First off, the monster must be spiffily designed. It can’t look ordinary because monsters are extraordinary. This doesn’t mean that storytellers and producers have to go to ridiculous lengths to achieve this level of remarkable, but they should invest time, effort, and money in showing audiences something out-of-the-norm. If not, then what’s all of the fuss about?
Second, the monster must have a relatable story. Viewers want to get to know this special creature as much by being told about it as they learn from watching it move about its environment and interact with the regular and irregulars around it. While it might be a given that said monster has skills, strengths, and abilities beyond mortal men, these attributes need to exist within the narrative; otherwise, it’s all just sizzle with no steak.
Lastly – and this is where there’s always room of disagreement – the monster should kinda/sorta suffer a fate not entirely of its own creation. There’s often a pathos around these beings – the kind that evokes the sympathy of the audience – because each of us have felt like an outsider at some point. It’s this bond – this connection with the thing – that elevates the strange from the mundane to the unique, forcing us to care about this … this … this beast and its plight.
In this respect, writer/director Gianfranco Parolini delivered Yeti: Giant Of The 20th Century for mass consumption. As imperfect and – ahem – occasionally laughable as the feature is, it still fits well within the prescribed format of the traditional monster movie. So set aside your preconceived notions of shlock always being only shlock. Put on your kid glasses. Make some popcorn. You might just find yourself entertained in spite of all of your best impulses … and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“This 1977 Italian King Kong rip-off is non-stop fun and camp action. Starring the gorgeous Antonella Interlenghi as ‘Jane’ who discovers her ‘Tarzan’ in the form of a giant Yeti that is taken into captivity and put on public display. When the Yeti breaks loose, it’s Godzilla-style special effects galore as he smashes through the city, crushing the bad guys and searching for his new love, Jane.”
Despite what you or anyone else might think, there is no requirement that any motion ever be of high quality. Certainly, there exists a growing handful of storytellers who spent time cutting their teeth in the world of genre entertainment – exploitation fare and the like – and more than likely many of them would tell you they made a certain film because they thought it would result in a fun experience. Some of them would even tell you that they had an awful lot of fun making said inferior flicks, and maybe they privately hoped in some small way that the merriment behind-the-scenes translated into somehow magically to the screen.
If enjoyed Yeti is a guilty pleasure, then lock me up and throw away the key. Its effects are imperfect. Its dialogue is downright laughable. Its character rarely – if ever – fit within the rubric of what’s the status quo. But – yes – I’ll admit I damn near laughed all the way through this.
Because I’m a connoisseur of films big and small, I’d read a fair amount about this one before I decided to screen it. The fact that I knew full well going into it that the feature has its own reputation I probably emerged on the tail end of it less chagrined than others who write it. Also, I’ve admitted time-and-time-again in this space that I do – to my very core – love a good monster movie, and the writing and production team here maintained a surprising level of consistency to the quirkiness and most inane moments. The fact that you – as a viewer – could probably never tell exactly how tall at any given moment this Yeti was supposed to be? Why, that’s the stuff of a good drinking game … if drinking is your thing. (I swear, I didn’t touch the stuff. Not today, anyway.)
As for the performers?
While others will probably expend a fair amount of criticism over the film’s flawed special effects (they vary from awful to benign, in most cases), I found them picture perfect when paired with how I received the film as pure camp. Even setting aside the questionable effectiveness of trying to construct a life-sized giant to appear onscreen in a few key scenes, there’s an irrepressible charm to some of it. Seeing those giant legs and those crane-operated limbs working what practical magic they can was a gleeful experience for me … and I can only hope some of you out there parse the negative rhetoric and enjoy this stinker for what it is: unbridled lunacy.
I know, I know, I know. That’s a tall drink of water.
Right on down to the Yeti’s fully erect nipple.
Yeti: Giant Of The 20th Century (1977) was produced by Stefano Film. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by Code Red. As for the technical specifications? The Blu-ray packaging indicates that this release has been remastered in HD from the original Italian 35MM camera negative; and – despite some obvious grain and dimension issues inherent to the original production – I think this looks and sounds probably about as well as anyone might expect. (Dare I say that, maybe, it looks even better?) Lastly, this is a bare bones release, meaning that there are absolutely zero special features. For what that’s worth, I think it’s a miss: audiences who flock to B-Movies and cult stuff love to have even minimal extras to look forward to … and I suspect this one would’ve had some followers, shlock though it obviously is.
Recommended. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know. What am I doing, giving this one a recommendation? Well, as B-movies go, I had a helluva lot of fun with this one. By giving it a casual thumbs up, I’m merely saying it entertained me. Is it a great movie? Well, not so much. Would I want it on my professional resume? Well, maybe not. Do I feel guilty over chuckling my way through it? Well, not at all. If the first goal of any flick is to entertain, then this one did its job. And – before you ask – yes, I have seen far worse. It’s a monster movie. It’s loaded with questionable effects work. I laughed. Sometimes, that’s good enough for me.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Code Red provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Yeti: Giant Of The 20th Century by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.