The Abominable Snowman

Rating 4

Directed by Val Guest

Written by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest (uncredited)

Starring Peter Cushing, Forrest Tucker, Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis, Robert Brown, Michael Brill and Arnold Marlé

Dr John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is an English anthologist on expedition in the foothills of the Himalayas, collecting samples of rare plant life for his university. He is accompanied by his wife Helen (Maureen Connell) and colleague Peter Fox (Richard Wattis). He is also secretly awaiting the arrival of an American expedition, led by Dr Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker), who intends to climb high up into the mountains in search of the elusive Yeti. Rollason is given an ambiguous warning by the Llama (Arnold Marlé) and is begged by his wife Helen not to go, but still joins up with Tom Friend on the fated trek up to the mountain peaks.

‘The Abominable Snowman’ was made by Hammer Film Productions in 1957, based on a BBC television play called ‘The Creature’ written by Nigel Kneale, the creator of the famous character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Kneale had already worked with the director Val Guest on the Hammer films ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’ and ‘Quatermass 2’, both also based on original BBC television productions.

The film has tended in the past to get a mixed reaction, especially in relation to the depiction of the Yeti, who we barely see, but more recently it has started to be re-appraised as a minor classic. It is a film I like very much. I first saw it many years ago in my early teens and watching it again now, I still enjoyed it immensely. Val Guest makes the most of a tiny budget and the mainly studio-bound sets and the film benefits from the presence of Peter Cushing, who is in top form in the lead role. In some ways it bares similarities to the classic 1937 Frank Capra film ‘The Lost Horizon’, although on a much smaller scale.

What I did notice on this latest viewing more than previously was the sweeping stereotypical charactisation. Cushing’s character John Rollason is softly spoken and refined – and retains a suitably English stiff upper lip throughout. Rollason’s colleague Peter Fox uses the age-old trick of shouting at the Tibetans in English to make himself understood, simply shouting louder when he wants to make a particularly important point. Helen Rollason is spunky but rather shrill, predictably so given that she is the token female character. The Americans are brash and obsessed with money and showmanship. The Tibetans are devious, lazy and untrustworthy and even the Llama is portrayed in slightly sinister tones.

Ultimately, though, this does not detract from a really rather wonderful and nicely atmospheric film.

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