The Snow Creature (1954)
This ultra low-budget quickie from W. Lee Wilder capitalized on western interest in the adominable snowman or Yeti that peaked during Eric Shipton’s exploration of Mount Everest in 1951, and Sir Edmund Hillary’s scaling of Everest in 1953. During the later expedition, Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay photodocumented several large indistinct prints in the snow at an altitude of approximately 20,000 feet above mean sea level. The images created an instant international media sensation and as far as I know, this was the first film to capitalize on public interest in the Yeti (the far superior Japanese film Jujin Yuki Otoko (“Monster Snowman”) came a year later in 1955).
The film’s plot reminds me a bit of King Kong (1933), with an expedition to a far off land stumbling upon an archaic throwback which is captured and brought back to civilization, where all hell breaks lose. The plot of The Snow Creature (1954) sounds a whole lot better than it actually is. However, the film is worth watching and is passable if not entertaining monster nonsense.
Director William Lee Wilder was an Austrian-American writer, director and producer. He is probably best known to fans of the fantasy genre as having helmed three lovable b-movie notables:
- Phantom from Space (1953), about an invisible being terrorizing an observatory,
- Killers from Space (1954), pitting a dead Peter Graves against aliens with ping-pong balls for eyes, and
- The Snow Creature (1954), reviewed here.
W. Lee Wilder was also Billy Wilder’s brother. They both apparently had a sense of humor.
The film stars Paul Langton (The Increadible Shrinking Man, 1957) as botanist Dr. Frank Parrish, who leads an expedition to Tibet searching for rare uncatalogued plants (with a plot device a bit similar to the opening of Werewolf of London, 1935). Langton’s not bad in the lead role. Along the way some of his crew are picked off by a mysterious unseen force that looks suspiciously like one of the drones from Invaders from Mars (1953).
Here’s a closeup….
Interspersed between considerable stock footage of mountain climbing is some decent and atmospheric photography helmed by veteran cinematographer Floyd Crosby (High Noon, 1952; The Pit and the Pendulum, 1961). Along with Jujin Yuki Otoko and Hammer’s similar The Abominable Snowman (1957) this is probably the best looking of the Yeti films from the 1950’s and 60’s (I recommend The Bigfoot Filmography for a full rundown). Of course the crew captures (no spoilers how) the Yeti and places it in a makeshift fabricated ice box for plane transport to Los Angeles.
The urban scenes are reminiscent of THEM! (also 1954 —I wonder which film came first?), with our monster hunters tracking the yeti through the subterranean sewer system of L.A. Will they find him?
Actually, the yeti suit was a left-over purloined from Invaders from Mars. Here’s a better (publicity) shot of the monster.