In Search of Bigfoot (1975) / Cry Wilderness (1986)
Director(s): Lawrence Crowley & William Miller / Jay Cohen
Starring: Robert W. Morgan / Eric Foster, Maurice Grandmaison & John Tallman
Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Experts in exploitation, Vinegar Syndrome, have revived their Drive-In Collection banner to present two wildly different features about one of the world’s most elusive myths. A genuine documentary capturing a team of Bigfoot trackers and the Sasquatch equivalent to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from the director of Night Train to Terror make for a suitable serving of wild life excitement. Scanned in 2K from their respective camera negatives, Vinegar Syndrome invites you on the expedition of a lifetime to uncover the formidable beast known as Bigfoot.
In Search of Bigfoot follows a team of Bigfoot enthusiasts headed by dedicated tracker Robert W. Morgan. Exploring the forests of Washington State, the team is determined to locate the mysterious creature in this sincere documentary. From Director Jay Cohen (Night Train to Terror), Cry Wilderness centers on a young boy (Eric Foster) who has befriended the creature known as Bigfoot. With his father facing looming danger, Bigfoot instructs the boy to venture into the wilderness to save him.
Earnestly told, In Search of Bigfoot follows passionate Bigfoot tracker, Robert W. Morgan, as he leads a team of researchers and scientists into the wilderness of Washington State to retrieve evidence of Bigfoot’s existence. Morgan’s lack of interest in making friends and determination to get the job done solidifies his belief that this mystifying creatures exists. Surrounded by a team of noted experts who appear more like average hippies, the documentary follows the team as they collect evidence such as footprints and interviews from local eyewitnesses who claim to have spotted the mammoth beast. Narrated by Phil Tonken, In Search of Bigfoot carries the clout of respectful journalism by not poking fun at the teams eccentric interest. Since his first sighting of Bigfoot 20 years previously, Morgan is convinced he is closer than ever to locating the 8-foot-tall creature. Understandably, after pinning down a general location, a series of forest fires ruin the groups expedition, derailing their high chances of spotting Bigfoot. Morgan, who only two years later would direct 1978’s Blood Stalkers, is certainly convincing when overwhelmed with emotions after having Bigfoot slip from his grasp yet again. While, a bit slow at times and never successfully locating the folklore critter, In Search of Bigfoot does capture beautiful wildlife footage and serves as a unique time capsule for the believers who dedicated much of their lives chasing this phantom beast.
Following the theme of a youngster befriending an otherworldly creature, Cry Wilderness is a departure from Director Jay Cohen’s previous surrealistic-horror odyssey, Night Train to Terror. After being summoned by his friend Bigfoot, Paul Cooper (Eric Foster) ditches his boarding school and hitchhikes back to the wilderness to save his forest ranger father (Maurice Grandmaison, Cataclysm) from danger. Grandmaison along with Native American friend Jim (John Tallman, Lust for Freedom) deliver painfully dry performances and long spells of awkward laughter. Oddly enough, Eric Foster serves up the best performance as an otherwise natural surrounded by a swarm of over the top or severely underwhelming adult talent. Beautifully shot, evoking high quality nature footage, Cry Wilderness finds the actors face to face with a variety of animals including raccoons, bears, cougars and even a tiger. While, Bigfoot looks cool enough, his appearance is far too brief, leaving the viewer slightly duped. Instead, Cry Wilderness spends its time on a villainous hunter forced to team up with Paul’s father and Jim to capture an escaped circus tiger who has become destructive in his new environment. After believing Paul’s stories about Bigfoot, the hunter will stop at nothing to capture the creature, even if it means leading the others into danger. Cry Wilderness is far from a bad movie but can easily underwhelm due to its lack of Bigfoot. The hilariously awkward performances from the adult actors matched with the breathtaking wildlife cinematography still offers enough to suffice for a decent 90-minute runtime.
Scanned in 2K from the original 16mm camera negative, In Search of Bigfoot is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Generally speaking, this documentary looks fairly decent with minor blemishes of flakes and speckles cropping into frame. Occasionally, lines and burn marks will cross into footage but their appearances are brief. Colors vary in appearance from otherwise natural looking to slightly diluted. Incredibly difficult to document in the confines of nature on 16mm film stock, In Search of Bigfoot still looks satisfactory for such an effort.
Also scanned in 2K but obtained from the 35mm camera negative, Cry Wilderness is presented widescreen sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. As the more professionally controlled film, Cry Wilderness looks quite nice with the vast wildlife landscapes looking particularly lush and striking. Skin tones are relayed as naturally as can be with colors popping well, most noticeably in Paul’s red and blue jacket. While, most of the animal footage was shot specifically for the film, some stock footage arises that appears to be video sourced creating an obvious drop in quality. Overall, Cry Wilderness is certainly the stronger looking transfer on this double feature.
Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, both films are presented with varying differences. In Search of Bigfoot can encounter issues of muffling even during the more controlled, seated interview segments. In addition, certain eyewitnesses that are interviewed possess thick accents that can make hearing even more difficult. Luckily, Tonken’s narration is relayed clearly with little to no issues while, background music from banjos and harmonicas can intrude on the subjects‘ dialogue. Cry Wilderness is a far more rewarding listening experience with dialogue coming across just fine and Fritz Heede’s score relayed nicely. An understandably mixed bag of quality but neither of which are severely detrimental to the viewing experience.
After a brief hiatus, the return of Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection line is a welcome one. A double feature highlighting the legendary Bigfoot is a wildly different change of pace for the indie label, better known for their adult entertainment output. Robert W. Morgan and his team of trackers’ candid insight from In Search of Bigfoot make the documentary an intriguing watch even if they come up empty-handed. In addition, Cry Wilderness, while disappointing with Bigfoot’s screen time, nearly makes up for itself with the hilariously awful acting and surprisingly stunning nature footage. This offbeat pairing of Sasquatch stories nicely reminds cult enthusiasts that there’s more to Vinegar Syndrome than just skin.