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Friday, February 15, 2019

The Abominable Snowman (1957)




The Bigfoot marathon continues and since it is Friday, I thought it would be fun to hit you guys up with a Fifties entry into the genre. Not only that but here we have a Hammer flick starring Peter Cushing and Forrest Tucker! How cool is that?

Cushing plays a botanist named Rollason who is in the Himalayas studying the local plants for their medicinal uses. He is there with his wife and a colleague, but also has some ulterior motives. He knows that there is an expedition that is going to go further up the mountain to the upper valleys in search of the legendary Yeti and has been invited to tag along. This is much to the dismay of his wife who begs him not to go. But when Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker’s character) and his group arrive Rollason decides to take the chance to prove some of his theories about the existence of life higher up on the mountain. The small group sets off, leaving the Sherpas and Rollason’s wife behind.

The rest of the movie is the small band of men trekking higher up and hearing strange noises as they go. Along the way they are shot at and encouraged not to go any further by the locals. When they do encounter the Yeti, it seems at first that the beast is stalking them like a predator. But as the story unfolds it does become apparent that it might be man who is the beast and that the Yeti just wants to be left alone. This idea is further enforced by the ending of the movie which I won’t spoil here because it is too good and needs to be seen.

First up this is a very well-made movie directed by Val Guest who was responsible for some amazing sci-fi from Hammer Studio’s early days. Most notably he was the director of the first couple Quartermass flicks and the underappreciated The Day the Earth Caught Fire. The pacing is perfect as we get just enough backstory while creepy sounds and shadows are mixed in to build tension. This is one of those fantastic movies that lets you know the creature is around without putting it right in front of your face. For most of the duration all we see is an arm and a shadow glimpsed in the heavy snowstorm. When we finally do see the creature, the decision is made to have it blurry and out of focus except for the eyes. This is important because of the point that the movie is trying to get across to the audience about the intelligence of the Yeti and why they are hiding.

These creatures are smart enough to steal the guns!
The cast is great with Cushing and Tucker leading the way. Since we don’t see the creature the fear and tension has to come from the cast interacting with the isolated environment, the snowstorm that traps them, and the ever present howls and noises echoing in the night. They have to sell the story to the audience and do so with performances that are top notch. I imagine that this is helped due to the fact that the cast, director, and Hammer Studios took their sci-fi and horror films very seriously. Unlike a lot of the output of the Fifties this isn’t tongue in cheek or high school kids dealing with spacemen. These are grownups dealing with scary situations with body counts and I dig it.

A Hammer movie starring Peter Cushing is normally going to have my recommendation. In fact, I can’t think of one that I didn’t enjoy on some level. That said The Abominable Snowman stands out as one of the best creature movies from the Fifties and should be on everyone’s must watch list. I highly recommend it!

Note:  Make sure you track this one down under the title The Abominable Snowman and not The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. The latter is a U.S. cut that has some scenes cut out of it.


© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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