Hair-raising excitement in the icy lair of man-like creatures roaming the roof of the world!
Year of Release: 1956
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 62 minutes (1:02)
Director: Jerry Warren
Asa Maynor ... Connie Hayward
Tom Maruzzi ... Steve Cameron
George Skaff ... Varga
Lloyd Nelson ... Trevor Hudson
George Wells Lewis ... Dr. Eric Erickson
Jack Haffner ... Kheon
Brianne Murphy ... The Yeti
An expedition searching Tibet's treacherous Himalayas for a lost professor stumbles into abominable snowman country. Abandoned by their guide high atop snowcapped peaks, they plow forward under the watchful eye of a man who seems impervious to the harsh surroundings. Yetis start surfacing everywhere, and soon we learn why people who have seen these sinister beasts never live long enough to tell their tale.
Man Beast, remindin' us that if you insist on engagin' in casual racism against indigenous peoples, you really shouldn't be surprised when the Sherpas start workin' for the Yetis.
Speakin' of the free market though - I'm as bigga fan of Capitalism as anybody, but I'm startin' to think some of these big business moguls may not have the consumer's best interest at heart. Some of 'em're even beginnin' to show signs of flat-out greed, an I think it's about time concerned citizens like you an me take a moment to remind these big shots where the money for their YMCA memberships come from.
The tycoon I'm referrin' to goes by the name of Edgar Mastrude, an if you've ever had the misfortune of seein' his 400lb backside at the pool in the summertime, you might mistake 'im for a typhoon on account of his cannonballin' half the water outta the pool an up into the lifeguard station. Guy thinks that just because he owns The Videodome he can treat the rest of us like somethin' he dug outta his belly button - it's people like him that make Jesus hafta break out the bullwhip an start dishin' out the Devo treatment to heretics.
Give ya an idea of how stingy this pork golem is - he comes waddlin' into The Videodome last Tuesday night to "check on things" (which in my experience involves takin' the store's box of Reese's cups into the bathroom), an comes completely uncorked cause Tucker Washburn an his family're in there watchin' the movie I've got up on the preview screen.
"Whah fuh hell's moin' on hurr?!" he growled between gulps of M&Ms.
"Well," I says as I glanced up from my Gameboy, "Clovis Skidman's in the back pretendin' not to be lookin' at the Erotic Thrillers, Grover Umpleby's tryna decide whether to rent The Terminator for the 273rd time or take a chance on Commando, an I got Apollo workin' on catchin' that mouse that popped outta the Kramer vs. Kramer box an almost ran down Gretchen Whelchel's blouse the other day," I summarized.
"I meant THEM!" he gurgled, pointin' at Tucker an his brood of dirty-faced yard monsters.
"They're watchin' Hamburger: The Motion Picture. You're welcome to join 'em if ya want, but a flick where a desperate geek spends 90 minutes tryna get into an older woman's drawers an almost dies in the process might hit a little too close to home," I shrugged.
"And you just LET them?!" he howled, as lines of sweat started an impromptu race from his pits down to the elastic lining in his parachute pants.
"They don't have a lotta money, an with this new nickel per paper bag racket goin' into effect at the Jiffy Mart it's gettin' tougher an tougher to afford an evenins entertainment for a family of... six... seven... eight... nine... for cripes sake Tucker, I know things're tight, but the 75 cents for a rubber once in a while might really help your bottom line in the long run," I hollered.
"Now you listen and you listen good," Edgar mumbled as he worked to scrape the thin candy shells off his teeth. "If they're not renting anything I want them OUT!" he declared between ministrokes.
"They ain't hurtin' a damn thing Edgar, an if you think this movie's worth 99 cents to rent you'd better tell Bambi to ease up durin' that flabbersize routine you two call sex, cause you're obviously goin' without oxygen to the brain for too long," I chided.
"This is a business! Not a charity!" he roared, at which point Tucker started gatherin' his family up.
"Sit down, Tucker!" I yelled from the counter.
If I hadn't been afraid my fist woulda been absorbed by his jowls I'da punched Edgar out right then an there, but then I got a better idea.
