Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (1976)
Directed by: Gianfranco Parolini
Written by: Gianfranco Parolini, Marcello Coscia, Mario di Nardo
Starring: Antonella Interlenghi, Jim Sullivan, Mimmo Crao, Tony Kendall
AKA YETI: IL GIGANTE DEL 20 SECOLO
AVAILABLE ON ALL-REGION DVD
RUNNING TIME: 105 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Near the North Pole, scientists find a yeti frozen in a block of ice. They take him back to Canada where he’s thawed out. Billionaire Morgan Hunnicott immediately sees an oppurtunity to make money and promptly uses the Yeti as publicity, but expedition leader Prof. Henry Wassermann intends for the Yeti to remain living in the wilderness. The Yeti escapes anyway, taking Wassermann’s grandchildren Jane and Herbie with him, though he falls for Jane and doesn’t harm the pair. However, local police and a rival company may get to the Yeti before Wassermann does, and their intentions aren’t so kind….
My original intention was to just review A.P.E. , but I enjoyed that film so much that I thought I’d seek out and review two other movies which were made quickly to cash in on the 1976 King Kong. The third film is one I used to own a video copy of so I’d seen it before, though certainly not in decent quality. This Italian made – though shot mostly in Canada – effort, shot before the Kong movie though released the following year, was new to me just like A.P.E. Now I must say right here that, first of all, I could barely find a thing out about this movie so don’t expect a background information paragraph, and, secondly, the DVD is of simply atrocious quality: blurry, scratchy and with very poor sound, though it’s hard to tell if some of the dreadful audio transitions, and moments when the same piece of music goes from loud to quiet several times, are due to the DVD or the actual film. As it does’t seem to quite have the cult following of the other two films which have both had very impressive Blu-ray releases, this is probably the best it’s going to get for poor old Yeti.
So how does it stack up against the monumental brilliance of A.P.E.? I think that any film seen a day after a viewing of that work of genius would come across as dull and normal by comparison, and maybe I should have seen Yeti first. No, it’s not as consistently insane as A.P.E, but it’s still a very entertaining B-movie with a few bits of madness that rank with the highlights of A.P.E. They aren’t anywhere near as numerous in number, but they’re worth waiting for. And there’s one aspect in which it outdoes the Korean film. In that one, the over sized primate seemed to sometimes change size. In this one, he seems to constantly change size, going back and forth from large to nearly Kong-sized all the time. When he picks up people they are the size of his hand, but when he’s being carried about by helicopter he’s half the size of it. Did none of the special effects people who worked on this film pay any attention to this aspect? Mind you, technically this film is so poor for the most part that sometimes you can see through the Yeti because of the cheap way they combined two separate shots. Yes, he actually seems to partly disappear on screen. And, while I’m talking about it, this Yeti doesn’t seem ape-like whatsoever. He’s basically a big hairy man who often looks like he’s wearing eskimo gear. On the plus side, the total visibility of the human face does give Mimmo Crao a rare chance for an actor to play a giant monster without being covered by a mask or heavy makeup, and he really does get his teeth into the role – though often with amusing results.
So we begin with some stock shots both rocks and ice falling, to reveal a small iceberg with two feet partly sticking out of it. The titles follow, shots of Toronto over which some music plays which is barely even a variation on the famous Oh Fortuna piece from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – it is the same piece with the odd different note. Seeing as this piece plays throughout the movie, and is even turned into a song, why ‘composer’ Sante Maria Romitelli didn’t ensure that Orff was credited is a mystery. Anyway, we then have an amusing little scene where Morgan Hunnicott visits Henry Wassermann, busy eating dinner, to get him to go and see this Yeti some people have found, and Hunnicott casually sits at his table and begins to help himself to Wassermann’s meal. The Yeti is taken to Canada and thawed out, in a scene which takes ages, first of all by flamethrowers [!], then by being transported to a nearby forest and having water poured over him. The Yeti flees but doesn’t want to harm anyone until he’s shot and wounded by your usual trigger happy cop. He absconds with Wassermann’s grandchildren Jane and Herbie, followed by their collie Bolt, and befriends them all. It’s mostly quite kiddyish, except for a moment where the Yeti begins to stroke his hair, probably to show that he’s forming certain urges, then – and I can’t believe I’m typing this – Jane accidently squeezes one of the Yeti’s nipples which we see get hard, and his face is full of lust. Thank god he seems to have a giant jock strap hiding his huge package. Almost as odd is the bit where the Yeti eats a fish, then uses the bones to comb Jane’s hair while it looks like he’s actually crying. Yep, like any giant ape [okay, he’s not an ape, but you know what I mean] worth his salt, he’s a soppy sod and quickly falls in love with a human despite sex being biologically impossible – I think.
