Week 9-2: They Call Me The Big Pill

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It’s an all-Melee…melee!

(Also, I can finally plan out the conclusion to this series. The last entry should hit on 11/23, just a few weeks before Ultimate releases.)

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The New Creature Canon: The White Buffalo (1977)

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The western and the monster movie go together pretty well, don’t they? The former idolizes a time of frontiers, unexplored wilderness, a constant need to push outwards into the unknown out a personal desire for glory and riches, with a penchant for lawless violence—so this would be a perfect place for a mysterious creature to show up and wreck the place, especially since those old settlements weren’t exactly sturdy. We didn’t know the North American landscape back then—not fully—and it was primarily a world of stark environments, thick untamed forests and canyons, no gigantic all-encompassing European-style civilization to be found. This is a world that seemed teeming with unexpected terrors (and the indigenous mythologies, no matter the region, have plenty) that hadn’t been crowded out.

I’m sure there must be others that find a way to combine the two, even outside the anything-goes madness of the weird west subgenre, but the only semi-notable I’ve found is this one, a strange film from a strange time in American cinema. It was well past the western’s prime, and is also a generally modest special effects movie from just before the era of special effects blockbusters; as far as I can tell it is largely forgotten, save probably for completists of the Charles Bronson filmography (or for any of the largely overqualified cast of this.) But really, a western Moby-Dick starring Charles Bronson? I knew I had to see this one eventually.

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The Visions That I See Believe In Me

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The school library was my safe haven, and it facilitated many of my latent interests—I found many books of mythical creatures, which ranged from sixties pencil-sketched bestiaries on yellowing pages to glossy nineties guidebooks with huge colour illustrations, and between the ages of eleven and twelve I spent much of my time there compiling all the information from those books to make the most complete and authoritative compendium ever conceived (I still have the manila folder full of lined pages and little scrap paper filled to the brim with names, countries of origin, and whatever basic facts I would need to refer back to); and if all those unsolved mysteries “documentaries” about Bigfoot or UFOs didn’t quite tip me over into full-blown obsession, having easy access to a whole load of books on the same subjects probably did. That latter group of books often seemed to contain the same assortment of stories and information, repeated with only a few minor changes and varying levels of reproduction quality on all those completely unconvincing photos they touted (although some had illustrations that were, er, different interpretations of some stories—the Mothman in one book was drawn to be the most literal half-man/half-moth you could imagine), so maybe that’s why I didn’t feel the need to create a cryptozoology guidebook similar to the mythical creatures one—it wasn’t until much later, with the Internet a more all-encompassing resource (cryptozoology websites were among the first I ever visited regularly), that I realized that world had as many weird rabbit holes as anything else.

You can probably tell that I picked up those books for the monster and alien talk, but the content in them was quite varied, and I still read the stories on DB Cooper or the Bell Witch or Oak Island with a similarly rapt attention. There were also old books about movie monsters, which I mentioned way back whenever, so I always found a way to get my monster or monster-adjacent fix, these actually fairly diverse subjects becoming one big jumble in my imagination and in a constant rotation on my reading list. It got to a point where the librarian knew me and my interests quite well, and she would even inform when something new in that vein showed up.

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