"Alright, I'll ask 'em to leave... there's just one thing though," I trailed off.
"What?!" he demanded.
"See that kid there?" I pointed.
"There're seven of the little freeloaders! You mean the one with the harelip?" he squinted.
"Nah, the one back and left of him," I clarified.
"The girl with the bottle cap earrings?" he asked.
"Your other left, Edgar. The boy with the mullet - don't he look familiar?" I nudged.
"Not unless he's about to sing Achy Breaky Heart," he muttered.
Edgar may've graduated top of his class from the Naughty Pine Community College, but his inability to understand the relationship between two things perfectly explains how he ended up married to Bambi Pankins.
"He's on Harley's Little League team. You remember Harley, right?" I explained, tryin' vainly to start the connection of dots.
"Little bastard threw a firecracker in the shower this morning while I was rinsing my hair; almost drowned when I couldn't get up to turn the water off," he grumbled.
"Sounds like somethin' he'd do. Now, imagine little Colton there tells Harley about you kickin' him an his family outta the movies - how do you see that going for you?" I queried.
Edgar's eyes kinda darted around the room like he'd rung in on Jeopardy! by mistake until the moment of realization set in an they swelled up bigger'n a coupla kiddie pools. Next thing I knew he was fillin' up popcorn tubs at the speed of light an passin' 'em around to alla Tucker's ugly dorklings.
"You folks are welcome here ANY time! Now you enjoy yourselves and I'll just get outta your hair!" Edgar wheezed as he squeezed out the door.
I had no idea Edgar could move that fast - heck, I had no idea Edgar could MOVE. But I think everyone in The Videodome gained a better understanding of how consumer relations are supposed to work that evenin'. Besides, I've seen Society, an I have no intention of bein' shunted to death by Edgar the Hutt an the rest of the gastropods in the Chickawalka Aristocracy.
By the time Edgar oozed his way outta there an left a little oxygen for the rest of us there was only about an hour left til closin', so I stuck Man Beast in the VCR as a not-so-subtle way of clearin' everybody out. Normally I love me some snow-bound Sasquatches, but this's one of those flicks where they hafta cram fifteen minutes of stock footage in to push it over an hour an then hide the Yetis til the movie's 51% over so they don't hafta issue refunds to P.O.'d theater patrons. That's exploitation cinema for ya though; tag line reads "Sub-human monsters go on a rampaging blood binge!", but whatcha *actually* get is Sir Edmund Hillary's vacation videos. It's still a fairly educational flick, only whatcha learn don't have diddly to do with Yetis, Sherpas, or whatever it was Asa Maynor saw in Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, but if you'll just bear with me a minute I'll run down whatcha stand to gain by subjectin' yourselves to this molasses an let you decide for yourselves. First, they say the camera adds 10lbs, but usin' someone else's camera adds cast members. Second, always stretch your cave walls out good an tight before filming so the wrinkles won't show. An third, never write a screenplay above 20,000 feet, lest your plot become thinner than the surrounding air.
The movie begins at a cobblestone pagoda in the Himalayas where this chipmunk-cheeked gal (Connie) is convincin' two dopes (Hud an Steve) to help 'er locate her brother's Yeti expedition, to which they readily agree cause they're totally chivalrous an not at all cause they wanna get a peek at what's under 'er snow leopard skin brassiere. So they trudge through sub-zero temperatures takin' care not to step on the frozen remains of all the stupid Westerners who tried scalin' the mountain as part of their mid-life crises an theorizin' about how the Yeti survive in a place with only 3G wireless. Eventually they catch up with the expedition; unfortunately, Connie's brother (Jim) has gone on ahead with this grizzled Sherpa who looks like Jim Carrey in A Series of Unfortunate Events (Varga), an so they join up with the straggling Dr. Erickson and apprentice Sherpa Kheon til they discover the tattered remnants of Jim an Varga's camp an Kheon abruptly decides to pledge his life to Buddah an haul butt down the mountain to the local monastery. Then Varga shows up alone an everybody starts speculatin' about the possibility of Jim bein' sasquashed into yak butter, but Varga explains that Jim went an got himself lost searchin' for The Legend of Foggy Peak even though there ain't no such thing, an that he's gettin' real sick of freezin' his Sherpa ass off haulin' superstitious white guys around the mountains in the dead of Winter to indulge their stupid fantasies.
