January 31, 2005
"Behind the Mysteries: Bigfoot"
Premiere Broadcast on January 30-31, 2005
National Geographic Channel
Reviewed by Loren Coleman
"Behind the Mysteries: Bigfoot" had its Premiere Broadcast on
January 30-31, 2005, on the National Geographic Channel.
Okay, how about a no-holds-barred four-word critique? What an uneven
I consider the writing for this special's narration to be some of the most
loaded, anti-Bigfoot phraseology that I have heard written into the script
of a documentary since seeing overtly skeptical programs a few years ago.
Within the first ten minutes, such words and phrases as "imagination" and
"imaginative people" are sprinkled throughout the narrator's running
reminder that there many be nothing to Bigfoot.
Three "experts" that are consulted throughout are David Daegling (skeptic),
Benjamin Radford (skeptic), and Jeff Meldrum (believer). Every time a
piece of evidence is presented, it is, within the design of the program,
countered with a skeptical point of view. Eyewitness stories are debunked
by Benjamin Radford because, he says, eyewitnesses testimony is problematic.
Footprints are shown by Meldrum, and immediately countered by Esteban
Sarmiento who makes gigantic fake feet, complete with dermals. (Sarmiento
appears to be trying to undo his pro-Sasquatch appearance and his apparent
endorsement of the Skookum cast in Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science.) And
we see the Wallace family and friends tell how they ran behind a pickup,
being pulled with a rope/cable, as they left, in huge strides, fake
footprints. The placing of such footprints is demonstrated in that fashion
in the special. Davis and Meldrum remarking on the P-G film are countered
by Daegling and an associate saying the film is "not good."
I sense that Jeff Meldrum's opinion of M.K. Davis's analytic work may have
been misstated or overstated by the voiceover we hear. It is actually the
narrator, and not Jeff, that makes unflattering comments, and attributes
them to Jeff, about M.K "reading something into" the Patterson-Gimlin
blow-ups. Jeff's on-air comments are very pro-P-G footage, and no actual
on-screen comments from Jeff about M.K.'s work are shown. I think it all
goes back to the narrator script, mentioned above, and how heavily it has
been written in one direction.
Appearances by Janice Carter ("Fox speaks English") and Chester Moore ("Got
to kill one for the good of the species") do not do much for the Bigfoot
case. Russian Igor Bourtsev is filmed gutting a decoy (fake) deer in a
field in Tennessee as the narrator propels along the story with what is
noted as Carter's probable "fantasy." The viewer is left with the feeling
that these segments were included for comic relief.
The Bob Heironimus anti-Patterson segment is short, set up early in the show
by telling the viewer that Patterson was going for a "money shot" at Bluff
Creek. The footage is said to perhaps be a Patterson "hoax of uncanny
genius" and such remarks throughout the documentary are used to foreshadow
what is to come. But the Heironimus story only begins at the end, in the
last five minutes. The good-ole-boy (said to be a riding buddy of
Patterson's) Heironimus is interviewed, and he spins a tale of having coffee
in the morning with Patterson and Gimlin (shown as if camping overnight) and
then packing the "suit" on the back of a horse, as the three ride off
together, up to the filmsite.
For all the pre-publicity notice about the filming of this National
Geographic Channel's special "man-in-the-suit re-creation" - promoted so
overwhelmingly in Fortean Times - well, that segment is not used (probably
because it clearly does not match the Patterson-Gimlin footage). Instead,
the reenactment is played out up to the point the footage would have begun,
and then the real P-G film is shown again. Bob Heironimus is shown walking
the Bigfoot walk, in his overweight present state of being, with no comment
on the fact he would have not looked this way when he was 26 or that he has
been able to study the "Bigfoot walk" all these years.
From a documentary film point of view, it was a biased work, and not
well-done. If you are a skeptic, you would be happy about this special. If
you are someone that is in it, and pro-Bigfoot, I would think you might feel
you were tricked.
The program concludes with Meldrum, Radford, and Daegling having their last
say, in that order.
Loren Coleman is a retired professor who taught a course on documentary film
analysis from 1989-2004, at the University of Southern Maine, Portland,