Sunday, April 23, 2017


          Thirty years ago, the Hendersons hit a Bigfoot.
          How the dad, played by John Lithgow, managed to lift the stunned but not dead body off the road and pack it on top of the station wagon remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of cinema.
          Perhaps because the special effects are state-of-the-art for 1987, too much emphasis went into the costume, and not enough into the story and the characters.
          The subject matter fits the Pac Northwest like a giant hairy glove, but inexplicably the filmmakers target an audience of the very young.
          To keep things light, the Bigfoot (Hall) whom the Hendersons hide at their house, is a primarily simpering, sheepish creature, not all that gigantic, and looking very much like a guy in a suit.
          For major conflict we have a hardcore Bigfoot-hunter (Suchet). Lesser conflict appears in the form of a nosy neighbor (Kazan) who barges into the house and starts sniffing around, never realizing how close Harry stands by watching her the whole time.
          The filmmakers repeat that bit with Don Ameche as a Bigfoot-denier at the Hendersons' dinner table, denying the possibility of Bigfeet and unaware of the one inches away.
          Which would be impossible.
          The overall presentation is fluffier than the subject matter's hide. Consequently, after the movie, there was the TV sitcom. Different actors in the roles, but every bit as fluffy, plus the same guy in the same costume.
          Much of the movie relies on see-sawing displays of power. When Harry eats the teenage daughter's birthday corsage, she angrily tells the Bigfoot off...until he stops backing out the door and shows it's his turn to roar. All the while with generic cutesy-wutesy flute music.
          It's interesting that the filmmakers chose to make their Bigfoot male, because the famous Big-footage from Bluff Creek in the '60s shows a striding female Gigantopithecus. The pendulous breasts on the creature in Roger Patterson's film are always removed in chainsaw carvings, commercials, movies. Common sense would therefore seem to tell us that Patterson, former rodeo rider, was no different from anyone else, that he didn't make a female Bigfoot suit, but that it's actually real.

Starring John Lithgow,
Melinda Dillon,
Margaret Langrick,
Joshua Rudoy,
Kevin Peter Hall,
David Suchet,
Lainie Kazan,
Don Ameche
Directed by William Dear
Written by William Dear, Bill Martin, Ezra Rappaport
Runtime 110 minutes
Rated PG

Stewart Kirby writes for

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