Meanwhile one of the Yetis is watchin' the group tryna decide whether or not to tell the guys back at the cave about the clan of hairless albino bipeds he saw out on the slopes, while Varga an Erickson gossip about who's gonna get to share a sleepin' bag with Connie to keep from freezin' their ski pole off. Then they find some tracks leadin' into a cave an end up gettin' jumped by three Arctic Monkeys who pitch Hud off a cliff, only when Steve pulls out his pistol an gets a fix on Bumble an the Abominables, Varga brains 'im with a club an leads everybody back to camp before they all get Wampa chompa'd. Course nobody else noticed Varga's monkey shines, so when Steve tries tellin' Erickson about gettin' bonked on the melon he won't listen cause he's too busy takin' notes about the encounter so he can write a New York Times bestseller an go on The Ed Sullivan Show. So despite Steve's warnins an the knowledge that Hud's body lay in a chasm turnin' into an Eskimo Pie, Erickson still wants to go take selfies with Trog and the Sno-Magnons an convinces Varga to lead 'im back to the cave. Steve wants to know what Varga's up to, but first he hasta tell Connie that there's a reason the mountain range is called the Himalayas an not the Hermalayas, an to hike 'er hinder down to the lower camp where it's safe. Then Varga leads Erickson an Steve back toward the cave an causes an avalanche that buries Steve up to his neck like Rory Calhoun's vittles in Motel Hell, before forcin' Erickson into the cavern an rippin' his shirt off to reveal that he's either half Yeti or full Jackman, an that he's workin' as a DoorDash delivery man for the Yetis. There's really not much left to this one, but I don't wanna go spoilin' the endin' for all the Bigfoot enthusiasts out there who've been too bogged down with all the 21st Century Sasquatch offerins to check this one out yet, so I'll just can it right here.
One heck of a whirlwind thrill-ride wasn't it? I'm tellin' ya - if ever there was a movie tailor made for playin' in the background while you vacuum, this is it. Man Beast is probably best known as the first of a dozen cinematic train wrecks conducted by the late Jerry Warren, and I don't wanna say Jerry was cheap or anything, but the man dressed his wife up in a Yeti outfit so he wouldn't hafta pay an actor. Apparently the smell inside the suit was so off-putting that she left Jerry a few years later and went on to become a pretty successful DP for a slew of TV series, so good for her. Most of you'll remember Jerry as the director of the Mystery Science Theater favorite - The Wild World of Batwoman, but unlike most of his movies Jerry didn't write the script for Man Beast, and consequently it's a bit more serious and lacks the absurdity of some of his other titles. It's got a hell of a lotta problems, but the biggest is just how excruciating the pacing is. 62 minutes feels like 162 minutes, and while I didn't actually keep a tally of how much stock footage was used, I'd estimate it was around 10 minutes, so the amount of *new* footage shot was roughly 52 minutes. It's not quite up there with some of the legendary "it's about the journey" flicks, like Tarzan the Ape Man, or The Lost Continent, but I'd strongly recommend grabbin' a crossword puzzle or somethin' to keep you occupied during the stock sequences that never feature the correct number of characters. Sometimes it's six when there are only supposed to be five, other times three when there should only be two, but either way it's pretty egregious. Other notable silliness includes the wrinkled tarps representing cave walls, black backdrops with blinding set lights for night-time closeups, never seeing anyone's breath in what should be the freezin' ass cold, Hud falling into a crevice outside the cave after venturing inside it, and the boom mic shadow appearing on George's Skaff's hat, but to be fair, none of that is especially unusual for low-budget '50s films. In short - the script was written around the stock footage Warren had purchased for a flick that had been abandoned halfway through production, and it shows. Kind of a reverse Ed Wood maneuver, except that Ed Wood's movies are entertaining.
