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 Thread Rating: 20 votes, 5.00 average.
Old 09-09-2005, 05:03 AM
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Scored: 10
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Default Sasquatch Horror Triple Feature




Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: September 8, 2005

Released by: Retromedia
Release date: 6/14/2005
MSRP: $19.99
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 and Full Frame 1.33:1 | 16x9: No



inline ImageBigfoot, Yeti and Sasquatch are the most common names given to the race of mysterious, man-like creatures that are said to dwell in the remote regions of the world. Though most people assume reports of the animals are limited to the Himalayas and the Pacific Northwest, sightings of the creatures have occurred in China, in Russia, in the American South, and even in unusual countries like Australia and Vietnam. Reports of the creatures committing acts of violence are rare, and the anecdotal evidence suggests that they are usually more than happy just to live and let live. But that wouldn't make for very fun monster movies, now would it?


The Story

inline ImageThe triple feature starts with the rarely seen 1977 film Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot. Taking place in the wilds of British Columbia (though actually filmed in Oregon), it tells the story of an expedition led by researcher Chuck Evans (George Lauris) searching for the legendary Bigfoot. The expedition also includes, amongst others, Evans' colleague Dr. Paul Markham (William Emmons), grizzled old mountain man Josh Bigsby (Ken Kenzle), Indian Techka Blackhawk (Joe Morello) and cook and expert marksman Barney Snipe (Jim Bradford).

After a long, grueling journey through hundreds of miles of terrain, the expedition reaches a series of valleys revered by Indian legend as forbidden places where the creatures dwell. They set up camp and wait for the creatures to show themselves, but they soon get more than they bargained for when the animals turn out to be very unfriendly to humans!

inline ImageThe second feature is Snowbeast, also from 1977. The Rill Lodge, a luxurious Colorado ski resort in a remote area of the Rockies, is celebrating its fiftieth year in operation, and its annual "Winter Carnival" gala is expected to be bigger and attract more skiers than ever before. With so much at stake financially for lodge owner Mrs. Rill (Sylvia Sidney), it's only natural that something goes wrong. Very wrong, in fact - one day out on the slopes skiers Jennifer and Heidi (Kathy Christopher and Annie McEnroe) spot a set of large, vaguely man-shaped footprints leading into the woods. Heidi gets spooked and skis off, while Jennifer pauses a moment to investigate, only to meet her doom when an unseen creature charges out of the trees at her.

Mrs. Rill's grandson Tony (Robert Logan), is summoned to a ski patrol station where Heidi is hysterical, insisting that the monster which made the footprints must have gotten Jennifer, who is missing. Tony leads a group of ski patrolmen up the mountain to search for her, and they split off individually. Tony is soon horrified to discover that the only sign of Jennifer is a bloodied jacket lying on the ground. But he is even more horrified when he catches sight of a hairy monster disappearing into the trees and realizes that Heidi wasn't imagining things. He hightails it back to the lodge to warn his grandmother.

inline ImageWhen he arrives back Tony discovers that former Olympic gold medalist Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) and his TV reporter wife Ellen (Yvette Mimieux) have arrived for the Winter Carnival. The two are old friends of Tony's and they are sympathetic to his story of a rampaging monster on the slopes, far more sympathetic than Mrs. Rill, who refuses to believe a word of her grandson's account. Caught in the middle is local lawman Sheriff Paraday (Clint Walker), who doesn't know what to believe. However, as the Snowbeast continues to take victims, it becomes obvious to everyone that the monster is real, and needs to be stopped at all costs.

The oldest of the three films, 1954's The Snow Creature tells the story of an expedition to the Himalayas led by botanist Dr. Frank Parrish (Paul Langton), who is intent upon studying the local plant life. Also participating in the expedition are photographer Peter Wells (Leslie Denison) and native guide Subra (Teru Shimada). The expedition departs, and all appears to be going well for a few days until the expedition is overtaken by a group of men from Subra's village who have rushed up the mountain to tell him that his wife has been kidnapped by a Yeti. Subra insists that the expedition search for her, but Parrish refuses and arrogantly laughs off the Yeti as local superstition. In response, the frustrated Subra takes him and Wells hostage. They now have no choice but to help him search, and Subra proceeds to march them all further up the mountain.

inline ImageThey don't find Subra's wife, but they do find the Yeti. They corner it in a mountain cave and it is stunned by a rockslide that occurs when it tries to pull a boulder free and attack the humans with it. As all this is going on, Parrish and Wells manage to outwit Subra and take back control of the expedition. They decide to take the Yeti back to civilization. Parrish has brought along sedatives with him and they are able to keep the creature in a more or less continuously drugged state for the trip down the mountain, despite a minor incident where it awakes in the middle of the night and tries to attack one of the native men.

