Snowbeast (1977)

Snowbeast

Directed by Herb Wallerstein

Tagline: “An unknown terror stalks a ski resort!”

Run Time: 86 minutes

In a nutshell:

A dull, lifeless, "monster in the wild" made-for-TV flick featuring the usual suspects from 1970’s television.

Lines to Remember:

Sheriff Paraday: I understand she was a guest at your ski lodge. I was hoping you could help me identify her.
Tony Rill: I must have seen her somewhere. Maybe I’ll recognize her when I see her face.
Sheriff Paraday: She doesn’t have one.


Bad Movie Elements:

Man in monkey suit.

Endless padding. In this case, scenes of people skiing, and skiing, and skiing, and skiing…

Monster is rarely seen, and when it does show up in the film, it’s typically from the monster’s point of view (in order to save money).

Story line is a flaccid rip-off of a much superior yarn, in this case Jaws, which came out 2 years earlier. Both stories revolve around a gigantic money-making event that is in danger of being shut down because of an unseen menace (that initially only the hero has seen). The hero tries to convince the authorities of the danger but they refuse to act until further deaths force them to comply and agree to kill the shark / snow monster.

Summary:

Open with a pair of women, Heidi and Jennifer, skiing around somewhere on the snowy slopes of Colorado. (Don’t worry too much about their names; they disappear from the film rather quickly). A POV shot from within the trees, accompanied by asthmatic "scary" breathing, indicates that They Are Not Alone. Jennifer unwisely stops to take a break and is quickly devoured (off camera, natch) by an unseen monster, while Heidi skis away in terror.

SnowbeastBack at the local hot spot, the Rill Lodge ski resort, owner and local matriarch, Carrie Rill (played by multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award winner Sylvia Sydney), gleefully announces the advent of the resort’s 50th anniversary of the annual Winter Carnival. (A gigantic banner proudly proclaims a rather generic sounding agenda of "Fun and Games"…yippee!).

Despite the joyous arrival of local the year’s Snow Queen, Betty Jo Blodgett (what a horrible name!), Mrs. Rill’s grandson and lodge supervisor, Tony (played by TV perennial, Robert Logan), has received some worrying news about an accident on the slopes and quickly takes his leave of the festivities to go investigate. A quick snowmobile ride later, and Tony is at an an out-of-the-way aid station where a stunned Heidi recounts to the ski patrol how Jennifer was torn to pieces by a ‘monster’. The ski patrol dudes give each other ‘wink-wink nudge-nudge’ looks and assure Heidi that her friend probably just lost her way. Nevertheless, Tony decides to play it safe and has Heidi escorted back to the lodge to see a doctor while he and the others ski off to try and find Jennifer.

So, yes, more skiing, and skiing, and skiing. And playing "scary" music on the soundtrack is not making this any more exciting.

OK, lessee here… After skiing for 5 minutes through trees and down hills, and through some more trees, and down some more hills, Tony just happens to find Jennifer’s shredded jacket laying in the snow, which is pretty incredible coincidence given the vastness of the Rocky Mountain wilderness, but hey, what did you expect? Sensing that the viewers might be bored at this point, the writers decide to have the monster give a yell causing Tony to turn and spot the Beast moving in the trees. Unsure of what he just saw, but realizing that he’d better get the hell out of there, Tony turns tail and zips back down to the others.

Meanwhile, back at Rill Lodge, ex-Olympic skier, and now down-on-his-luck good guy, Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) has arrived and is busy scribbling out autographs to happy fans in the parking lot while his icy, and let’s just say it, bitch of a wife, Ellen (Yvette Mimieux) makes snide remarks about his recent string of bad luck in the cut-throat world of professional skiing.

Snowbeast

Once inside, Gar and Ellen spot Tony, but Tony pretty much brushes them off. Why? Well, in typical made-for-TV fashion, the subplots come oozing out of the woodwork so let’s see: Gar is actually at the lodge to ask Tony for a job, but Tony is pissed at Gar for something to do with Ellen from the past, and yikes…this is a monster movie right? Oh well: subplots = padding, so there you go.

