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The Snow Devils

The Snow Devils(1965)

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teaser The Snow Devils (1965)

When a remote Himalayan weather station is demolished, intrepid Commander Rod Jackson and his crew embark on a perilous journey to uncover the culprits... who turn out to be a group of hairy, oddly blue abominable snowmen. Even stranger, the creatures are also the first volley in an attempted coup of the planet Earth by an extra-terrestrial race called the Aytia. Meanwhile natural catastrophes caused by the melting poles threaten the world's population, with strange energy emitting from one of Jupiter's moons...

The Snow Devils (1965), a colorful entry in director Antonio Margheriti's widely-distributed quartet of Italian science fiction films, offers an unusual fusion of the "believe it or not" fascination with the Abominable Snowmen and the waning outer-space craze being exploited in Europe. An entertaining piece of hokum, the story is more earthbound in its alien antics than its companion films (The War of the Planets, War between the Planets [both 1966], and the most famous and popular entry, Wild, Wild Planet, 1965).

Drawing inspiration as much from the 1957 Hammer film The Abominable Snowman as standard space operas, The Snow Devils (released in Italy as both La morte viene dal planeta Aytin and the more succinct I diavoli dello spazio) features a number of regular Italian cinema players, both behind and in front of the camera. Leading man "Jack Stuart" is actually the late actor Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, an in-demand performer who got his big break in 1962 with Robert Aldrich's Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of his film work remained in Italy, with a prominent dubbed role in 1964's The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price; however, most fans remember him for his work with directors like Margheriti and Mario Bava, with the latter showcasing him in the horror classic Kill, Baby... Kill! and the above-average peplum, Knives of the Avenger (both 1966). He continued working throughout the 1970s in a number of genres (particularly gialli and action adventures), essentially retiring at the end of the decade. He passed away in 1994, while his son, the equally busy actor Kim Rossi-Stuart, still carries on the family tradition.

A cult director championed as one of Quentin Tarantino's favorites, Margheriti (usually credited as "Anthony M. Dawson") made this film at the height of his most prolific and diverse period. Already a genre veteran of science fiction (1961's Battle of the Worlds) and helmer of several respectable gothic horrors like Castle of Blood, Long Hair of Death (both 1964) and The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963), he had proven himself to be a skillful craftsman able to deliver fast, good-looking product that would appeal to an international audience. His loosely-connected, four-film series of outer space adventures would prove profitable for MGM, though he would still rarely venture out of Italy for the rest of his career. Intensely private and a busy writer, he showed an immediate aptitude for shooting under duress and dealing with intricate scenes involving special effects, particularly models; as anyone who has seen his sci-fi films can attest, he achieved startling and often beautiful results with the most limited of resources. Aiding his efforts on this "Gammi I Quadrilogy" (as it has been dubbed in some European circles) were two significant assets, cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini (Lady Frankenstein, 1971) and composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino (Gorgo, 1961), who lend the films an evocative, appealing sheen that continues to resonate with viewers properly attuned to lounge-era outer space fantasias. Completed in 1965 (the same year as Mario Bava's remarkable sci-fi/horror hybrid, Planet of the Vampires) but released in many territories up to two years later, The Snow Devils became one of the last widely screened entries from the first wave of Italian space adventures, a craze that would not be revived until a decade later with the genre's resurgence in the wake of Star Wars (1977).

Producer: Joseph Fryd, Antonio Margheriti
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Screenplay: Antonio Margheriti, Ivan Reiner, Charles Sinclair, Bill Finger
Cinematography: Riccardo Pallottini
Editing: Otello Colangeli
Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
Special Effects: Victor Sontolda
Cast: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart aka Jack Stuart (Commander Rod), Ombretta Colli aka Amber Collins (Lisa Nielson), Halina Zalewska (Lt. Teri Sanchez), Renato Baldini aka Gene Baldwin (Capt. Frank Pulasky), Archie Savage.
C-90m. Letterboxed.

by Nathaniel Thompson

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