Tuesday, April 24, 2012

#16: Snowbeast

Drive In Movie Classics 
Disc 5: Side A

Snowbeast opens on snow-covered hills. A close-up shows tree branches, encased in ice. Suddenly, a large, white paw thrusts into frame, pushing aside the branches. The seasoned monster-moviegoer suspects this will be all they'll ever see of the so-called snowbeast. Two woman--Jennifer and Heidi--appear on skis, unaware they’re being stalked. They stop, spotting a large, inhuman footprint in the snow. Heidi is frightened. Jennifer is skeptical, sure someone is playing a practical joke on them. The tracks? “Snowshoes from some mail order novelty house,” Jennifer explains, semi-logically. The snowbeast, nothing more than a shaky POV shot now, bursts from the trees and attacks.

Ski-patroller Tony Rill (Robert Logan) finds Jennifer’s bright orange ski suit in the snow, soaked in blood. A roar echoes across the hills. More shaky POV shots ensue. Tony hurries back to the nearby ski lodge, which happens to be owned by his grandmother Carrie (Sylvia Sidney). He pulls a Chief Brody, trying to convince Carrie to shut down the resort so no one else is injured. “This wasn’t an animal,” he insists. “And it wasn’t a human, either. There’s something very strange and very dangerous out there.” 

Unfortunately, the annual winter carnival is set for that very weekend. Hundreds of tourists--and more importantly, their money--are expected. The resort can’t afford to lose the business. Carrie, in full-on disbelieving-mayor-mode, refuses to shut the lodge down. “I’m not being insensitive,” she tells Tony, “I’m just being realistic.”

More skiers fall victim to shaky POV shots. While lounging in the hot tub, Tony tries to convince his old friend Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson), a former Olympic skier, that the snowbeast is responsible. “It wasn’t an animal,” says Tony. “And it wasn’t human, either.” This seems to be the main thrust of his argument. Gar isn’t convinced--not until his wife Ellen (Yvette Mimieux) disappears. Gar dons his bright blue and yellow jumpsuit. He straps on his skis, which, we learn in a tedious subplot, he hasn’t worn since he won the gold medal in ’68. He searches the surrounding hills and finally finds Ellen in a remote cabin, safe but slightly shaken. A POV shot lurks nearby.

Gar and Ellen decide to join Tony and the sheriff on the hunt for the snowbeast. They arm themselves with rifles. For their base they choose a crummy-looking Winnebago. The sheriff is killed. The others split up for no apparent reason. Gar kills the snowbeast. That’s pretty much it. Snowbeast is a made-for-TV Jaws rip-off. As a result there’s little violence and even less suspense. As for the snowbeast, you see even less of it than you do the killer grizzly bear in Grizzly, another silly Jaws clone from the 70s. In fact, most of the film’s running time is taken up by interminable ski footage, with a little snowmobile action thrown in for good measure. Imagine if Jaws was mostly swimmers swimming around aimlessly. That should give you a good sense of Snowbeast's priorities.

Do you have any favorite Jaws knock offs?

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