Saturday, January 28, 2012

Daniel Perez's Book Review of The Bigfoot Filmography by Dave Coleman

Coleman, David. The Bigfoot Filmography: Fictional And Documentary Appearance In Film And Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., January 4, 2012. $49.95; 338 pages, paperback (8.5” x 11”); ISBN: 978-0-7864-4828-9; profusely illustrated with needle sharp images/photos; foreword; acknowledgements and index. McFarland, Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640. Telephone: (800) 253-2187 .
A good way to start off a review is to see what the promotional literature states and match that with what is actually presented in the book.
“Here is a fascinatingly detailed look at the cinematic history of Sasquatch, from the earliest trick films of George Méliès to the most up-to-date CGI [computer-generated imagery] efforts.” So it says.
On page 233 the citation is Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, a television special that first aired in 1964, and it becomes clear the author has left no stone unturned. The detailed, meticulous nature of the author far exceeds the promotional literature.
David Coleman, no relationship to the author of his foreword, Loren Coleman, has produced a winner with an original reference work. In spite of the high cost, the serious student of the subject should eventually aquire this important contribution to Bigfooting, as it is presently peerless.
“In many odd ways,” he writes, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer is as important to 1960s Ciné du Sasquatch as any other entry except Patterson’s footage of his Bluff Creek Bigfoot. This is because Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer was an immediate hit when first shown to American audiences and became a perennial yuletide television tradition ...Because a substanstial sub-plot of the fabled reindeer’s quest involved confrontations with a Yeti - albeit a towering one far taller than typically depicated in either films or television - an entire generation of youngsters grew up with a very seiminal image of an Abominable Snowman (or Snow Monster, as Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer calls it) that was at once terrifying for small childeren but ultimately comforting (since by show’s end the Bumble had been ‘humbled’ and was for all practical purposes an overgrown teddy bear seeking human affection and social acceptance.”
And to think such an American classic was stop-motioned photographed in Japan and not the United States, a belief held dear by fans of Rudolph and company. This is but one nugget of information you will find in this work, a monster-sized and thorough undertaking on Bigfoot and related movies.
Also, it can be argued strongly by the skeptics that movies like Rudolph (1964), Half Human: The Story of The Abominable Snowman (1958) with an original Japanese release in 1955 at 94 minutes and the U.S. version in 1958 with 63 minutes and The Legend Of Boggy Creek (1972) is the cultural raw material that inspires many to believe in Bigfoot-like beings and they have no basis in reality.
For the skeptical community they can see a start date, 1958, the same year Jerry Crew would find “Bigfoot” tracks in northern California, and then the impact of film further reinforces the motif of Bigfoot-like monsters in 1964, then 1972... and you can even jump to 1987 with the release of Harry And The Hendersons. The idea of the reality of Bigfoot-like monsters continues to be reinforced by seemingly fictional (?) movies.
John Cork, writing a review of the book in had this to say, “Bigfoot, Sasquatch or the Abominable Snowman has been a background noise in our lives, a constant presence in the wandering minds of filmmakers, a funhouse mirror of how we see our lost nature. Have we civilized our wild, destructive instincts?”
David Coleman is no stranger to film, as he has written screenplays for such Hollywood talents as Michael Douglas and Philip Noyce. He holds a B.F.A. in filmic writing from U.S.C.
“Cinema realized the fantastic,” writes the late Mark Chorvinsky, “and in that sense it is intrinsically a fortean medium. Something that does not exist is made to exist, and legends may be given life, as may anomalous phenomena. Films have had a much greater effect in the field of cryptozoology than in many others due to the fact that the creatures being studied are rarely seen and largely remain in the imagination of those who study them.”
Coleman’s Bigfoot Filmography can lead to a lot of argument, no doubt. For instance, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao clearly shows (on page 261) a snow woman with hair covered breasts and the argument can be that is how Roger Patterson was inspired. Dr. Lao was released in 1964, three years before Patterson captured cinematic history with a creature with hair covered breasts.
Coleman points to George Méliès as the ciné du Sasquatch founder, with his 1912 “giant-sized animatronic Yeti monster,” as the blueprint for all future movies on the topic. His book is the first ever reference guide that addresses a “secret cinema” genre.
Bigfoot: America’s Abominable Snowman, a 1968 documentary written by Roger Patterson, is noted as the rarest of the rare in Bigfoot films, “as no prints, videos, or even frame enlargements are known to exist.” Yet it appears to have been shown quite recently, at Don Keating’s annual Bigfoot conference a few years back, to a crowd that was largely unaware of its significance.
The final section of the book is devoted to interviews with Bigfoot filmmakers, Ryan Schifrin, Kevin Tenny and others.
In the end, what is clear from the very sharp reproduction of the pictures, is that nearly all the Bigfoot creatures portrayed in movies is representative of a man-in-a-costume and it becomes obvious when you look at close ups of the Sasquatch seen in The Six Million Dollar Man.
The films in this work is so exhaustively researched in The Bigfoot Filmogrpahy, the detail so insightful, one can only give this book two thumbs up.

Reviewed by Daniel Perez, editor of the Bigfoot Times newsletter and the author of Bigfoot At Bluff Creek.

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