The Abominable Snowman
Directed by Val Guest
Anchor Bay Video
Combining elements of King Kong and Lost Horizon , British horror film pioneers Hammer Films unleashed The Abominable Snowman in 1957. The film, shot in black and white, became redundant shortly after release, when Hammer went color with The Curse of Frankenstein the same year. Although not as well-known has the studio’s more famed period horror films, which milked familiar characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy, The Abominable Snowman is a film quite worthy of more attention, and actually has withstood the test of time better than some of the studio’s more famous productions.
The film opens in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, with botanist John Rollason (Peter Cushing), his wife, and his assistant conducting research into Tibet’s plant life. The peaceful beginning is soon interrupted by the arrival of Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) and his party. Rollason has agreed to join this small band in their search for the Yeti. Rollason has written extensively about the Yeti, and wants another chance at finding one. Despite dire warnings from the Llama at the monastery and his wife’s premonitions of doom, the small party goes off in search of the Abominable Snowman. The expedition runs into problems almost immediately, as Friend and Rollason clash over their motivations in the expedition; Rollason, a man of science, Friend and shady profiteer who is kind of a cross between P.T. Barnum, Robert Ripley, and Carl Denham from King Kong . But the real problems start when they actually get lucky and shoot a Yeti.
The film, shot in “Hammerscope,” is presented in its grand 2.35:1 aspect ratio with lush sound. Anchor Bay mastered their video from beautiful source material. A strong cast and thoughtful script by Nigel Kneale bolster the film. To put the film in context, though it came out roughly the same time as The Giant Claw and It Conquered the World , its intelligence as a monster movie still outclasses modern films like The Abyss and Sphere . Val Guest’s direction makes the most out of nuance. The Yeti, even in the climax, is viewed only fleetingly. Guest was careful not to have a monster with a zipper up the back ruin a though-provoking story. The action is kept on a breakneck pace to get the story told in 90 minutes. The visuals are nice with some breathtaking scenics, even if the French Pyrenees had to stand in for the Himalayas. The cast, headed by Cushing (whose Dr. Rollason is kind of an embryonic Dr. Van Helsing, a role Cushing would create and reprise several times in Hammer films), is strong. Forrest Tucker shows far more range as an actor than one could imagine watching F-Troop . The film captivates the viewer throughout, from the opening shots of the monastery to the thought-provoking epilogue.