ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.
I cannot describe The Curse of Bigfoot (1975) as a good film under any circumstances. It features very little Bigfoot and no curse. Regardless, I’ve seen it many times. It represents a simpler time in childhood when public domain films like this ran regularly on TV stations throughout the United States. A time when we had just four channels, dammit. And we liked it that way!
The Curse of Bigfoot (1975) contains another older hour-long B-movie titled Teenagers Battle The Thing (1958), in which a group of high school students discover a pre-historic mummy on an archaeological dig. The mummy, having been sealed up in a preserved cave for centuries, returns to life, tears off its bandages and goes on a rampage in the small town of Ivanpah.
Although the creature is hairy and has fangs, it is never referred to as Bigfoot. It’s only in the wrap-around sequences added in the 1970s where a connection is drawn to the then-popular elusive cryptid.
Both films open the same, with a brief explanation of the evolution of humans two million years ago and have the same opening credits. Curse then adds two modern ‘70s film-within-a-film sequences.
First, a decidedly un-Bigfoot-like monster attacks a non-binary gender youth in the middle of a very sunny night. It ends to reveal a class of ‘70s youths using the film as a springboard for a discussion on how the various mythical monsters of the past have influenced current popular culture. Interestingly, one girl in the class is Jackey Neyman-Jones, who as a little girl, played little Debbie in another famously bad movie Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966.)
Curse then treats us to several scenes of documentary-style logging in the pacific northwest where two lumberjacks named Larry and John track Bigfoot into the woods on what appears to be a very long lunch hour. When the creature dispatches Larry entirely offscreen, John stares at his friend’s body. Emotionless. It’s unclear if he’s shocked or possibly just contemplating shaving off his pathetic excuse for a moustache.
The class then discusses whether this event really happened. The nature of the class in the film is anyone’s guess although it was actually Neyman-Jones’s drama class. If my school had offered cryptozoology as an elective, I would have totally signed up. These kids don’t seem very into it. Enter Roger Mason (Dave Flocker) a late-arrival guest speaker who immediately lays into one poor kid for his skepticism. Roger has personal experience with Bigfoot. And we’re about to hear about it.
Roger is the only crossover character between Curse and Teenagers, whose sole purpose for showing up is to recount the story from 15 years ago. Still traumatized by the events, he repeatedly pauses dramatically between the words field and trip. Eyes closed, lips pursed, Roger guides us into the flashback i.e. the main film.
There’s a lot of rock climbing and a lot of talking. About rock paintings, lunch – including a riveting exchange involving soda pop – and ancient prayer sticks. There are so many prayer sticks found in this movie that even the students tire of them. While handing over his latest find to the instructor Bill, one student even asks, “More prayer sticks?” Bill rolls them over in his hands thoughtfully. “Mm hmm. More prayer sticks.” End scene.
Even when the group goes into the cave and discovers the mummy, the action is stilted despite what the dramatic library music by Ralph Carmichael (also used in the ‘50s Steve McQueen classic The Blob) would have you believe.
Overall, the best part of this movie is the music. It wastes some great cues on scares that build up but never pay off. The music was so effective, many other directors featured it in their low budget horror and sci-fi films and it was available for a while on a CD called The Blob (and other creepy sounds) from Monstrous Movie Music records.
After it gets the cobwebs out, the monster does a bit of skulking in the orange groves and almost has a run in with two of the kids – on their way back from buying orange pop – who remark how bright the moon is on what is very obviously a beautifully sunny day-for-night afternoon.
“Bigfoot’s” face looks like a paper machete mask with two toothpicks glued on for fangs. The hair is patchy and mangy and its snarl sounds like the red-haired Gossamer from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. I laugh with glee every time I see it.
After it kills a townie in her own home, the group tries to lure the monster out of the orange grove where it’s been hiding. Someone has to go into the grove and sit watch near the raw meat they’ve placed as bait. The tension in the drawing of straws scene is palpable. Never before has a group of guys standing around casually talking been so realistically captured on film. You’ll thrill as they pull strands of hay from a random bail! Walt, the local sheriff draws the short straw and heads off to his post.
After a long scene where everyone stands around waiting, the monster finally shows up and knocks Walt unconscious. Unable to reach him on the radio, the students, Roger and Bill go in after him. They shoot the monster but the bullets have no effect so they douse him with two buckets of gasoline and throw a flare at him. While “Bigfoot” burns, the group helps injured Walt to his feet. They all stand and watch the fire in silence. The music swells. The End.
Despite its meandering plot, long boring sequences and a poorly executed monster, anyone interested in bad cinema and/or Bigfoot film completists should seek this one out. Its biggest oversight is that it never goes back to the classroom in the ‘70s for any closure. It would have been nice to see one of the hippie kids call out Roger on his earlier dramatics. His story was hardly the stuff that would render one witness speechless for the rest of her life as described. More like “Huh. So…that happened. Right. Boy, I sure could go for a bottle of orange pop…”