Monthly Archives: February 2011

The First Frost Giant: CONQUEST OF THE POLE (1912)

Many fans of Bigfoot Cinema believe the genre was born with the 1950s release of the otherwise undistinguished The Snow Creature (1954), directed by Billy Wilder’s brother W. Lee.

The first-ever appearance by a screen snowmonster.

The giant snow'man'ster from "Conquest of the Pole" (1912).

In reality, however, Yeti appearances in fictional films arrived with the popularization of narrative cinema itself. In fact, none other than the French pioneer of fantastic cinema himself, George Méliès, originated what can arguably be called the first-ever Abominable Snowman appearance in film history. It equally launched an enduring, vibrant off-shoot genre that endures to this day — Cine du Sasquatch.

That salient film effort was called Conquest of the Pole (1912) aka <<À la conquête du pôle>>. It featured a climatic encounter with a huge man-monster who devours humans alive from the icy pits of its own frozen hell. Although much more human than cryptid, the beast is nevertheless firmly within the genre conventions of all that would follow. Yeti in films was born, albeit in a more human and only nascent form.

You can witness the quaint charm of the production with the below YouTube clip erroneously titled “Conquest of the North (sic) Pole” but quite a nice Super 8mm-to-video capture, all things considered. At approximately 5:30 into the narrative, the monstrous Abominable Snowman-ster rears its ugly head, and upper shoulders, and dangling arms!

Despite its primitive nature, Conquest of the Pole‘s frost giant was a technical marvel for its era of construction. Audiences were astounded by the Abominable and the creature’s lifelike expressions. In many ways, this was one of the true first-ever animatronic constructions for a film, even if the entire contraption was operated by hidden players inside the giant’s head and shoulders, as well as cables and pulleys activated by off-screen helpers. King Kong‘s use of a similar bust for some crucial close-up shots may have been influenced by Méliès’ movie, as well.

Alas, despite the technical innovations, Méliès found a largely indifferent audience for this, one of his last large-scale productions. Popular tastes in cinema were already evolving from sheer novelty “trick films” (as Méliès himself called his efforts) and into more narratively-oriented efforts (read: stage plays that were photographed).  Conquest of the Pole would not only create the Cine du Sasquatch genre, in short, but temporarily bury it under the celluloid permafrost, as well.

That ice would later melt, of course. But for many lonely years, Conquest of the Pole was the first — and last — word in Bigfoot Cinema.

Advertisements

New Details About THE BIGFOOT FILMOGRAPHY Publication Date & Format

Scene from 'Tanya's Island'

Rick Baker and Rob Bottin collaborated on the unique hominid from TANYA'S ISLAND. They won a Canadian Academy Award for Makeup Effects for their efforts.

Good news from the folks at McFarland. My new book The Bigfoot Filmography (ISBN 978-0-7864-4828-9) will be first published as an oversized, hardbound edition in the Fall of 2011!

Complete with 100s of rare photos, many never-before published, and interviews with key Bigfoot genre filmmakers, The Bigfoot Filmography: Fictional and Documentary Appearances in Film and Television is a first of its kind reference guide and genre-defining critique of “Cine du Sasquatch” — a newly-proposed genre of horror filmmaking.

But as the overview of every-known Bigfoot film & t.v. appearance makes readily apparent, Cine du Sasquatch is actually as old as the narrative film itself. Citing the earliest examples of Yeti movies by pioneering filmmakers such as George Méliès and Willis O’Brien, and then moving forward through film history to denote key moments in the genre’s progression, The Bigfoot Filmography meticulously documents how the Cine du Sasquatch genre has always been lurking, just out of classification in film critique annals and as misunderstood as the cryptozoological namesake which inspires the films.

With a foreward by noted cryptozoologist, author, and museum curator Loren Coleman (no relation, alas for me, save our shared heridity of a love of Bigfoot Cinema!), The Bigfoot Filmography also includes a complete listing and critique of every known Bigfoot, Yeti, and Sasquatch movie and t.v. appareance, cameo, or significant mention, complete with cast and crew credits, running times, and other resourceful information about each listing.

I’m truly thrilled that after literally years of work, The Bigfoot Filmography will be available for the Bigfoot Cinema fans like myself, many of whom equally feel they’ve been “in hiding” as much as any cryptid for their dedication to a what is still (until publication date!) a misunderstood cinema genre. More info as it becomes available, of course! 😉