Friday, December 16, 2016

127. The Giant of Metropolis and 128. The Legend of Bigfoot

Jump to The Legend of Bigfoot (1975)

127. The Giant of Metropolis (1961)
Director: Umberto Scarpelli
Writers: Sabatino Ciuffini, Ambrogio Molteni, Oreste Palella, Emimmo Salvi, and Gino Stafford. Additional dialogue by Umberto Scarpelli
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

Obro travels to the scientifically advanced, but overly-proud capital of Atlantis carrying warnings of ill omens, but the leader Yoh-tar rebukes him and continues his project to overcome death.

A sword & sandal movie meets Star Trek and thus an odd duck. Strongman Obro is on a quest to Atlantis’ ultra-advanced capital, Metropolis, to deliver a prophecy of doom if the leader Yoh-tar doesn’t abandon his prideful pursuit of science over faith. Obro is immediately captured and pretty much becomes incidental to the film.

This isn’t uncommon to sword & sandal movies. In fact, one of the better qualities of these movies is the mixture of plots: the hero’s on a quest, the sidekick has their own adventure, and the villain gets plenty of screentime to explore their own tale. This, though, focuses almost entirely on Yoh-tar and his machinations. Obro is sidelined right at the start and is referred to more than he’s actually present. It’s sort of like a Hercules movie without Hercules.

But the homo-eroticism of sword & sandal movies is in full effect, as well! Yoh-tar is obsessed with Obro because Obro survived the death tornadoes Yoh-tar sent to kill the messengers. That means Obro’s body is of unique quality and Yoh-tar wants to test it to see if it’ll be a fitting vessel for the brains of his father and son.

Oh yeah. Part of Yoh-tar’s evil plan is to make his son live forever. More on that later.

So Obro faces various tests: he has a sweaty grappling contest with a large hairy man, has to fight a gang of five small men who attack him by covering him in hickeys, and finally is tortured by Yoh-tar by having to flex in a spotlight. You don’t have to dig for subtext here.

Meanwhile, Yoh-tar’s scientists—the people who’s information and genius have made Atlantis the sci-fi anomaly that it is—are telling Yoh-tar that there are strange cosmic events occurring as well as unusual activities at the Earth’s core that are threatening the city. Yoh-tar ignores them and tells them to keep working on the project to make his son immortal.

That’s Yoh-tar’s big plan: make his son live forever. The whole thing would work better as a plot point if Yoh-tar were either a bit more evil—he’s experimenting on his son to perfect the process for himself—or more devoted—he’s willing to sacrifice his city for love of his son. The movie doesn’t commit to either side, though, instead favoring the weaker trope of being blinded from faith by science.

I'm not projecting, that’s actually a line from the movie: “He’s not evil, he’s only blinded by science.” I’m always confused by plots that insist that empiricists are blind to what the world actually is. They’re empiricists—they base their decisions upon what’s observable. Consistently in these stories, and this movie’s no exception, their downfall comes because they, for sake of the plot, abandon their empiricism and then are destroyed by the results. Yoh-tar, who puts all his faith in science and the information it produces, is told by his scientists that disaster is coming and they need to evacuate. Instead of paying attention to their findings—the thing that’s made him an affront to God and thus needing to be taken down a peg—he ignores them and claims their doubts are all the fault of Obro’s “terrorism.”

Jesus, this is a vision of Trump’s America. The climax actually features a mob shouting “down with science.”

As you’d expect from the genre, the movie ends with the disaster destroying the city, but Obro, his love interest, and Yoh-tar’s son escape to form a new family. It’s not a terrible picture and it’s certainly interesting to see Flash Gordon-style sci-fi mixed with a Hercules-style sword & sandal flick, but the logic of the piece is pretty hard to pin down. That may be unsurprising considering it has six screenwriters—there isn’t a central logic to be pinned down. The movie is enjoyable in its silliness, though, and immediately open to camp pleasures. As a bonus, it’s in the public domain and I’ve added an MPEG2 to It’s a middling recommend for a Saturday afternoon or beer & pretzel evening of riffing. Not very compelling beyond that.

128. The Legend of Bigfoot (1975)
Director: Harry Winer
Writers: Harry Winer and Paula Labrot
From: Drive-In; Chilling

Documentary/pseudo-documentary by Ivan Marx about his years hunting for evidence of Bigfoot--including footage of the creature itself.

There’s little I can saw about the movie beyond the quick blurb. It’s mostly nature footage, and not bad nature footage, shot during the 1950’s and 60’s by hunter/tracker Ivan Marx. When it’s focused on his time as a tracker and naturalist making a life for himself in the national parks, it’s pretty interesting. I won’t say I was above chuckling when he said he’d built a home for himself called “Bear Ranch” (I’m sure there’s a leather bar in Montana with the same name), but it was neat seeing his wife taking care of the animals who lived on the ranch with them and how they lived in general. Likewise, Marx talking about the job that initially got him interested in Bigfoot is more compelling than the cryptozoology rabbithole he ends up going down.

Marx is sent to Kodiak, AK to hunt down a bear that local farmers say has been killing their cattle. When he arrives, the farmers tell him it’s not a bear, but Bigfoot. Marx figures out that the cows have actually been eating waterlogged grass that’s causing them to die. The rational explanation is the more interesting and, frankly, surprising one. Had the movie followed that path of noting stories people were telling about Bigfoot and then presenting the reality, I’d have been more involved, but that wouldn’t have sold nearly as well.

So Marx starts noting all the times he hears about Bigfoot and then he sees the creature himself and even gets footage of it! It’s hilariously bad footage of someone in a full-body fursuit, but, sure, it’s Bigfoot. Marx notes that his footage was stolen by scientists who then profited from it by touring it around the country and making fun of him. I’d suggest hints of ICP and “scientists are liars,” but it’s something I’ve seen every time I look into the cryptozoological/paranormal/conspiracy community: people who've spent years studying the subject being discusses and then fail to be convinced by bad evidence are the truly ignorant.

Anyway, Marx continues to search for Bigfoot, following every lead he can until he manages to get footage of a Bigfoot family. It’s whatever. The movie’s done well-enough as a collection of nature footage including a dramatic scene of squirrels reacting to one of their own getting stunned by a car, but its argument isn’t compelling unless you already believe. There’s fun to be had, though. It’s riffable, yes, but probably more useful as raw material to be cut together in some other project. The film’s in the public domain and I’ve added an MPEG2 to There’s also an extended special edition here with ten additional minutes.

If you’re into cryptids, this is a seminal doc. If you want some nice nature footage to cut into something else, this is a pretty good resource. Apart from that, it’s a touch dull.

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