Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Air Up There: The Abominable Snowman(1957)

It was during the early and mid-1950's that the subject of yeti came to the forefront in newspapers in the Western world. Part of the publicity was due in part to the successful ascent of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth(at over 29,000 feet in height) by Sir Edmund Hillary and his expedition, in 1953. Members of the expedition, including Hillary himself, have been quoted as saying they heard strange noises that sounded semi-human.

Hammer Studios decided to make a film about the mysterious creature, based on the 1955 BBC teleplay The Creature. The result: The Abominable Snowman, released two years later, in 1957.

The film's story:: Botanist Dr. John Rolason(played by Peter Cushing), despite an ominous warning from the local Buddhist temple priest, reluctantly decides to join an expedition to search for the yeti, aka "the abominable snowman". The expedition, led by Tom Friend(played by Forrest Tucker of F-Troop fame), begins it's ascent into the steep, rugged higher elevations of the Himalayas. After establishing a small base camp the group is indeed visited by the mysterious creatures. One is shot and killed by expedition member and trapper Ed Shelley(played by Robert Brown). The dead creature is ignominiously used as bait, to lure other members of it's kind to the expedition members. This action proves disastrous, the team discovering that the yeti have a mysterious "telepathic" ability, it's effects on the surviving team members unpredictable and dangerous. (no spoilers).

Observations: this film is one of my top five favorite Hammer horror films. It is a grim and moody feature, with great visuals of the rugged and awesome mountains of Nepal. The theme music is, like the movie, at times somber, other times creepy. Like every Hammer horror film I have seen the music compliments the film very well. Peter Cushing is great as the intellectual botanist, whose curiosity drives him to join in the expedition, despite the protestations of his wife and the mysterious, often menacing musings of the locals. Tom Friend is an amusing opposite to Dr. Rolason, the showman's desire to capture the creature driven by the almighty dollar. The skirmishes between these two men during the hike are inevitable, at one point the two nearly coming to blows after Rolason accuses Friend of being a "cheap fairground trickster" . The movie is available on Region 1 DVD as either a stand alone film, or as part of a double-feature, paired with the 1970's martial arts crime drama Shatter!

The trailer for the film: