Color, 1975, 76m.
Directed by Lawrence Crowley and William F. Miller

Color, 1986, 91m.
Directed by Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
Starring Eric Foster, Maurice Grandmaison, John Tallman, Griffin Casey, Faith Clift, Navarre Perry
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Cry Wilderness

The public obsession with all things occult in the '70s and '80s resulted in some pretty bizarre movies, with everything from Cry WildernessUFOs to the Loch Ness Monster to psychic plants popping in dubious documentaries and horror movies on drive-ins across the country. However, few mysteries captivated the public more than Bigfoot, a.k.a. Sasquatch, a huge, hairy creature (or race of creatures) supposedly residing in the nation's massive forest regions. Vinegar Syndrome takes its own stab at the Bigfoot mythos with this double feature DVD, which reflects just how much the Bigfoot craze evolved over the span of one decade.

First up on the disc (but second on the packaging) is Cry Wilderness, a crazily entertaining "family" adventure film from Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, the guy who cobbled together and shot new sequences for the immortal Night Train to Terror. Things start off with a bang at a boarding school field trip where young Paul (Eric Foster) gets in hot water with his teacher after staring at a statue of one of man's hirsute ancestors and claiming he's actually met Bigfoot. In fact, he says he and the legendary beast met on multiple occasions during which the non-threatening big guy developed a taste for Coca-Cola and gave Paul a tribal amulet. That night, Paul is awakened by a blazing red light outside the school window and informed by a manifestation of Bigfoot that his dad, forest ranger Will (Grandmaison), is in danger and needs Paul's help right away. Paul sneaks away and hitchhikes up into the mountains where he reconnects Cry Wildernesswith his weirdly-dubbed dad, who's rounding up some trackers to go into the mountains to find a "dangerous animal" on the loose. A stash of empty Coke cans, comical raccoons, plentiful animal footage, beer-swilling bikers, Indian mysticism, sloppy chicken chomping, pounding synth music and a country theme song are just a few of the surprises in store as Paul's magic amulet guides him to the lair of his furry friend. Cry Wilderness

It would've been quite an experience to watch this during its extremely limited theatrical release in a theater filled with thunderstruck kids; as far as crackpot '80s family films go, it's up there with amazing fare like The Peanut Butter Solution and The Great Land of Small. (Speaking of which, where's that double feature?) Foster actually isn't bad as the pint-sized lead, but each of the adult actors appears to be acting in a completely different movie -- which of course just adds to the entertainment value.

Cry Wilderness hasn't been the easiest film to track down on home video, though Trinity quietly issued a mediocre full frame DVD in 2005 if you dug around a bit. The Vinegar Syndrome transfer from the 35mm negative looks terrific, per their usual practice, with only the end credits looking a little ragged. Colors look great, the forest scenery is nicely detailed, and the mono audio is so crisp you can easily tell who had to be looped later in post-production.

However, if you want to see some truly mind-bending acting, then take a gander right away at In Search of Bigfoot, a quasi-documentary film about a researcher and adventurer named Bob Morgan who ventures into the wilds of the Cry WildernessPacific Northwest to uncover the truth behind Bigfoot. Along with a nasally backpacking buddy named Mike, he heads into the woods where other people testify about their own personal sightings and beliefs, accompanied by incessant narration ("On his way out, Mike found large bear foot human-like tracks. It's exciting news!") and a few Bigfoot facts and figures thrown onto the screen now and then. Cry Wilderness

The resident interviews are actually the most fascinating part of the film, which by necessity comes packed with lots and lots of nature footage and shots of the film wading through creeks and up mountains. The Deliverance-inspired banjo music and striking photography go a long way to creating an effective atmosphere for the film, which comes up with an unusual way of dodging the fact that there's no way the expedition will actually come face to face with Bigfoot at any point. (That shouldn't be a spoiler for anyone.) As long as you don't expect to see a marauding monster, it's a fascinating little '70s time capsule and a reminder of how truly odd big screen fare used to be.

Oddly enough, In Search of Bigfoot was often shown on TV cut down and spliced together with an earlier 1972 short film by Lawrence Crowley, this film's director, entitled Bigfoot: Man or Beast?, a title sometimes slapped on the entire patchwork feature. The Vinegar Syndrome disc apparently marks the first home video presentation of the theatrical cut anywhere, which should be more than enough to make Bigfoot-philes snap this up on sight. The transfer from the 16mm looks great given the source material and is presented full frame as originally shot, as opposed to the previous feature which is anamorphic 1.85:1. Slip on some furry slippers and enjoy.

Reviewed on July 29, 2014.