Newest Review: ... It's not exactly mould-breaking, but it's an intelligent and occasionally rather freaky little number. The DVD has reasonably good pictur... more
"Of all the idiotic, maniac ideas!"
The Abominable Snowman (DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
The Abominable Snowman (DVD)
Advantages: Good atmosphere
Disadvantages: Low budget
An interesting early offering from Hammer that seems to have got a bit lost over the years in amongst the studio's more famous and usual colour gothic fare, The Abominable Snowman is a decent and interesting attempt to make an intelligent monster film with vague sci-fi elements and is always pleasantly atmospheric with the wild, bleak setting, black and white photography and eerie sound-effects of strange howls away in the distance and severe winds battering the snow-capped mountain. The film is mildly intriguing right from the start with the mysterious Llama character and his cryptic warnings to Cushing's Rollason and the well-designed monastery sets and inventive studio snowscapes are really good at times. There's a nice contrast too between the urbane and very English Peter Cushing and the louder and somewhat more boisterous Forrest Tucker as the head of the American Yeti expedition. Peter Cushing was of course wonderful in absolutely anything he did and is as watchable as ever as the restrained and intelligent Rollason - who he makes warm and very likeable in his usual polished, gentle and winning fashion. The very American Forest Tucker, presumably cast to give the film more international appeal, is fine too and, although vaguely the baddie here, does make his character more or less decent at heart. He's not exactly John Lithgow in Cliffhanger or something. Look too for Robert Brown as the expert animal tracker Ed Shelley. Brown later played M in the two Timothy Dalton James Bond films.
The Abominable Snowman becomes gradually more thoughtful and weirder as it progresses with various attempts by locals to stop the expedition for reasons that are never quite made clear. It perhaps betrays its television roots by being rather talky at times but the picture is always absorbing and the dialogue and ideas prevent The Abominable Snowman from ever sinking into kitsch throwaway fifties monster picture mode too much. Kneale includes a subtext about the dangers of meddling with things we don't fully understand and comes up with a decent and memorable ending too which leaves some food for thought. Nigel Kneale's work tends to have a pessimistic note with humankind always on the cusp of possible extinction by forces greater than ourselves and ripe for the taking and the creatures atop the mountain have slightly ambiguous origins and designs which adds a layer of interest to the story and makes the viewer think for themselves. The intentions of the Llama are also slightly vague too which I quite liked. We are never quite sure if he is completely manipulating Rollason and if he is for what distinct purpose. The expedition team set animal traps in an attempt to catch a Yeti much to the dismay of Rollason ("Of all the idiotic, maniac ideas!") who gradually suspects that the creatures might have spooky telepathic powers and may be slowly driving the expedition members insane on purpose. "This creature may have an affinity for man, something in common with ourselves. Let's remember that before we start shooting," he warns, urging a note of caution.
The studio sets used in The Abominable Snowman are quite effective onscreen and mesh relatively well with the location footage shot in the Pyrenees for the film - this footage adding a real bit of scope to proceedings. Although not a big film, The Abominable Snowman is admirably inventive and creative with its relatively modest budget. The shots of the expedition climbing are nicely done too although somewhat limited and sparingly deployed and the competent Val Guest gives the film a tight, taut, atmospheric feel to hide the constrictive budget, this always working well enough on the whole I think. The Abominable Snowman is certainly eerie and mildly creepy and has one or two slightly cheesy shocks such as when a rather hairy arm reaches inside a tent to great alarm as you'd expect. Dr Rollason soon begins to have problems with the methods and aims of the expedition and realises Friend is a bit of a publicity seeker. "You're nothing but a cheap fairground trickster!" One other plus for the film is the orchestral soundtrack which adds a touch of sweep to the climbing sequences. This is certainly, in my opinion, a fun film to watch late at night with all the lights off so you can become fully immersed in the windswept, icy atmosphere with the vaguely supernatural and spooky touches.
The Abominable Snowman is decent fun on the whole and perhaps stands as one of the more forgotten and underrated Hammer entries. Any film with Peter Cushing is worth a look and this is certainly no exception with a good, taut atmosphere and one or two creepy and thought provoking moments courtesy of the script by Nigel Kneale, a writer who understood how important building tension and atmosphere is to these types of stories.
Summary: Pretty good