Harry and the Hendersons is one of the first films I remember seeing in the cinema as a kid. It was 1987 and my uncle had just passed his driving test so he was well into driving places and the cinema just happened to be one of them.
Even though the film is only 110 minutes long, they still had an intermission halfway through, for some reason. And I swear, they actually had ushers coming round selling stuff before it started back up again. I believe that is the first and only time I have seen such old-fashioned picturehouse practices. But it makes my original memory of this film so much more nostalgic.
The Hendersons consist of wannabe artist/gun salesman dad George (that always brilliant John Lithgow), loving mum Melinda Dillon, a bratty daughter and a hyperactive son. On returning from a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest, they accidentally run into some sort of large furry creature on the forest road. Originally believing it to be a bear, George steps out of the car to prod it with his gun a few times. But the bear has man-like hands and George suddenly asks his family 'What if it's...HIM'.
Bigfoot! Think of how much he's worth! So they tie him to the roof of the car and drive him home, while George thinks of the best way of selling him. Later that night, he is curious as to how big his feet really are. So he sneaks down to the garage with a measuring tape only to find that he's no longer strapped to the roof of the car, but poking around in the kitchen fridge.
The Hendersons stand back as bigfoot (or Harry as he is later renamed) stomps around the house and garden investigating all their strange belongings. Though he doesn't care much for all the animal trophies hanging around everywhere. Freaking out, George tries to snipe Harry from through the bedroom window, but has a change of heart when he realises that Harry is just big, harmless oaf.
The best scenes of the film involve Harry making himself at home in the Henderson house. His mannerisms and body language are similar to a child warned to be on their best behavior while visiting old relatives. He constantly looks a bit nervous and uncomfortable but is always ready to grab you for a big hug.
Rick Baker deservedly took home an Academy Award for Best Make-Up Effects back in 1988 for this movie. Harry Henderson is an amazing character with a wonderfully wide range of expressions and emotions. All E.T. ever did was sit there looking bug-eyed. Not Harry though, you can't help loving him. I so want my own Bigfoot.
Even now as an adult I think this movie is still great. As a kid I remember feeling the panic and excitement when Harry got lost in Seattle and the half-crazed Bigfoot hunter Jacques LaFleur (David Suchet) doing lots of sleaziness in order to have him shot, gutted and sold to science. Forgive the repeated comparison, but to me it was more involving and fun than the man with the keys in E.T.
You just don't get family movies like this anymore. Back in the 80's Steven Spielberg's Amblin production company made loads of great family movies like Gremlins, Goonies, the Back to the Future Trilogy, Young Sherlock Holmes, and Innerspace. They all had some kind high-concept spin that crud such as Rio or Mars Needs Moms.
It was a great time to be a kid back in those days. We weren't cynical and jaded and hooked on Playstation like modern children. We still had a sense of adventure, a longing for the outdoors. Anything could be out there. Maybe Harry is actually bumbling around in the woods as I write this.
Like the Patterson/Gimlin film that inspired it, Harry and the Hendersons is one movie that will be timeless forever.
The Blu-ray looks great in 1.85:1 1080p widescreen and is the best the film has looked since it was released in 1987. The DTS HD-MA sound fares pretty good and there are a decent amount of extras.
This is a happy, feel-good movie. Just the very talented John Lithgow and crew doing a wonderful job of making a movie that all the family can enjoy. This movie "cured" my son's fear of bears and Big Foot(Feet?); both he was sure were going to get him at night, in bed, in the dark. We got tired of people "losing" it after borrowing it at our local library (if you get my meaning) and decided to just treat ourselves to a copy we don't have to return within a week!
Btw, is there any movie/play Lithgow HASN'T been brilliant in?