Snowbeast (1977)

I wanted to see this film for a very long time.

Admittedly, my interest waned a bit in more recent years, and I found it some time ago, but hadn’t watched it, thanks to the mostly negative reviews.

But, no matter how poor the reviews, it was still written by Joe Stefano, a great screenwriter who not only wrote the script for Hitchcock’s legendary film, Psycho, but was also the showrunner for the first (and best) season of one of the greatest SF shows ever, The Outer Limits.

For the record, Snowbeast isn’t as bad as some people have said.

However, it is still very familiar.

A mysterious creature starts killing people and stashing their bodies away for food in a small ski resort town.  Naturally, we know the owner of the local resort and the local Sheriff are going to do their best to downplay the attacks and reassure the guests.  If you hadn’t recognized this as a version of Jaws yet, the similarities become far too strong by the time the Sheriff hauls in a bear he claims is the culprit.

This is a TV movie, with all the limitations that implies.  It actually has a reasonably good TV cast, with Bo Svenson as a former Olympic athlete, Gar Seberg; an aging Yvette Mimieux as his wife; and Clint Walker as the Sheriff, although the film would undoubtedly have been better with Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Drefuss.  But then, that’s often the way it is with TV movies.

Supposedly, Joe Stefano used the recent Patterson Bigfoot sighting and footage as his pattern for this one, and used some of the existing lore as well.  One odd detail is that the film makes it clear that the legendary creature is very shy and is not known to harm people.  We aren’t given any explanation of why the creature is killing people, beyond the fact that it is eating its victims.  I suspect that it may be rabid, but this is never discussed within the film itself.

We get to see very little of the creature itself (not even when they take it on in hand to hand combat!).  But then, that’s probably just as well as its face doesn’t have any expression to it.  However, what we do see is a lot of very looooong shots of people skiing, driving or snowmobiling.  There are only a few minor skiing stunts, and some of the cross country footage, like Bo heading uphill, or someone working his way through closely spaced trees, is remarkably dull — despite the fact that it may have been quite risky to do.

Curiously, someone did a remake/sequel in 2011, which, naturally, went straight to SyFy.  It actually used the same suit.  Unfortunately, it shows up front and center (and in focus) in one of the publicity photos and looks far worse than it did in the original.

But then it was never meant to be seen clearly and in close-up.

The story between Gar and his wife is actually fairly well fleshed out, more than one expects from this sort of film, but it isn’t enough to lift this one that far above the mundane.  Stefano did better work (see, for example, his thriller, Eye of the Cat), even for television.

However, I have to admit that Gar’s back story — as an Olympian who finds that the expectations his medals bring weigh far too heavily on him — does make me wonder just a little bit.  Not long afterwards, Stefano more or less retired from screenwriting, only returning to write a script for Psycho 5.  He found that he couldn’t do the sorts of stories he wanted to do because everyone remembered him for Psycho and expected him to keep doing the same thing.  After a while, he lost his joy in his work and stopped writing.  Is Gar a reflection of what was on his mind at the time?

This is not a great film.  It is far too obvious that it was meant to cash in on Jaws, and you have to wonder if Joe lacked the enthusiasm he needed to make his script truly shine.  But it does have a few thrills here and there, and makes the best of its less than impressive beast.

Which, come to think of it, is just what Spielberg did with that shark…

Buy or Watch at Amazon:


And check out our new Feature:

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

3 thoughts on “Snowbeast (1977)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.