It Came from the ’50s: The Snow Creature

The Snow CreatureThis isn’t W. Lee Wilder’s first film in this year’s Horrorshow, but I am getting sick of him in a way I never did with Bert I. Gordon during last year’s Horrorshow. Wilder’s films are no less tedious than Gordon’s, but unlike Gordon, Wilder showed no progress as a filmmaker. His films, in fact, seemed to grow more resistant to artistic growth with every one he made, and he still had eight more feature films to go before he called it quits.

The Snow Creature is an abominable snowman flick from 1954. Paul Langton plays botanist Dr. Frank Parrish, and Leslie Denison plays photographer and adventurer Peter Wells. The two of them lead a small expedition to the Himalayas to gather and study unknown plant species. With them are a Sherpa guide, Subra (Teru Shimada), and a group of porters.

One may notice that ‘Teru Shimada’ is not a Nepalese or Chinese name. It’s Japanese. In fact, all the Sherpas in this film were played by Japanese actors. They even speak their lines in Japanese. I wouldn’t categorize this as shitty filmmaking, but it’s definitely cheap, and perhaps lazy. I don’t imagine there were a whole lot of Sherpas available for a Hollywood casting call in the 1950s, but there has to be a better solution than just subbing one group of Asians for another and not caring if anyone notices.

So, the language stuff may not be shitty, but there’s plenty of that elsewhere. My personal favorite moment of shitty happens right when the film begins. An opening voiceover informs the viewer that an expedition has set off from Los Angeles, while the backdrop shows New York City. Then the voiceover traces the expedition as it flies over India, only the stock footage backdrop this time is of the Giza Plateau in Egypt. That’s some shitty filmmaking.

Parrish, Wells, Subra, and company set off high up the side of an icy mountain in search of plants. The mountain landscape is just Bronson Canyon with fake snow spread around, but it’s still better than what audiences got in The Lost Continent.

Not long after, Subra’s wife is kidnapped by a Yeti, the mythical white snow beast of the Himalayas. According to legend, Yeti will hide when they smell the approach of a human, but when they want a woman, they will creep down to the villages at night and seize one. The legends never say why the Yeti want women, but we all know. The Yeti community is desperately short of Bridge partners.

Parrish and Wells think the whole Yeti business is nonsense. They’re on the side of an icy mountain, miles above sea level, and they’ll be damned if any Sherpa hallucination is going to keep them from finding a plant. But, Subra forces them, at gunpoint, to join the hunt for the Yeti and Subra’s wife.

Eventually the creature, who looks like an ugly man in fuzzy pajamas, is captured and taken back to the United States to be displayed King Kong style. But, and I shit you not, first audiences must sit through a lengthy scene where the Department of Immigration meets to decide if the Yeti needs a visa to enter the country. Unbelievable.

The Yeti escapes, because Wilder was smart enough to know something needed to happen in the final act, which leads to denouement, and finally, the end.

The Snow Creature is a real stinker of a film. There’s potential, despite the obvious limitations of the budget, but Wilder could do little with the material. All those shitty highlights cited above are small compared to the vast nothingness that is this movie. As such, it falls way down the Watchability Index, landing at #216, between Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, and Project Moonbase. Don’t bother.

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