My pal Steve Billips over at Gangrene Widescreen (welcome to the Cabal, Steve!) has formulated a Zombie Movie Cliché Checklist for his numerous reviews in that field. Being boldly unafraid to steal a good idea, let’s whip one up for King Kong rip-offs.
Kong Surrogate falls in love with woman (hopefully platonically).
Woman comes to reciprocate that love (also hopefully platonically).
Woman is, at some point, grasped and raised up inside a patently bogus and awkwardly maneuvered giant prop ‘hand.’
Kong Surrogate carries around a patently bogus doll meant to represent the woman.
Noble Savage Kong Surrogate is brought to the Modern World.
Kong Surrogate is abused by venal Man.
Kong Surrogate is tormented and enraged by flashbulbs.
Kong Surrogate busts loose and goes on rampage.
Kong Surrogate captures woman (see previous bullet points regarding prop hand, doll) and carries her through city.
Woman seeks to protect misunderstand Kong Surrogate from harm.
Kong Surrogate climbs high building, from which position he is attacked and killed, plummeting to the ground below.
Woman is sad.
We open with a bunch of Styrofoam exploding, which the veteran bad movie buff (and pretty much nobody else) will immediately recognize as representing ‘snow.’ This is confirmed for normal viewers several seconds later when they then cut in the obligatory Disintegrating Ice Pack footage.
One thing you can say; they’re not wasting anytime getting into the, uhm, story here. Although that might not be true in the original Italian version, which the IMDB indicates ran two hours (!!!) long. For the record, mine runs about an hour and thirty-five minutes, which I thought sounded a little long to start with.
Anyway, we soon see one particular Styrofoam block bobbing on the, er, chill Arctic waters. This block features two feet sticking out of it,* and is accompanied by a bombastic music blare and the original Italian title, Yeti Il Gigante del 20 Secolo. Even so, my DVDR features the American dub cut. Amazingly, this film *was* released here in the states, and yes, played in theaters and drive-ins. Ah, those where the days.[*Expect to see a hopefully more competent version of this scene in a couple of years, when Marvel’s Captain America and The Avengers movies hit theaters in 2011. In the meantime, if you wish to be especially cruel to the film, you can see how inept this sequence is compared to Godzilla’s escape from an iceberg in King Kong vs. Godzilla; or really go to town by taking in the Arctic opening of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.]
We very briefly cut to stock footage of an ice breaker, then generic helicopter cityscape shots. Or that’s what I thought. Instead, the camera starts moving around, and we see the shots were actually taken from the observation deck of some very tall building. Meanwhile, we continue to hear at a loud volume what is, except for the occasional ’70s sci-fi sound effect, a full and ludicrously operatic orchestral score. This, needless to say, is writing a check the film itself can’t remotely hope to cash. But then, it didn’t need to. Anyone even this far in (back in the day, I mean) would have already bought their ticket.
However, this *is* a helicopter in the actual movie, for what that’s worth. And depending on whether one would call this an “actual movie.” The helicopter leaves the city (I guess; you have to sort of piece things together in this flick) and heads out to the boonies, where it lights down near a solitary fisherman standing near a home pier. To my surprise, though, horror immediately strikes. No, not the Kong Surrogate. Worse. It’s a barrage of Italian ‘comic relief.’
Both characters we meet here, in fact, show chilling signs of falling into this dreaded character. The middle-aged fisherman is dressed in a loud red flannel outdoors and a Choo-Choo Charlie engineer’s cap. Moreover, he assumes a purported funny long-suffering look (which I quickly came to share) at the appearance of an obvious Comic Lout. The latter is supposedly being lowered in a box from the at this point unseen helicopter, an effect that is entirely seamless in suggesting that such a craft is in fact hovering above him. After he lands this conveyance flies away with the now visible NOT AT ALL A TOY helicopter.
This uninvited guest is one Morgan Hunnicut*, a—pardon the redundancy—disreputable show business promoter. He is clearly meant to be a rich, flamboyant type given his fur collared coat and the fat stogie he puffs, yet “comically” [for the record, you should just assume the quotation marks whenever I use words like funny, comic, or humorous from here on out] bypasses the fisherman to sit down at a pre-set table and start mooching what was clearly meant to be the guy’s own lunch. Astounding, they failed to provide a Whaaa-Whaaa-Whaaa sound effect here as his host executes—in more ways than one—a slow burn. Even so, the grisly stench of Momento Divertente del Odioso is all too prevalent.[*I don’t know what this character’s name was in the original Italian, but his company logo is “HH,” so clearly his first name wasn’t “Morgan.” You’d think the people dubbing the film might have noticed this, but frankly it’s pretty clear nobody was overly invested in this project. As for the HH, it presumably was meant to evoke Howard Hughes, because he was an American millionaire, just like this guy. See? They’re nearly identical.]
The fisherman demands to know what Morgan wants. “I need your brain for a humane expedition up at north Canada,” Morgan asserts. Thus we are unsurprised when his rustic-clad and entirely reluctant host proves to be the eminent academic Prof. Waterman. After all, he is wanted for his “brain,” and can only be enticed to lead an expedition were it “humane.” However, this explains the flannels and such. This is an Italian’s idea of how a Canadian would dress. Where the movie set in the States, he’d no doubt be clad in cowboy attire.
“‘Humane’?” Waterman sneeringly replies. “Like that phony uranium find up in Alaska?” Apparently, instead of a “humane” uranium find (whatever that means), this was a scheme to get land for Morgan build hotels. Needless to say, this means Morgan is a *gasp* capitalist whose only pursuit is Filthy Lucre. This, naturally, puts him at the exact opposite end of the philosophical and moral spectrums from an academic, who would solely be concerned with stuff like Knowledge and The Truth and Humanity and all that good stuff.
“You keep forgetting I’m a paleethnologist,” Waterman expositories. (I’m not sure why you’d bring an anthropologist specializing in Man’s primitive ancestors to check out a uranium mine, but there you go.) Except, of course, that as a Movie Scientist Waterman would be an expert in all branches of Science… OK, objection withdrawn. Dubbing Morgan an “Overweight Irish (!!!!) Daddy Warbucks,” he tells him to “buy another brain.” He does admit to missing Morgan’s niece and nephew, but refuses to have anything to do with any more of his schemes.
We then cut rather jarringly to some guys somewhere shooting flamethrowers at something. Again being required to put the pieces together ourselves, we see that Waterman is on hand and so can only assume that he has in fact given in to Morgan’s request after all. (Yeah, big surprise.) The flamethrowers are being used to melt an ice in which a large form is…man, that can’t be right. What, they didn’t have any Thermite available?
Anyway, this scene transition is so abrupt and bewilderingly discordant that normally I’d assume it was a result of the Americanized version being whittled down from the much longer original. However, this is an Italian genre picture, and frankly, editing like that is actually pretty prevalent in these things.
Here we also round out most of our remaining cast. Our Hero is Cliff Chandler, played by square-jawed Italian mainstay Tony Kendall. Morgan’s granddaughter and Cliff’s obvious romantic interest to be is a Susan Dey look-alike named Jane, while her “adorable” younger brother is Herbie. Herbie, we learn, is suffering from a Mysterious Terminal Ailment, and is moreover mute “since the plane crash that took his mother and father.” As if the toxically chipper Herbie weren’t bad enough, he’s also got a Lassie-like dog who gets in on way too much of the action. As is often the case, you kind of spend the film wishing various horrible fates upon this kid.
Anyhoo, Cliff is in charge of security, I guess, or something else suitably manly. We first meet him as he’s receiving instructions from Waterman. “Make sure security is good and tight,” Waterman commands. “This thing is invaluable!” As Waterman says this, he paces back and forth as the object of his attention, covered with perhaps several feet of ice—aside from its feet, which are already sticking out—is being continuously sprayed with multiple flaming jets of jellied gasoline. Seconds later, the guys manning the flamethrowers are instructed via loudspeaker to hurry their work. What could possibly go wrong?
