Just a few nights ago, I was chatting with friends about the issue of Cryptozoology in the movies. There are, of course, some monster-themed movies that are really good, such as Mimic, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and Hammer's The Abominable Snowman. Then, there are those which are downright awful. One perfect example of many: Chupacabra vs. the Alamo. And, there are those movies that hover somewhere between excellent and truly awful. One of them is 1954's The Snow Creature. Yes, it's pure hokum, the acting is terrible, and the story is filled with holes. And, fortunately, it only lasts for around 70 minutes. But, if you're in the mood for a bit of brain-dead, "it's so bad it's good"-type entertainment, then you might want to take a look at it. Might being the important word!
The Snow Creature is a 1954 movie that begins with the following voice-over: “Cradled within the arms of the Rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra to the south and the mysterious plateau of Tibet to the north majestically stands the mightiest mountain range on the face of the Earth - The Himalaya. This is the story of an expedition to this ruggedest [sic] barrier. Not to assault on its wind swept towering heights, but to find and study plant life which had heretofore been unknown or inaccessible. This is the story of that mission, of how a small group of people found themselves in pursuit of a crude and primitive civilization, which once only existed as a figment of the imagination.”
The Snow Creature was very obviously made in hasty response to the early 1950s media and public fascination with the legendary Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. It was also a movie made with very little thought for something known as originality. Indeed, it mirrors – to a shameless degree - the plot-line of the classic 1933 movie, King Kong.
We are first treated to a map of India, one which then focuses in on the aforementioned Himalayas, the home of the famous Yeti. We are quickly introduced to the cast of characters, which is led by Dr. Frank Parrish (actor Paul Langton), an alcoholic photographer named Peter Wells, Subra (who is a Sherpa guide), and Subra’s wife, Tara. Parrish is not there to seek out the Abominable Snowman, however. Rather, he is a botanist, in the Himalayas for scientific reasons. He is distinctly skeptical of the idea that the vast mountain range could be the home of a race of giant apes. His mind soon changes, however.
As the team takes a break at around 10,000 feet and sets up camp, Tara collects wood to make a welcome, warm fire. Suddenly, things change dramatically when a huge, hairy creature looms into view, and proceeds to kidnap the hysterical, screaming woman. It’s all very reminiscent of the scene in King Kong, in which the captivated, giant ape takes possession of hot blond, Ann Darrow, played famously by Fay Wray.
When a near-hysterical Subra tells Parrish what has happened, the doctor is deeply skeptical of the story, but he eventually realizes that his colleague is being all too serious. A search-party is quickly launched to try and save Tara from the icy clutches of the immense beast. Parrish is still unsure what to make of it all; at least, he is until the group stumbles upon a line of gigantic footprints in the snow. The reality of the situation soon hits home hard. Things get progressively worse: during the night one of the guides is violently killed and the Yeti causes a huge avalanche, in an effort to wipe out the rest of the team.
The group finally finds a large, dark cave system high on the mountains, where they hide out from a huge, brewing snowstorm. It is while in the cave that Subra finds a charm that he had previously given to his wife, something which suggests, incredibly, this very series of caves just might be the lair of the Yeti to which Tara was taken. It turns out that this is exactly the case. And there’s not just one Yeti, but an entire family of them. Confronted by the giant monsters, an enraged Subra tries to shoot them. Unfortunately, his actions do nothing but provoke a cave-in, killing all of the Yetis, aside from the massive, adult male that kidnapped Subra, which is knocked unconscious during the rock-fall.
Recognizing that snaring an Abominable Snowman is far more significant than discovering anything of a botanical nature, Parrish quickly takes steps to have the now-sedated creature dispatched to the United States for study and display – again, shades of King Kong, in which the mighty ape is captured and shipped across the oceans and paraded for all to see in New York, before everything goes inevitably awry for poor, doomed Kong, of course.
After a lengthy flight from the Himalayas, Parrish arrives on U.S. soil, where there is the tricky matter of clearing immigration. The immigration staff want to know if the Goliath-sized, hairy thing - which is now semi-drugged in a huge crate - is human or animal. It’s a moot question, since (also paralleling King Kong) the Yeti soon breaks out of the crate and goes on to provoke havoc and mayhem here, there and everywhere.
The creature roams the city streets by night, slaughtering all of those who are unfortunate enough to cross its path, as Parrish pursues it, along with a police officer, Lt. Dunbar. There is something strange about the actions of the beast, however. It seems to have the ability to surface out of nowhere and vanish again just as quickly. There is nothing supernatural afoot, however. Parrish figures out that the lumbering animal is using the below-ground storm-drains to cross the city, carefully staying out of view until it surfaces and goes on its rampaging killing spree.
In a final confrontation, the Yeti is cornered in one particular drain, and lunges wildly at Parrish and seizes him by the throat. It’s only thanks to the actions of Lt. Dunbar that the beast is killed, by three well-placed bullets. The ending is not quite that of King Kong being hit with hundreds of bullets while atop the Empire State Building, but it is close enough for the viewer to see – yet again - from where the writers got their inspiration. Or, more correctly, how they ripped it off.
Worth a watch? Well, yes, but only when you have nothing else to do and there is a plentiful supply of cold, strong beer on-hand!