You either love this film for its campy horror, or you hate it for its campy horror. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground here.
The film is built on the premise that the beast we know that lives in modern myth as “bigfoot” is actually a prehistoric evolutionary mistake, a monster magically and mysteriously mummified in the Mojave Desert, just waiting to be discovered by our hapless heroes.
The film is loaded with cheesy scene and plot construction. For example, the opening scene that illustrates the dramatic exposition narrative of the creature’s history is of strange footprints in the dirt. As the camera pans from right to left, the footprints not-so-subtly change shape to something very human in appearance. To make sure the audience misses none of the subtlety, the footprints are filled with a stark white paint. Because fossilized footprints are like that.
For a low-budget flick, the location scouts did some good work. The opening scene also features some scenery familiar to many Star Trek fans, as the “prehistoric Earth” scene was shot in the Vasquez Rocks area of California made famous in Trek’s “Arena” episode, where Kirk battled the Gorn. The cinematography made up for the fantastic scene scouting, however. The colour version of the movie looks like those dreary instructional films we used to watch in school. If you’ve ever been treated to a documentary film shown on a school film projector, you know what I mean. All that was missing was the warbly sound.
|The linty face of terror!|
When one thinks of bigfoot, they typically think of an ape-like creature. The featured creature in this movie is a little jarring, as it looks like a humanoid bat made entirely out of dryer lint and hairballs and fangs, and is about as terrifying as that sounds.
The plot is very simplistic. A high school teacher tells his class about a strange discovery he made in his younger years, and the class goes to investigate. It is, of course in an old native burial ground. After discovering a few artifacts, they happen across this mummified body. They recover it in some hare-brained plan, it comes to life and after enough “grr-argh” terrorizing, is torched into oblivion like a gasoline-soaked pile of straw. (which is probably exactly what the special effects crew used for the scene).
Curse of Bigfoot contains a lot of what would become horror movie standard themes and devices in B and mainstream films, such as unsuspecting teenaged high school students on a field trip, “Science” as antagonist, particularly mutation, and an “Ancient Indian Burial Ground”.
So how was a 1972 movie an inspiration for the horror genre? Well, “Curse of Bigfoot” is actually an extended cut of the very low-budget 1958 movie “Teenagers Battle the Thing”. The original 1958 movie was about 60 minutes in length while the 1972 version added another almost half hour of footage, clocking in at 88 minutes. The extra footage doesn’t really help much, but the same can be said of most “Director’s Cuts” with a few extra minutes of footage.
That’s about all you need to know about the film. No plot twist, no heady dialogue, no great special effects, just a good cheesy horror film to pass the time while you munch on some popcorn.
|Jan Hart today (left) and as Sharon in 1959 (right)|
Jan Hart (credited as Jan Swihart, who played Sharon, one of the teenagers) said, “The movie is bad – but look when it was filmed. 1959. I was Sharon, and we really did have a good time filming this over a 6 week time in the summer. I like it best in Black and white – like it was originally.”. Jan is now a very talented watercolour artist living in Costa Rica.
And that quote really says it all about this movie. Despite the obviously low budget, the corny special effects, and the production values, you can tell everyone had a great time making this film, and it can be readily enjoyed in the same spirit of youthful exuberance.
You can watch the Curse of Bigfoot for free at the Internet Archive, and if you’re in the mood for a double feature, watch the original Teenagers Battle the Thing first and see how the two movies compare!