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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Patterson & Gimlin's Bigfoot Film From the Perspective of A Hollywood Makeup Artist


By William Munns

492 pages; softcover; B/W; first edition 2014

The author takes the reader on an extremely detailed journey that seeks to prove the Hominid seen in the most famous 60 seconds of film is (or was) a real, living, breathing Bigfoot. Munns is as passionate about his research as he is comprehensive; tackling the subject with seriousness that, while occasionally defensive, is an ideal presentation for open-minded readers and general fans of Sasquatch lore. If you enjoyed all those nifty Bigfoot and 'Mysterious Monsters' type documentaries from the 70s, you're bound to find this thorough examination of the PGF from a makeup effects artist point of view of interest. An essential volume for Bigfoot fans (I know you are out there!).

Former Hollywood SPX artist William Munns has, in addition to over three decades in the film business, added wildlife artist, Cryptozoology studies and museum exhibit designer to his lengthy resume. A lifelong interest in the PGF (Patterson-Gimlin Film) has resulted in Munn's compilation of a near 500 page examination of the controversial short that takes up approximately one minute's worth of 16mm film. 

As a kid I was always into anything mysterious; especially if it was monster related. I watched as many Bigfoot movies as possible (as many as I could see on television back then) and always wanted to believe that such a creature was alive and well and walking around somewhere. I still don't think a Sasquatch is real, but don't discount the possibility of its existence now or at any time prior. The mystery surrounding them has been entrenched within American culture for so long (not to mention its folklore the world over), if I were to be somewhere out in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, I can't honestly say I wouldn't be wondering if a hairy hominid was watching somewhere out there.

Strictly from a fan's perspective, WHEN ROGER MET PATTY (Patty, as in the name given to the Hominid in the film, bearing female features) is arguably the most in-depth dissertation on the subject matter yet published. Munns examines from every angle imaginable; everything from the frames of film, to the location itself, to suit construction is heavily scrutinized. 

His expertise being the makeup effects field, Munns uses those years of experience to make his argument that the infamous Hominid captured on film by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin isn't (or wasn't) a guy in a costume. In doing so, the author has, over the years, received a lot of derogatory notices as well as praise for his extensive research. This book isn't likely to change that, but it's difficult to say the book isn't without merit or interest--especially to those with an appreciation for film genres like fantasy and horror.

Regarding special makeup effects, there are two chapters that touch on topics intrinsic to the authors credentials and vital to his approach to the subject. Chapter 3 is a mini-biography detailing Munns's early life, how he came to be interested in ape and ape-like creatures, and his eventual work with animals at Ralph Helfer's famous Gentle Jungle wild animal compound. 

The chapter directly following this one extends the coverage of Hollywood makeup effects; which further nurtured Munns's interest in exploring the famous film by Patterson/Gimlin. In these sections, Munns discusses some of his Hollywood work accompanied by a number of behind the scenes photos from films like SAVAGE HARVEST (1981) and THE BEASTMASTER (1982).

I know nothing of suit building or the art of makeup design outside of what I've read, so Munns's well-rounded documentation is certainly engaging for readers with a casual interest in not just Sasquatches, but also the art of filmmaking. If nothing else, the author definitely succeeded in holding my attention.

Negatives are minor, down to mere spelling errors and the way some of the pictures are presented. For example, some of the photos are far too small; particularly in chapter 8 wherein Munns dissects every nook and cranny of a man-made suit--the author using some of his own works as a template. In addition to being too small, some photos are too bright; whereas color would have been a better choice in this respect.

Another stone Munns doesn't leave unturned is the negative connotations associated with this subject--that the short film is a hoax. Covered predominantly in chapters 10 and 14, Munns occasionally, and always passionately, defends his assertions while delving into the skeptical aspects with discussion of other books on the subject.

I didn't come away from WHEN ROGER MET PATTY with a changed mind that Bigfoot is real (no hairs or skeletal remains have yet to turn up), but the author is certainly dedicated to its subject matter in ways few have ever been. Just as intriguing as any of those fantastic Bigfoot/Mystery Monster documentaries of the 70s, it's difficult to read Munn's book and not be the slightest bit captivated by his exhaustive analysis as to whether or not the fabled Bigfoot does indeed exist.

To purchase this book through amazon click HERE.

You can read more about William Munns work HERE.

To read the CAC interview with William Munns click HERE.

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