As this is going on, up on a platform maybe ten or twenty feet back is Jane and Herbie. “Let’s get closer,” Jane suggests to her brother, because nothing is safer than standing but several feet away from a line of guys spraying napalm all around the place. They get about two feet away, in fact, from the defrosted feet, which again, are attached to the body currently being bombarded with jets of flame.
Nobody seems to find this worth commenting on, either. Indeed, they are soon joined by Waterman. Meanwhile, the prop feet they are all but touching quite clearly do not match the pair we just saw just jutting out of some remaining ice. When it comes to continuity, you have to take your hat off to the Italians. Then, as if they weren’t close enough, Herbie moves in even closer to the torso to take a photo. In his thick white parka, Herbie looks a bit like a big marshmallow. This is convenient, since he’s clearly going to get immolated in about five more seconds.[*Sadly, this happy state of affairs does not come to pass.]
Meanwhile, an exasperated Waterman is called away to a trailer to teleconference with Morgan. (I’m sure this seemed highly futuristic in 1977, especially since video monitors allow them to see each other as they converse.) Waterman continues to “comically” act like a dick towards Morgan, which I guess is supposed to be justified by the fact that Morgan is a grubby, untrustworthy capitalist. However, if it weren’t for Morgan, Waterman would not be currently turning into charcoal briquettes studying the greatest scientific find of the 20th century. So, you know, maybe he could ease up a little.
Morgan demands to know what type of monster they have here, and Waterman—after staring at a shadowy form inside an ice block—confidently declares it a Kong Surrogate. “We call him a ‘Sasquash’ here in Canada (*cough*),” Waterman explains. “In the States he is known as the Big Foot. And in the Himalayas, where his footprints were first discovered, he’s called the Kong Surrogate, the Abominable Snowman. Why the ‘abominable,’ I don’t know.” Yeah, that sure is a mystery, all right. Meanwhile, let me stipulate that I am not a scientist. Even so, from a layman’s perspective, Waterman’s dissertation seems to kind of elide over the fact that this particular specimen is a rather atypical 40 feet tall.*[*Actually, as the film progresses, we’ll see that they have a radical problem keeping his size in any way consistent. At times he seems ten or twelve feet tall, others fifty or sixty.]
Waterman further theorizes—he is apparently not one of those scientists adverse to conjecturing upon a slim number of facts—that this Kong Surrogate (and since they have sasquash HERE IN CANADA, one must wonder why he thinks this exact fellow hails from Asia) was caught in a snow avalanche “millions of years ago.” Again, if you say so, pal. “Then perhaps an earthquake caused the ice to break up, and formed the Arctic Ocean [sic!!!!]. After that, he most likely drifted as an iceberg until he reaches the coast of New Finland.” Well, yes, when you put it that way, what other explanation could there be?
Moreover, because the ice has preserved the Kong Surrogate in an absolutely perfect state (or as far as he can tell, one supposes, when it is still 95% sheathed in a block of ice), Waterman feels they might be able to “activate something…like the nerves of his hand, or maybe even his heart.” Yes. Yes, that would follow. “It’s worth giving it a try,” Waterman suggests. Sure, why not?
Morgan is all but peeing his pants in excitement. He promises to send Waterman more equipment, along with some scientists and journalists. However, once the call has ended, Morgan *gasp* reveals that he has no intention of doing so. (Those damn capitalists!) He instead plans to announce the discovery at his own chosen time, all built around a carefully orchestrated campaign establishing the Kong Surrogate as the new advertising symbol of his company. This is such a boneheadedly literal steal from Dino de Laurentiis’ concurrent production of King Kong (which this picture is clearly a rip-off of) that it’s actually kind of appalling in its sheer laziness.
Meanwhile, there’s an odd line where Morgan says, “And don’t forget, that monster was found by my grandson, Herbert Hunnicut.” This course of events was presumably part of the extensive running time removed from the American cut. Here we abruptly cut to Waterman defrosting the giant, and only then do we even meet Herbie. Odder is that they didn’t bother also excising this line of dialogue, since it now plays like a non sequitur. (Perhaps the editors weren’t really paying that much attention? I wouldn’t doubt it.)
Morgan reveals to his Yes Men—including one chap with a hideous comb over, plaid sports coat and rainbow tie combo—that he won’t be sending in the press, as he promised Waterman. (And again, why should he?) He demands total secrecy until he’s ready to reveal the Kong Surrogate to the world. Unbeknownst to him, however, another underling in another eye-melting jacket is spying on this. He then withdraws and passes on word of the find to, presumably, one of Hunnicut’s competitors. Am I correct, then, in imaging that part of the plot will involve another corporation trying to steal the Kong Surrogate for their own advertising uses? Because that would prove even more deliriously retarded than I’m already expecting the movie to be.
Back to Kong Surrogate Camp, where a large, Kong Surrogate-sized cage is being constructed. Waterman is detailing to Jane and Herbie just who likely it is that they’ll be able to revive the Kong Surrogate. (Last night he was talking about getting a single heartbeat, or a hand to twitch. Now, suddenly, total revival is apparently a fait accompli.) “Oh, under certain conditions of hibernation, life can be preserved indefinitely,” he explains. And, you know, he’s right. I’ve seen that proven in literally dozens of sci-fi movies. It also explains why oversleeping bears sometimes rise centuries later when they intend to only sleep through the winter.
Here Waterman points to the nearby, roughly four story tall Kong Surrogate (because otherwise it might not draw one’s attention, I suppose), still encased in a thin layer of ice and hanging down from some chains. The special effects here are, and I mean this literally, jaw-droppingly bad. In one extended shot you can actually see right through the Kong Surrogate’s legs and watch a bunch of activity moving back and forth behind him. (!!!)
Indeed, the last time I’d seen matte work this bad* was in The Amazing Colossal Man, and that featured special effects pretty much literally done in the director’s garage. And, oh, yeah, it was also was made twenty years earlier. This film, meanwhile, came out the same year as Star Wars. These effects are, and I don’t say this lightly, inexcusably inept for even an Italian King Kong rip-off. I suppose the effects in A*P*E were equally bad; arguably even a tiny smidgeon worse. But good grief, that film was made in Korea.[*Long-time Friend of Jabootu Brandi down in the comments suggests that this might actually be the result of an even more primitive process; double exposures into of mattes. She may well be right, and again, it’s useful to note this came out the same year as Star Wars.]
Waterman walks off with Herbie, wherein Cliff heads over to make time with Jane. Here they establish that Herbie is all ill and stuff. Cliff opines that Herbie seems pretty inquisitive, and Jane concurs. “He’s fascinated, just watching [all this],” she says. Yeah, a boy never forgets his first giant frozen Kong Surrogate exhumation and revival from the dead. And yet, they grow jejune so quickly. Enjoy your simple pleasures while you may, Herbie.
Told of Herbie’s dire medical condition, Cliff is moved to offer words of hope. “If science can revive that thing there, your brother can recover, too,” he suggests. Yes. Yes, that would follow. The logic is inescapable. Jane then continues to explain that “Herbie lost his voice when he was in that plane accident in which our father and mother died.” Man, Dickens would think they were piling it on by this point.
Exposition duly delivered, Jane walks off with the returning Herbie, and Waterman and Cliff take up the conversational reigns. Lest the themes of the original King Kong were too subtle, the Professor takes the opportunity to make sure we ‘get’ it. TO THE MAX!! “That big fella, he’s a fix now,” he muses. “We’re sure going to play a dirty trick on him. There he was, sleeping peacefully for a million years, and we come along and drag him into this dirty world. I wonder if we have the right to do it, even in the name of Science.”
Cliff is unmoved, though. “Philosophy has no place in Science,” he replies. “I think it should!” Waterman counters. (Wow, this is what it must have been like listening to Socrates and Plato debate.) In the end, Waterman avers, “He’s got to live free, as he likes.” Like, I don’t know, Paris Hilton.
