What do you consider to be the greatest scientific discovery of this generation? Would you say it’s a medical, technological or astronomical discovery? Perhaps the discovery of a previously unknown species trumps all.
The Snow Creature is representative of 1950s sci-fi/horror films, many of which are labelled “so bad, they’re good”. The plot usually involves monsters and/or aliens that attack planet earth while a handsome young scientist feverishly works to destroy the beast.
Today’s film is likely the worst of this genre – it’s so bad, it’s bad. If that weren’t enough, director W. Lee Wilder and scriptwriter Myles Wilder are blood relatives* of legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder. [Insert face palm.] Let’s just say, judging by this film, these two apples fell far from the Wilder family tree.
However, not all is lost with The Snow Creature. It was released the year after the first confirmed summit of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953, and you can’t blame it for capitalizing on that historic event. It also has sets that appear to be authentic, e.g. real mountains, a real airport, and a real storm sewer.
The plot involves a snow creature that terrorizes Himalayan villagers and kidnaps women. It’s eventually captured by an American botanist (Paul Langton) and brought back to the U.S. for scientific study.
The great thing about these kinds of movies is Something Always Goes Wrong. The Snow Creature is no different. In fact, our movie provides valuable lessons in how to botch a major scientific discovery.
1. Have contempt for locals who carry your supplies and field equipment. They’re just waiting for an opportunity to be mean and drink your liquor. (Never mind that your team photographer drinks steadily; a Sherpa with a taste for liquor must not be tolerated.)
2. Don’t ask probing questions when you first discover the creature. Questions are stupid, anyway, such as: What does the Yeti eat? How many are there? Why does it kill people all the time? (The big question for us: How come it never sits down?)
3. A scientist is a scientist is a scientist. The man who captures the Yeti is a botanist. (You must overlook the fact there no plants – not even office plants – in this movie.) Who needs a biologist or anthropologist for this research? Any egghead with a PhD will do.
4. Do not study the creature in its native habitat. Field study is for suckers. It’s much better to order a custom-made refrigerated booth (similar to a telephone booth), and ship this remote Himalayan creature to a large coastal city like Los Angeles. Everyone knows creatures are best studied when they’re snatched from their natural environment.
5. Don’t worry about the creature having a “calculating brain” until you arrive at U.S. Customs. Officials will determine if the snow creature qualifies as livestock, or as an immigrant.
6. Leave the creature in the care of an inexperienced guard. The Yeti, annoyed that it hasn’t killed anyone lately, will break out of its telephone-booth prison. You can only imagine the murderous rampage that ensues.
The Snow Creature is a study in awful-ness (bad script, unlikable characters, sloppy monster costume). But if you know all these things going in, you might find it not so bad after all.
*W. Lee is Billy Wilder’s brother. Myles is Lee’s son.
The Snow Creature: Paul Langton, Leslie Denison, Teru Shimada. Directed by W. Lee Wilder. Written by Myles Wilder. United Artists Corp., 1954, B&W, 71 mins.