In August 1975, after a long production period full of struggles, ‘Sasqua’ had its theatrical release in the USA. Shortly after, however, the film vanished into obscurity. The film never received distribution on VHS or DVD and along the years became as much a mystery as the legendary Sasquatch creature it tells the tale of. Another forgotten film that seems untraceable? Not quite so, as things have surfaced and the beast has reared its head again…
What would the horror genre be without its devoted fans? That’s kind of a rhetorical question. The seventies saw the rise of a peculiar creature of myth in contemporary independent cinema: The Sasquatch, commonly known as Bigfoot. The beast had already been around before that time, but it’s said decade that started spawning a significant amount of movies featuring it. By now, Sasquatch Horror has become a legitimate subgenre and it rekindled with various outings already since the dawn of this new millennium. While its more recent offspring is widely available on DVD, it’s a sad fact that some of the movies that started this subgenre remain extremely hard to find. If they were even lucky enough to receive VHS distribution back in the days, that is. Channon Scot’s ‘Sasqua’ (which he wrote, produced & directed) was never picked up for home screening purposes, and for years it seemed like this movie would remain lost forever. But Sasquatch-lovers have proven to be a devoted bunch, and this brings us back to the rhetorical question about fans. Determined to shed some new light on ‘Sasqua’, Bart Krawczyk (from the Polish horror website Danse Macabre) eventually got in contact with Channon Scot. The two of them proceeded to do an online interview. The result of that, Channon’s recollections on the movie, you can read on this page in…
The Story of a Forgotten 70′s Bigfoot Flick
“I was in the ‘biz’ for about thirty years. Now I am retired and my stage is youth baseball parks where I perform as a volunteer ‘umpire. ‘Sasqua’ got started in 1965 when a friend of mine and I made a decision to go search for ‘Sasquatch’ until we realized that Sasquatch was not very friendly. Then, in 1968 while in acting class, I wrote a story about Bigfoot. My mentor at the time was doing a ‘doc’ on Charlie Manson and after reading the treatment thought it might have a chance. I put together some of my actor friends at the time, Jim Whitworth, Buck Miller and others and did a ‘pilot’ of sorts. It was terrible, didn’t get any interest. Then, one night I had a dream of going back home to Massachusetts and getting investors there. I got some of my actor friends to put up some bucks, after promising them roles in the pix, and flew back to Lowell Massachusetts. I set about to find those investors. Lo and behold, it came true in 1972.
I’ll try and answer as much as I remember. It didn’t just happen. People in the area thought I was there to scam them. At first, I got some good publicity but afterwards they began to resent me. A lawyer friend of mine set me up in a downtown office and I attended various parties, picnics, etc., I began to feel like I was running for office. The only thing I didn’t do was kiss babies. Got into a little trouble with a singer who called himself John Wayne. Apparently he believed he was the real John Wayne’s illegitimate son. I contacted John Wayne Productions and they affirmed the story. So I didn’t use him in the pix. The local newspaper, Lowell Sun, issued a front page editorial stating that a ‘film flam man’ was working in the area. They claimed it was a typo, but made no correction the next day. I’m sure they did it on purpose.
It took the love of a woman and the belief of a book titled ‘Think and Grow Rich’ before I finally landed my first investment of $15,000. We convinced Linda Diefendorf’s uncle, Robert Topjian, to make that investment. I was then able to bring in a few actors I promised jobs into mass. Now the publicity was rolling in and I was receiving more interest by locals. Through this I met a lawyer from Boston named Robert Haufler and he bought into the project. This started more of the wheels to turn and I was able to buy film, equipment from New York and bring in my other players from Los Angeles primarily the lead, Jim Whitworth, the cameraman, Henning Schellerup and we began shooting on location in Lowell, Massachusetts. Things began to go well, 12 to 18 hours a day for 12 days.
Jim Whitworth and Henning were good friends in Los Angeles, Jim and I were close and were in the same acting class in Hollywood together in 1968, as were some of the other Los Angeles actors I brought into mass. This was before his ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ role. After that, you couldn’t get him to stop doing that role everywhere he went. It used to drive us crazy especially at the friday night card games. Jim wasn’t in ‘Dolly Dearest’. Unfortunately Jim had died of cancer before this film. More of that to come. I used local actors and crew for a small amount of $$ and promised them everything just to fill the roles and positions. My cousin, Tommy Lannan, did all the music and songs for the film. He was cheap, so I used him. But, he was also a fantastic musician. One of the crew, Frank Byers, became a director of photography in Hollywood, you can probably google his name to find out his credits. I found Ron Max who played the lover of the girl, Carmella Gallien, who gets killed first, in the Boston play of ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. He ended up doing very well in the biz. Carmella ended up becoming an agent. I’ll get to that later.