After giving Gar the cold shoulder, Tony rushes into Grandma Rill’s office to tell her about the day’s events. Despite her disbelief, Tony tries to convince his grandmother to call off the Winter Carnival. Obviously, she’s not even going to consider something as radical as that, Snow Beast or no Snow Beast. When Grandma Rill presses Tony for more information, he sighs and says, "It wasn’t an animal!…and it wasn’t human either." Yeah, that pretty much narrows it down, Tony. Thanks.

Naturally, none of the other ski patrollers saw the monster, nor are they even aware of it since Tony neglected to tell them he saw it:

"I didn’t tell them about it because I wanted to get them out of there as fast as I could," Tony explains.

And yes, that’s a pretty lame way to keep the monster’s existence a "secret". I mean, c’mon, Tony, you saw a 12-foot Snow Beast in the trees and you didn’t feel it was worth mentioning to anybody?

SnowbeastGrandma Rill, concerned with the financial repercussions if word got out about the supposed monster tells Tony to keep his mouth shut. Tony, despite his grandmother’s objections, insists on telling the local lawman, Sheriff Paraday, so they have a huge discussion about whether or not to even do that much. What’s strange here is this huge back-and-forth about whether or not to tell the cops about the monster, but what about the missing Jennifer and her bloodied, shredded Jacket? Won’t that raise a few eyebrows? Oh well, an agreement is finally reached: Tony knuckles under and agrees to keep his trap shut until after the festival. Furthermore, and quite absurdly, they agree to say that Jennifer’s death was an avalanche accident!

Oh, and remember Jennifer’s friend who witnessed the monster’s attack, Heidi? Won’t she say something to the press? No, no, Grandma Rill has it all under control: she orders a doctor to sedate Heidi with something to "knock her out for a while."

OK, Seriously. That’s the plan? Keep Heidi drugged for the the duration of the festival? How in the hell are they going to explain all this? I mean, they’re essentially kidnapping Heidi and keeping her as a drugged captive for what, a week? What about Heidi’s friends and family? Won’t they notice that she and Jennifer are missing? Well, the writers couldn’t find a way to resolve these questions either, so they essentially drop Heidi from the rest of the film. Nice.

Next we cut and see some local yokels poking around the abandoned Fairchild Place, i.e., an old barn that some underpaid location scout stumbled upon during the making of the film. Once inside, the shocked townspeople discover Jennifer’s remains, sans face, splattered all over the floor. Staggering back from the gruesome scene (don’t worry, we don’t get to see it), one of the men rushes off to inform Sheriff Paraday.

Back at the Lodge, Tony, despite the days busy events involving drugged girls and Snow Beast cover-ups, finds time to put his and Gar’s differences aside and give him a job as the local ski-pro. Over a cup of coffee, the pals catch up on their pasts and reveal that back in the old days Ellen had to choose between them, and she chose Gar, and Tony was pissed, and blah blah blah blah. In some more clumsy dialog, Tony asks Gar if he still is a crack shot with a rifle. Why, yes he is. Cool, huh? Before Tony can explain why he asked such an odd question, Grandma Rill pulls him into the office to inform him of the discovery of Jennifer’s remains.

(Seriously, at this point, isn’t Tony legally obligated to mention the bloody jacket he found? Not to mention the fact that nobody has even reported Jennifer missing yet? Good grief!)

SnowbeastSoooo…Before heading out to identify the remains, Tony deems it prudent to take a dip in the pool with Gar and explain just what the hell has happened recently. After some goofy exposition about "Big Foots", this film was made in the 70’s during the whole Big Foot craze, so it’s really funny hearing these guys talk about how "real" they are, Tony tells Gar what he saw in the woods and, furthermore, that he basically hired Gar to find the Beast and kill it.

"Just because it doesn’t look like us, it’s a ‘thing’, so it’s OK to go out and kill it?" Gar sarcastically snaps in response.

No, Gar, actually you should go out and kill it because it’s slaughtering skiers and ripping off their faces! Good grief!

Meanwhile, Gar’s wife, Ellen, decides to don her skis and take a solo trip out in the woods. Amazingly enough, Ellen skis around and just happens to stumble across the Fairchild barn where she espies the local police closing off the area. Casually looking down at the snow, she spots some gigantic footprints leading off into the wilderness. These woeful ‘tracks’ are supposed to be monster prints, but they just look like somebody stuck their feet in the snow and dragged it around to make it ‘big’. (Not to mention the fact that a 12-foot high monster must weigh, what? a thousand pounds, so it’s kind of strange that the footprints are only about an inch deep.) Even though the sun is going down and she’s by herself in the middle of nowhere, Ellen decides to follow the footprints and see where they lead.

Cut to see that Tony and Gar have finally arrived at the barn and are being filled in with the details. After being warned to brace himself, Tony gingerly steps inside the barn and identifies Jennifer’s body by the color of her ski outfit. (The monster had ripped off Jennifer’s face, which admittedly is pretty gross, but why would it bother?) Back outside Tony admits to the Sheriff that he’s actually seen the monster but didn’t want to tell anybody about it in case the visitors would panic. Now I’m no lawyer, but to me, withholding this kind of information would qualify Tony for charges of criminal negligence. But who am I to say? Sheriff Paraday, the paragon of law enforcement, blows all that aside by stating, "Well, I can certainly understand your grandmother not wanting any of this getting out,"and simply asks Tony what the monster looked like. Sheesh. Paraday then orders Tony and Gar to just say that Jennifer was killed by a "crazed grizzly bear" until the monster can be tracked down and killed. Yeah, Sheriff, I guess there’s no need to actually inform the public about something like this, is there?

As Paraday and the others chat so enjoyably about the upcoming hunt and slaughter, Gar’s better half, Ellen, has been doing some snooping around of her own. As mentioned before, she’s oh-so-stupidly decided to follow these strange tracks in the snow and now, after who knows how long, it’s starting to get dark so she opts to head back to the lodge. On the way back, of course <sigh>, Ellen falls on her ass and…wait a minute, she gets up and skis off before the monster can get her! That was…TOO CLOSE!

Later that evening we join the others in the local high-school gymnasium where everybody is going through a dress rehearsal for the crowning of the Winter Queen. Or maybe it’s the real thing. Who knows. Furthermore, to compliment the already copious quantities of ski-scene padding, the movie is now padded with exciting shots of people hanging up banners and balloons. Ohhhh…I’m all a-quiver! Anyhoo, just as the festivities are about to begin, Betty Jo peers out a window and to her horror sees a man in a monkey suit staring back at her. Oh, shit, sorry. I mean the Snow Beast!

Snowbeast Snowbeast

Beauty and the Beast

(Ho, ho! Man, I’m clever. I just love me.)

Being a gigantic, 12-foot snow beast, and uninvited to boot, the hirsute visitor understandably causes quite an uproar. (As is the norm for these cheap-o monster flicks, the extras can be seen laughing and smiling in the general "horror" as they flee.) As everybody runs around laughing and screaming, the Snow Beast lackadaisically smashes a window and swings his arms around in a half-assed effort to grab somebody, but eventually gets bored and shambles back to the parking lot where he promptly kills some woman in a car that didn’t have the sense to just drive away.

Later that night, after the general mayhem has died down, Gar sits in his hotel room and contemplates the Good Old Days and his now fading celebrity. (As if skiing scenes weren’t boring enough to begin with, we are now forced to endure Gar’s flashbacks of skiing…argh!) For some reason, maybe to try and recapture some of his past glory, Gar decides to straps on his skis in order to find the Beast alone…which leads to…yes, you can say it: more skiing!

OK, wait a minute. That’s not exactly what’s happening. The editing here is just atrocious. It turns out that Gar’s wife didn’t ski away in the previous scene after she fell down. No, she was actually captured by the monster and taken back to the abandoned Fairchild Farm. (Gee, thanks, movie!) So, ok, Gar is actually skiing out to the old barn to see if Ellen is there because she hadn’t come home that evening from her ski trip. (It’s always so fun to try and figure this stuff out myself. Sloppy, sloppy writing.)

No, wait. Gar does find Ellen in the barn, but she wasn’t captured by the monster, she had just gotten lost and took refuge from the cold. (Damn you, Snow Beast movie! Damn you!) Taking advantage of their time alone, Gar makes a little campfire as he and Ellen discuss their marriage problems and blah blah blah they end up smooching. And, oh, what a cozy place to hang out since, yeah, wasn’t this the place where the Jennifer’s faceless body was discovered just the day before? But, oh never mind, it just goes to show that there is always time for sub-plot nonsense.

OK, Gar and Ellen’s cozy little reconciliation scene is interrupted when the Snow Beast begins banging on the door to get in. (It can’t even open a dilapidated wooden door?) All this doesn’t matter though since Gar and Ellen manage to get away from the stupid monster. Whatever, Snow Beast, whatever.

The next day the town is abuzz as the Sheriff triumphantly announces that he’s killed the Beast and it’s now safe for everybody to hit the slopes again. As the crowd cheers their gallant lawman, Gar can only shake his head in disgust at Sheriff Paraday’s duplicity as the camera lovingly lingers on what Paraday really shot: a guy in a Halloween bear suit. No, sorry. A viscous grizzly bear. But really, weren’t there about 500 people that saw the monster at the school gym the previous evening? Oh well, I guess they look pretty much the same:

Snowbeast Snowbeast

Sure. Yeah, I can see how you could mistake the two…

The next day Gar confronts Paraday about his little ruse. Paraday admits that it was a cheap trick, but he needed a way to calm everybody. But why? Now they think it’s safe but it’s not ? What’s the point? Ugh! Anyway, Gar again convinces Paraday that they should head up into the mountains to kill the monster…which was their plan in the first place way back when they discovered Jennifer’s remains, wasn’t it? Oh, to hell with it! Stupid movie. I just can’t help feeling we’re going in circles here…

The next day, Gar, Tony, Paraday, and, boy, they’ve even brought along Ellen because she’s soooooo essential to the plan, load up a camper and set up an ersatz headquarters in the middle of the woods. Why in the hell they couldn’t set up their headquarters somewhere safe like, say, back at the Lodge, is beyond me. I guess we’re probably in for a Scary Scene involving the camper. So let’s see, after watching the gang ride snowmobiles around, and around, and around (at least they aren’t skiing, but still…) Tony calls everybody to a halt and suggests that they all head back to the camper! So then why the hell did I have to watch them snowmobiling for the last 5 minutes…seriously, Mr. Editor…what the hell!?

Unbeknownst to Tony and the others, while they were away the Beast has discovered their camper and happily begins to tear it apart. Well, sort of. It does struggle mightily with the ski rack, which absolutely hilariously, is mounted on the back of the camper with a pair of lame rubber suction cups! What a challenge that must have been for the Beast!

Snowbeast

Stare in awe…at the strength of the Mighty Snow Beast!

Upon returning to ‘headquarters’, Tony and the others immediately see the ski rack on the ground (HORROR!) and decide to wait for the monster instead of driving around looking for it. (Fine by me!)

Sure enough, the next morning the Beast does return and kick over a big pile of logs from the top of a nearby hill. It turns out that Tony has parked the camper at the bottom of the hill directly in the path of the logs. (Idiot!) This inexcusable lack of foresight results in the camper getting battered and toppled by the logs, and worse, trapping Sheriff Paraday inside the wreckage. (Defying all laws of physics, the logs have managed to turn themselves 90-degrees to the camper and plunge into the back window even though they rolled down the hill completely parallel to the vehicle. Huh. That’s strange.) As the Beast approaches, Gar and the others flee in fear (leaving their rifles behind! Gawd! What morons!!!), and abandon the wounded Paraday to his fate! Nice.

Like I said, after bravely leaving the Sheriff behind to fend for himself ("We’re safe now," Tony callously points out to the others, "It got what it wanted…"), Tony, Gar, and Ellen trudge through the snow back to the abandoned barn. (I’m getting really sick of this stupid barn.) So….after warming up a bit inside, Tony announces that they should head back to the camper and get their rifles. ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!! Who the hell edited this stupid movie! Why? Why?! Why?!! This is getting ridiculous!

Soooooooooo…back at the camper…AGAIN!, (In between scenes, the camper’s paint has magically changed color from dark brown to white; nice job, guys.), the survivors manage to recover their weapons. Sure enough, right on schedule, the Beast just happens to show up (it’s really amazing how this thing is everywhere all the time), and gets shot for its troubles. Gravely injured, the wounded Beast runs off into the forest while the others don their skis and head off following the trail of blood. Yes! More skiing scenes.

Thankfully, we’re now in the last minute of run time now (yea!). Gar finally confronts the monster and empties his pistol into it. Mortally wounded, the Beast manages to summon the strength necessary to keep coming at him. (Wow! It’s not exhausted after tearing those suction cups from the camper?) The only redeeming part of this scene is that, for what it’s worth, we get the film’s best view of the monster, and it’s really not that good. However, because I like ya, I went ahead and took a screen shot of the stupid thing:

Snowbeast

Sorry, folks, that’s it.

OK, where was I?

Oh yes, the monster charges Gar.

Gar impales it with his ski pole.

Monster dies.

Survivors embrace.

Dennis goes to bed.

The End

Dennis Grisbeck (April 2009)

Afterthoughts

Snow Beast certainly never promises anything more than it delivers, but, man, is it bad. The connect-the-dots script shamelessly lifted from Jaws is downright embarrassing. There’s even a scene where Gar suggests cutting open the dead bear to see if there’s human remains in the stomach! At that point I wouldn’t have been surprised if Mrs. Kintner had skied up and slapped him in the face.

What’s with the padding? The movie is only 86 minutes to begin with. And the back and forth between the camper and the farm and the camper again…argh!

All in all, Snow Beast is lazy and boring. If you’re nostalgic for that 70’s TV movie "feeling" you might get something out of this mess, otherwise stay far, far away.

Read more about Snowbeast at

IMDB

9 comments to Snowbeast (1977)

  • guts3d

    Did they forget the ” I want to go home ” drunken song?

  • oneeye

    I think the snow beast should have eaten the snow queen, THAT might have livened things up! And if they were trying to stay true to the Jaws theme, shouldn’t the snow beast have been blown up? Maybe they could have trapped it in the apparently important barn, set the barn on fire, and then had a good explosion. ( you know, like when grain silo’s explode)

  • To be honest, I don’t think they had the budget for explosions. This movie is utterly low budget in every department, but still manages to unabashedly ape Jaws in nearly every department:

    Unknown menace (shark / beast)
    Disbelieving Local Authorities (Mayor / Gma Rill)
    Hired “hit man” (Quint / Gar)
    Monster hunt “headquarters” (Quint’s boat “Orca” / Tony’s camper)

    Actually, following that line of thought, since Quint was eaten and Sheriff Brody killed the shark in Jaws, shouldn’t Gar have been killed and then Tony been forced to kill the Beast?

  • Zach

    I think the look of the monster was pretty cool. I haven’t seen this film for a while, but I can tell you what I really did’nt like, the shacky POv shots.Except for the end,how did they drop a camera down a cliff without damaging it or showing the thing it probably landed on to keep it from getting damaged.