Wassermann eventually finds them, but what he doesn’t know is that Cliff Chandler, one of the men working for him who’s also going out with Jane, has switched over to be the new head of a rival company also after the Yeti. Hunnicott doesn’t seem to care – he’s busy exploiting the Yeti’s fame with things like T-shirts saying “kiss me yet” and with arms reaching from the back to grope the breast area. It’s possible that this may have been a comment on the hype and excess of merchandise that occured in the lead-up to the release of King Kong. The rest of the film is basically the Yeti being captured and escaping to battle the bad guys several times. Considering that this seems to have been mostly aimed at kids, replete with an almost out of place final scene that seems to come from a Lassie movie [though family dog adventure films were popular in Europe at the time], there’s a fair bit of violence in the final act with Jane being whacked about, the dog being stabbed, a guy being slammed repeatedly to death against some equipment, and the Yeti breaking someone’s neck with one of his feet. We get a happy ending for the monster, something not too common though Mighty Joe Young was obviously a major influence on this one which may in turn have influenced King Kong Lives [what can I say, I like my oversized primate films, in fact I like primate films altogether]. Dare I say I was actually a little moved by the farewell scenes – though god knows how the Yeti has now learned English.
The Yeti isn’t really big enough to cause much destruction, but he does pull a lift up and down, then, in probably the film’s highlight, he uses the windows of a building as steps to climb down from the top of it – shattering each window with his foot and often shocking the occupants inside. It’s well achieved despite the low budget, which obviously wasn’t high enough to make much else look good. The matting is often so poor that the Yeti [when you can actually see all of him] often to seems to have a halo about him, though his mechanical hands don’t look bad. The model work is pretty good though there’s not much of it to be honest. And at least the Yeti gets loads of screen time instead of the humans, which is sometimes just as well considering some of the terrible acting – John Stacey is especially terrible as Wassermann – though there’s plenty of silly dialogue to enjoy, some of it is probably actually intended to be amusing [“don’t get over excited Morgan, take a tranquiliser and go to bed”]. Despite mostly being filmed in Canada, there are a few scenes where the extras look decidedly Italian. The giveaway is how they’re dressed. Some of the credits have been Anglosised, and director Frank Kramer is actually Gianfranco Parolini, a peplum and spaghetti western veteran best known for Sabata and its sequels. He doesn’t give Yeti much style or personality, but he keeps things moving even when the action gets rather repetitive.
As for the lovely Phoenix Grant, she’s actually Antonella Interlenghi [best known for City Of The Living Dead] and she does a decent job considering some of the scenes she has to play. It’s nice to see Tony Kendall, a hero in so many Italian movies, as a villain too, and he’s enjoyably hissable. Why young Jim Sullivan’s character Herbie is mute though is hard to tell, as this is never used in the story. The dubbing is a little better than the usual,and, when it’s not copying Orff, Romitelli’s score does have a few other decent pieces. A few aspects of Yeti aren’t bad, and I guess they did the best with the limited resources that they had while being aware of the fact right from the offset that the film wasn’t going to turn out too well. I suppose in truth it’s fallen between two stalls: it’s neither really outrageous or stupid enough [for the most part] to gain notoriety, nor is it in any way a good movie. But B-monster movie fans should still have a quite a good time with it, and I ended up rather caring about this Yeti, which must mean that the film must have partly done its job. Despite a few brief suspect moments, kids would probably love it if it actually looked any good. If it ever gets a decent DVD release of even a Blu-ray one – well, I’d buy it.
I’m rating these three films on entertainment value rather than quality. So: