The Abominable Snowman

02/03/2023 10:12

Film: The Abominable Snowman

Year: 1957

Director: Val Guest

Writer: Nigel Kneale

Starring: Forrest Tucker, Peter Cushing and Maureen Connell



This is a movie that I learned about thanks to podcasts. It sounded interesting to me since it features a cryptid that I like with the yeti or like the title of this says, the abominable snowman. I was also pulled when I saw that this was an early Hammer production and featured Peter Cushing as well.

Synopsis: a kindly English botanist and a gruff American scientist lead an expedition to the Himalayas in search of the legendary Yeti.

Now that synopsis is a bit misleading. We start at a monastery where Dr. Rollason (Peter Cushing) is conducting research on the local fauna with his wife Helen (Maureen Connell) and his associate, Peter Fox (Richard Wattis). The lama (Arnold Marlé) allows their presence. He also seems fond of Dr. Rollason.

Things take a turn when Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) shows up with his crew. He is joined by Ed Shelley (Robert Brown), McNee (Michael Brill) and a group of natives led by Kusang (Wolfe Morris). He hasn’t been forthcoming with his reason for climbing the mountain. When he reveals it, it upsets Kusang. The lama doesn’t like the idea of searching for the yeti either. He claims they don’t exist and that many have died in search of it.

Helen is also upset. Dr. Rollason didn’t tell her that he was going to join Friend on his expedition. It seems that he had a terrible climbing accident in the past. He didn’t know if he was going to join, but he’s convinced. The two butt heads though. Dr. Rollason doesn’t like the plan that Friend has for the creature if he can find it. The question then becomes if they exist. Survival isn’t guaranteed this high up and there is always a chance of an avalanche. That is just the beginning of their worries with the elements and potentially a monster in the shadows.

That is where I’ll leave my recap for this movie as that gives you an idea of what we are getting as well as introducing the characters a bit more. Where I want to start is that I’m shocked this isn’t presented more as a Hammer production. It says in the end credits, but I don’t recall anything during the opening. From trivia I found, it seems like that this was right there in the beginning for them so they hadn’t taken off yet. This is also an example of the one and done stories that they did. I’m still working through these from Hammer since I’ve done their major series.

Now with that out of the way, I want to then go to the setting. I love that they’re in a dangerous location being high up in the Himalayas. It isn’t easy to get out of here. If they take a wrong step, they could be seriously hurt or killed. On top of that, they are hunting the yeti and setting up traps which makes it worse. We get weather to make it even more difficult. I just love how high the stakes are from this aspect of the movie alone. That is something that just works for me and I enjoy.

To make matters worse, there could be this creature up here. I like that we know by the end of the first act if they are real or not. We get odd looks between the lama and Kusang. Do they both know the truth? I have a feeling about the former. Dr. Rollason takes a scientific approach to them and believes that they shared a common ancestor with man as well as ape. This one got trapped on this mountain and adapted there. He brings in Darwinism, thinking that this entity isn’t intelligent. We don’t see it until the end, which I think is genius. There also seems to be telepathy of sorts. This could be to the point where the lama can communicate with them, but this is never confirmed.

Where I want to take it then would be social commentary that I get from this. The first is that humanity is bad. This is exploring who the real monster is. Friend wants to make money and prove that the yeti exists. Dr. Rollason wants to study it. Friend is doing his expedition for exploitation. Dr. Rollason doesn’t want to harm or even effect this animal if possible. He does think they’re unintelligent. I don’t think he means to slight them though. Shifting then back to the idea I proposed about who are the real monsters, man or this being. This is most definitely pointing to Friend and what his crew is doing.

That should be enough for the story so I’ll go over to the acting. Cushing is great here which I come to expect. I like that he wants to discover this animal but doesn’t like the methods that Friend is using. He’s there to study and observe it. I like how this film ends with him as well. Tucker is good as this American who is there to capture one. He doesn’t care about ruining the environment or disrupting this ecosystem for financial gain. It still fits today with ‘trophy hunting’. I liked Connell as well as Wattis. Brown, Brill and the rest of the expedition crew are good. I also like Morris, Marlé, Chinn and those that portray monks in this monastery. Also, special credit to those playing the monsters here. The acting was solid across the board and there aren’t any bad performances.

Last things to go into would be with the filmmaking. First will be the cinematography. We get excellent shots to set up the landscape. That makes it feel cold and bleak which builds that atmosphere. Even more so when blizzards come in or they’re hit by an avalanche. That is dangerous to start. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but it also doesn’t need them. I like what they do for the look of the yeti. It fits. Other than that, I thought the soundtrack worked for what was needed without standing out. I did like the sound design where Dr. Rollason and Friend think they’re going a bit crazy. There are also good things done with animal sounds to build tension.

In conclusion, this is a solid movie about an underutilized creature in film. I like the setting of this. Being up in the mountains with snow make it dangerous and hard to survive. Then you add in the possibility of this creature. The acting is good. They bring the characters to life. This is a well-made movie, but I do come to expect that from Hammer. Even more so when you are into their run. This won’t be for everyone, but I rather enjoyed this movie and would recommend giving it a viewing.


My Rating: 8 out of 10