The Abominable Snowman (1957) UK / 91 min / Adventure Horror / B/W
On an adventure in the Himalayas for evidence of the Abominable Snowman, one scientist discovers the answers – albeit horrifically. Val Guest directs as he would on both The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957). The screenplay is based on a story called The Creature, both written by Nigel Kneale, known more famously for his creation of Dr. Bernard Quatermass. Quatermass, which tells the story of a highly moral British scientist that discovers a threat to humanity by alien forces, would spawn 3 television serials for the BBC in the 50’s, radio programs, a 4-part serial by Thames Television in the 70’s, a remake by BBC in 2005 of the original serial and 3 feature films from Hammer Film Productions.
The story starts at a remote Buddhist temple, located in the Himalayan Mountains, where a British scientist Dr. John Rollason (played by Peter Cushing) awaits the arrival of an American named Tom Friend. Dr. Rollason with his assistant Peter Fox (played by Richard Wattis) examine a rare type of herb never before seen by himself nor Fox. The Llama informs them it is an herb that the monks use for sickness of the skin. Dr. Rollason inquires to its location which the Llama explains takes the monks in groups days to travel to and, due to the incoming weather, would be too dangerous at the current time.
Alone, the Llama questions Dr. Rollason about his fellow colleagues and their distaste over the Tibetan tea, which includes the doctor’s wife. The Llama suggests the temple is no place for a woman as it were made for men and presumes she must not be enjoying her stay. The Llama then informs Dr. Rollason, to his surprise, that he has sent some guides to meet up with the Doctor’s colleagues that happen to be 6 days overdue. Dr. Rollason replies quickly, not knowing they had been seen, with the Llama ominously agreeing, “They have not been seen but they will be here”. This leaves the Doctor silent and sets the mood.
The Llama then asks Dr. Rollason what it is that this Tom Friend, played by Forrest Tucker, is searching for. Doctor Rollason avoids answering, saying he must first speak to Tom Friend, with the Llama saying firmly, “You can say now”. Doctor Rollason remains quiet and the Llama then inquires as to what it is that makes the doctor want to help these men that are coming. “The pursuit of knowledge” is his answer. “Knowledge for whom”, asks the Llama, “the U.S. alone?” “Human knowledge”, replies the doctor. While chuckling slightly the Llama says, “Human knowledge, is that reasoning enough?”
The Llama then predicts the arrival of the doctor’s wife to his chambers, instead of the return of Peter Fox. Rollason is mystified by the Llama’s seemingly supernatural abilities. To her great surprise, the Llama then informs Rollason’s wife that she is welcome to remain under his protection while her husband embarks on his climbing expedition. The Llama exits, knowing the doctor has some explaining to do. Rollason is reluctant to reveal his plans and his wife becomes startled when she realizes he’s searching for “that creature”.
Tom Friend, with another loud obnoxious American, arrives and presents the doctor with an artifact – but not before startling the locals by stating aloud his intentions to find the creature they call the Yeti. The artifact is a tooth, of the k-9 sort but the size of nothing they’ve ever seen before. This, along with the testimony of a man claiming to have seen the footprints of a yeti, convinces the doctor. He agrees to embark on the expedition along with Friend, although against the wishes of his wife and the warnings of the Lllama.
The expedition seemingly becomes doomed as Doctor Rollason realizes the severity of the danger that lies ahead and as his principles start to clash with the tactics of Friend’s self-interest. Isolated in snow-covered mountains, the mood becomes near unbearable as paranoia and fear set in, causing the men to become more of a danger to themselves than anything in the mountains.
Filmed in beautiful black-and-white photography, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas is an intelligent approach to a subject that rarely sees any signs of intelligence. Thought-provoking and chilling, it’s an expedition in suspense. I give it 4 out of 5 for a rating of Great.