  • Darren

    I remember watching this movie the first time it aired. I was the impressionable age of 11 and already was caght-up in the bigfoot craze by then. I remembered how “scary” that movie was to a kid that “knew there was definatly a bigfoot that lived in the 7 acre woods behind my parents house”,right on the edge of town, next to a collage and a heavally populated neiborhood. Then, after seeing that once, I never so much as even heard it mentioned again. That was until I was bored one rainy afternoon, and decided to look it up on the internet. Suprise! Not only was it mentioned, But I could actually purchase a dvd of it for a whopping $3.00. (It must have been based on a true story to cost that much.) After waiting aniouxly waiting for its arrival to my door, I broke out the popcorn,sent my young kids to the other room(Afterall,this was the very movie that I had “day-mares” about every time I looked towards the woods behind my folks house,I certainly didnt want to traumatize my own children)And I settled in to relive the horror of this monumental picture… There were two redeaming qualities to this movie.The skin tite snow pants suspending Yvette Mimieux’ perfectally shaped tush, And some really good footage of the brand new (in 1977)Arctic cat snowmobiles,As I am a collector of vintage arctic cats. I’ve had forgotton that Robert Logan was in this,But then again his wildeness family movies were pretty sappy in and of themselves. But I couldn’t bare to watch Clint Walker “sream like a schoolgirl” when he was attacked by the beast. I mean,come on. Next to Fess Parker,Clint walker was the on-screen version of my Dad when I was a kid. And there was no way my dad would have squeeled like that. As for the rest of the movie. Well,Lets just say that the stories that I conjured up about the sasquatch running around the woods behind our house were much more believable, Not to mention the fact that my stories didnt include the soap opera-ish yaw yaw this movie did, Or did they contain 45 minutes worth of skiing untill the monster showed up. Anyways, Thanks for this site,Its been a gas. I’d like to chat longer,but I’ve got to go put the trash out. Gee, I hope the outside lite still works.I’ve never noteced hoe dark that clump of trees in the neibor’s yard gets at nite.

  • marty.b

    i watched this on my own when i was young an nearly give birth hiding behind the couch.for the next few weeks looking out the window when left on my own.proper scared for life.haha.

  • Richard K.

    Snowbeast is cheesy – of course, that’s not much of a revelation considering its subject matter and the fact that it was a low-budget, made for TV movie. However, it had a niche market, namely the pre-teen crowd. I had a nice little conversation with a friend who, it turns out, had seen this movie in the late seventies when it came out. She’d been traumatized to the degree that she couldn’t go cross-country skiing by herself for several years. As for myself, I couldn’t stand driving a snowmobile down a narrow, bumpy trail for several years afterward. It’s always struck me as quaintly amusing, the power that these movies held over the young an impressionable. Of course, as an adult, the movie and the concept itself are perfectly laughable.

  • Guts3d

    I know what you mean! As a kid of 5 or 6 years old, I remember seeing “Kolchak: Night Stalker” and getting the pants scared off of me right before bedtime.
    I recently found the entire series online, and was amazed not only that I remembered so much of the plotlines, but a lot of the dialog.
    And I still kept yelling at the T.V. “Get the heck out of there!!!

  • Mark K

    I watched this film on TV when it released. I believe it was in November of ’77. I was a 7 yr. old kid from NE Michigan, and I remember snow being on the ground outside my rural Huron Forest surrounded ranch style home, that added credibility or should I say ‘spook factor’ to the movie. Releasing just a year before the ‘White Death’ winter of ’78, I was definitely exposed to snow filled forest areas that looked and felt like sets from the film. The Arctic Cats, the skis, the Mary Lou outfits people wore, the works. It had an effect on me, but not really negatively, more of intrigue with a dangerous undertone to be wary of your surroundings. The bigfoot craze was in full bloom back then, the Gimlin film, Rudolph the reindeer’s ‘Bumble’, MB boardgame of Bigfoot (which coincidently, was like this movie, but with miners.), In Search Of specials with Leonard Nimoy, and loads of reading material in proper creep-factor form… even Star Wars creator George Lucas threw in a Wampa beast, albeit at a later date. The fact is, this film had impact. Not like Jaws, of course, but it struck a chord within the people, especially those who live in temperate forested areas across the US. The fact it has been copied and unsuccessfully remade, accounts to this. Cheesy, sure, but still an underrated little gem b-movie that never tried to do anything more than entertain and scare the unwary. In that…it succeeded.

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