Friday, November 2, 2012

Snowbeast (1977)

          Bigfoot was so ubiquitous in mid-’70s pop culture, you can’t blame the guy for wanting to take a vacation. So instead of thumping around the forests of the Pacific Northwest, as he did in countless movies and TV shows during this period, the Artist Sometimes Known as Sasquatch spends Snowbeast chilling at a ski resort. Made for TV and running a brisk 86 minutes, this low-budget thriller boasts a coherent script by Joseph Stefano (who, in better times, wrote Psycho for Alfred Hitchcock), and features a handful of competent actors who keep things lively. Robert Logan, star of the Wilderness Family movies, plays Tony, the manager of a Colorado ski resort owned by his tough grandmother, Carrie (Sylvia Sidney). When a terrified skier reports an attack by a mysterious creature on a ski slope, Carrie (in true Jaws rip-off fashion) demands the incident be kept quiet so panic doesn’t derail the resort’s upcoming winter carnival. Tony starts to investigate the attack, but he’s distracted by the arrival of one-time Olympic skiing champ Gar (Bo Svenson) and Gar’s wife, investigative reporter Ellen (Yvette Mimieux). Cue the psychodrama!
          It turns out Tony once dated Ellen, and Gar has been gun-shy about skiing since his Olympic success. So, in addition to the usual business of a monster attack every 10 minutes or so and semi-suspenseful scenes of Our Heroes snowmobiling around the woods and looking for Bigfoot, Snowbeast features the type of contrived character interplay one usually finds in Irwin Allen disaster movies. The sheer number or events in Stefano’s script sorta makes up for the film’s lack of genuine terror, and even though Snowbeast feels padded—a sequence of Mimieux snooping around the woods goes on far too long—Snowbeast basically delivers the B-movie goods by introducing archetypal characters and then keeping the audience guessing about who will survive. The monster stuff is disappointing, of course, but director Herb Wallerstein wisely limits our glimpses of the titular critter to flashes of claws and feet, plus one or two split-second peeks at the creature’s hairy face. This is cheesy stuff, without question, but by the low standards of ’70s Bigfoot cinema, Snowbeast is fairly entertaining.

Snowbeast: FUNKY

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