director W. Lee Wilder
Ill-advised or just plain not advised at all, I’ve decided to delve into the sci-fi/horror films of W. Lee Wilder, lesser-known sibling of Hollywood’s great Billy Wilder. Most of W. Lee’s films are available on Amazon Prime, probably due to having been made at independent studios and falling into the public domain.
W. Lee Wilder’s 1954 flick The Snow Creature is actually a sight better than his other 1954 movie Killers from Space, which I’d recently seen. For one thing at least, the print available on Amazon was in considerably better condition, something that I’ve noted definitely can make a film seem better. But it suffers similarly to Killers from Space in that its great failure is in the effects and make-up department. It doesn’t matter if the rest of your movie is pretty good if it seems that you really, really didn’t care at all how completely awful your monsters look. It’s a monster movie, dude! I think elementary school age kids could do a better job of it.
This monster isn’t just aliens with ping pong ball eyes, as in Killers, but the notorious Yeti of legend. The story starts out in the Himalayas, with two American researchers hunting for exotic flora with a team of sherpas. When a yeti attacks and takes away the wife of the head sherpa, the sherpas turn on the Americans and force them to hunt down and kill the offending snowman. Eventually, the do track a beast and subdue it, and like King Kong‘s (1933) Carl Denham before him, the Americans ship the beast stateside (all the way back to LA the long way back from Nepal.)
The beast escapes his refrigerated phone booth of a cage and starts attacking women and running amok in the LA storm sewer system, which also hosted the finale of a much better 1954 horror film, Them! ***
While The Snow Creature is indeed much better than Killers from Space, it also features some quite galling racism. The Asian stereotypes are rather bizarre in despite supposedly being somewhere near India, the sherpas and officials speak Japanese. The sherpas ruthlessly turn on the Americans, smilingly stealing their weapons, destroying their radio, and keeping them hostage. Somehow the Americans decide to forgive and forget, not pressing charges. I don’t know when exactly stereotypes veer into racism but this film feels much more in the darker corner of the spectrum.
The snow creature himself? Well, it seems that the filmmakers were aware enough of his bad design to keep him either shot from a distance or lit so you can’t really see him too well. He’s constantly shown (probably the same exact clip) lurking back into the shadows. When you can see him, you can see that some of his body is covered in fur and where it’s not, he is wearing long underwear. There is also some strangeness about how the head sherpa notes that the Yeti always steal their women and never bring them back. Like a hanging participle implying rape?
For its many drawbacks, it’s actually a reasonably interesting movie.