My wife and I recently attended the “The Yeti Spaghetti Show”, where the audience was asked if they would like to see a “bad” film or an “epically bad” film. The crowd, as was its nature, chose the “epically bad” film. While I would agree with the word “epic,” the moderator of the event and I apparently hold very different views of the film, entitled “To Catch a Yeti.”
The criminally overlooked 1995 film, simply, was transcendent. It took time for my mind to fully come to terms with the themes put forth in the deceptively simple work. While on the surface the film seems to deal with a straightforward slapstick caper plot, there underneath if one merely scratches the surface is a work that is both uplifting and cautionary. One of these themes is less than the way humanity treats the source of all life; another is whether it is in mankind’s nature to accept its mortality or to fight it and not go quietly into that good night.
The film centers around the quest of Big Jake Grizzly, played by singer turned thespian Meat Loaf. Mr. Loaf, who at this stage in his career is four years out from his turn as Robert Paulson in Fight Club (somehow overlooked by Oscar), is still in the process of discovering the tools of his art. We are, however, privileged to be welcomed on this journey; some of the paths Mr. Loaf chooses to convey his characters inner life may be questionable from the vantage point of 19 years of hindsight. What is unquestionable that all these choices are the brave decisions by an artist unafraid to be vulnerable.
Grizzly and his cohort, Blubber (played for comic relief by Richard Howland) have been contracted by Arnold and Angelica Sturgeon (Michael Panton and Mona Matteo) to capture a Yeti for their spoiled son, Wesley (Jeff Moser). The Sturgeons are of money, and while it’s never said how their fortune was earned, one would believe the military/industrial complex would be the source. More on that in a bit.
True to his reputation as a master huntsman, Grizzly does indeed track down the thought-to-be mythical beast, high in the Himalayas. To their surprise, however, the Yeti — thought to a monstrous beast — is actually a very small creature. This is our first glimpse into the rich inner life of this film. The import that one assigns to this surprising revelation is one’s own; for my part, I believe that the discrepancy of the Yeti’s stature is akin to the power we assign to death in Western culture — the great unknown, thought to be unknowable, but in actuality is far less threatening when finally faced. It is a comforting thought, in my opinion.
Through a series of happenstance, the Yeti stows away in the pack of mountain climber Dave Bristow (played by a charmingly bemulleted Jim Gordon), who, with his friend Mike Kelly (an underused Terry Logan) have just completed a heroic climb and are coming back to their American home. Dave arrives back to the loving arms of his wife, Kate (Leigh Lewis) and charming daughter Amy (Chantellese Kent).
The Yeti is soon discovered by Amy, and is quickly welcomed into her heart. Dubbed “Hank” by the lass, they are soon surprised by a visit from the relentless Grizzly, a reminder that what was hunted will ever be hunted.
This film tackles a multitude of social issues, in both a straightforward manner and from a more metaphorical aspect. One need look no further than at the mullets of both Mr. Loaf and Mr. Gordon — Mr. Loaf, playing society’s outsider, has a wild, untamed mane, while Mr. Gordon, on the other hand, plays the role of society’s gatekeeper; his mullet is tight and controlled, but still expressing an unfettered desire to combine business with pleasure.
Likewise, the generational battle is fully on display with this work. Bristow’s daughter Amy plays the part of acceptance and harmony with nature, while the Sturgeon scion Wesley represents mankind’s more aggressive nature and desire to place the natural world under society’s yoke for it’s own means.
Even the costume choices display the filmmakers dedication to their craft. In one passage, where Wesley accompanies Grizzly on his quest, he wears an overcoat bedecked with military-esque medals that he certainly did not earn. This clearly denotes the director’s view that unearned glories are worthless when compared to nature’s freely given bounties.
With this understanding, it’s clear to this viewer that one child represents the military industrial complex, while the other represents the case for maintaining nature. The yeti, of course, represents Gaia, the spirit of the planet and mother of the human race.
There’s no end of praise to be thrown upon those responsible for this film (the unexplained fact that Jim Gordon never acted again is one of the great disappointments of the modern cinema, on par with the disappointment the literary world feels knowing that Harper Lee never wrote another novel to follow up “To Kill a Mockingbird”), but, in the final analysis, the film relies on the steady hand of Mr. Loaf upon the tiller to keep this film laser guided on task. The line his Grizzly walks, for instance, is never clearer than in the scene were, after being forced to complete his quest with the odious Wesley, he must decide whether to swallow his pride or give into the desire to dispatch the youth with a tire iron until the New England snows run crimson with his lifeblood.
So, all that’s left to do is say that there was a “To Catch a Yeti” sized hole in my soul that I never knew was there; that sweet agony was soothed by the realization that the vacuum was being simultaneously exposed and filled as I watched.
“To Catch a Yeti,” indeed, is to catch one’s self.
(This “review” first appeared at http://moviemeltdown.bravesites.com/entries/general/ToCatchaYeti)