Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Snow Creature

Another film directed M. Lee Wilder, this 1954 feature concerns an American botanical expedition in Nepal. At first it seems like an old documentary film due to the use of stock footage and the ever present narration of the expedition head, Dr. Frank Parrish. "I hired Peter Wells, an expert photographer, and 10 sherpas, who are much like human mules...."
No, I'm not making that up.
As the expedition proceeds, the wife of one of the Sherpa guides is kidnapped by a Yeti. The Americans, of course, do not believe in the Yeti, but the Sherpas hijack the botanical expedition and turn it in to a search for the mythical animal. (Interestingly, even though the action is taking place in the Himalayas, the Sherpas are speaking Japanese.)
The Sherpas are pissed that the Yetis are always stealing their women, and the Americans, who discover that the Yeti does exist, see a way to exploit nature for money. What if they took a Yeti back to Los Angeles?
A Yeti is captured, but as they transport the Yeti to America, Parrish and Wells have a falling out, and Wells publishes an article about the adventure, referring to the Yeti as a "man."
This raises the question of whether the Yeti is human or not, and the border service holds the Yeti to decide on its immigration status. (Remember, this was before there was such a thing as terrorism -- I guess they didn't have a lot to do back then.) But before this interesting issue can be resolved, the Yeti escapes and runs amuck through Los Angeles. (Los Angeles and especially New York always seem to have some monster running helpless mucks through the city....) The police eventually kill the Yeti by beating it up AND shooting it.
This film was made just a year after Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first people to climb Mount Everest, and is clearly intended to cash in on that historic event. We never really get a good look at the Yeti as it spends most of its time in the shadows which is just as well. What we can see of it looks pretty cheap.
And you can't beat stealing plot elements from King Kong either. Of course, when you steal from the best, you invite the inevitable comparison, and let's face it, this never measures up. As one character says, "This whole thing is cock-eyed."
Yep, he's right about that.

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