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The Snow Devils (1967).

March 25, 2008

The Scoop:
Ah, ’60s Italian sci-fi — a combination of ludicrious plotting, cheesy dialogue and budget effects that come together to form a distinct stylistic departure from run-of-the-mill American B-movies. And then there are the ’60s Italian spy flicks — cheap knock-offs of the James Bond series, full of square-jawed ladies’ man heroes, bikini babes, swinging music and dubious dubbing. “The Snow Devils” tries to straddle these two so-cheesy-they’re-cool genres, but only winds up combining the worst aspects of each.

In this follow-up to “The Wild, Wild Planet” and “War of the Planets,” a Gamma I research station high in the Himalayas is attacked and destroyed, apparently by a Yeti. The agency calls in Commander Rod Jackson (a swinging Bond wannabe played by Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) and his pudgy bald sidekick Capt. Pulasky (Renato Baldini) to investigate. After getting no help at all from eye candy Lisa (played by Ombretta Colli) and a vaguely evil Tibetan sherpa named Sharu (played incongrously by Wilbert Bradley, a black man, who comes off as equal parts Indian coolie and Haitian voodoo priest) there is a boring Alpine climbing sequence. Finally, they uncover an alien plot to take over the earth and freeze it. Defeating these aliens is a two-step process — first in the mountains, then in outer space — but our lantern-jawed hero and his bald buddy are up to it.

There is a cool mod visual style and plenty of retro-futuristic techonology. But it never quite gels into an entertaining whole. The mix of poor acting and bad dubbing gives most of the dialogue an awkward, plodding quality that is even more pronounced than in the earlier films.

Best Line:
“He always wanted to be a spaceman. They called them astronauts in those days.”

Side Note:
Writer/director Antonio Margheriti (who frequently worked under the Anglicanized name of Anthony Dawson) is a legend of European exploitation filmmaking, having directed or written more than 50 feature films. But shortly after “The Snow Devils” was finished, he took a job doing visual effects for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” although he wound up receiving no screen credit.

Companion Viewing:
“The Wild, Wild Planet” (1965), “War of the Planets” (1966) and “The Abominable Snowman” (1957).

1,000 Misspent Hours.

Take a Look:
The trailer. (“The 21st century explodes with excitement!”)

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