Snowbeast (1977) Starring Yvette Mimieux, Robert Logan, Clint Walker, Sylvia Sidney, Bo Svenson, Anne McEnroe, Jacquie Botts, Jamie Jamison, Ric Jury, Michael J.London, Prentice Rowe.
Directed by Herb Wallerstein.
Runtime: 86 Minutes.
Set in a small Colorado ski resort town during a winter carnival celebration a large, carnivorous beast stalks human prey on the slopes. As the body count rises two possibilities present themselves as to the cause; murder, or the urban legend about the abominable snowman (Bigfoot, Yeti or Sasquatch) that most people do not believe in.
The owner of the Rill ski lodge (Sidney) would like to keep things under wraps because corpses are bad for business, add an undesirable complexity to insurance arrangements and the season is hitting its peak. Her grandson/underboss Tony (Logan- if he were half a foot shorter he’d be a dead ringer for Doug Flutie) tries to bring the Sheriff (Walker, from the TV series Cheyenne) in anyway.
Against this backdrop, an aging, out of work ski legend Gar (Svenson) and his TV reporter wife Ellen (Mimieux) arrive for the festivities and barely keep their charade of a marriage going. Tony and Ellen rekindle their old romance amidst the romantic resort setting creating an instantly tedious love triangle subplot.
The TV reporter and the Sheriff are soon on the trail of the beast without being prompted. Meanwhile Tony hires Gar (evidently skilled in biathalon) to help him track the beast and exterminate it. The Sheriff joins them and they adopt a strict code of silence to avoid causing a panic not knowing Ellen is on the beast’s trail.
“What a mess!” exclaims the small town coroner matter-of-factly upon finding a female victim of Bigfoot gored in her car. He is not talking about the movie but by the time he says it most people who see it will be thinking the same thing. This is without a doubt one of the most slipshod productions ever. In other words it is just what the doctor ordered for those of us who absolutely love bad movies. It even features dissolves tinged blood red to presumable add suspense.
Okay, so we have a b-movie premise (with a delicious b-movie title). That does not mean that it absolutely must be a bad movie. North by Northwest had a b-movie premise with a plot that defied logic at almost every turn. It still made for a great movie because all of its other elements worked.
In this most of the elements do not work serving to detract from those few that do. The acting is so bad as to be obscene and that is what ruins it overall. The reaction shots are of an indescribable quality that has to be seen to be believed. This movie could provide an effective tool for acting coaches to show what works and what does not. It is so bad that the director has to take some blame. In some shots it is clear the actors are waiting for him to yell “cut” which also indicates bad editing. It is also clear that he ran a tight ship as far as improvisation was concerned and perhaps did so to the detriment of the film. But then, considering the actors he had to work with maybe it was the right approach.
The dialogue seems worse because the people speaking it don’t know how to say it properly or how to have a bit of fun with it. Hollywood legend Sylvia Sidney is fully as bad as the young, no name talent she acts along side here. She should know how to bury a bad line in her delivery as all the greats are supposed to know how to do or to inject a bit of personality into it. Instead she makes passable dialogue seem strangely forced just like the other, lesser experienced actors. Also, she had aged poorly by the time she did this compared with the legends she co-starred with. Early in her career she was the most breathtaking of Hollywood stars. In this she is unrecognizable and is almost as scary as the title beast.
After the opening titles sequence the movie goes downhill faster than any of the skiers. The runtime of 86 Minutes suggests more substance than we actually see. There is a lot more skiing than there really needs to be mixed in with gratuitous panoramic shots. It is glorified travel log in parts with horror movie music overtop but is well photographed and at times a welcome distraction from the horrid acting and awful dialogue.
Every once in awhile a blatant product placement pops up. For the most part what is being sold is ski equipment or winter apparel. It is so blatant that it almost seems like a long commercial in parts. You can almost to hear a rich baritone voice say “Planning on getting mauled to death on the slopes? Look hot when it happens with Scott ski goggles!” or “Bad horror movie wearing on you? Count down the time with a Longines watch!”
If you wonder what an actress named Yvette Mimieux is doing in American b-movie rubbish like this keep in mind it is her natural milieu. She was in Jackson County Jail (the movie, not the institiution) around the same time and other b-movie claptrap of greater or lesser quality. Don’t let the name fool you either. She was born and raised in California. Her name may hint that she is some kind of a Francaise screen idol holdover from New Wave cinema who made her way to Hollywood but she isn’t. She is only 35 in this movie but tons of actresses looked better at age 50 than she does in this.
Clint Walker adds a “Hey, he used to be” factor to this. Most of his roles were on the small screen and his petrified wood acting style in this gives you an idea of why he never broke into features as a leading man. The most complex thing about his characterization is his foppish make-up treatment and the alignment of his garish muttonchops.
At 6’3″, 6’5″ and 6’6″ respectively any one of Tony, Gar or the Sheriff is big enough to be the Sasquatch on his own. At 5’4″ Mimieux looks tiny next to these guys but then so does pretty much everyone else. To the credit of the producers absolutely nothing is done to hide the disparity in height. This is as it should be.
The ending offers absolutely nothing in the way of a surprise. The unsuccessful attempts at drawing out suspense lengthen it unnecessarily. The whole thing has as much depth as a Saturday morning cartoon but is clearly aimed at delivering a 35 to 49 demographic.