Here we get a scene that impressively challenges Kong’s heart transplant in King Kong Lives as the sub-genre’s most hilarious ‘revival’ sequence. In the end, it’s hard to call a winner, as we’re really comparing apples and oranges. King Kong Lives’ heart transplant is meant to be a bit of show-stopping ‘reality’ in a film that otherwise doesn’t have a single credible moment in it. Although the film couldn’t be bothered to provide even one believable action or motivation on any character or organization’s part, for that one scene they really tried to figure out how such a thing would work. Surgical experts were clearly consulted, yet the end result remains deliriously goofy. After all, we’re talking giving a comatose thirty-foot ape a heart transplant.
If King Kong Lives was a movie made by idiots,* however (and it’s amazing to think that films like that got theatrical releases just a few decades ago—and depressing to know that they no longer do), Kong Surrogate is the sort of movie those same idiots might have made when they were all twelve year-olds. No striving for scientific verisimilitude here. If anything, the Kong Surrogate’s revival is even more madcap and stupid and just plains nuts than the rest of the picture.[*Actually, it might be more accurate to note they were both made by Italians, since despite being made in the States, King Kong Lives had bad movie icon Dino de Laurentiis’ fingerprints all over it. Not that Italians can’t make great mediocre movies, too; but when they make bad ones, well, watch out.]
Now, this isn’t to say that parts of the revival process aren’t rigorously scientific. The basic plan, as you would fully expect, involves sticking the still frozen Kong Surrogate in that Plexiglas cage and airlifting him 10,000 feet in the air. The helicopter performing this task holds Waterman, Cliff and Jane, as well as a bearded pilot they keep cutting to for reaction shots for no apparent reason whatsoever. Director’s cameo, maybe?
Meanwhile, down below various extras stand around gazing up in wonder, apparently following not very detailed instructions to “Stand around and gaze up in wonder, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The music goes full throttle here, and given its utterly inappropriate faux opera solemnity, adds a further note of hilarity to the proceedings.
The ‘effects’ work is a mix of patently toy miniatures (the helicopter and a doll in a mock-up of the cage) and the film’s reliably awful and generally transparent matte work. Several of the matte shots, in fact, are so bad you wonder why they didn’t just use the miniatures more, which are themselves poor but quite as flamboyant. I mean, at least you can’t see through them. Meanwhile, even the shots ‘inside’ the ‘helicopter’ don’t provide any relief, as the actors are clearly sitting in an obvious set—full of laughably bogus scientific equipment—as the camera is occasionally shaken to suggest movement.
Up *cough* in the ‘copter, Jane suggests they can “speed up the process chemically.” The Professor nixes this, though, because he’s still on his Nature kick. (Besides, how would they administer ‘chemicals’ to the Kong Surrogate as it hangs below them in a cage?) “That might do harm,” he explains. “The Kong Surrogate is part of Nature. Only she should give him life, if she chooses.” Ah, now I get it. Waterman is a Christian Scientist. Or, I guess, a Gaia Scientist. In any case, I’m beginning to think he got his educational bonafides from a box of Cracker Jack.
This impression is more than reinforced when Waterman tells the pilot to lift them to 10,000, “the level lived at in the Himalayas. The atmosphere up there is particularly full of ozone [full of something, anyway] and ultraviolet rays. And I’ll enrich his oxygen, that’s the air we’ll make him breathe.” Enriched oxygen? Man, you really are recreating conditions at the top of the Himalayas, huh? Heaven knows, it’s oxygen-crazy up there.
Now in position, Waterman tells Jane to start the oxygen flow, as well as initiate the warm water spray. (Where is this huge amount of water coming from? No idea. There certainly doesn’t seem to be room for such a humongous tank anywhere in or on the helicopter.) “We’ll thaw him out gradually,” Waterman explains. Anyway, a gigantic amount of water—given the size of the Kong Surrogate—begins spraying over the subject, washing off its layer of stage make-up. Er, ice.
This goes on a while, as the orchestra score attempts to lend the action a majestic splendor the manifest goofiness of what we’re watching can’t remotely hope to inspire. In any case, the warm water bath starts to have an effect. “The oscilloscope [!!!!] shows heartbeat!” Cliff exclaims. However, then the Kong Surrogate starts to flat line. “Stimulate his brain with electric shock!” Waterman commands. Yes, that’s entirely natural, and not at all cheating like using chemicals would be.
Anyhoo, this all goes on for a while (and I mean a while), desperately trying to add suspense where clearly this isn’t going to be any. I mean, gee, I wonder if the Kong Surrogate will fail to revive. Quite an exciting movie that would be, eh? Not that the actually revived Kong Surrogate offers much compensation in that department, admittedly. In any case, enough makeup ice washes off to reveal…I think it’s Barry Gibb. If not, the Kong Surrogate could get a gig touring as the Barry Gibb Experience: Not Barry Gibb, but an amazing, perhaps even more soulful 40 Ft. simulation.
They celebrate, and Jane even tosses herself into Cliff’s arms. However, their merriment is short lived. As you’d expect after a million year nap and rousing to finding himself stuck inside a tight box 10,000 feet in the air, the Kong Surrogate wakes up a little cranky. So he begins to howl and toss around (hilariously, the Kong Surrogate goes from dripping wet to completely blow-dried and teased following one quick cutaway shot), rocking the camera helicopter in a manner that apparently nobody thought in any way predictable. I mean, gee, who could have foreseen such a turn of events when they schemed to wake up a flash-frozen prehistoric giant whilst flying him around a mile up in a transparent box?
Now at this point we’ve still—and this is the short version of the film—got about an hour and a quarter to go, so sadly the ‘copter doesn’t go down with the Kong Surrogate and most of the cast. Instead, Waterman orders Jane to pump in some sleeping gas. (Again, where is this stored? I’m telling you, there’s not a lot of apparent extra space in that helicopter, and yet somehow they have a large supply of oxygen-rich air, thousands of gallons of heated water and now a goodly amount of sleeping gas at their disposal.)
The gas, however, much like the film itself, fails to have any effect. At this, the Professor realizes they must have left one of the window panels in the cage open. Pushing a button rectifies this (?), despite the fact that there was no apparent mechanism built into the cage. Also, if they had left a window open all this time, wouldn’t that have kind of have neutralized the pumped-in oxygen? In any case, the gas now works, and the beast is, much like most of the audience, soundly asleep.
With the Kong Surrogate safely slumbering, they begin their descent. They drop off the cage (all safely off-camera, since this was beyond their rather limited effects expertise) and land themselves as the extras pretend to celebrate raucously on the ground. Here they open that window again, letting all the gas leak out, although oddly it doesn’t affect any of the comparatively puny humans it is clearly seen passing over.
Meanwhile, Jane is shocked to see a few guys standing by with guns. “Why the rifles, Cliff?” she shrieks. “He’s a human being!” First, OK, he’s not a human being. Second, he’s still 40 feet tall. Third, he’s a completely unknown entity. Fourth, even contained in the cage he was violent and powerful enough to nearly down your ‘copter about three minutes ago. Fifth…well, you get the idea. In any case, this establishes Jane as being All Idealistic and Stuff, and also, although this part might be unintended, as kind of a moron.
Here we see that they’ve built the traditional ‘life-sized’ leg and feet props from which these movies are wont to shot extras through. In fact, in this case they appear to have run up an entire mock-up of the beast, although wisely they only shoot it from behind. Still, I’m sure the workmen who sculpted and then glued the fur onto the prop Kong Surrogate’s live-sized giant ass had a great time.
Getting on a megaphone—which at one point he blares at Jane’s face from literally about three inches away—Waterman addresses the onlookers. “Get ready to meet an ancestor of ours,” he begins. (Really? On what do you base that supposition?) “I hope you will like him, and he us.” Seriously, you’re just going to drain the gas and let him come awake into a world he’s never known, whilst surrounded by all this noise and tumult? What a completely fool-proof plan! Man, Professor, you really think this stuff out.
