Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) hadn't really enjoyed much credible exposure on the big screen, whether it was specifically as Bigfoot, or in humanoid variations, like the arctic fur ball in the Swedish B-thriller Terror in the Midnight Sun / Rymdinvasion i Lappland (1959). The primitive hairball didn't really hit pop culture until Andre the Giant dressed up in the furry suit to play the missing link living in the Californian mountains in a two-part Season 2 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man [SMDM] in 1975.
When Universal opted to bring back Bigfoot (this time played by Ted Cassidy), they had Part 1 air on SMDM (scored by J.J. Johnson), and Part 2 on The Bionic Woman, with the latter series' main composer, Joe Harnell, taking over scoring duties, with a few brief (very brief) quotations of Oliver Nelson's iconic SMDM theme.
Harnell was fully free to write his own material, and he chose to heavily integrate the “On the Move” theme that appears in Five Jays Music's prior CD, Bionic Woman: Kill Oscar Parts 1 and 3.” A bouncy fandango with no sense of closure, it's the perfect action track that keep a scene's momentum going until some sound effect (or the music editor's splicer) grinds it to a halt.
Also present is the show's Bionic Woman theme (basically the melodic statement heard before the roughly drawn fandango in the title music), a menacing quasi-Renaissance motif usually heard via brass or strings, and the five-note ‘danger theme' on brass that's often hinged to the Renaissance piece.
A big difference with the Bigfoot score is the dominance of triangle hits – seen now as a cliché of the series, but a reasonable choice of instrument, since it evokes Jaime Sommers' parachute tumble in the title montage and the show's action music, used almost exclusively for her ‘investigation' montages. Harnell adds a jazzy solo trumpet plus decorative primordial synths tones in Bigfoot, and layers the theme fragments and variations over one of the densest collection of percussion cues of the series.
One reason the episode's cues (which are beautifully edited into some lengthy tracks) are so meaty is because Sommers and Steve Austin moved, well, slow. When their bionics kicked in, regardless of they were tumbling, punching, ducking or running at Ferrari speeds, it was shown in slo-mo, so the composer had a luxurious (or perhaps fearsome) amount of time to develop and texturize cues beyond the generic short action stabs and theme quotes for transition montages.
The use of rippling bongos and a bass groove in “Entering the Complex/Bionic Hand Crank” as well as the episode's closing scene in the psychedelic tunnel (“Shalon in Stasis/Steve and Jaime”) is also an obvious nod to Nelson's SMDM music, for which he made extensive use of the two instruments for the SMDM's action cues. Whereas Nelson made room for short bits of jazz improv, Harnell stuck to direct dramatic action, so the music on the CD will undoubtedly conjure vivid images from the episode.
The biggest fear of fans is repetitiveness, but Bigfoot is surprisingly diverse because of Harnell's multiple themes, as well as the varied moods he administers, such as the slow and deeply saddening “Healing Steve/Shalon Faints.”
Sure, it's music for bubblegum characters, but Harnell was also the man who wrote ‘The Lonely Man' theme for The Incredible Hulk, and that earnestness, so prominent in the Hulk scores, is very much present in this score, even when it involves Steve (Lee Majors) being doctored by ‘good' alien Shalon (Stephanie Powers, sporting the biggest, brightest Brillo-hairdo of 1976).
“Jaime vs. Bigfoot – Round 2” offers a rock drum beat and electric bass to further colour the show's orchestral urban jazz sound, while brass and strings in the first third of “Bionic Trio/Things Heat Up/Heroic Bigfoot” have strings playing Harnell's Bionic Woman theme over the brass rendition of Nelson's SMDM theme. It's a short and minor cue, but it illustrates Harnell's dexterity in marrying two themes for two characters who share a powerful past, as well as a romance that never saw any resolution until the subsequent TV movies.
The mono tracks lack resonant bass, but they're clean and sharp, and CD presents a wonderful variety of themes and motifs. The bonus cuts include four alternates, and four ‘tracking cuts' – basically wild cuts featuring solo or pairs of instruments playing Jaime's “On the Move” theme, each running roughly under a half minute – plus Harnell's unused title music, and a shorter version of the end credit wrap-up. (Note: Harnell's 1992 2-disc promo set, The Film Music of Joe Harnell, featured one track, "Hope to Tomorrow," from the Bigfoot episode.)
The booklet comes with detailed liner notes on the Bigfoot arc shared by both bionic TV series, Harnell's music, and great stills, including fun publicity moments with Majors and Lindsay Wagner hugging a furry Cassidy.
For fans of the series, this is a must-have, but those unfamiliar with the original Bionic Woman show will be surprised by the score's dramatic force, and that damn action theme that takes days to leave one's brain.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan