Archive for the Yetis Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: THE SNOW DEVILS (1967)

Posted in 2011, 60s Movies, Aliens, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Foreign Films, Fun Stuff!, William Carl Articles, Yetis with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2011 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

THE SNOW DEVILS (1967)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Ah, 1960s Italian science fiction, where women in go-go boots and massively piled-up hair joined forces with chiseled slabs of men to fight dastardly villains on cut-rate sets. It’s sheer bliss for me. Many of these ‘spaghetti space operas’ are deadly dull and terribly dubbed with a budget that wouldn’t cover the craft service table on STAR WARS (1977), but that’s all a part of the charm for me. You’ve never seen so many handsome muscular men and hourglass-figured women in any genre other than the Italian Peplum (or gladiator/Hercules) films of the previous decade. The sets and special effects are gamely stapled or scotch-taped together and often resemble toys, which is perfect, actually, as the film-makers are playing, and they want us to play along with them. I will joyfully join in the fun.

Perhaps the best of the bunch of crazy sci-fi flicks of the Sixties was a quartet of movies all made in 1965, but dubbed into English and released in the U.S. over a period of three years, a loose “series” of flicks called GAMMA ONE. Directed by the prolific and terrific Antonio Margheriti (DEATH RAGE – 1976, YOR, HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE-1983, KILLER FISH – 1979) under the moniker Anthony Dawson, the GAMMA ONE films can be watched in any order, as characters on the GAMMA ONE space station come and go, on earth and orbiting it on the station. The plots don’t interconnect in any way except by the use of recycled reels of special effects footage. Actors change roles as often as they chug cocktails. However, if you are a purist, you should start with the first of the four movies produced—THE SNOW DEVILS (1967), even though it was the last to reach the American drive-in theaters. In any case, it’s more earthbound than the sequels, and the movie is a real whack-job, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to please the seven-year-old viewer in all of us!

We open on a grouping of toys meant to represent a weather station in the Himalayas. Men in pajama-esque running suits read charts and play with blinking buttons. The commander informs his officers that the temperature atop one mountain suddenly rose by fifty degrees for no reason (take THAT Al Gore!). Suddenly, the windows break, and the room fills with snow and ice. A dark shadow appears, and the commander looks up and screams in terror.

Cue a groovy Sixties instrumental rock song that sounds a bit like The Animals, and the credits roll over stock footage of snowy mountains. The music’s catchy and written by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, who scored over two hundred films, including GORGO (1961) and Orson Welles’s OTHELLO (1952). I can just imagine the girls in cages wildly go-go dancing to this song in Swinging London in 1967.

Now, we’re on the spinning space station, GAMMA ONE, another toy on a visible string. Inspector Sanchez (Halina Zalewska – THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH, 1964) appears wearing a gold and silver lame jumper and—be still my heart—green eye shadow ( Yowza!). She’s directed to contact vacationing Commander Rod Jackson (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart from KILL BABY KILL – 1966 and MACABRE – 1969) who sports a firm jaw, leathery tanned skin, and some seriously styled-up blond hair. They’re ordered to the weather station, and they leave behind their bikini-clad fans and chess-playing, wise-cracking kids and investigate. There are proton force fields being activated in the Himalayas! It turns out this is exactly where the weather station was attacked, and every man killed except for Lt. Jim Harris (Renato Baldini from ESTHER AND THE KING – 1960). Enter lovely Lisa Nielson, the fiancée of the abducted Lt. Harris, and she’s carrying a cast of a giant footprint of a Yeti. She’s played by the lovely blue-eye-shadow-wearing Ombretta Colli (who oddly played Inspector Sanchez in another GAMMA ONE flick, WAR OF THE PLANETS – 1966, as well as appearing in THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER – 1963).

Space has never been this FAR OUT, MAN!

Jackson and his comedy-relief partner Frank (Goffredo Unger of BLOOD AND BLACK LACE – 1964) go to the Himalayas, where their heli-jet is bombed and they discover they are being followed by Lisa Nielson, who doesn’t believe her fiancée is dead. They hire a local guide, Sharu (played by Wilbert Bradley of CODE OF SILENCE – 1985), and they head into the mountains to that great groovy theme music that makes me wanna do the monkey in my living room. The photography here is really striking, as they all wear different colored snow suits in front of crisp, gorgeous scenery.

Meanwhile, the weather is getting crazier. Floods break out, hurricanes, storms, melting polar caps—all told to us through newscasts, but never shown. Rod Jackson speaks into a giant Viewmaster to communicate with the space station after setting up camp, and Lisa starts getting awfully cozy with Rod, considering she’s searching for her lost fiancé. What a hussy! They are abandoned by their men and captured by seven-foot-tall, blue, hairy men with brown mutton-chop sideburns. It’s the Snow Devils themselves, but they aren’t Yetis. They’re aliens pretending to be abominable snowmen, a race called the Aytia, whose planet is dead. They’re preparing Earth to become an ice planet by means of a ray on an outpost on Callisto, a moon of Jupiter. Their leader, played by Furio Meniconi (DEEP RED -1975), shows them his laboratory, which contains blinking rainbows of neon and machines that go “beep-beep” and “boop-boop,” and have enough blinking lights to give an epileptic a dozen seizures. He gives a long, exposition-laden speech and takes them to Jim, who seems way too old for Lisa and her girl-group wig. Banding together, they escape, wearing weird gas masks, mixing chemicals into a lethal brew, and beating the hell out of any Snow Devil they find that isn’t rendered unconscious by the gaseous mixture. There’s a laser gun battle, where the guns spit sparks just like one I had as a kid. The leader is killed, but there’s still that pesky ray that’s going to shoot us from Callisto.

The group rides in a bubble car (definitely a toy) back to civilization, where we get to see terrific stock footage of the polar caps melting and wild flooding. Nagasaki is wiped out! So, we’re off on a mission to destroy the base on Jupiter’s moon. I wouldn’t call it thrilling, unless you’re seven years old, and there’s too much talking in small rooms (“The first thing to do is stop pressing the panic button!” “What about our generator flux density?”). Still, it’s Gamma One to the rescue, in cute little rockets. Will they save the world? Is there ever any doubt?

Take a peek at the future of space travel!

THE SNOW DEVILS is a silly G-rated mélange of a film, combining cryptozoology and space stations, atomic rays and proton fields, with Himalayan Sherpa rituals, all set to that fabulous rock guitar music. We get snowstorms and aliens and explosions and pretty people making goo-goo eyes at each other. In the words of Cole Porter, “Who could ask for anything more?” Well, a bit more coherence and better pacing would have helped, as well as improved dubbing for a start. Also, a lot of it is dependent upon stock footage and too much of it seems set-bound. THE SNOW DEVILS is flawed—deeply flawed—but it’s still good clean colorful fun.

THE SNOW DEVILS is followed by WILD, WILD PLANET (1965), WAR OF THE PLANETS (1966), and PLANET ON THE PROWL (1966). A fifth GAMMA ONE film was made in 1968, totally unconnected to the others. It is the beloved THE GREEN SLIME. I’ll be reviewing these in the months to come.

Warner Brothers Archive offers a beautifully restored DVD of all the GAMMA ONE films, except PLANET ON THE PROWL.

I give THE SNOW DEVILS two and a half fake yetis.

© Copyright 2011 by William D. Carl

JANUARY MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer 3 – Michael Arruda

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2011, 80s Horror, Aliens, Hammer Films, John Carpenter Films, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Remakes, Yetis with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by knifefighter

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week we presented the first two responses to the January MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – by Nick Cato and LL Soares – but we didn’t have a chance to post the last one, where Michael Arruda answered the question. Here it is now, concluding January’s answers)

*****

MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – January 2011
(Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

THIS MONTH’S QUESTION:
What’s your favorite winter horror movie(s)?

Answer # 3 (of 3). This one is from MICHAEL ARRUDA:

My favorite winter horror movies?

My top two choices are the two THING movies. Who needs skiing when you can run through the snow while fighting off alien monsters from outer space!  And before I go any further, I must warn you, that L.L. Soares and I pretty much picked the same movies.  What’s up with that?  Go figure!

I would place the John Carpenter remake, THE THING (1982) slightly ahead of the original Howard Hawk’s film THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951).

THE THING (1982) is one of my all-time favorite horror movies, period!  But I do tend to watch it in the winter time, I guess because I’m freezing my butt off for weeks upon end, and so it’s fun to watch others go through the same misery. Only they get to have the added fun of fighting off a monster.

This Carpenter film is an all-out gore fest.  It’s funny to think back now to 1982, when this film was panned by most critics as being too disgusting to be effective.  Sure, it’s full of gross-out special effects, but they’re all alien-related.  We’re not talking SAW material here. And no, it’s not as suspenseful or as masterfully directed as Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978), but it does tell a heck of a story, and it tells it well.

My only complaint? The ending.  I know a lot of people like the open ended conclusion, but it didn’t work for me then, and it still doesn’t work for me today.

