Beginning in 1965, American producers Joseph Fryd and Walter Manley joined forces with Italian director Antonio Margheriti to produce four low budget space operas detailing the adventures aboard space station Gamma One. Partial funding for these projects came from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The first two films (THE WILD, WILD PLANET and WAR OF THE PLANETS) were considerable box office successes both in Europe and the United States drive-in circuit where their kitschy appeal made them cult films. The third installment in the Gamma One saga (THE SNOW DEVILS) mixes the Abominable Snowman lore with standard space travel thrills. Warner has now made this campy cult classic available as part of their Archive Collection.
At a weather station in North Pole, Captain Harris (Renato Baldini) and his crew come under attack from some unknown giant creature. After all communication is cut off from the station, it is up to Commander Rod Jackson (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, here billed as "Jack Stuart") and his intrepid assistant, Frank Pulaski (Goffredo Ungar) from Gamma One to discover who or what attacked the hapless men. Joining in the search are Harris’ girlfriend, Lisa Nielsen (Ombretta Colli) and guide, Sharu (Wilbert Bradley). The group’s investigation reveals the culprits of the attack. It seems gigantic, blue-bodied men from the dying planet Aytia have established a base in the North Pole to spearhead an invasion of Earth. Jackson and his crew must travel to one of Jupiter’s moon in an effort to destroy the home base of the invading aliens before they can eventually conquer the world.
THE SNOW DEVILS was released in Italy in January 1967 under the title, LA MORTE VIENE DAL PIANETA AYTIA (DEATH COMES THE PLANET AYTIA). For the first two installments of this series, the commander of Gamma One was Mike Hallstead played by American actor Tony Russell. For this film and its immediate follow-up (WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS aka PLANET ON THE PROWL), Italian actor Giacomo Rossi-Stuart essayed the role of Rod Jackson. Mr. Rossi-Stuart is best known for his appearances in 1964’s THE LAST MAN ON EARTH co-starring Vincent Price and also in such cult favorites as Mario Bava’s classic scare fest, KILL, BABY, KILL! (1966) and 1971’s THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE. Ombretta Colli would go on to appear in WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS and had already appeared in Alberto De Martino’s 1963 film HORROR: THE BLANCHVILLE MONSTER, a liberal adaptation of Poe’s “The Fall of House of Usher” released directly to U.S. television by AIP-TV. Goffredo (“Freddy”) Ungar who plays Captain Pulaski worked for Mario Bava in 1964’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE as the masked killer (doubling for Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok). The rest of the cast features familiar faces from countless Italian-made horror and sci-fi films from the 1960s and 1970s.
Warner Bros. has done a fairly good job with this presentation. It was definitely not re-mastered for this release, but the print source is pretty good. The colors are detailed and vibrant (especially reds) and the sound quality is fine. There is evidence of scratches and some speckles on the film, but it is kept to a minimum. The video is presented 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 televisions. There is a non-anamorphic trailer as a bonus. As with all the Warner Archive DVDs, there is no chapter menu, but one can move ahead at ten minute intervals. (Joe Cascio)
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