Transporting the creature in a specially built refrigeration unit, Parrish runs into a snafu at Los Angeles International Airport when authorities refuse to let it past customs until its immigration status is determined! Unfortunately, the Yeti has other ideas, and after spending some time sitting around a warehouse at the airport it breaks out of the refrigeration unit and escapes into Los Angeles, with the authorities in pursuit.

inline ImageOf the three films, Snowbeast is without a doubt the best. From a technical standpoint it is superior, with good photography, sound design and editing. The script by Joseph Stefano (the same Stefano who wrote none other than Hitchcock's Psycho!), is acceptable. However, the best part of Snowbeast is its veteran cast of pros like Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux and Sylvia Sidney. Stefano's script features a number of "human elements" like the relationship between Gar Seberg and his wife, which is strained by the fact that Gar is a wash-up who hasn't done anything with his life since winning in the 1968 Olympics. In the hands of poorer actors these story elements would have ground the entire movie to a halt, but here the cast is engaging enough to keep viewers interested in the movie until the next monster attack.

Supposedly, Roger Patterson had a hand in the writing of the script. Patterson, as Bigfoot aficionados all know, shot the famous "Bigfoot walking" footage in 1967 that serves to many people as the definitive proof of the creatures' existence. If Patterson really did help with the script it would be quite interesting, as he died five years before the movie was actually made. It seems much more likely though that Stefano was influenced not by Patterson himself but by his accounts of seeing and tracking Bigfoot.

Second place in the Bigfoot movie awards goes to Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot. Surprisingly, the film actually has a decent sized fan base, though it seems to be mostly made up of nostalgic people who saw it during its original release in 1977 or later on television. The movie itself is mediocre.

inline ImageThe best parts of the film are its Bigfoot scenes. In addition to the mayhem expedition steps into once they finally reach their destination, the film also dramatizes two of the most famous "hostile encounters" between humans and the creatures. The first depicted is a (now discredited) tale of a group of miners at Mount St. Helens in 1924 who found themselves under siege in their own cabin as it was attacked by a horde of the monsters. The second account is the story of two beaver trappers who, in 1850, had a wilderness encounter with Bigfoot that resulted in one of them meeting a violent death.

inline ImageUnfortunately, clocking in at a full 95 minutes, the film's pacing is extremely slack. There is enough of a plot to fill a one-hour episode of The X-Files or The Outer Limits or any other TV series dealing with the fantastic (commercials included), but there is definitely not enough of a plot to fill an hour and a half and still keep it taut and interesting. Up until the expedition reaches the land of the Sasquatch (which is quite late in the movie), the order of events falls into an extremely predictable pattern - we are shown the group hiking into the wilderness, accompanied by narration, as well as landscape and wildlife footage. Then they'll stop, make camp, talk a little bit, and then the next day they'll do it all again. And again. Although screenwriter Ed Hawkins throws in a few semi-exiting events such as an attack by a mountain lion, mostly it is just plain dull until the climax. The use of wildlife footage to pad the runtime is also excessive. Horror fans who have seen Bruno Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead will remember the way National Geographic-style stock footage seems thrown in at every opportunity, and if anything, Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot jams in even more than Mattei did. We see deer, mountain lions, otters and grizzly bears. They're all nice animals to watch - some of them are even cute - but they're not what we came to see.

inline ImageCrawling in at last place is The Snow Creature, which was directed by man named W. Lee Wilder. Very few writers who review this or any other movie directed by him can resist mentioning the fact W. Lee Wilder is the older brother of Billy Wilder (The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot), one of the finest Hollywood directors of his generation. Reportedly the two disliked each other.

Though not as bad as some have claimed (most people's main criteria for disliking the film is that the Yeti costume is so shabby - more on that below), The Snow Creature is by and large a dull movie. During the scenes in the Himalayas there is far too much footage of the expedition trekking up mountains, accompanied by heavy, doom-laden music and narration. After the Yeti is captured but before it escapes there are dull scenes of people standing around or sitting around talking, and after the Yeti does escape and a massive search is launched for him, there are…well…dull scenes of people sitting or standing around talking.

inline ImageOn the plus side, The Snow Creature is at least short, and with a few points of interest. Many people find the idea of immigration authorities holding up the Yeti at customs to be ludicrous, but just ask anyone in the agricultural business who has ever tried to import animals from overseas (including most recently cattle, due to the mad cow scare), or has tried to transport certain types of animals across state lines. They will tell you that the government really does make a big deal about these things. Then, after the creature does escape and render the controversy moot, the film becomes somewhat reminiscent of classic film noir. Everything takes place at night, and it does give everything a certain moody atmosphere.

