Friday, February 22, 2013

Movie Review—The Snow Creature

So, IMDB claims that "The Snow Creature" is the first movie about the yeti. My favorite yeti movie is probably "The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas." Made a few years after "The Snow Creature," that movie featured Peter Cushing in a movie directed by Val Guest and written by Nigel Kneale—the duo responsible for the Quatermass Xperiment and Quartermass II, two of my favorite sci-fi movies from the 50s.

But it's "The Snow Creature" that I'm here to talk about, and if it is indeed the first yeti movie, then it's also rock solid proof that what comes first is not always the best. In fact, in this case, what comes first is one of the worst.

The plot, such as it is, involves a botanist and his boozy photographer henchman who head up to the Himalayas to seek out and photograph high-altitude plants. Like moss and some tiny flowers. When the yeti (more on THIS piece of work below) shows up to abduct the lead Sherpa's wife (despite the fact that the yeti has a doomed nuclear family at home), said distraught Sherpa rounds up the other guides and they head off to hunt down the yeti, save the wife, and kill the presumably rapist or woman-eating monster.

Unfortunately, the movie assumes we, the viewer, identify more with the (white American) botanist and his boozy photographer pal. Who are mortified that their plant-seeking expedition is being usurped by a mutinous crew of Sherpas and a yeti. Much of the first 3rd of the movie consists of the group trudging around in the snow during the day, then the two American "heroes" spending time trying to fix the radio to call the police at night. Eventually, the botanist realizes that catching a real-live yeti might make him more money than mountain moss, and soon thereafter they find a yeti in a cave with his yeti-wife and yeti-kid. There's a confrontation, and the yeti-dad (for some reason I'm still not clear on) races up to the cave wall and pounds his fists on it, causing a cave-in that not only knocks himself out but also kills his yeti-wife and yeti-child. The brave Americans boldly leave the two dead yetis behind, truss up yeti-dad with a rinky-dink home-made stretcher, and after 15 agonizing minutes of watching the logistics of walking their prize down the mountainside, storing him in a warehouse, arranging to have a refrigerated shipping unit (that looks like a metal outhouse with a frosted window in the side) built in the states and then shipped to Tibet, and then loading up their yeti onto an airplane and flying to Los Angeles from Tibet via New York.

ANYway... they get back to LA and after spending a mind-boggling 5 minutes or so on a "must see to believe it" subplot wherein the customs department at the LA Airport are trying to decide if the yeti is a man or a beast so they can decide if he needs immigration papers... the yeti gets out, kidnaps and/or chases some women, steals some meat from a meat packing plant, then gets netted in the sewers by the cops and shot dead by a hand gun (seen in a closeup wherein the man firing the gun is using his middle finger... thanks movie!). The movie ends with us seeing the botanist eager to get home to his wife, his policeman friend excited to go see his new baby at the hospital...

...and with the Sherpa's wife still missing out there in the Himalayas after being kidnapped by a yeti. Well... I guess it was the 50s. American movies had different priorities back then I guess.

Behold the SNOW BEAST in all his glory! Check out those muppet mitts!
So! On to the yeti! This was one of the WORST monsters I've seen in a movie. Ever. I kid you not. The yeti was basically a tall lanky guy wearing what looked to be like long underwear to which someone had glued swaths of rabbit fur to the the shoulders, chest, groin, back, and legs, then slapped a couple of novelty muppet monster gloves on each had, then threw on a squarish fur hat and a fake beard.

That's it.

Oh... and he's all gray and black, just like you'd expect a creature that lives in the snow and, indeed, is called "THE SNOW CREATURE" to appear as.

But the absolute best part? The director doesn't skimp at all on showing us the monster, often in unforgiving hard focus. Unfortunately, probably 75% of the scenes where we see the monster doing stuff ARE THE SAME SCENE! There's a shot of the monster walking slowly forward toward the camera against a black background, and the director sees fit to simply splice in that scene over and over and over and over whenever he wants to remind us that the yeti is out there. Doesn't matter if the scene's supposed to take place on a snowy mountainside or a deep Himalayan cave or in the LA city sewer or in an airport warehouse or in an alley. That scene's apparently good enough for anywhere!

HA! Also? When he wants to convey the notion that the yeti is being sneaky and retreating into the darkness to hide? He simply runs that same footage BACKWARDS.

I picked this movie to watch tonight out of the 100+ movies in my online Netflix queue for 1 reason—it was tied with "Tetsuo: The Bullet Man" for the title of "shortest movie in my online Netflix queue" at a mere 70 minutes or so. I'll have to watch "Tetsuo" later this weekend to see which one seems longer. Because "The Snow Creature" seemed like it went on for 70 hours, not 70 minutes!

The Snow Creature...
  • ... informs the viewer of many well known scientific facts, including, for example, that yetis instinctively know where to seek out the cooler areas in a region... such as the sewers of Los Angeles.
  • ... may well have the honor of the least convincing yeti costume ever filmed.
  • ... seems to think that in a movie featuring a woman-abducting yeti and life-or-death survival situations on the slopes of the highest mountain range on the planet, the best place to go to for tension and action are sequences of radio repair.
  • ... assumes that if a dude brings a live yeti back to Los Angeles, one reporter is enough to represent the media attention such an event would bring—and that this one reporter wouldn't put up a fight when the cops tell him "you'll get a chance to ask questions about the yeti later; first we have to get him through immigration!"
  • ... would have probably been about 15 minutes shorter if the producer had told the editor & director, "Okay, you can't re-use ANY FOOTAGE in your film."
  • ... is one of those movies that's important to preserve and see, so that you can point it out to those people who say that Hollywood doesn't make great movies the way they used to.
  • ... teaches us that the best time to cry out a warning to "LOOK OUT!" is after the cop you saw walk by the tunnel you just watched shabby-yeti shamble into has already been snatched and mauled.
  • ... really could use a good rifftraxing.
Grade: F

Sorry... couldn't find a trailer for this one, so enjoy a clip from the movie where the heroes ambush the yeti and his family at home and marvel at the yeti's nonsensical reaction to this home invasion.

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