Sunday, May 2, 2010

Snowbeast (1977)

Snowbeast (1977) is a made-for-TV turkey in which hunky ski-lodge manager Tony Rill (Robert Logan), his old friend and former Olympic ski pro Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) and wife Ellen (a silver-haired Yvette Mimieux, nearly unrecognizable from her memorable appearance as Weena in The Time Machine, 17 years earlier) take on a murderous snow yeti that's threatening to derail the annual winter carnival.

Even though it's written by Outer Limits alumni Joseph Stefano (who happened to have penned my favorite episode of that brilliant series, The Forms of Things Unknown), it's an utterly forgettable film, which makes me wonder why I still remember it after happening upon it some Saturday morning in the late 70s (no doubt broadcast on the local monster matinee show, KPHO's The World Beyond).

The yeti itself doesn't look too bad, for what you see of it, but Snowbeast's most notable aspect is its almost embarrassing resemblance to a film that came out a few years earlier and enjoyed some popularity... a little sleeper hit called Jaws. Snowbeast hits more than a few notes that will resonate with Jaws fans.

Jaws: Opens with a tourist, or "summer girl", getting killed by an unseen monster while swimming alone.

Snowbeast: Opens with a winter girl getting killed by an unseen monster while skiing alone.

Jaws: The authorities investigating the disappearance of the first victim find only partial remains, the audience seeing only a bloody arm lying on the beach.

Snowbeast: The authorities investigating the disappearance of the first victim find only partial remains, a bloody arm lying in the snow.

Jaws: The figure of authority at the beach, Mayor Larry Vaughn, denies the seriousness of the situation, so as not to cause a panic before the town's Fourth of July festivities.

Snowbeast: The figure of authority at the ski lodge, owner Carrie Rill, denies the seriousness of the situation so as not to cause a panic before the lodge's Winter Carnival.

Jaws: Fishermen catch a shark, mistakenly thinking its the one that has been doing all the killing. Protagonists Matt Hooper and Martin Brody, confident the wrong shark has been caught, want to cut it open and examine its stomach, but are denied permission.

Snowbeast: Local authorities shoot a bear, mistakenly thinking it responsible for the killings. Protagonists Gar and Ellen Seberg, confident the wrong animal has been killed, want to cut it open and examine its stomach, but are denied permission.

Jaws: The killer shark disrupts the Fourth of July celebration, causing a panic on the beach in which children and old people are stampeded.

Snowbeast: The killer yeti disrupts the Winter Carnival celebration, causing a panic in the lodge in which children and old people are stampeded.

Jaws: Determined to kill the shark, our three leads head out in a small boat to its territory, hoping to lure it out of hiding. The shark eventually severely damages the boat, stranding them.

Snowbeast: Determined to kill the yeti, our three leads head out in a small RV to its territory, hoping to lure it out of hiding. The yeti eventually severely damages the RV, stranding them.

Jaws: Forced to work around a temperamental mechanical shark that didn't often perform as expected, director Steven Spielberg used skillfully staged POV shots to imply the presence of the shark without having to actually show it.

Snowbeast: Forced to work around a mediocre yeti costume that apparently wouldn't hold up to close scrutiny, director Herb Wallerstein used POV shots to imply the presence of the yeti without having to actually show it. HOWEVER... unlike in Jaws, Snowbeast relies so heavily on these shaky-cam POV shots, you start to wonder if the yeti costume got lost in mid-production.


Here are some more fondly remembered snowbeasts...

7 comments:

Steve said...

I have this on the Sasquatch Horror DVD. I would gladly buy the blu-ray of this movie (as if). Loved it as a kid.

Atom Kid said...

I saw this back when it aired. I was pretty young but really liked it. I owned a copy a DVD, and still enjoyed watching it.

I like the pic of the Yeti from Land of the Lost!

FilmFather said...

Just as shameless in its ripoff of the Jaws story structure is Grizzly, which came out in '76, between Jaws and Snowbeast. Check out the similarities in my review:

http://filmfather.blogspot.com/2008/08/grizzly-1976.html

Brother Bill said...

FilmFather: Nice! I'm shamefully unversed in this particular genre (although I saw both Alligator and Food of the Gods in original release). I've just added Grizzly to my Netflix queue.

Unfortunately there was no Quint-type monologue in Snowbeast. Could only have improved it. "You ever looked in a Yeti's eyes?"

kindertrauma said...

I honestly have a huge soft spot for Snowbeast, that big cold lug.

-- aunt john

Victoria Phantasmagoria said...

Oh, I remember seeing this when I was little! Well, not so much "seeing" as I was hiding under a blanket too scared to look most of the time. Especially after the scene where the first victim is found. That stuck in my mind. After that, I only heard the highly frustrating plot from under my blanket. I wanted to watch something else but my brother had commandeered the TV set and was going on as if this were supposed to be the latest cinematic masterpiece (I think he was expecting great things from the Yeti, only to be sorely disappointed).

I had forgotten the name of this movie that had both annoyed and sickened me though, so thanks for the info.

-Alan D Hopewell said...

I watched this recently, part of a Mill Creek 50-film compilation; even for ABC made for TV, this chews the root.