Second on my list would be the original THING movie, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951).  This one has the suspense that the Carpenter version lacks.  In fact, it’s one of the most suspenseful black and white science fiction/horror movies ever, right up there with THEM! (1954). It’s got great acting, a near perfect screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on the short story “Who Goes There?” By John W. Campbell Jr. The thing (heh, heh) I always remember about the dialogue in this movie is how quickly it’s spoken, not at all like a lot of the slow wooden dialogue from 1950s science fiction movies.  It’s spoken with the speed of Marx Brothers’ banter.

Watching THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD late at night on a winter’s evening still creeps me out. The Thing (James Arness) is one creepy dude, and when he attacks the sled dogs in the snow, I still get the chills.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was directed by Christian Nyby, although many believe it was shot mostly by producer Howard Hawks, which isn’t a stretch, since Hawks was a terrific director, and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD is such a strong movie.

Next on my list is the Peter Cushing Hammer flick THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957).  This one is notable for being one of the few horror movies that Cushing starred in that was shot in black and white.  For the most part, Cushing’s films were all in color.

Less a horror film than a thought-provoking science fiction piece, THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN is no less effective.  It’s got great acting, a strong story, and lots and lots of snow.  The abominable snowmen at the end of the film are also rather cool-looking.  For years, the rumor existed that the close-ups of the snowmen’s eyes were actually Cushing’s eyes, but Cushing denied this in later interviews.

In terms of newer horror movies, I’d have to include 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007) on my list.  An instant classic, this movie offers violent murderous vampires on the loose in snowy Alaska.  What’s not to love?

To wrap things up, here’s an honorable mention list of some other classic horror movies best watched in winter:  DRACULA–PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), FRANKENSTEIN–THE TRUE STORY (1973), THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), and if you like silly giant monster movies, the very goofy yet entertaining Toho romp KING KONG ESCAPES (1968) contains numerous scenes in the ice and snow.

Stay warm everybody!

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JANUARY MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer 2 – LL SOARES

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2011, 80s Horror, Aliens, Hammer Films, John Carpenter Films, LL Soares Reviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Remakes, Yetis with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – January 2011
(Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

THIS MONTH’S QUESTION:
What’s your favorite winter horror movie(s)?

Answer #2 (of 3). This one is from L.L. SOARES:

Well, the first movie that comes to mind is the most obvious one, John Carpenter’s 1982 version of THE THING.

THE THING is easily my favorite of Carpenter’s films, and it’s one of the rare cases where a remake is better than the original, although the original 1951movie—which has the longer title of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD—isn’t too bad.

THE THING takes place at a military base in the Arctic where researchers find a spacecraft lodged in the ice. When they try to extract it, they accidentally thaw out an alien life form that can change constantly to duplicate whatever is around it, and it has a strong desire to kill humans. It’s just an all-around excellent film.

The other movie that comes to mind is THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957), a low-budget Hammer film starring Forrest Tucker and Peter Cushing. This one is about an expedition in the Himalayan Mountains to find a Yeti. But when they finally find one, things don’t go according to plan.

This is a small movie, yet it has stuck with me over the years for some reason. And I remember the Yetis being pretty cool.

And it cracks me up that SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974), one of Nick’s choices, wasn’t originally on my list. How the hell did I forget that one? Not just because it should be one of my choices for best winter-themed movie, but because it’s one of my all-time favorite movies, period.

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974) had amazing special effects that were ahead of their time.

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Suburban Grindhouse Memories: NIGHT OF THE DEMON!

Posted in 2011, 80s Horror, Bigfoot!, Campy Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, VIOLENCE!, Yetis with tags , , , , , , , on January 27, 2011 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 22:
Who Knew Sasquatch was so MAD?!
By Nick Cato


While listed as being made in 1980, the gory NIGHT OF THE DEMON looks to be a few years older.  I caught this on a double bill (around 1983) with the lame killer-rat film OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, and while I can hardly remember ORIGIN, NIGHT OF THE DEMON turned out to be a very well done monster-on-the-loose flick.

Faithful readers of this column have heard me mention the Amboy Twin Theatre, one of Staten Island’s finest venues for underage patrons to be admitted to an R-rated film.  OF UNKOWN ORIGIN was a mainstream release, and had a solid TV ad campaign.  But during its second week of release, several theaters in the NY/NJ area decided to add a second feature to it…and I’m glad they did.  I’m still convinced whoever was responsible for this didn’t watch either film; while they’re both “monster” movies, DEMON’s penis-amputating Sasquatch was just slightly more hardcore than ORIGIN’s annoying rat.  And thanks to the money-hungry suburbanites at the Amboy Twin, my sophomore eyes got to see the hairy carnage on the big screen.

