Bigfoot and Wildboy is a very unusual example of a Krofft show that got a second lease on life. It started as the dramatic, cliffhanging installment of the second season of The Krofft Supershow in the 1977-78 season, with sixteen two-part episodes comprising eight stories. These featured Monika Ramirez as a character called Susie, who assisted Bigfoot and Wildboy as they defended “the great northwest” from a variety of alien, supernatural, and super-scientific threats.
ABC asked the Kroffts for another season of twelve half-hour episodes, even as they lost the overall variety show that was Bigfoot and Wildboy‘s home to NBC. More on that tomorrow. Then, weirdly, ABC put the twelve half-hours on the shelf and didn’t screen them until the tail end of the 1978-79 season, burning them off in the summer instead of promoting them in the fall. I’ve always been curious about this. It feels like petulant retribution for the Kroffts decamping their successful program to another network.
Of course, Bigfoot was never bigger than in the 1970s. Kids today – like ours – have no frame of reference for what a bizarre icon of popular culture Bigfoot was back then. Ours also had no prior experience with the 1970s shorthand for showing a character running really fast by having the character run in slow motion. He’ll be seeing that again in the future, you can bet. Bigfoot made as much sense as the lead character in a 1970s kids’ show as a dune buggy did. It was the seventies, man.
The twelve half-hour episodes of Bigfoot and Wildboy, which saw Yvonne Regalado replace Ramirez as another character, Cindy, hint at what Shazam! and Isis might have been like with supervillain threats. Each week, Bigfoot (Ray Young) and his human pal Wildboy (Joseph Butcher) save the land from space invaders, babbling subterranean magic-users, low-rent Incredible Hulk knockoffs, mummies, and, in this episode, a vampire countess played by pretty Deborah Ryan. (You remember her from KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park; she was the one who figured that rock bands keep track of all the members of the audience, as opposed to, you know, venue security.)
I was a little disappointed that Rhino picked a slightly atypical episode of the show. Most episodes that I’ve seen were filmed on 16mm almost entirely on location, but this one is mostly a studio venture set in a labyrinth of caves. On the other hand, that worked perfectly for our kid, who was scared out of his wits by the vampire and her plans, and the feel of getting lost underground in a “jigsaw puzzle” of tunnels. This was one of the scariest things he’s ever seen, even though it follows the tame rules of children’s TV and doesn’t allow the vampire to bite anybody onscreen, and has her power cut off by the lid of her box, which isn’t referred to as a coffin. She certainly isn’t staked through the heart. That didn’t matter; he was scrunched up in a tight ball with his head under the blanket for about the whole show.
While neither Butcher nor Regalado had very many acting parts, Ray Young stayed pretty busy until his death in 1999, usually playing really big, mean-looking people. I’m afraid the casting director this week sort of worked against him by hiring Mickey Morton – Solomon Grundy in Legends of the Superheroes – as one of the human servants of the vampire. Everybody in these shows should be looking up at Bigfoot, not meeting the actor’s sight line!