Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: The Mysterious Monsters (1976)

For more overlooked films go here.

Going to the movies as a child in the mid to late 1970s it was impossible to avoid the documentaries of Sunn Classic Pictures. They would sweep into town, saturating the TV with ads the convinced every kid in town that they HAD to see the film, only to disappear by the next weekend. Sunn specialized in documentaries about fringe subjects: The Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, ancient astronauts, ghosts and even conspiracy theories surrounding Abraham Lincoln's assassination were typical fare. I saw them all and I was a true believer. However my favorite Sunn doc was THE MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS, which exploited the at the time fascination with Bigfoot. I remember talking my brother into taking me to see and he hasn't let me forget it to this day. When I was given the opportunity to see this again after 35 years I thought it'd be fun to see how it holds up.

The film begins with a post-MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE/pre-AIRPLANE Peter Graves somberly looking into the camera and telling the audience that MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS could very well be "the most startling film you will ever see." Yikes. We're then shown an unfortunate actor in a ratty Bigfoot suit walking through the woods. Graves then gives us the history of Bigfoot and informs us that science is discovering new species of animals all the time. Just because we haven't seen one up close doesn't mean it's not out there, close by. Maybe in the theater seat right behind you? 

We then get a short detour to Scotland, where Graves tells us about the Loch Ness Monster. We see all the usual still photos and motion picture footage of Nessie. We see a team of scientists explore the loch before coming back with the motherload: an underwater photo of what looks like a giant fin! Graves mentions this as proof positive of the monster's existence and if Nessie is real then so is Bigfoot, right? Makes sense to me.
Back in the Pacific Northwest we get to see lots of reenactments of people's encounters with Bigfoot. For a creature who is supposedly wary of humans it sure does seem to enjoy wandering into folk's yards, smashing their living room windows and at one point even knocking on the front door.  We're then treated to the scientific portion of the film, where audio recordings of the film are analyzed and determined to not come from any known animal. "It's probably Bigfoot," Graves concludes. People are subjected to hypnosis and polygraph tests to make sure they're not lying. Of course they wouldn't lie! After all, all of those giant footprints have to have come from somewhere. The film ends with Graves surmising that Bigfoot may be a distant cousin of man or maybe even the missing link. He suggests that since they appear to be peaceful, solitary creatures (apart from all the window smashing) we should just all learn to get along. 
So is MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS worth a watch? It really depends on your feelings towards the Bigfoot phenomenon, since I don't think this movie is going to change anyone's mind either way. When we saw it back in '76 my brother was convinced he had wasted several dollars as well as two hours of his life. I was convinced that Bigfoot was living in our yard. All in all I felt the movie held up well based on what I can remember of that first viewing. Parts of it are pretty silly and it's conclusions may be suspect but it's an entertaining documentary which at least pays lip service to providing scientific proof regarding the subject. After all, it must be true. Peter Graves would never lie to me.


  1. James Arness might've told you different, Chuck...I wouldn't even go to Sunn Classics' imitation JEREMIAH JOHNSON films after THE CREATURE FROM (OF?) BOGGY CREEK...yowsa. But I always was a skeptic and horror fan, rather than someone looking for a very mild monster comedy based On True Events...

  2. (But that's how brothers like Arness and Graves are...)(I still think their falling out dates from when Arness was a carrot in THE THING and Graves foiled a root veggie in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD...)

  3. As an adult in that era, I missed these.

  4. Oh, Patti, they were Family Films, meant to stiff the whole family!