Of course, the one element of these three films that I have yet to discuss is the monster costumes. Here Snowbeast is yet again the clear winner. Though the monster is not shown often (usually its presence is cued in with point-of-view shots as it stalks its victims), the suit looks very good, and showing it more often probably would not have hurt the film.

Next up are the monster costumes in Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot, which are decent but nothing spectacular. They look and move like men in suits, but at least they are better suits than the one in The Snow Creature, which is so shoddy looking that it's no wonder that the monster is usually shown obscured by shadows or some other visual gimmick. It's that bad.


Image Quality

inline ImageOn side A of this double-sided disc is Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot. It is given a non-anamorphic transfer letterboxed at approximately 1.85:1. Overall it looks acceptable for a rare low-budget film that, up until now, was out of print and extremely hard to find. Colors tend to have a faded look to them, though greens, blues and reds sometimes come out looking surprisingly vivid. Blacks veer towards gray most of the time. Overall the elements used appear to be in very good shape, with a negligible amount of specks or scratches, though there are semi-frequent vertical lines present. There is some noticeable digital artifacting in the night scenes, which also tend to be overly dark and hard to make out. It's a tolerable presentation, though not great.

inline ImageOn side B of the disc are Snowbeast and The Snow Creature. Both films have already made the rounds on public domain DVD, and Snowbeast in particular has had a number of cheapie releases. However good (or probably bad) these other releases look I do not know. However, this particular release of these two films doesn't distinguish itself in terms of image quality. Both films have a disadvantage that their companion feature doesn't share, which is an excessive number of digital artifacts, apparently the result of trying to cram both of them onto a single layer. The resulting digital artifacts are worse than the artifacts seen on their companion film, and are visible not only in dark scenes, but throughout the entirety of both films.

Snowbeast looks very good aside from the compression issues. By and large the elements used in the transfer look to have been in excellent shape, with a minimal amount of specks and dirt. Overall print damage was negligible. Colors appeared bold and well saturated, and blacks are strong and dark, though the level of detail on the image could have been stronger. All in all, it looks surprisingly good for a film of this vintage and origins. As this was a made-for-TV film, the 1.33:1 framing is accurate to how it has always appeared for viewers.

inline ImageThe Snow Creature starts with a disclaimer from Retromedia saying that several different elements had to be used for this release, and indeed, the 1.33:1 black and white transfer looks particularly bad. It's very soft looking and the image lacks detail. The presence of frequent "ghosting" effects (where remnants of previous frames blend with the current one, resulting in an otherworldly effect, especially during scenes of fast movement) is annoying. From start to finish the image is covered with specks, scratches, grime and vertical lines, and they are especially bad during the first half of the movie. This is nothing unusual for a release of a public domain film, yet when combined with the high number of digital artifacts (which are even more frequent than in Snowbeast), it results in a truly awful-looking image.


Sound

All there films are presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono soundtracks. Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot sounds okay. Though everything sounds a tiny bit muffled, dialogue is clear and aside from a little background hiss every so often, there is no noticeable noise or distortion.

Snowbeast sounds a bit flat, but otherwise comes across quite nicely, with dialogue easily understandable, and the various sound effects (such as the Snowbeast trampling through bushes and trees) crisp, clear and audible. There is some very minor hiss noticeable on a few occasions.

The Snow Creature is far more problematic. The audio sounds flat, muffled and compressed, with numerous audio dropouts. The best that can be said of the audio track is that dialogue is almost always understandable, but otherwise it is a sub-par presentation.


Supplemental Material

There are no supplements on this release.


Final Thoughts

Nostalgic fans who have awaited a long time to see a presentable copy of Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot will want to pick up this release just for it alone. Snowbeast remains entertaining, while The Snow Creature is undistinguished and generally hasn't aged well. The mediocre quality of the audio and video is a major liability for this release though, and while it still squeaks by with a recommendation to hardcore Bigfoot movie fans, it's otherwise a disappointment.


Rating

Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot
Movie - C
Image Quality - C
Sound - C+

Snowbeast
Movie - B
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B-

The Snow Creature
Movie - C-
Image Quality - F
Sound - D

Supplements - N/A


Technical Info.
  • Color and B&W
  • Running Time - 4 hours 12 minutes
  • Not rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English 2.0 Mono

Supplements
  • No supplements

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