After 1972, I was sitting in my girl’s apt looking at 60 rolls of developed 35mm film and wondering where in the hell I was going to get the rest of the $$$$$ to put the pix together. I decided to try and edit most of it myself, so I rented an old 35mm on the desk type of box screen, a sound gang and I made some reels out of cardboard to cut as much of the film I could until I could get the dough to go to California and get someone to edit it properly. There wasn’t anyone around in mass to do this and everyone who offered was asking too damn much. I started the party rounds again and plays.
Lou Peralta? Well, he and I were also in acting classes together. After I picked up some more $$$$ I flew back to Los Angeles to find someone to edit and it turned out that Lou got hold of me and offered his services as an editor. We also had ‘golf’ in common and probably spent more time on the course than we did in the editing room. He also was responsible for creating the one-sheet for ‘Sasqua’. After I viewed the film back in Boston, I decided to distribute ‘Sasqua’ myself. Bad decision. I did the opening and got some pretty good reviews, but I burned myself out. Got back in contact with Peralta and he had a small distribution company and we signed up together. He played the film out for around two years and from what I was told he made around $3 mil, none of that $$$ did I or my investors see and he and I had a falling out. Heard he was doing well and living the high life. That’s show biz! I still own the rights and I have a high-8 copy of the film. Have no idea where the 35mm is but I do know that deluxe has the negative.
The film premièred in the summer of 1975. Unfortunately, I should have listened to my dop and my pm for we stayed up late one night and edited the story. The next day, I did all the ones we edited and kept to the ‘communal living’ aspect instead of the ‘horror’. What a dummy! It was a story of a group of individuals who left the city and formed a commune, while there they dealt with racial and other issues prevalent at the time and I threw in some Sasqutach attacks to give it a horror element. Like I said, I should have stuck with the horror, that’s all the folks remember. A few years ago, I started to add in some stock footage to enhance the woods and the creeps, I got tired of working on the same project.
Lots of things happened during production, one in particular was when we were in a private forest with Sasquatch and I sent him running through the woods. The next thing was we were being visited by the local police dept. Their deputies informed me that a older lady saw a ‘creature’ running through her back woods and it frightened her to no end. We had to stop filming. They ran it in the newspaper the next day to my happiness. Another time I forgot that we had crossed the lines in the woods and a cruiser from New Hampshire pullled up with a few cops and placed me under arrest. They took me back to the chief’s office where I had to explain why I was in there state. Fortunately, months before I had sent the local selectmen a letter informing them that I would be coming and filming ‘Sasqua’ in their back yards. The chief contacted one selectman and he remembered the letter. They drove me back to the site.
‘Black Angels’ was the 1st feature film, I, Big Jim Whitworth and others that were in ‘Sasqua’ did in, I believe, 1969, if that’s when they landed on the moon I got the year right. We shot that in 14 days at Paramount Ranch and all for a $1 a piece and never got to change our clothes. The director, Lawrence Merrick, wanted us to really feel like a ‘biker.’ We stunk for all that time. That’s when we met the ‘Manson’ family and that’s when one of our buddies took a 16mm cam and filmed them on the Sphan Ranch. Afterwards is when they commited all those crimes. We had some of the girls, for example Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, etc, in our studios doing some scenes with rifles and talking about their plights with Charlie. Merrick had the rights to do a film doc called ‘Manson’ and it was released before ‘Black Angels’ and also was nominated for an acadamy award for best doc. Only, there was a producer controversy. My buddy and Merrick had a falling out. Typical for this biz.
After ‘Sasqua’, I became an agent in Hollywood for the Beverly Hecht agency and worked for her for around 7-8 years and then moved to another agency in Beverly Hills and it’s there where I brought in a film partner, Rod Nave, and we set up offices to start a film company called ‘Channeler Enterprises’. ‘Dolly Dearest’ was our first production, in 1991, with an older producer friend of mine, Dan Cady, who was well known for low budget and xxx films. I fell for the same crap, never saw a dime. Still loved to do the pix. Did a few more low budgets with Nave, ‘Bikini Biker Beach Babes’ & ‘Harley Hotrod High’ with Michael Parks of ‘Dusk and Dawn’ fame 1 & 2 and3, and I believe Rod now has a website for those pictures.”
Interview conducted by Bart Krawczyk.
Read some of the questions asked on page 2.
Intro paragraph by Gert Verbeeck.
Pictures, promotional artwork, documents & treatment (page 3) used with kind permission.
Go to page 4 to watch the original teaser for ‘Sasqua’.