NOVEMBER 26, 2011
Instead of the usual Monster or Predator tags, should I just make "Jaws Ripoff" its own category here at HMAD? Snowbeast in particular follows Spielberg's movie quite closely, providing all of the major plot points (albeit in a different order) as if they had some sort of checklist to go by. Opening scene death of a local girl, check. POV shots of victims instead of showing the monster, check. Happy locals killing the wrong animal, check. Main characters finally deciding to go out there and take care of it themselves, check.
And of course, the "close the beaches" plot, which in this movie is the 50th annual celebration at the ski resort where the entire movie takes place. The dialogue is even pretty much the same, with the main town spokesman (Sylvia Sidney!) having to tell our hero that the town depends on those tourist dollars. And as with Jaws, the monster ends up causing chaos at the event around the halfway point, which makes Sidney regret her actions. I mean, why is it ALWAYS this exact scenario? Is there a single movie of this type where they DO close everything when it is first suggested, only to end up having a few kids sneak in and party anyway? Hell it would even be cheaper - you wouldn't need to hire a bunch of extras to point, scream, and run away.
But as long as you know it's been Jaws-ified, the movie is pretty fun. 70s made for TV horror was pretty well done - its no surprise that a lot of these movies played theatrically in other territories. Can you imagine any TV movies of the past 5-10 years playing theatrically? Half of them look cheaper than the shows that they're temporarily replacing that week. But hell, this one even has cigarette burns on it for when the reels changed! There's no real on-screen violence, but they make for it with a hilariously awesome/cheesy fade to red whenever Snowbeast is about to lunge at a screaming victim.
There's also no on-screen monster, at least not in full. We see his arm/paw or his head or whatever, but never a wide shot showing Snowbeast in all his glory, which is a bummer. I don't know if Standards & Practices didn't allow it or if they just opted not to show what was probably not the best looking costume, but it's a shame either way. There are photos online HERE of actor Mike London in full costume, so it's almost puzzling that there's no real reveal in the film itself, even when he's (spoiler) dead. Even if it looked shitty when he was running around, why couldn't they toss in a shot of the damn thing lying on the ground?
Taking up much more screentime is the most casual attempt at cuckolding that I've ever seen in a movie. Hero Robert Logan (from Across The Great Divide! Amazing movie) openly tries to take Bo Svenson's wife (who is his ex) away from him, and it seems like she's not exactly resisting at first. Hell even Svenson is pretty cool with it; at one point he sees them share a quick smooch and laughs about it with Logan. I'm sorry, but if I saw my wife kissing one of her exes, I'd be pretty pissed off, I think. I certainly wouldn't sit down with the guy and share a drink and laugh about it, or go in a hot tub with him after to discuss our Snowbeast problem.
Some of the dialogue is priceless, too. The script was by none other than Psycho scribe Joseph Stefano, and when he's not just copying Jaws he finds some funny little exchanges here and there. I particularly loved when Logan tells the sheriff that he'll recognize a victim when he sees her face, to which the sheriff replies "She doesn't HAVE one." There's also a lengthy bit where Logan and Svenson's wife (Yvette Mimieux) discuss the sex dreams she's been having about him, also quite casually. Also: "The TIARA!!!" (I'll leave that one for you to discover on your own).
There's also a lot of skiing and snowmobiling, which is fine by me. Nowadays, everyone's on a damn snowboard, so it's nice to go back and watch legit and untainted skiing footage. The Colorado resort is quite beautiful, and everyone with their hideous 70s clothes (Logan's post-tub robe in particular is more terrifying than Snowbeast ever dreamed of being) provides a nice, colorful contrast with all that white (I was also happy to see that it looked OK - I had watched a movie the night before and every time a scene had a lot of white in it, the screen would show these vertical lines. Thought my TV or player was failing, guess it was just that particular disc). It wasn't even that bad of a transfer, considering it was on a disc with three other movies (on the same side) from one of those Mill Creek type companies. Oh, public domain!
The climax is a bit lame though. Snowbeast topples a curiously large pile of logs that's in the middle of the woods, which knocks over the group's RV (some of the logs even end up inside the main cabin, which is physically impossible given their position to each other). So Logan, Svenson, and Mimieux run off, wander around for a bit, and then go right back to get some guns. Meanwhile, Snowbeast is still just sort of hanging out nearby - he didn't even really chase them! Really clunky, and makes the whole running sequence seem like padding in a movie that's already pretty short (86 minutes). That does seem quite short for a TV movie of that era, but apart from a kill scene that was cut and replaced with another less violent one, I can't find anything relating to deleted scenes, so perhaps they just had a lot of commercials, or it aired in a 90 minute block?
Syfy remade this one recently, interestingly enough starring John Schneider, who SOUNDS exactly like Robert Logan. At least, it has the same name and "Bigfoot in the snow" concept; it doesn't have anything to do with skiers or "Winter Carnivals" from what I understand (it hasn't aired yet), so maybe it will be less Jaws, more Lake Placid? I guess I'll find out when it airs. Or in 20 years when it ends up on a budget pack and I'm somehow STILL doing this.
What say you?