Somehow, though, against all odds, things go awry. It turns out the Kong Surrogate is still kind of surly, and reacts poorly to waking up. Meanwhile, following hallowed tradition, photographers pop flashbulbs at the Kong Surrogate (which is sort of weird, as they’re photographing the Yeti outside in broad daylight), confusing and enraging the creature. Also, Herbie’s dog barks at him.
Despite the fact that the flashes are clearly agitating the monster, only the Professor, of course, figures out it would be a good idea to, you know, stop that. As you’d expect, however, it’s too late. The irate Yeti predictably tears apart the laughably fragile containment unit and makes to run amok. One of Cliff’s entire two guys with rifles sort of aims one in the Yeti’s direction, whereupon Jane jumps over and knocks the barrel aside. Oops, time to implement the ClichÃ© Checklist. First time out and it’s a three-per!
ClichÃ© Checklist: Kong Surrogate is tormented and enraged by flashbulbs. âˆš
ClichÃ© Checklist: Kong Surrogate busts loose and goes on rampage. âˆš
ClichÃ© Checklist: Woman seeks to protect misunderstand Kong Surrogate from harm. âˆš
The crowd panics and runs. Then, out of nowhere, we suddenly see Herbie and Jane lying on the ground, unconscious and presumably trampled. The Yeti spots them and ambles in their direction. Here the Professor himself acts to keep the Yeti from being shot. Let me repeat. A howling, clearly violent forty-foot giant is tramping towards the insensible young woman and boy who are like his own grandchildren, and the Professor’s first thought is to safeguard the Yeti. Well, he’s certainly got his priorities in order.
However, when he slaps at the rifle barrel a bullet goes astray, catching the Yeti on the hand. The guard runs, leaving the Professor holding the rifle. Noticing that the Yeti looks pissed, Waterman holds the gun up and shakes his head whilst smiling, trying to communicate to the hirsute giant his innocence. (Query: How the hell would a being from a million years ago, who wasn’t even looking in the Professor’s direction when he was shot, know what a rifle is?) However, the angry looking beast advances, and it’s up to Cliff to run over and pull Waterman away for his own safety. Indeed, only at the last second did the Professor seem to realize that perhaps, just maybe, the Yeti might mean him harm. What a maroon.
The extras run, and the Yeti wanders around roaring and growling, but he doesn’t do anything otherwise. I guess they couldn’t afford to make miniatures of the various trailers and stuff we see for him to smash. He does uproot a ‘tree’ at one point and drops/tosses it, but that’s about it, rampage-wise. Meanwhile, the guys with the guns still don’t shoot at him, presumably because then he’d be, you know, dead and stuff.
One thing we notice here is that director apparently knew nothing about forced perspective. Even shots where the Yeti is basically appearing against blank sky, or rocks or things that don’t really provide scale; they usually still matte the Yeti in. I’m not sure why, unless it’s that they figured non-matte shots of the Yeti would make the matte shots look even worse. They look pretty bad anyway, though, so you wonder why they bothered.
Meanwhile, the dog apparently realizes that the Yeti is a good guy (!!!). Animal solidarity, I guess. In any case, after everyone has fled, he barks at the Yeti to get his attention, and then leads him over to the still prostrate Jane and Herbie. His incessant barking finally rouse the two, who look up in (mild) fright to see the Yeti *cough* towering over them.
The Yeti looks at Jane’s long hair, and starts fingering his own luxurious locks in an inquisitive fashion. I assume he’s trying to ask what kind of conditioner she uses. So they stand there a bit huddling in fright, and the onlookers start creeping into camp. And then the Yeti reaches down, and as Herbie and Jane themselves turn into bad matte effects.
Cliché Checklist: Woman is, at some point, grasped and raised up inside a patently bogus and awkwardly maneuvered giant prop ‘hand.’ √
They are soon sitting in the hand and being raised up. This contact with the Yeti is apparently enough to render them vulnerable to his amazing Transparency Field, which is presumably a highly-evolved form of natural camouflage. Birds in the hand, so to speak, the Yeti assumes a beatific look and begins to wander off into the surrounding wilderness. Wonder Dog follows behind. A bit later the Professor and Cliff and the so far extreeeemly useful rifle guys follow along as well. On foot. You’d think they’d take a jeep or something, but I guess not.
Apparently aware of pursuit, the Yeti’s Transparency Field functions at full strength, as he ambles through the countryside with Jane and Herbie lovingly cradled to his breast. And in this case, I mean that literally as we get one of the weirdest and most disturbing shots I’ve even seen. Jane reaches out a hand to stabilize herself, and grazes the Yeti’s nipple, which grows hard and elongates at her touch. In response, he assumes a randy “Oh, ma-ma” expression. I’m not kidding!! Look here, complete with entirely apt audience commentary:
Finding a cave, the Yeti sets the kids down next to Wonder Dog, who Jane then orders back to find the Professor. They find footprints leading into a huge lake, and assume the Yeti waded or swam to the other side. They call for someone to send a boat. Meanwhile, back at the cave, apparently the Yeti has gone off somewhere. Jane tries to grab Herbie and run for it, but he refuses. “Are you crazy!” she asks. “Don’t you know cannibals are always nice to their victims before they eat them?!” First…uh, no. Nobody knows that. Second, if the Yeti ate you he wouldn’t be a cannibal, you twit! He’s not human.
Herbie, however, either senses the Yeti’s inherent goodness, or else really, really imprinted on the Big Foot episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man. However, when Jane makes to pull him along, she is confronted by the mysteriously appearing giant leg props standing in their way. Apparently this forty-foot and presumably quite smelly giant managed to get fifteen feet away from her without her noticing. Meanwhile, the Yeti’s reaction to her attempted run is to assume an eye-popping “What’chu taking about, Willis?!” expression. Thwarted, she grabs Herbie and they run back to the cave.
But the Yeti’s intentions are peaceful, for he has returned with a large fish for himself and a—to him—teeny one for them. How would he even catch such a thing? A polite young chap, Herbie takes the fish and pretends to nosh on it, assuming a Yummy expression. Jane follows suit, and begins to reevaluate the Yeti in light of his impeccable social manners. Meanwhile, the Yeti eats his own not-really-giant-looking fish, raw, which is pretty gross as fish juice runs and little hunks of fish run down the actor’s facial hair. (Although by the next scene they’ll have rather mysteriously disappeared.)
We cut away to see that Wonder Dog has found the Professor and Cliff. “What is it?” the Professor asks as Wonder Dog barks at them. At continued barking the Professor just shakes his head in a befuddled manner until Wonder Dog starts to run away. “Ah,” Waterman replies. “He wants us to follow him.” Of course, you moron. Whenever a collie barks at you they want you to follow them.
Hilariously, Wonder Dog draws their attention like literally twenty feet away where there’s another Yeti footprint leading away from the lake. “Ha, that Yeti’s clever, all right,” the Professor chortles. “He went into the lake to throw us off his track, and then came back here.” No, he didn’t. He’s been walking all around this area, and you just didn’t notice all the various huge footprints. He’s not clever; you’re all idiots.
Anyway, the dog’s there now to take the lead, so actual progress is made. He leads the party to a hill overlooking a clearing by the cave. From here they see the Yeti peacefully sitting near the standing and patently undistressed kids. This is probably one of the film’s ten worst matte shots, which is really saying something. Seeing how bucolic the scene is, Cliff looks down to his gun in chagrin. Ah, Mankind, when will you learn?
The sight also sets the Professor to musing, because he’s a Movie Scientist and must thus continuously spout inane but invariably correct theories based on the slightest evidence.
The Professor: “Look how he’s treating Jane and Herbie. He’s showing that same rough tenderness all animals have towards their offspring. The same concern men have for their children and families. I think [the Yeti] must have had a mate, and a child.”
Cliff: “A family?”
The Professor: “Yes. All highly developed mammals have one. We have too, even though we frequently forget the fact these days.”
