Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

Director: Val Guest

Starring: Peter Cushing, Forrest Tucker, Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis

More info: IMDB

Tagline: See It With Someone Brave! -- A Timeless Terror to Freeze You to Your Seats!

Plot: Botanist Dr. John Rollason (Cushing) decides to join the exploration team of crass, American showman Tom Friend (Tucker) on a dangerous expedition into the Himalayas to search for the legendary Yeti. Soon after setting up camp, the group is attacked by a large beast -- and before long, the party begins to lose control.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

#4 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

It's been a lot of years since I saw this and I recall liking it but I certainly don't remember it being this good! The atmosphere is amazing! That's one thing Hammer Studios excelled in and it's surprising that they took so much care in making a good picture from a story as base as this one. As far as the look and feel of the film goes, I could almost feel that they really were in Tibet. The sets, outdoor photography and the nightmare it must have been to match the two, the music by Humphrey Searle, everything. It worked.

Is it really necessary to say how terrific Cushing is? No? Moving on...In the acting department, as was the case with their two QUATERMASS films, the token American leads in the case need to go. I understand they represent some of the problems with society (and to provide an antagonist) but do they have to be so damned loudmouthed and brash? Really? Between this and seeing how whites are portrayed in Blaxploitation movies, I can feel others' pain when it comes to seeing your country or race portrayed as a stereotype. Geez. It's awful.

That's not to say that Tucker is not a good actor. On the contrary. He has moments here where he's brilliant but it's the few, minor bouts of clumsiness and preposterousness (is that even a word?) that nearly overshadow the good.

I really can't say enough about the atmosphere the film makers created. It really helps the story. Once the gang is out in the wild of the mountains, you hear lots of Yeti sounds in the distance, like howling wolves in pain. GREAT sound effect on that, too. Until the very end you don't see anything more than an arm or a shadow of the creatures and it's played to a great effect. Again, the sounds really help develop a level of suspense that you're just not used to from films of this era...or now even, for that matter. When you finally do see the creatures it's not so much of a shocking moment of horror as it is of revelation of FINALLY getting to see them and sympathizing with them.

I like how they took the creature in a different direction than just a man/beast roaming the mountains looking for hikers to eat. They have a means of telepathically making you hear, see, think things. At first it feels ridiculous but it grew on me largely because of the eeriness that was created from the scenarios with each of the remaining explorers. Each has his own delusion to deal with. Nice.

Overall, it's a fantastic ride that isn't as predictable as you might initially think. The cold B&W photography only adds to the feeling of time and place. It's not somewhere you'd necessarily like to live but Val Guest and pals paint a picture of a place you probably wouldn't mind visiting.

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