An anthropology professor (why do all these bigfoot/yeti films have an anthropology professor?) convinces a bunch of his students to go looking for the source of a rash of recent murders (for a professor, the guy’s a real moron) as the culprit is reported to be a Sasquatch-like creature.  That’s basically the entire story…but what makes NIGHT OF THE DEMON tolerable (and so much fun) are the kill scenes.  The professor tells his posse (around a campfire) some of the stories he’s heard of Sasquatch-related killings, the best being some poor biker who pulls off the road to take a leak.  As he whizzes into a bush, he gets his Johnson yanked off by a strong, hairy arm.  With the exception of the infamous decapitated-head-goes-down-on-woman sequence from ReANIMATOR (1985), I can’t recall a crowd going crazier for a scene…and this was one of the earliest kills in the film.

In an attempt to add a little bit more to the story, our search party finds an old woman who lives isolated in the woods…and they eventually find out she had a baby with the Sasquatch (oh yes folks, this was one of the finest moments in American cinema in my opinion).  While we only get to see the offspring’s head in a quick close-up, he looked an awful lot like one of the title creatures from WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966).

DEMON’s body count puts most slasher films to shame. In one Oscar-worthy sequence, a couple shagging in a van fall victim to the irritated Bigfoot (and why he’s so pissed off is never clearly explained).  There’s also proof that Sasquatch is almost as inventive as SAW’s Jigaw: two female tour guides—walking around with pocket knives—are picked up by the hairy demon who then smashes them together, causing them to stab each other until they’re both a bloody mess.  There’s also an arm amputation, bodies impaled on glass, rocks, and in one of the more memorable scenes, Sasquatch rips some guy’s intestines out and uses them to whip and strangle a room full of coeds.

YES…this is entertainment, folks.

Like any genuine trash film, NIGHT OF THE DEMON is plagued by sub-par acting, inept dialogue, and so many technical errors my friends and I had a hard time keeping up with them (but not to fear…CODE RED DVD has promised a deluxe DVD treatment later this year!  Are you as psyched as I am?  Probably not.  Your loss.).  There are also plenty of boobs flopping around the forest, so perhaps, like your standard human slasher, Sasquatch just doesn’t go for sex on his turf.

Despite its low budget and everything else it has going against it, this film still manages to work.  It entertains more than any other Bigfoot/Yeti film this side of SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1972).  And considering this was the only film directed by James C. Wasson, it’s safe to say he put everything he had into this, so at least give him a big E for effort.

If the sheriff looks familiar to you, you may be one of the six other people who saw him as a detective in the nearly impossible-to-watch MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE (1977).  No?  I didn’t think so…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

“A college student finds out the hard way that Bigfoot doesn’t like pop-in visits…”

JANUARY MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer 1 – Nick Cato

Posted in 2011, 70s Horror, Cannibals, Indie Horror, Monstrous Question of the Month, Nick Cato Reviews, Yetis with tags , , , , on January 26, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – January 2011
(Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

Okay, folks, here we are in the middle of January, the month of freezing cold temperatures, snow and ice.

With this in mind, here’s the MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH for January:
What’s your favorite winter horror movie(s)?

First up with an answer this month, it’s Nick Cato.  Take it away, Nick!

Answer # 1 (of 3).  This one’s from NICK CATO:

Here’s a couple of my WINTER-time faves:

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974). I first saw this on a cold winter morning on TV.  It’s one of my favorite so-bad-it’s-good movies, about a cannibal cult that uses a guy in a Yeti outfit to scare people to death.  In most of the outdoor shots you can see the cold shooting from the actor’s mouths, and one flashback Yeti-attack scene in the snow was quite effective (at least for an 8-year old who should have been watching cartoons). I think of this flick whenever the white stuff starts falling from the sky…

Also,

Larry Fessenden’s WENDIGO (2001) is a great, quiet-horror film that takes place in Upstate New York.  Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber (the lead actor in the DAWN OF THE DEAD re-make from 2004) star as parents of a young boy who learn the isolated cottage they’re using as a get-away from the stress of city life is haunted by the spirit of a Wendigo, a half-man, half-deer creature of Indian folklore.  The constant sound of wind and the icy backgrounds cleverly add to the slowly growing tension.

When the Wendigo finally makes its appearance during a trippy-looking camp fire scene, goose bumps ran down my spine…the way it walks is as creepy as it gets.  Few films give me the physical or mental chills like this one.

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