[Wise social commentary delivered, sir! But wait, he’s not done yet!] The Professor: “The jackets the children are wearing are furry, like the Yeti. [Not really, but anyway.] I’d venture to say they’ve touched some memory chord of the creatures who lived with him in the Himalayas ages ago.”
Back to Yeti and the Gang. Here we get this film’s analogue to the supposedly erotic scene in de Laurentiis’ King Kong, in which Kong bellows clouds of stinky giant ape breathe on Jessica Lange to dry her off after a bath.
Their version, however, is if anything even more ludicrous. In a flat-out insane bit, the Yeti smilingly reaches out and uses the fish’s denuded skeleton as a comb to tenderly brush Jane’s hair. (!!!) Under his ministrations, the two begin to exchange loving glances. As this occurs, all the stunned viewer can think is, “What the hell does that fish comb smell like?!” In any case:
Cliché Checklist: Kong Surrogate falls in love with woman (hopefully platonically). √
ClichÃ© Checklist: Woman comes to reciprocate that love (also hopefully platonically). âˆš
The Professor, Cliff, the rifle guys and Wonder Dog approach, but the Yeti is all mellowed out now. He stands up and glares a bit, but that’s about all. Jane wanders over all explains how blissful the scene is, and the Professor trots out his “he thinks you’re his wife and child” routine. “You might have some duties to fulfill if you stay the night,” Cliff smirks. Jane expresses outrage, but doesn’t explain about when she was messing with his erect nipple.
Jane reports that the Yeti’s hand is hurt, from the errant bullet earlier. Having apparently seen Son of Kong, which had this pretty much exact same scene in it, the Professor goes to the briefcase-sized medical kit one rifle guy is carrying (hmm, I didn’t see that before) and removes an industrial-sized bottle of aerosol disinfectant. Seriously, this thing is as big as a coffee thermos. What kind of medical kit carries that? Hell, who even manufactures that?
Waterman strides forth to tend the beast, but the Yeti isn’t having any and lets loose a roar. Waterman retreats and Jane takes over. She soothes the beast and blah blah blah. This is all very loving, and sweet music plays on the soundtrack while Jane and the Yeti exchange enamored glances. Waterman asks Jane is she can get the Yeti to follow after them. Jane does this by employing the universal language of Pidgin English. (You can tell she’s still an amateur, though, because she doesn’t shout it.) “Boy…girl…dog…go,” she helpfully informs him. “Yeti come.” Sure enough, after just a touch more persuasion, he follows.
Back in civilization…or Canada, anyway…consumers are literally going nuts about the new of the Yeti, and running around like maniacs to buy the various products put out by Hunnicut Industries. The fabulous advertising campaign they are following involves a generic Yeti poster, generally accompanied by additional text provided on the spot.
Thus hordes of consumers line up to buy Hunnicut gas (an appallingly literal steal from de Laurentiis’ King Kong), all while the owner of a nearby Texaco station glowers. The inane slogan for this product reads, “Pump it in and let your motor absorb it. With Yeti in your tank you’ll go into orbit.” (I think I hear Nipsey Russell spinning in his grave.)
Meanwhile, a crowd of kids are showing all but rioting to a driving disco beat outside a food store—shouldn’t that be a toy store?—and here the poster is accompanied by matching slogans on a pair of letter boards, “Mothers! There’s Yeti strength in Hunnicut Foods.” Because, you know, every mom wants kids as strong as a yeti. Anyway, to add to the ‘hilarity,’ two square-looking adults look on at this display with mimed, comic opera confusion.
Finally, and the best of the looks, a procession of hot young girls with Farrah Fawcett hair leave a clothing store wearing identical T-Shirts—since everyone knows women all want to wear the same thing—that feature artwork hands appearing to reach from behind to grope their breasts (seriously). One young lady finally turns around and the backs read “KISS ME YETI.” Then she bends forward to allow what seems to be a random guy a chance to buss her neck. Uhm, OK.
In his office, a gleeful Hunnicut basks in the applause of his lackeys over the company’s burgeoning profits. “And they’ll soar sky high when the Yeti gets here,” gloats. Then it’s back out to the field, where the Yeti’s cage is being repaired. (Here we get a good long look at the full-sized prop, and if you really check out the dimensions, there’s no way the Yeti would fit in there.) Cliff returns and learns that they are soon to leave to take the Yeti to Toronto. There, no doubt, it will climb the metropolis’ highest building, which is over two stories high.
Meanwhile, being the film’s Moral Compass, Waterman is hectoring Hunnicut via teleconference. Just as inevitably, the rapacious capitalist is having none of it. “It’s a colossal deal, you old great brain box!” Hunnicut sputters. He is being shaved during this exchange, and an irate Waterman opines, “That slave of yours should cut your throat!” I’m not sure why a barber would be considered a slave, but there you go.
Disgusted, Waterman hands up and heads outside. There, he tells Cliff that the Yeti should not go to Toronto, and Jane begs for Cliff’s help. Cliff replies that he’s just a working stiff and doesn’t have any say in the matter. “Go and lick your boss’s boots!” she sneers. Uhm, isn’t the boss whose boots he’s meant to lick Jane’s own grandfather, who has raised her since her parents died? Not that you don’t get ungrateful brats like that in the real world, but the film taking her side in this is kind of laughable.
Cut to a plane landing somewhere—apparently the Yeti is flying commercial—where a chanting crowd of maybe 20 awaits sight of the behemoth. Two of these are kids sporting a homemade welcome sign so inept that it seems like it was made in the Ukraine or something, where they have perhaps heard of such signage but never actually seen any. Then we cut to a baseball stadium, where a crowd is cheering. There a guy near a TV way in the back (?) turns on a new report about the arriving Yeti, which is currently flying over Niagara Falls in its cage. (We see this, and the ‘effect’ is ‘achieved’ via transparent mattes done over travelogue footage.) So that shot of the landing airplane was meant as…what exactly?
This goes on for a while, as music blares on the soundtrack. Then back to the baseball stadium TV set—seriously, what a weirdass setting—where we learn that the caged Yeti will be set down on the roof of a downtown high rise hotel (!!!!!), where reporters and scientists await. Yes, that certainly seems easier than putting him down in a field or something. Also, how the hell do they plan to get him down from there? Meanwhile, the crowd at the stadium cheers. Uhm, are all 40,000 of them watching that one 19-inch TV set? Seriously, what the hell?
Then we cut away to see that devilment is afoot. A group of guys who can only be described as the Ugly Jacket Mafia, presumably a bunch of Hunnicut’s smarting competitors, are discussing a mysterious illicit offer to take care of the Yeti—permanently. (bum bum bum) They take a vote around a big table, using the black marble / white marble system, which is apparently quite big in Canada. Needless to say, they vote to accept the proposal.
The mystery fellow’s price? A posh vice presidency with their firm, which is something like Consolidated Amalgamate & Ugly Jackets Inc. Having so voted, they call the guy in, andâ€¦it’s Cliff. This would actually be a big surprise, if this were actually the sort of movie where you gave a rat’s ass about anything. A bunch of Hunnicut guys have also been recruited, but only now learn that Cliff is the…traitor, I guess. Whatever.
More disco music plays as we cut to stock footage of a gigantic, Mardi Gras-type parade in the streets. (Well, OK, as close as you’re going to get to Mardi Gras in Canada, anyway.) This, I guess, to celebrate the arrival of the Yeti, I guess. (!!!) Still, it must be Canada, since we see one character waving a big Canadian flag. That proves it!
The helicopter nears the hotel roof. They shot a bunch of extras up there, and then cunningly later superimposed the cast regulars—Jane, Herbie, Hunnicut, Cliff—over that footage. As you might expect, the result is seamless. Then we see that they also actually had the actors up there with the extras in other shots, so…. Whatever. I’m sure it seemed a good idea at the time.
Cliff tries to mend fences with Jane, but she continues giving him the cold shoulder. Considering that he’s in the process of betraying her grandfather, you’d think he’d give the Jane idea up, but there you go. Then Jane gets mad at a reporter for calling the Yeti an animal. I mean, if not, then what the hell is it? Pretty, that one, but dumb as a rock.
