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Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film

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Author Topic: Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film  (Read 456 times)
Jennifer O'Dell
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« on: March 11, 2007, 03:34:02 pm »

John Chambers
Rumors circulated that the creature seen in the Patterson-Gimlin film was a suit designed by movie special effects expert John Chambers, who designed the ape costumes seen in many of the original Planet of the Apes films, and was reportedly an acquaintance of Ray Wallace and Bob Gimlin.

Film director John Landis (who had earlier worked with Chambers on Beneath the Planet of the Apes) certainly helped spread such rumors, if he didn’t invent them outright. Coleman and Clark cite a 1997 Sunday Telegraph story where Landis says, “That famous piece of film of Bigfoot walking in the woods that was touted as the real thing was just a suit made by John Chambers” (Coleman and Clark, 56). The allegation has been repeated by pioneering makeup artist Rick Baker.

Shortly after Landis's story was published, stimulated by inquiries from cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, Bigfoot researcher Roberta Short interviewed Chambers, who was living in a Los Angeles nursing home. Chambers asserted he did not know Patterson or Gimlin, was not involved in making the film, and had no knowledge of the Patterson-Gimlin film before its public exposure. Chambers added “that he was ‘good’ but he ‘was not that good’ to have fashioned anything nearly so convincing as the Bluff Creek Bigfoot” (Coleman and Clark, 56). Chambers also told Short he had once helped create a Bigfoot sculpture, and speculated that this fact may have started or fueled the rumors that he was involved in the Patterson film.

It is also worth noting that Chambers’ innovative Planet of the Apes make-up relied primarily on expressive masks, not on body suits, and whatever seams or "zippers" would have appeared on the Planet of the Apes suits were covered up by clothing. Clothing was also used to cover up certain folds and seams on the Ewok costumes in Return of the Jedi (1983). Even when the costumes became more elaborate in the 1970's, King Kong in the 1976 remake still had a clearly-defined separation between the body of the suit and the head mask. Folds in the material have appeared in every film in which there was human costumed as an ape up until Gorillas in the Mist (1988), and they can be identified as such either in close-up or at a distance. In the Patterson/Gimlin film of Bigfoot, there are no identifiable folds seen, which means either or both men had their hands on a costume that was far superior to anything made in Hollywood in the mid-1960's.

Other Costume Designers

However, very convincing full body suits were being used in the filming of another science fiction masterpiece, 2001:A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. The suits were designed and created by the makeup artists of MGM Studios. Less elaborate ape costumes were used in the original Star Trek series, most notably in the episodes "The Galileo Seven", "The Man Trap" and "A Private Little War". The Star Trek apes and other non-humanoid life forms were created by costume designer Janos Prohaska, who also performed many of the non-humanoid roles.

This fact demonstrates that somewhat lifelike ape suits were not only possible, but available and reasonably affordable at the time Patterson and Gimlin were filming. Since home-movie stock doesn't clearly record details at a distance, it is arguable that, if the film was faked, the ape suit did not have to be unusually elaborate.

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