Monday, 22 April 2013

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

I'm not sure quite what it is, but there's just something here that stops me from loving this movie as much as I think I should. I admire it, it's an intelligent and atmospheric piece, but I also think that it somehow should have created a much better framework around the ideas at its heart.

Written by Nigel Kneale, and directed by Val Guest, the movie can be described quite simply as "a quest in search of the Yeti" but that sells the thing short. What the film is really about is the quest for knowledge (best symbolised by the tenacity and good intentions of the character Dr. Rollason, played by the great Peter Cushing) working side by side with the quest for personal gain and profit (shown by Tom Friend, the character played by Forrest Tucker). Obviously, these two viewpoints are opposing ones, but the path through treacherous terrain is made slightly easier by teamwork.

The Abominable Snowman works very well in a number of areas - the cast are all generally excellent (as is par for the course when it comes to Peter Cushing), the atmosphere builds nicely in the last half hour or so, and the material is treated with intelligence and a serious tone. Sadly, there are other areas in which the film doesn't do half as well - a running strand of mysticism just doesn't feel right, and none of the scenes at a lamasery do anything much for the pacing and characterisations, except basic exposition.

Aside from the performances of Cushing and Tucker in the two main roles, Maureen Connell is also excellent as Helen, the plucky but concerned wife of Dr. Rollason, Richard Wattis is enjoyable as Peter Fox and Robert Brown has some fun as the thrill-loving Ed Shelley.

There's certainly enough here for fans of subtle, smart horror to enjoy, but I didn't rate this quite as highly as some other people, despite some fine, atmospheric moments that show the effect the weather and general conditions have on members of the expedition. Give it a viewing and make up your own mind, especially if you're a Peter Cushing fan like myself, because there are plenty of Hammer fans who rate this one quite a bit higher than I do.


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