The helicopter lands and, as people wave transparent Canadian flags in front of a bluescreen, the cage is deposited *cough* before them. Then, and apparently this was the idea, the Yeti opens the cage and steps out. (!!!!) Yes, absolutely nothing could possibly go wrong with this set-up. Certainly nobody in the crowd of bystanders, situated thirty-five stories above ground on an exposed roof with a prehistoric half-feral giant, seems to think so.
Cliché Checklist: Noble Savage Kong-Surrogate is brought to the Modern World. √
Despite the fact that the Yeti has already once flown into a rage when confronted with flashbulbs, apparently nobody thought it would be a good idea to nix such things this time around. But no, and the flashbulbs flash, and the Yeti again, predictably, goes nuts. “No more flashes, please!” Waterman eventually suggests, having apparently put one and one together after only one repetition of this. (After all, his is a scientist.) But the Yeti is already irate, and the crowd panics, fleeing downing back into the building. This sequence offers some of the film’s worst f/x, which is a pretty bold statement.
Cliff tries to drag Jane to safety, but she refuses and tries to return to the roof to calm down the Yeti. Instead, she gets pulled along by a portion of the panicked crowd that is jamming into one of the building’s exterior elevators. Yes, that’s another flawless plan of action. That’s patently much safer than just going down the interior halls and stairwells that the Yeti couldn’t possibly fit into.
Predictably to anyone but (apparently) Canadians, up on the roof the Yeti begins messing with the elevator’s rooftop cable system. (This was initially enclosed, so as to how he figured out that something was in there, well, your guess is as good as mine.) He yanks the cable assembly up and down like a yo-yo, to the marked consternation of the passengers. In this it actually resembles the film; it keeps moving around but never ends up getting anywhere.
In the midst of his fun, however, the Yeti notices that Jane is in the car. He tries to yank the elevator to the roof, but the cables break, and the car plunges down. However, it’s still on its tracks, and is quickly, if rudely, halted by the emergency breaking mechanism. At this the Yeti thrusts his hand through the car roof, aided by the fact that the elevator was apparently constructed from thin balsa wood.
However, he can’t quite reach down to the squirming passengers cowering on the elevator floor. Meanwhile, some of them get the interior door open, and start crawling into the hallway. As they struggle to get out, though, the elevator’s floor starts to break away. That seems weird, given that that’s the part of the car that’s suffered the least amount of damage, but there you go.
Naturally Jane is left dangling from the bottom of the elevator, as the Yeti pops his eyes hugely to indicate his horror. (This look can also indicate that one has ripped his trousers, but since he doesn’t wear any, I’m pretty sure it’s the ‘horror’ thing.) Somehow the elevator then crashes by her as she hangs from the doorway, but without dislodging her. That doesn’t seem physically possible, but that’s the idea.
This leads to what is bar none the film’s worth special effects sequence so far. I know I keep saying that, but believe me, it’s just amazingly low-grade stuff. How bad? I’d say I would embarrass Italians, if it weren’t for the fact that Italians made this movie. Some of the matte work when spectators ‘see’ the Yeti from the street in particular are staggeringly bad.
Jane hangs onto her grip longer than is humanly possible, the Yeti climbs nearly all the way down to the ground (despite the fact that Jane was about three feet from his grasp when he was on the roof), she finally slips after a looong bit of purported ‘suspense,’ at which point the Yeti naturally catches an obvious doll her seconds before she splatters on the pavement. On the way down he kicks in windows for footholds, but somehow does not cut his feet or kill any occupants with flying glass.
She smiles in gratitude, and then passes out. The Yeti proceeds to amble through the city, as extras run around screaming and pretending there’s a giant Yeti ambling through the city. The Yeti carefully walks around most obstacles, so that they don’t have to expend money for miniatures. The cops are mobilized, but something have trouble finding the giant creature. Maybe it’s a ninja, because whenever it turns a corner, bypassers are completely caught by surprise, which is weird since you’d thing there’d be a ruckus coming from wherever the beast was at. It’s also here that the Yeti is most likely to radically change sized, appearing anyway from maybe twenty-five to a hundred feet tall. Oh:
Cliché Checklist: Kong Surrogate captures woman and carries her through city. √
Cliché Checklist: Kong Surrogate carries around a patently bogus doll meant to represent the woman. √
The Yeti, who really isn’t doing much of anything but slowly walking around while somehow evading the police, spots a woman who looks rather like SCTV’s Andrea Martin and her kid. This brings out his tender side, or some damn thing, I guess, then he continues on. Whatever.
Jane wakes up, and realizing that even Canadian cops will probably eventually find a giant Yeti walking around the city in broad daylight, tries to point him to safety. He follows her lead, and they somehow continue eluding the authorities, perhaps again aided by their propensity to turn transparent. Meanwhile, the cops finally arriveâ€¦somewhere and get out of their cars. Then one takes a radio call from headquarters. “He’s reported to be somewhere in the area,” he helpfully reports. Yah, that’s some primo detective work there. Then they all get back into their cars and drive off again. Uhm….
After the cops depart, Jane emerges from a building (??) and runs over to a ‘pay phone.’ (Kids: Ask your parents!!) She calls her grandfather and reports the situation. “She’s managed to hide the Yeti!” Hunnicut crows to an underling. Uhm, where, exactly? Never mind. “The whole town is crawling with cops!” Jane frets. “They’ll be sure to find us sooner or later!” It’s true. Once the Yeti’s mug gets plastered on Canada’s Most Wanted it’s only a matter of time.
Anyway, Jane and the Yeti are fortuitously near the “United Motors Warehouse.” Hunnicut suggests they head over there, as “We represent them too, you know.” Whatever that means. They are to wait until dark and then make their way there. Here we see a shot of the Yeti standing right out in the open in front of a grocery store. Good grief, was this thing edited by chimps? She’ll have no problem, she boasts. “I just walk and he follows me,” she explains. And since cops don’t work after dark, the plan is foolproof.
Sadly, though, double agent Cliff walks in the room during the conversation and thus gets a wind of things. An unaware Hunnicut tells Cliff to handle security on the matter, and Cliff and Waterman head over to the warehouse to wait. “You old brain box!” Hunnicut chuckles after the brusque Waterman takes his leave. I mean, a line that good you have to use again.
That night Waterman, Herbie, Cliff and two armed henchmen arrive at the warehouse. Waterman wheels in an oxygen tank, which frankly doesn’t look like it would last something the size of the Yeti very long. Inside they meet a concerned looking Jane. (That’s right, they perhaps wisely decided to skip over the trip from the pair’s hideout to the warehouse.) The Yeti is now barely breathing.[*By the way, sticking a giant monster in a warehouse was a fairly popular gambit in sci-fi flicks, as seen in several other films like War of the Colossal Beast and 20 Million Miles to Earth.]
Being a Scientist!, Waterman has foreseen this; hence the oxygen tank. Orâ€¦maybe not. Actually, Waterman next says he doesn’t know what’s wrong with the Yeti. I guess he just brought the oxygen along on the off chance. Whew! What a break. “The Yeti’s been taken out of its natural surroundings, his environment,” Waterman explains. “We must be prepared for everything!” Well, if you want to be ready for “everything,” you’d best round up a fire extinguisher and a flare pistol. With those, you can do just about anything in a sci-fi movie.
Calmed a bit, Jane naturally starts busting Cliff’s chops again, annoyed as always by the guys with the rifles. “Are those really necessary?” she pouts. Yeah, other than when he nearly sent an elevator full of passengers falling to their collective death, he’s been as harmless as a kitten. Cliff must just be one of those paranoid gun nuts. Anyway, he takes his leave, and the Professor hooks up the Yeti with an insanely large nostril air feed tube. Seriously, where would you get something like that?
