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Saturday, April 13, 2019


Documentary filmmaker Seth Breedlove, a specialist in the stranger things in life (THE MOTHMAN OF POINT PLEASANT, THE BRAY ROAD BEAST), has set his sights on the Bigfoot legend for his six-part miniseries ON THE TRAIL OF BIGFOOT (Small Town Monsters, 2019) which gives the viewer a good deal of insight into this age-old mystery.

Once he began to delve into the study of the mythical beast, he found that mere documentation of various eyewitness accounts, historical information, and photographic and documentary evidence wasn't enough, and was compelled to take a more personal approach.  Thus, during the course of the series, he begins to become a part of the quest to discover Bigfoot himself.

Each of the six episodes covers a different aspect of the story. One focuses on the history, which goes back centuries with North American accounts of witnesses ranging from white pioneers to Native Americans, in whose oldest myths the beast figures prominently.

Stories such as the 19th-century gold miners whose cabin was beseiged by the creatures during a night-long ordeal provide much of the series' interest.  Such tales are accompanied by some great illustrations that would make a terrific series of bubblegum cards.

Other episodes feature interviews with eyewitnesses who have encountered Bigfoot either in their everyday lives or during organized expeditions into some of America's deepest, darkest forests. 

The latter consist of a wide range of people from research scientists and experts in cryptozoology to those who are so obsessed with the hunt that they devote their own money and spare time to it while still holding down regular jobs.

Most of them seem chiefly interested not in fame or fortune, but in simply proving the existence of what they consider to be a very real species of advanced apelike creatures that inhabit much of North America, from Pennsylvania to Ohio to the Oklahoma-Arkansas border to the great Pacific Northwest, while managing to remain maddeningly elusive.

A startling revelation comes when we find that the aim of one very devoted group of Bigfoot hunters is to kill one of the creatures.  Not as a trophy, but as a specimen to present to the scientific world in order to validate the species as genuine and therefore make it possible to begin efforts to preserve their environment.  It's a tragic irony but one which they must face. 

We learn as much about the types of people who dedicate their lives to the quest as we do about the target subject itself.  But one also comes away from it with a greater understanding of what these creatures might be and why they behave as they do.

The information is presented in a surprisingly non-sensationalistic way, sort of the polar opposite of the "In Search Of..." approach.  The episodes are laidback, low-key, almost contemplative, with a New-Agey musical score by Brandon Dalo that reflects the measured, thoughtful narrative.

There are no scratchy old film clips of possible Bigfoot sightings, since their veracity would be inconclusive anyway.  (We do get to hear recordings of some supposed Bigfoot howls, though.) Here, we're invited to listen to the firsthand accounts, historical information, and informed speculation, and decide for ourselves.

ON THE TRAIL OF BIGFOOT is an impeccably-rendered documentary series that I found quietly entertaining rather than exploitative, and ultimately quite satisfying.  As for whether or not Bigfoot really exists, one long-time hunter who has since retired with little to show for it sums up his attitude like this: "On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he's real. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, he doesn't exist.  Sunday, I take the day off." 

Order on DVD from Small Town Monsters

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"On the Trail of Bigfoot": English / USA / 170 min /Subtitles: none/ 2 discs


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