Retro Review: The Snow Creature (1954).
Smallfoot is set to bring the abominable snowman to children this weekend, so I decided to re-watch the first Yeti movie to ever be released in the US – The Snow Creature.
How I came to own The Snow Creature on VHS is a weird story. As a kid I was absolutely enamored with Godzilla movies, bu they were a bit hard to come by in the early 90’s. A well-intentioned relative saw a creature double feature tape for sale and gifted me the two-pack. The first hour was the appropriately gonzo Godzilla flick “Godzilla Vs. Megalon.” The second feature was The Snow Creature; a shambling, King Kong rip-off with a Yeti standing in for Kong. It’s not exactly a classic, but it does have a warm spot in my heart as one of the very first VHS I ever owned all to myself.
The Snow Creature (1954)
A team of American botanists are in the Himalayas looking for rare specimens. They are accompanied by a local guide and his wife, the latter of which remains at base camp while they explore. The Sherpa warns the Yankees of the local boogeyman – the Yeti or Abominable Snowman. His warnings fall on deaf ears and the creature sacks their camp while the men are away, taking the guides wife.
The scientists look for an ordinary explanation, but the guide is having none of it and forces them at gunpoint to follow the creature. The Yeti attacks them with rock slides and avalanches along the way, but they corner him in his lair. The Americans get the drop on both creature and guide, stealing back their weapons and causing the creature to knock itself out with a cave in. Fascinated, they take it back to the US to study…but the creature has other plans.
An Oddity Out of Time.
I didn’t know at the time, but The Snow Creature and Godzilla Vs Megalon shared a billing because they were both in the public domain by the 1990’s…although the latter film’s status as fair game was actually a bit of brazen chicanery.
G Vs M was the first Godzilla film to air on US TV, where it was drastically chopped to fit prime time expectations. (Hilariously, John Belushi refereed the airing on NBC dressed as Godzilla.) Various permutations of the theatrical release and the TV version were “scan and panned” into a format that could pass for fair use and bootlegged by the thousands. To fill up the run-time of the VHS, other freebie creature flicks were shoe-horned into the tapes that hit bargain bins. We may not have given a fig about copyright, but we were going to be damned if we paid 11.99 for only a 54 minute long tape!
Why Are You Still Talking about Godzilla Vs Megalon…?
Well, to be honest, it is because The Snow Creature is pretty bad. It is one of the dime-a-dozen sci-fi creature flicks that flooded drive-ins and nickelodeons at the time. You get a pretty bog standard formula of scientists discovering an “amazing” creature before a good 45 minutes of unmarked cop cars chasing the dang thing around before filling it full of lead.
The film quality is as threadbare as the plot. The director chooses to film in pitch black locations to make the visual quality even worse. There are tons of recycled scenes and wasted patches of dialogue that gratuitously pad out the run-time. This all serves to hide the fact that the monster looks ridiculous and has its screen time kept to the bare minimum. I’m sure budget concerns also necessitated much of the corner cutting.
Back to the Ice Box.
The editing that paired down The Snow Creature was a blessing in disguise. The film feels ponderous and empty at 110 minutes. Having rewatched it in its full glory, I wished I could have either edited it myself or relied on the boys at Mystery Science Theater to have livened up the proceedings with some skits and jokes. While it may retain the honor of being the first Yeti movie in the US, it’s a dull and dreary addition to the genre. Director W. Lee Wilder was a bit of the schlockmaster when it came to creature features, putting out monster fests like Killers From Space, Manfish, and Phantom from Space. He apparently really liked the “…from space” genre. It’s a shame that nothing about this film rises above the pack, either in creativity or shock value. Sorry, The Snow Creature, I’m afraid I’ll always love Godzilla Vs Megalon better.