Film Review: Snowbeast (1977)

“Mystery hangs over the Rill Ski Resort in Colorado after a young skier is found killed by an animal. But no ordinary animal. The Town Sheriff and Naturalists believe it could be a Yeti – the creature that was seen for years in the Colorado Rockies and North Western America. After many other skiers are found dead, Tony Rill a good hunter sees a white creature disappearing into the woods. Worried he informs his Grandmother, the ski resort supervisor, but in order to keep her business she keeps the Resort open and says creatures are legends. After more attacks two ski champions go into pursuit to stop the beast.” (courtesy IMDB)

This week’s snowbound presentation is an icy classic from 1977 scraped off the floor of the glamorous Made-For-Television market, in which a Yeti drops in on a Colorado ski village during a winter carnival and decides to have some fun at the expense of the local yokels. That’s right, I’m talking about the Joseph Stefano-scripted shocker Sasquatch Versus The Ski Bunnies! Wait a minute – that’s not it – I mean Snowbeast (1977)!

Starring Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux, Clint Walker, and my old girlfriend Sylvia Sidney, Snowbeast has all the same ingredients that made Jaws (1975) a great film, yet the end result is a few layers short a of cake – and icing – and candles – and whatever those little silver things are. You’ll see what I mean in exactly twenty seconds as I present for your bemusement the frosty taste sensation on a stick known as Snowbeast, a made-for-television movie that had a lot of good things going for it that never quite made it to the screen.

It was written by Joseph Stefano, who first found fame by adapting Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho (1960) for Alfred Hitchcock. Soon after, he created the groundbreaking anthology series The Outer Limits, and it was all downhill from there, relegated to writing mediocre scripts for such middle-of-the-road television shows as Marcus Welby MD, The Magician, Star Trek The Next Generation and Swamp Thing. He redeemed himself by writing Psycho IV (1990). I know the title sounds appalling, but it’s really one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. I demand you seek out a copy of Psycho IV, but not until after reading this review, of course. The shops would be shut.

As you may have already noticed, Bo Svenson is not really an actor. Although he can be seen in films like The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), Walking Tall (1975), North Dallas Forty (1979) and The Delta Force (1986), he’s first-and-foremost an accomplished athlete who has competed internationally in Judo, yachting, ice-hockey and NASCAR, which is sort of like traffic, except boring.

Not to worry, coming to the rescue in the acting department is the very sexy Yvette Mimieux and Sylvia Sidney – well, they were sexy when I knew them. Yvette’s first claim to fame was as a wiener – ahem – I mean she played Weena opposite Aussie hunk Rod Taylor in George Pal’s classic production of The Time Machine (1960), followed by the first teenage-girl road-movie, Where The Boys Are (1960). Her career quickly deteriorated to roles in rarely screened B-grade films like Three In The Attic (1968), The Neptune Factor, Journey Into Fear (1975) and Devil Dog The Hound Of Hell (1978). Just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse, Yvette co-starred in what was to become one of Disney’s most infamous films of all-time: The Black Hole (1979).

When I said Sylvia Sidney was sexy, I wasn’t just expending my daily allowance of ‘S’s. I was one of many admirers vying for her attention: Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, Fredric March, George Raft, even Cary Grant! We’d all meet outside and play rock-paper-scissors until the last one left conscious had to call for an ambulance. After reaching a high point in her career starring alongside James Cagney in Blood On The Sun (1945), her career diminished somewhat during the forties, but in later years Sylvia continued to play supporting roles in I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (1977), Damien Omen II (1978), Beetlejuice (1988) and Used People (1992). In her final role, Sylvia saves the entire Earth from destruction in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! (1996) in which her Slim Whitman records stop an alien invasion.

Snowbeast also had a very talented gentleman at the helm by the name of Herb Wallerstein, a prolific director of many of your favourite television shows, including I Dream Of Jeannie, The Wild Wild West, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Brady Bunch, Bearcats, The Partridge Family, Happy Days, Petrocelli, Wonder Woman, and The Six Million Dollar Man.

Speaking of The Six Million Dollar Man, Snowbeast features the phenomenon of the seventies, when Bigfoot mania was all the rage. Bigfoot was relatively unknown until 1967, when Roger Patterson filmed the supposedly genuine Sasquatch…wearing sneakers. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures if not the film footage itself. After that, Bigfoot’s popularity soared higher and faster than Evel Knievel ever did. The media was flooded with news stories relating recent sightings of the creature while books devoted to the Big Hairy One were all over the place. From the Loch Ness Monster to Sasquatch, the Yeti and the Yowie, people gobbled it all up. Television shows like Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of series scared the crap out of an entire generation of kids with its pseudo-documentary approach, a method repeated ad nauseum ever since, including the influential The Blair Witch Project (1999) two decades later, and Paranormal Activity (2007) a decade after that. I’m sorry I seemed to have digressed – I was talking about Snowbeast.

Problem #1: There is way too much Monster-Cam in this movie. The heavy reliance on point-of-view shots gets old quickly, becoming boring and routine.

Problem #2: There is an awful lot of skiing in Snowbeast. Granted, it’s set at a ski resort at the height of winter, but it looks more like an ad for Thredbo, but the only thing in Thredbo likely to attack you is the architecture.

Problem #3: Despite being set over a thousand miles form the coast and featuring an altogether different type of monster, there are enough Jaws-inspired cliches for a great drinking game. Wait, that’s not a problem.

Problem #4: I’ll be back next week, whether you like it or not, with a much better film than this week’s offering, I promise, cross my heart and hope to – ahem – and that’s all the time I have left for…Horror News! Toodles!

Snowbeast (1977)

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About Nigel Honeybone

Wee Willie"Nigel Honeybone's debut was as Hamlet's dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which he interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. He began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit Honeybone's very personalised view of this famous king. Honeybone suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering his reputation for playing tall English skeletons, many believed that the real Honeybone inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, Honeybone did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. But he was propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), he wore women's clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, he realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women's clothing. He went on to wear women's clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreaking as the remains of Aunt Beru. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles. After modeling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall posh skeleton was television, imparting his knowledge and expertise of the arts. As well as writing for the world's best genre news website HORROR NEWS, Nigel Honeybone is currently signed to star in a new series for television presenting the finest examples of B-grade horror. THE SCHLOCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is seen on Friday nights at 10.30pm on TVS Television Sydney, and where ever good Youtube downloads are available." (Fantales candy wrapper circa 2007)

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