On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin emerged from a forest in Northern California with 59 seconds of grainy, shaky, silent 16mm film that supposedly offered documentary evidence of the Sasquatch, a creature of Native American folklore. Although neither Patterson nor Gimlin had any previous experience in filmmaking or zoology, they presented their remarkable footage as the first motion picture confirmation of the existence of the elusive Sasquatch.
However, not everyone was convinced by the imagery on the Patterson-Gimlin Film. Additional doubt was generated by the strange story behind the film’s creation. Over the years, odd rumors emerged about the film, including the story of an Academy Award-winning make-up artist’s alleged role in assembling the creature seen on camera.
Film journalist Phil Hall traces the convoluted history of how Patterson and Gimlin supposedly wound up in the right place at the right time with their camera, and how they brought their weird little film into the scientific community and American popular culture. While the debate over the authenticity of the Patterson-Gimlin Film continues to percolate, few would question the effectiveness of how this piece of celluloid brought forth an unlikely sensation lovingly dubbed Bigfoot.
Phil Hall is the author of The History of Independent Cinema, The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time and In Search of Lost Films. His film writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Daily News and Wired, and he is the host of the award-winning SoundCloud podcast “The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall.”
Midwest Book Review
In the world of cryptozoology, the 800-pound gorilla is the similar looking "Bigfoot". And of all the purported unseen creatures, only Bigfoot has any even plausible evidence: the 948 frame long "Patterson/Gimlin" film. This book delves into the story but quickly comes up for breath. The arguments put forth here are plausible, but not so plausible as to convince a majority of those who don't really care.
Back in 1967, rumors abounded about a large ape-like figure in Northern California. Mr. Patterson and Mr. Gimlin took a 16 mm camera, two rolls of film, and their horses and went up county. They film trees and each other, and then as their film was nearly spent, a large apelike creature appeared, striding along and quickly looking at the men. It then went on its way into the woods apparently undisturbed by their presence.
Is the tape real? Or a clever fake? Are Patterson and Gimlin frauds or just lucky campers? This thorough and neutrally toned book examines all the data available, but never takes a stand much past: "It might be." By page 52, the author reveals about all that can be known, short of additional footage or a corpse to dissect. The "sighting," real or contrived as it may be, lead to a boom in Bigfoot cinema that we explore for a chapter or so, then we read a dozen or so opinions by other experts, all of which boil down to "It MIGHT be, I WANT it to be, but the evidence is just too darn thin." Along the way the chapters are separated with single page "Bigfoot Interludes" that reveal interesting facts or historical points that don't fit into the main text. I confess I'm a septic, and this book didn't move me one way or the other, but I appreciated its neutral, matter of the fact tone, and that it collects most of what can be knowing one, nicely indexed and bibliographic place. Well-written and well-researched, it's a nice little look at the whole business of legendary creatures that just never seem to show up for dinner.