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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Snow Creature

Here is another low-budget B movie from the father and son Wilder team. They brought us the Dragnet-style Phantom from Space in '53 and serial-esque Killers from Space in early '54. Snow Creature (SC) doesn't really fit into the sci-fi family very well. No "science" (other than a really big refrigerator) is involved. Not exactly cutting edge science. There's no science offered to either explain the monster's existence or to deal with him. SC is more of a traditional nature-monster movie. This survey of 50s sci-fi movies typically avoids inclusion of movies outside of the genre (such as simple horror, crime, drama, westerns, etc.) but since it's the product of the Wilder team, there's at least a "family" connection.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A scientific expedition into the Himalayas is interrupted when a Yeti steals the wife of the lead sherpa. The two westerners don't care and want to press on with their "science". The head sherpa, however, hijacks the expedition to search for the Yeti and his missing wife. Seeking shelter in a cave to avoid a storm, the group come across a Yeti, his mate and child, living in that cave. Mr. Yeti tries to cause a cave-in to protect his family, but manages only to kill his female and child, and get himself knocked out. The westerners then decide to take him back to America. Back in America (LA), the Yeti escapes while folks argue about whether he's an immigration or cargo issue. Yeti disappears into the city and kills a woman on the streets. The police search, but Yeti eludes them. He's using the miles of storm drain tunnels to get around (they're cooler too). The police finally catch the Yeti and shoot him dead. Everyone goes home happy. The end.

Why is this movie fun?
Not to sound grim, but one of the "fun" things about SC is that it is so blatant about the They're-After-Our-Women sub-theme. On a less serious note, it's fun to see the repeats of stock footage and even repeats of SC's own "fresh" footage. The Japanese actors (speaking japanese) as psuedo-tibetans is amusing too. Something from the all-asians-look-alike, perhaps.

Cold War Angle?
SC is more of a traditional nature-monster flick. If one were to read anything between the lines, it would be about the danger in "wild" nature. This seems too deep for SC, however.

They're After Our Women! -- If SC has any long term significance, it's as an unmitigated example of the abducted women undercurrent which pervades sci-fi. The movie's posters themselves couldn't be more blatant. "Half-Man, Half-Monster...Abducts Women." A huge Yeti carries the usual swooning babe in his arm. (In the movie, Mr. Yeti is only 7' tall or so) Many posters promise the abduction theme but the movie itself fails to deliver. SC isn't one of those. Fairly early in the film, a Yeti steals a young "sherpa" wife as she gathered firewood. The husband relates that such abduction was common. "Yeti come low country when want steal woman. Always want to steal woman." There ya go. They're after our women!

Beast in the City -- SC follows a very familiar pattern. Westerners find a beast and bring it back to the big city. Big beast escapes and causes mayhem. Big beast eventually gets killed by people defending the city. The classic of this plot-line is King Kong of course, but showed up before Kong in Lost World (1925). We saw it more recently as the plot-line in Beast from 20,000 fathoms ('53). While already getting a bit tired, this plot-line will show up again in later movies too. The Wilders were playing it pretty safe with the Urbanized Beast scenario.

Civilization Triumphant -- If there was it message lurking within the screenplay of SC, it might be that civilized man will subdue and triumph over wild nature. The Yeti symbolized the wild -- powerful, brutish, primal. The City symbolized civilization -- organized, technological, the superior power of the collective. When the wild nature thing was loose in civilization's turf, Civilization would crush nature. There is clearly no New Age nature worship in this.

Anti-Climax Ending -- SC used the Urbanized Beast formula but completely dropped the ball when it came to the ending. Viewers are given no reason to identify or feel anything for the beast. He's just a stiff, hulking thing. As such, when he's killed in the end, there's none of the usual conflict. Glad he's dead / sorry he's dead. The Wilders (writer and director) don't seem to care much either. The Yeti is just netted, shot dead and dropped. The sappy "joke" at the end throws away whatever pathos there might have been.

At the bottom line, SC is a movie that will find some affection among sci-fi collectors, but the average movie viewer will probably not be happy.

1 comment:

thingmaker said...

This one really has interest solely for it's incompetence. The first and second halves seem like different movies. The yeti suit is awful - strips of fake-fur on a union suit? And, the second half, with its police procedural search-for-the-felon/monster would work a bit better if they had more than a few seconds of the monster. It really looks like footage was lost or some serious screw-up occurred, because they re-use the same brief shot of the monster advancing or retreating from the camera several times.