Bigfoot Movie: A Hollywood Hoax?

Director John Landis says Planet of the Apes make-up man perpetrated scam

By Ken Neville Oct 20, 1997 11:30 PMTags
Twenty-six years ago director John Landis donned an ape-man costume to play the lead role in his classic bigfoot spoof Schlock. Well, it turns out Landis knew a little more about Sasquatch spoofing than he was letting on at the time.

Landis, best known as the director of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, now says that four years prior to his satire, a hoax perpetrated by the special-effects artist who created the Oscar-winning outfits for The Planet of the Apes resulted in the video that is widely accepted as the only filmed proof of the existence of a Sasquatch. Bigfoot followers know this as a film shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin while horseback riding in the Pacific Northwest in 1967.

The footage, which shows a large, hairy creature moving through the woods (and turning to the camera at one point), has been examined repeatedly by experts. Its authenticity, though, is still subject to debate.

But Hollywood special-effects artists back Landis' claim. "It was like a gag to be played on the guy who shot it," Howard Berger, of Hollywood's KNB Effects Group, told the Telegraph. "The guy never knew it was a hoax his friends played on him."

Landis says he learned the "make-up secret only six people know" while filming Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970 with John Chambers, the man behind the myth. Chambers had previously worked at Paramount with another effects artist who pioneered a "water bag" technique that gives lifelike movement to animal suits. "I'd say with absolute certainty that John was responsible," says Mike McCracken Jr., a make-up artist. Others say that creatures Chambers created for the TV show Lost in Space are very similar to the Sasquatch in the film.

Unfortunately, Chambers, now 75, lives in a nursing home and is unable to confirm or deny the rumors. So, on this day (October 20), the 30th anniversary of the Patterson-Gimlin footage, Landis may have felt it was time to clear up the old hoax. Then again, this is Hollywood. The latest revelations could be the hoax. We may never know.

(UPDATED at 6:15 a.m. on 10/23/97)