Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 26th, 2009
“Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.”
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. You would have to be a hermit on a Pacific island (hopefully we do have a few as readers here) to have missed out on the media storm on this one.
So, since everyone is talking about this story, in one way or the other, we might as well note Jackson’s links to Bigfootery, even if only through his associations and life links.
Jackson’s long-version of Thriller has the above disclaimer on it. It was a short film done for him by John Landis, a name of some significance in the history of hominology.
Let’s track the popular cultural trail on this one.
Schlock is a 1973 low-budget satire film, written and directed by filmmaker John Landis, then 21. The film is the first credited project by Landis, who also starred as the title role. It opened in Hollywood in March 1973 and in West Germany on September 17, 1982. The film is notable for the early work of make-up artist Rick Baker. The Bigfoot suit for the film was made by Rick Baker and this would be the beginning of a long-term collaboration between Landis and Baker.
In 1981, Landis wrote and directed another cult-status movie, the comedy-horror An American Werewolf in London (photo above).
Landis also directed the opening teaser (about a werewolf) and first segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983. During the filming of Twilight Zone, actor Vic Morrow and child extras Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen were killed in an accident involving an out of control helicopter. This occurred during the Nazi-Vietnam time travel segment of the movie.
Right after filming ended, Landis and his family were living in London when he was approached by Michael Jackson to make a video for his song, “Thriller”.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller is an almost 14-minute long music video for the song of the same name released on December 2, 1983 and directed by John Landis who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jackson.
The mini-film music video was broadcast on MTV three weeks before Christmas 1983. It was the most expensive video of its time, costing US$500,000, and Guinness World Records listed it in 2006 as the “most successful music video,” selling over 9 million units.
During the video, Jackson transforms into both a zombie and a werecat (although makeup artist Rick Baker referred to it as a “cat monster” in the Making of Thriller documentary); familiar territory for Landis, who had directed An American Werewolf in London two years earlier.
Co-starring with Jackson was former Playboy centerfold Ola Ray.
After the credits, when they concurrently show the zombies dancing again, the disclaimer humorously states, “Any similarity to actual events or persons living, dead, (or undead) is purely coincidental.” Landis’ An American Werewolf in London likewise offered this disclaimer.
Thriller has some entangled links to Bigfoot.
In the beginning scenes, when Jackson and Ray are outside the movie theater, the movie poster behind them is for Schlock.
(See 23 seconds into this online version of Thriller for Schlock poster.)
Of course, since Landis produced Thriller, the placement is subtle and, in some ways, to be expected. The film, Schlock, as previously noted, was directed by John Landis, who also played the film’s very thin Bigfoot.
John Chambers, whom years later John Landis (above) would claim created the Bigfoot in the Patterson-Gimlin footage, played the National Guard Captain in Schlock.
Chambers’ student, Rick Baker, who one day would create Harry in Harry and the Hendersons, did the makeup and created the Bigfoot in Schlock.
John Chambers and the Burbank Bigfoot, which was one of Chamber’s fakes.
John Chambers denied he had anything to do with the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot.
It is only a movieland rumor that Michael Jackson wanted to capture a Bigfoot to go with his chimp in his personal zoo at California’s Neverland Ranch. Although at one time Jackson also wanted to rent a haunted house, he appears to have turned away from an earlier attraction to occult matters during his later years.