Snowman (UK: NEL, 1978)
Tagline: "For thousands of years it has stalked the earth,
feasting on the flesh of humans."
When I caught sight of this one I knew I had to own it and
I knew I had to review it out here at Horror's Guilty
Pleasures. Really cool cover. The artist based the
monster here on the alien yeti-thing in Terror in the
Midnight Sun, a Swedish sci-fi flick from 1958. I remember
seeing photos of it in Famous Monsters as a kid and
thinking it was just an awesome creature. As an adult, I
stayed up to like three in the morning to watch the
movie...and I wasn't quite so impressed. It had its moments, but not many of them.
Regardless, were not here to talk movies, so let's crack open Snowman and see if it's
worth a nickel. The author, Norman Bogner, has since went on to bigger and better
things, I understand, as a bestselling writer. But let's go back to the '70's when he
was just a guy trying to cash-in on the pulp horror explosion. And why not? Lots of
writers were doing it and most of them knew about as much about horror as I do
about tampons. But let's not be cynical. Let's give the kid a break (okay, he was in
his forties, but so what?)
We'll start with the plot. It starts out very promising up in the snowy wastes of the
Himalayas. A research team looking for the mysterious Yeti have been slaughtered.
Some nineteen of them. The only survivors are Dan Bradford and his Sherpa guide,
Pemba. We get a brief, but telling, description of the Snowman (enough to know that
this ain't your father's Yeti). This creature is twenty-feet tall (!) and shoots laser
beams from his eyes. I got the feeling that Bogner was watching a little too much
Japanese Kaiju when he came up with this. Despite the cool cover lift from Terror in
the Midnight Sun, for the rest of the novel I was picturing our Snowman as one of the
Gargantuas from War of the Gargantuas. Probably the mean green one who ate
The novel then takes us forward in time to the High Sierras and a posh, new ski
resort that is an absolute haven for 1970's-type swingers. In an effort to drum up
business, Cathy, the advertising director, has come up with a beauty contest with a
$25,000 grand prize that will bring them lots of free press. The former celebrity
beauty queen, Janice Pace, is brought there to promote the event. She is an uppity,
whiny little snotsack that Cathy can barely tolerate. To soften her up a bit, she sends
her out skiing with Barry Harkness, the resort's resident downhill skier and
studpuppy. But when someone breaks their leg out on the slopes, Barry has to leave
Janice on the ski lift all by her lonesome. That's where our jolly white giant finds her:
"Her ski poles flew through the air; whirling along with them in free fall was her arm,
ripped from the shoulder socket."
Ouch. The Snowman makes a real mess of her, but Bogner's not big on giving us
the gruesome details. At this point, of course, I had to wonder why the creature
bothered attacking with its claws and teeth when it could have easily broiled her
medium-well with its laser eyes. Maybe it's just me. Interestingly enough, just before
the above action we get an obligatory scientific explanation which tells us how the
creature is essentially an Ice-Age mutant and how it migrated to the United States
from Nepal. Sadly, not a word is mentioned about the amazing evolution of its laser
eyes. About here, the book was beginning to remind me of that Bo Swenson Yeti
Anyway, when Janice's well-chewed remains are found, the resort suddenly has all
the publicity it wants and all of it bad. Jim Ashby, a local newsy invited to cover the
beauty contest, senses a connection between the killing of Janice and something
that happened up in the Himalayas some years before. A bit of digging and he puts
it all together. He decides to track down Bradford and finds him on the Yaqui Indian
reservation where he is now the disciple of a medicine man. He is a bitter and
disillusioned guy who chews magic mushrooms so he can "enter God". The
relationship between the shaman and Bradford is kind of like Master Po and
Kwai-Chang Caine on Kung Fu. The medicine man says a lot of goofy, pop mysticism
type of things and Bradford tries to interpret them while divining the spiritual path.
Then Ashby shows up on the scene. Once Bradford hears him out, he's in. He wants
to kill the Snowman in the worst possible way. Fuck karma.
Now things get interesting. From War of the Gargantuas to Snowbeast and Kung Fu,
we switch horses again and Snowman begins to resemble Uncommon Valor as
Bradford recruits a mercenary band of Vietnam vets itching for action. They form the
core of his Snowman kill team. Battle-hardened, blood-and-guts Chuck Norris types,
they gear up with machine guns, plastic explosives, grenades, and special arrows
tipped with nuclear warheads. Apparently, back in the '70's just about anyone could
lay their hands on illegal weapons quickly and picking up some weapons-grade
fissionable materials was no big deal.
Can our team of mercs stop old Laser-eye, the giant Snowman, or will he fry them
golden brown with his awesome eye power? Well, unfortunately, I'm not going to tell
you. You'll have to read it yourself, you poor, poor thing.
Pros: The writing is pretty good. The monster is silly, but fun in a Kaiju sort of way.
Cons: The gore is pretty bone-dry in this one as is the suspense. You'll see
everything coming a mile away. This one did not live up to its cover.
Overall: Not the best, but fun for its absurdity. I mean, laser eyes, what more do you
need? If this was made into a movie, then I'd want a Japanese cast with shitty
American voice-overs to give me the full effect.
Two bloody skulls out of five (and just because it's so goofy)
Our next guilty pleasure:
"A winged nightmare of terror..."