Alrighty, so I've rolled for sanity and the dice came up questionable, but we're gonna go ahead and examine the technical merits of a Jerry Warren movie anyway cause it makes us quirky and fun and definitely not pitiful losers who'll never amount to anything just like Principal Wilcox prophesized back in grade school. The plot starts out formulaic and familiar, as nearly all Bigfoot films of the 20th Century begin with the same basic plot - track the Bigfoot, find the Bigfoot, exploit the Bigfoot. To its credit, this was only the second Yeti flick ever put to film (excluding a rare Finnish flick that only four people living today have ever seen), so it wasn't a bandwagon hopping feature. But the plot is literally explained in the first two minutes of the running time and yields no new developments until the movie's half over. The twist is alright, if a bit silly and somewhat predictable, but as you can see by the fact that even I was able to summarize the bulk of the movie in two very small paragraphs - the plot is pretty thin. The acting is bland and mostly competent, as was the style at the time, with only Asa Maynor stumbling occasionally in her first screen appearance. There really isn't much else to say about it, as it's largely like listening to a Senate Appropriations hearing on C-SPAN from the '90s when the odds of a fist-fight breaking out weren't nearly as high, and that's when there's even dialogue to speak of. Mostly you're lookin' at brief snippets of exposition inserted into stock footage of people stompin' around a frozen wasteland for the first 40 minutes or so, and it doesn't get particularly impassioned even after the cast discovers the Yeti cave.
Here's who matters and why: Asa Maynor (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes), George Skaff (The Incredible Petrified World, Frogs, Wavelength, Someone's Watching Me!, The Exorcist II, Slaughterhouse-Five), Lloyd Nelson (Ratboy, The House on Skull Mountain, The Wild World of Batwoman, Creature of the Walking Dead, Curse of the Stone Hand, The Incredible Petrified World), Jack Haffner (The Incredible Petrified World), Brianne Murphy (Teenage Zombies).
The special effects consist solely of the Yeti suit worn by Brianne Murphy, which was recycled from the film White Pongo. Kinda looks like the face might have deteriorated a little bit in the 11 years since that flick was released, but it's not without its charm, and definitely looks better than the costume featured in The Snow Creature two years prior. Make no mistake - it's cheesy, but endearingly so, and frankly Warren was lucky to get his hands on it because it does boost the production values a bit. The shooting locations are incongruent with the stock footage inserted to pad out the runtime, but about as good as you can expect for a movie shot in California. All the exteriors were filmed around Bishop, which provided suitable snowy conditions at an elevation of 4100 feet, while the interiors were shot at Keywest Studios in Hollywood. That rascal Jerry Warren apparently waited until the coast was clear, hopped a fence with his cast and crew, and proceeded to use another picture's set for the opening sequence that takes place in the cobblestone pagoda, so if you watch this thing and start to ask yourself where the money for that came from, well, it was basically stolen. Still, pretty gutsy and resourceful, and consequently the filming locations are to be counted as assets, not liabilities. Cept for the tarp cave, of course. The soundtrack, while largely unobtrusive, subtle, and dated, actually strikes the right tone some of the time. It's certainly not exciting or catchy, but it does build a little atmosphere during the night sequences with its solemn, brooding woodwind arrangements. That's not really the case with the daytime shots, as they have that generic sound and tempo you could use in just about any movie of any genre in the '50s, but it's possible to conceive of there being *just* enough atmosphere to scare small children at the drive-in. Overall, the sluggish pacing and glut of stock footage drives Man Beast down into the depths of tedium early on, and it's never able to extricate itself. It's plain and simply boring, and with the vastly superior Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas having been released a year later by Hammer, it fell into obscurity pretty quickly, recalled fondly only by aficionados of the Bigfoot subgenre. That said, if you *have* to see every Sasquatch flick put to film, you'll find its not much worse than The Snow Creature, or Return to Boggy Creek, but it's not something the average Horror fan should bother seeking out.