An exhausted Jane takes Herbie and leaves the Yeti in Waterman’s care. Waterman sits down and immediately falls asleep, whereupon Cliff’s henchmen start fiddling around with a control panel of some sort. Are we supposed to have any idea what that thing does? Because I don’t. In any case, it’s no doubt nefarious. Then they turn off the Yeti’s oxygen, leaving it gasping for air. Then they put mess up the phone…good grief, as they just going for a general Bad Guys sabotage merit badge or something?
After all this, Waterman wakes up and notices that the feed is awry. Just then Jane and Herbie return. (???) Er, didn’t they leave just like ten minutes ago? Waterman checks the oxygen tank, but it’s now empty. (I guess because of the guys monkeying with it, but really, is it designed for a creature that probably weighs several tons or more?) Waterman suddenly asserts that sans air for another ten minutes, the Yeti will die. Really? Based on what evidence, exactly?
Panicking, Jane grabs Herbie and they drive off to get more air, presumably from one of those 24 hour scuba tank places. However, the film takes a (supposedly) dark turn when the Henchguys drag Waterman back into the warehouse and beat him to death. (Hey, guys, don’t start there! This film’s full of obnoxious characters.) Their plan, of course, is to blame the Yeti for the crime. Meanwhile, I learned you can split somebody’s skull open by smacking their head against an apparently empty cardboard box.
Cliché Checklist: Kong Surrogate is abused by venal Man. √
Shortly, thereafter, Jane and Herbie arrive with a couple of new air tanks. These are even smaller than the previous one, maybe the size of a very large salami. Yes, those should do the job. They enter the warehouse to find the Professor’s bloodied corpse, and the two goons pretending to be knocked out. Needless to say, then the latter are ‘roused,’ they report the (apparently still comatose) Yeti attacked them, albeit somehow without dislodging his air tube. This looks like a case for Matlock! Sadly, though, that greatest team-up ever is not in the cards.
Jane and Herbie, and Wonder Dog, I guess, sit over the Professor’s body and look sad. Then it’s back to business, however, as they watch tensely as a technician (who never pauses because of extraneous issues like the corpse) hooks up the Yeti’s new air feed. After a bit of “suspense,” the Yeti again starts breathing freely. Jane and Herbie react with huge grins of joy and relief on their faces. This despite the fact that, you know, they’re still under the impression that the Yeti just murdered their surrogate second grandfather. I don’t know, maybe they’re not the type to hold a grudge. Or maybe they learned to just ‘let things go’ after their parents died in that plane crash. If life gives you lemons, and all that.
Meanwhile, Cliff, having been alerted, anonymously calls in the police. Of course this is retarded, since given the cover story neither he nor anyone else not currently occupied would yet know of the crime. His best bet by far would be to arrive on the scene, be ‘shocked,’ and call the cops immediately thereafter. (I mean, the goons did fix the phone before they went into their unconscious act, right?) Geez, the villains on Barnaby Jones episodes were smarter than this. And I mean even the secondary ones, who would meet that week’s killer in a secluded woodland cabin to demand blackmail money.
For absolutely no apparent reason (hint: It’s In The Script), the new oxygen feed now completely revives the Yeti. Seeing the body of his ‘friend’ (I guess), and with vague memories of the attack on him, the Yeti decides to take things up with the goons. He tosses some empty boxes at them—that’ll learn ’em!—and then chases them out into the adjacent heavy equipment yard.
After a ‘suspenseful’ hide and seek session, during which the men and the Yeti are naturally never on the screen at the same time, the creature gets one guy literally underfoot. However, to the guy’s relief, the giant prop foot lets him get back up. It’s only a trick, though, as the Yeti then gets the fellow’s neck in between two of his toes (!!) and strangles him. I have to admit, though, that death by Yeti toe-jam does sound pretty unpleasant. Oh, and he kills the other guy, too, follow another ‘tense’ pursuit.
Seeing this, the security guards decide it’s time to call the cops. After all, now there are three dead bodies.
Back to square one, or at least square two. The Yeti is walking around, the cops are driving around looking for him. The latter despite the fact that terrified crowds run shrieking from the beast at every turn. Meanwhile, Cliff and a couple more goons show up at the warehouse, where the police are examining the Professor’s body. Jane tries to convince everyone that the Yeti must be innocent. Man, where’s a CSI unit when you need one? In any case, her efforts are thwarted when a eyewitness runs in and reports how the Yeti killed Cliff’s underlings.
The cops (yes, all of them) run off to check out these other bodies, leaving Cliff, Jane, and, oh, yeah, Waterman’s unsecured corpse behind. The lead cop, Sgt. Striker (!!), calls in to HQ and reports the situation. We can tell it’s a police station because everyone’s in uniform, other than one dude in a suit holding a large coffee mug, which he mimes drinking from. Act-ting! The room is also full of then cutting-edge magnetic tape computers. (??) Apprised of the situation, This Guy orders his men to “shoot on sight.”
Er, what were their orders before?
Then we get our big *cough* PATHOS! scene, as a pacing Hunnicut gets a call reporting that Waterman has been granted tenure in that big Laboratory (emphasis on the ‘bor’) in the Sky. As he sits and begins to sob, the camera pulls back to symbolize his emotional isolation. Bravo! Auteur! Auteur!
Remember before when I mentioned Barnaby Jones blackmailers who would meet up with killers in some isolated location and threaten to expose them? Well, to my vast lack of surprise, Jane proves entirely as intelligent. Left alone with Cliff in the warehouse, she accuses him of being behind Waterman’s death. After explaining her theory in depth (well, about two inches in depth), she says the classic line, “I’m going to the police!” Who, need I point it out, were crawling all over the warehouse all of five minutes ago,
Anyhoo, Cliff realizes that she has no evidence whatsoever, and is moreover is manifestly a monumental dimwit, and begins to walk off. As he goes, Jane implores him to exonerate the Yeti by, one can only guess, confessing that he himself is guilty of Waterman’s murder. Astoundingly, Cliff is not moved by her pleas. He leaves to take a phone call, leaving one of his goons behind to watch Jane.
Cliff heads outside to his car to take the phone (a car-phone being very exotic at that time). He then proceeds to have a loud conversation with the windows down, which allows Herbie, wandering around nearby, to hear Cliff say, well, nothing really that incriminating, really. But that’s the idea, anyway. In which case…. Good lord, he may be even dumber than Jane. Well, maybe. It’s a battle of titans, that’s for sure.
And really, what a lazy scripting device. Is that the best they could come up with? Really? Anyway, Wonder Dog, perhaps fearing that he will look inordinately more intelligent than everybody but the Yeti (a fear, I might add, that is entirely justified), decides to bark and announce Herbie’s presence. Good dog. Herbie, however, defuses the men’s suspicions by sending Wonder Dog out alone to wander past their car. By the way, we finally learn (or I just noticed for the first time) that the dog’s name is “Indio,” which I’m sure is a very popular name in Canada.
However, if Cliff and his goons didn’t confess their guilt before—and despite the fact that mere seconds ago they thought maybe they were being spied upon—they now openly talk about whacking Jane. (Again, why? Like she really knows anything.) Then they hear Herbie, too, when he decides to start running away for no apparent reason. He runs to June in the warehouse, with Cliff and the boys right behind. Indio leaps at a guy grabbing Herbie, and gets stabbed for his trouble. That’s right, they stabbed the dog. It’s the feel good family film of the year!
Jane also tries to intercede, and Cliff slaps her around, and then looks like maybe he’s going to molest her before having her killed, which is nice. Then he starts to strangle her to death. What happens next? I’ll give you three guesses. If your first thought was, ‘Well, it can’t be the Yeti, because certainly the police are still around, since the other guys were killed right in the yard outside,” then, man, you don’t get movies like that at all.
So the Yeti shows up—if not the police—and smashes through an exterior wall, which appears to be built of teeny-tiny Styrofoam bricks. To make sure the various shots match, the exploding brick that hits the henchmen is clearly made of Styrofoam, too. The Yeti is about to attack, when he spots Herbie and draws back in concern. Seeing this, Cliff scoops the kid up and books it.
Meanwhile, and you’ve got to admire a film this completely idiotic that can still actually surprise me, the Yeti also notes with concern the mortally wounded Indio. (Jane, too, pauses to commiserate over the dog seconds after murderous fiends have made off with her kid brother.) The Yeti runs his tongue over his hand, and then rubs this paw over the dog’s wound. Although I can barely believe it, I think we’re about to find out that giant prehistoric Himalayan yetis had magic spit. (!!) Good grief, I don’t even know what to say about that. Except that E.T. clearly ripped this movie off.
His presumed mission of mercy complete, he assumes a wroth mien and girds for action. However, by this time the miscreants have made it into their car, and they drive off. Just here the Yeti smashes his way out of a miniature version of the warehouse. This isn’t great, but it’s quite nearly competent, and hence probably the best special effect shot in the movie.
We see the car driving down a mountain road (?) just as the sun is coming up. The cops are in pursuit, although they are still in the city. No, wait, now they’re suddenly in the countryside, too. Huh. Meanwhile, Cliff’s car meets up with two other vehicles full of heavily-armed goons. I don’t know why they’re so freaked. The Yeti moves at a senior citizen-esque pace on a good day, and clearly isn’t capable of catching up apparently quite a bit later with a speeding WHAT THE FU….
That’s right, just then the Yeti pops up on the side of the road in ambush. Seriously, what the hell? This is so unbelievable that it would actually be more credible if, entirely by random, the crooks just happened to bump into the Yeti’s also recently defrosted twin brother. No, though, it’s our ‘hero.’ He smashes one ‘car’ with a ‘tree.’ (When he picks up the tree, we are witness to what is easily the single worst effect shot in the movie, and hence at least a candidate for the worst such ever.) Following this, he kacks another vehicle with a ‘rock.’
Cliff’s car is still mobile, though, and clearly leaving the Yeti far behind when they decide to turn off onto a construction sight. (In the middle of the mountains?) I guess they noticed that the movie is (finally) almost over and knew they couldn’t keep dragging things out.
Cliff’s henchmen conveniently take care of themselves by running away in a panic and plunging off a hillside to their deaths. At this the Yeti turns his attention to Cliff and Herbie, still in their car. Cliff has procured a rifle with a grenade mount just for this eventuality, but misses the giant by a mile when he takes his shot. Well, that’s embarrassing.
Cliff gets out of the car, which is picked up by the Yeti, via one of the film’s sparse number of miniatures. (And here you can see why there are so few. The ‘undercarriage’ of the ‘car’ is all one smooth sheet of plastic, with ragged holes cut out for the wheels to stick through. Yeesh.) The Yeti sees a smiling Herbie inside, and pauses to exchange goopy expressions with the boy, because that’s just the kind of big old softie our Yeti is.
With the Yeti so distracted, however, Cliff gets into a truck carrying a jutting crane attachment and makes to impale the Yeti with it. However, the Yeti manages to grab the beam, hold off this mechanical charge (which given that this is a heavy construction truck, seems somewhat unlikely), and flip the truck over. This explodes like, uh, like a Tonka toy rigged with a small incendiary charge. That’s just a simile, of course. After that, it’s just a matter of time until Cliff is justly squished underfoot, and so he is.
During all this, the cops have driven up, and moreover, Jane has come staggering up the road on foot. What the hell? Is this somehow explained by some of the edited-out footage, because otherwise how are all these characters finding each other so many miles from where they started? In any case, the cops line up to shoot down the beast, but Jane gets the Yeti to calm down and so convinces Sgt. Striker! not to shoot. (????) Sure enough (despite the fact that they just saw the Yeti crush a guy to death), he orders his men to lower their guns. (!!!) Uhm, yeah.
“This world is not for you!” Jane tells the Yeti, presumably meaning the world of movie entertainment. “Go back to the wilderness, where life is like you knew it.” Jane and Yeti then for the last time exchange Syrupy Glances—yes, the Yeti actually is Jane’s love interest in the film—and then the Yeti turns and walks off. Sgt. Striker! does nothing to impede this, despite his orders, not to mention the mass destruction and numerous deaths the beast is responsible for.
Meanwhile, Hunnicut arrives by helicopter (sure, why not?) and is happily reunited with Herbie and Jane. Sad operatic music swells as the Noble Yeti takes his leave, but a happier note is injected when a completely healthy Indio makes the scene—OK, I just give up—and he and Herbie run to each other in slow motion (!!!!) for a tender reunion scene.
As for the Yeti, when last we see him he is fittingly badly superimposed over the Arctic Ice footage that began the film, so…I don’t know, he’s meaning to refreeze himself, I guess, or something. In any case, we then abruptly close, and thank goodness I saw the short version of the film, because frankly I barely got through this as it was.
Due to the lack of a ‘tragic’ ending, we managed to get in everything on the Kong Rip-Off Checklist, save the following:
Kong Surrogate climbs high building, from which position he is attacked and killed, plummeting to the ground below.
Woman is sad.
However, I was pretty sad by the time I got through watching this—”This is a life?” I was wondering—so maybe that counts for something. However, despite the fairly innovative happy ending (albeit one previously seen, more or less, in the 1949 classic Mighty Joe Young), the reasons behind the ending are nearly too horrible to contemplate. It seems entirely likely they hoped to make a sequel to this.
First, obviously, because the Yeti is left alive at the end of the picture. More so, though, because they bother to introduce the bizarre ‘Magic Spit’ thing and then just leave it hanging there. This seems clearly meant to provide a motive for why Greedy Man would again seek the Yeti out. (Although a drug that rapidly cured otherwise fatal stab wounds would see pretty useful.) Moreover, Herbie remains mute by the end of the movie, which is weird in movie terms, since I was expecting a big catharsis scene where he got his voice back. I can only assume they intended to save this moment for the next movie, too.
Luckily, audiences short circuited these presumed plans by staying away from this picture in droves. Another triumph for democracy.
The devilishly clever frame at the warehouse, as some guards find Cliff’s men lying ‘knocked out’ next to the Yeti and the Professor’s dead body:
Guard, after the men ‘revive’: “Who did it?” [????] Oddly Literate Goon: “The Yeti was the one!”
A Bad Cast is Worth Remembering:
The film’s big name is Tony Kendall, who played Cliff. Mr. Kendall starred in dozens of Italian genre films since the late ’50s, usually playing a charming rogue of a hero. I am particularly fond of three very fun spy films he made that are available on DVD under the title Kommissar X Collection. (The presentations aren’t very good, but the movies are still enjoyable.) These co-star fellow action lead Brad Davis, with whom Kendall made many films.
Mr. Kendall’s work can also be examined on the DVDs for The Loreley’s Grasp, The Return of the Blind Dead, and the Mario Bava film The Whip and the Body. Sadly, many of his other, junkier but highly intriguing films haven’t made it here yet, such as several additional Kommissar X films, and his campy The Three Fantastic Supermen. That’s a film I’d really like to see.
Jane was played by Italian actress Antonella Interlenghi, although to fool us oblivious Americanos she is credited with the highly believable moniker Phoenix Grant. Ms. Interlenghi is quite pretty, but can’t at all act, at least on the basis of the film in front of us. Even so, she went on to appear in a small number of others films, including a prominent role in Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead (1980), where presumably she met a more dire fate than in this picture.
One Mimmo Craig played the Yeti, and sadly, it was in more than one way by far his biggest screen role. He did have a teeny part in Zeffirelli’s 1978 Jesus of Nazareth mini-series, however.
The film was directed and co-written by Gianfranco Parolini under the unconvincing pseudonym “Frank Kramer.” Mr. Parolini wrote and directed many of the Kommissar X films, as well as a ton of other Italian genre pictures. As usual with such filmmakers, he started with peblums (sword and sandal movies), and moved through spy films and myriad Spaghetti Westerns as those genres became popular. This seems to be his only horror or sci-fi picture, other than the aforementioned superhero flick The Three Fantastic Supermen.
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