area theaters, is the latest bogus adventure documentary purporting to chonicle a daring but futile attempt to capture Bigfoot. Like the similarly cheapskate, slipshod, pseudoscientific exploitation movies about UFO's, the Bermuda Triangle, the Lincoln assassination or the end of the world, the Bigfoot sagas are a self-perpetuating con, aimed at a public of incorrigibly guillible adults and raucous, chortling kids.
The fly-by-night branch of theatrical filmmaking never seems to change or improve. As incorrigible as their best customers, the producers remain content with a motley, amateurish grade of hokum. There's more sheer excitement and professional skill to be found in the average showing of home movies or vacation slides.
The producers of these stale revivals of the doomsday or Bigfoot charade would be out of business instantly if they ever presumed to take a scientific approach to their subject matter. "Sasquatch" is essentially a wild-goose chase designed to faciliate an infinite number of identical wild-goose chases.
A portentous narration sketches in the legend of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch as the Indians supposedly know and love him, for latecomers. A backwoods bogeyman, Sasquatch is alleged to be an Ice Age hulk who has survived to play peekaboo with our own backwoodsmen as he haunts the trails of every damn forest in North America.
The evidence presented would tend to justify the skepticism of critical observers. For starters, we're referred to the mystifying case of Jessup vs. Sasquatch, in which some early 19th-century trapper, "wise to the ways of the wilderness," reported feeling "the sensation that someone or something was watching him." This fascinating anecdote closes with the ominous assurance that "the story of Jessup is true, and the terrifying events of that day would never be forgotten." What events, you ask? Well, whatever you'd like to imagine.
Next, the narrator recalls the rather more amusing instance of David Whitecloud, an Indian tyke who was spooked by Sasquatch while out practicing with his toy bow-and-arrow one day. From this piece of "documentation" one gets the impression that while Sasquatch must be a potential child molester, he is too big and slow to catch his prey. This ferocious impression is contradicted almost immediately by the claim that modern computer profiling has "made it apparent that these elusive creatures were shy and reclusive." The weight of the evidence makes it appear that the computer has never come face to face with an enraged Sasquatch.
According to the narrator, the most convincing documentary evidence on file is the famous Roger Patterson 16mm film, actually an excerpt from an earlier Bigfoot runaround in which the monster was supposedly imprinted forever on authentic celluloid. What we appear to see is an actor in a shaggy costume trudging through the woods at some distance and then turning briefly to look back at the camera, presumably at a signal from the director.
This delightfully obvious tradition is maintained while depicting the monster in "Sasquatch." Although he's seen only in glimpses or silhouettes or suggested by a sudden switch to subjective camera techniques, in which he lurches through the underbrush to the accompaniment of a churning musical motif lifted from "Jaws," the big bogey suggests no one so much as Chewbacca. Perhaps this resemblance will ultimately force the producers to envision Bigfoot as something other than a big harry something-or-other, even if it means paying for a new costume.
The preliminary bluffing leads into the prolonged bluff of an expedition through remotest British Columbia in search of Sasquatch.The leader of this intrepid party is identified as "Chuck Evans, chief investigator for the North American Wildlife Research search Center." Curiously, the movie is distributed by something called North American Film Productions of Oregon. No doubt a coincidence. Anyway, Chuck becomes the narrayor and introduces us to the other members of his party, whose identities establish the movie's phoniness for all but the terminally gullible.
For example, there's Bob Vernon, the skeptical reporter from "National News Service." Chuck confides that "although he's a thorough skeptic, he is an honest writer; but his negative attitude disturbs me." Bob is destined to pay for his negative attitude by getting mauled by a grizzly bear one evening while neglecting to keep an ultra-vigilant watch. It pains me to report that Chuck is not above gloating about Bob's misfortune: "His carelessness had almost cost him his life. Now he would have respect for the wilderness." Sic semper skeptics !
Chuck relies on such worthies as "Joshua Aloisius Bigsby, probably the last of the mountain men." One certainly hopes so after listening to old Josh croon "Old Folks at Home" along the trail and unburden him self of reminiscences like "I remember back in ought-and-five there warn't nought to eat 'ceptin" gopher." When Josh sinks his choppers into what appears to be a bologna sandwich, you couldn't be more delighted. This movie seems to have been nurtured on a diet of baloney.
Josh splits backwoods blather with an Indian guide whose college education doesn't prevent him from riding bareback or making claims like "I know the way; all my life I have known the way; it has been told around the compfires of my people for generations." Chuch and his merry masqueraders mount up and kill about an hour and a half sensing imminent danger, admiring the scenery, evading big animals, smiling at little animals and trading disillusioning Bigfoot tales around the campfire before finally schlepping into "Sasquatch Country," where they let the Big Guy slip out of their fingers.
Not to worry. Chuck signs off with the promise that "Our efforts will stimulate more expensive expeditions." Sure. Unless the Sasquatch eats his homework. When has an exploitable public ever inspired the producers of such duncebait to step up in class? The product might even be less amusing if they were foolish enough to try. What would be more satisfying is a definitive parody of a Bigfoot adventure documentary.
It was gratifying to see that the kids in the audience seemed to take the movie as undiluted scare hokum. They even booed lustily when the heroes ended up shooting a cougar after an obviously faked attack on a packhouse by an obviously trained cat. To their credit the kids weren't having any of Chuck's explanation: "It's a shame we had to kill him, but with a taste of packhorse in his mouth, he would have followed us." When it looks like baloney, sounds like baloney, smells like baloney and tastes like baloney, maybe it is baloney!