Sunday 11 July 2010

Obscurity Files #14 - Harry And The Hendersons

SLACKER Obscurity Files aims to put the spotlight onto a series of films that time and audiences have otherwise forgotten. With Predators in cinemas this week, we thought it might be good to look at Harry and the Hendersons (trust me, there's a link).
More after the jump...

Travelling home from an unsuccessful camping trip, the Hendersons accidentally hit something with their car. Is it a Deer? Is it a Bear? Nope, it's Bigfoot. Assuming he's dead, George Henderson (John Lithgow) decides to strap the body to the roof of his car and drive the carcass back to the suburbs and to fame and fortune on the talk show circuit. He's been a life long hunter, and this is a trophy that no one will be able to match.

Bigfoot soon wakes up, raids the fridge and starts burying all of George's taxidermy in the back yard. The Hendersons will have to try and keep their house intact whilst keeping the Bigfoot's existence under wraps. If he's going to be around for a while though, he deserves a name. Harry. Still on the hunt for the Bigfoot is Jacques LaFleur (David Suchet), a hunter who has made a living collecting artifacts and proof of Bigfoot's existence for years. He's on the trail and it's only a matter of time before he catches up to Harry.

This 1987 comedy (originally known as Bigfoot and the Hendersons to UK audiences), is one of those treasured 80's family films like Honey I Shrunk The Kids and Batteries Not Included. The concept is so ridiculous that it could only have come out of the 80's, and despite being a little bit terrifying, Harry is one of those true 80's icons.

Harry was played by Kevin Peter Hall, the 7' 2" actor whose career was based on wearing these giant costumes. His ginormous stature certainly creates an imposing presence, but Harry's face is so full of expression that he's clearly a gentle giant. The scene of Harry watching TV is a great example of this, showing all the emotion capable of this excellent display of puppetry.

As Harry slowly becomes comfortable in his surroundings and part of the family, the Henderson's must teach Harry to be a bit more house proud before the place falls apart. They start with the simpler things like teaching him how to sit.

When LaFleur starts to hone in on Harry, he goes on the run throughout Seattle causing havoc on the streets. His cover is blown, and the whole city is now armed to the teeth, ready to kill a Bigfoot. Harry just wants to get back to the mountains, but there's too many roads and other dangers in the way. George Henderson eventually manages to track Harry down and helps him get back to the forest, but LaFleur is hot on the trail. In one of the most schmaltzy scenes in cinema history, George must force Harry back into the forest for his own safety.

The effects work done by Rick Baker in this film earned him an Oscar in 1988, and it's easy to see why. Harry's an excellent creation that kids would totally buy as real. The man inside the suit was Kevin Peter Hall, who'd previously inhabited the Predator suit in the first two films of that franchise. When this film got its own spin-off series, Hall reprised his role before he unfortunately contracted AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion, ending his career and life abruptly.

Harry and the Hendersons is one of those films that everyone should watch as a child. It really is a family classic. It's kind of cheesy and melodramatic, but those can be plus points for family films. Harry's here to teach us an important lesson about respect for nature, and like most of the great 80's films, it really doesn't matter if you don't get the message behind it all. If you did see this as a kid but haven't seen it since, I urge you to revisit it as it's a great nostalgia kick.

Save from obscurity? YES

P.s. It also has some of the most awesomely 80's end credits. Played over a Joe Cocker rock ballad, it's like the classic hand drawn Aha video but with a giant monkey man in it.

1 comment:

  1. The bit with Harry laughing at tv is one of my favourite scenes ever! It has me in stiches ever time!