An early effort from Hammer Films, The Abominable Snowman is an unremarkable and talky hunt for Yetis in the Himalayas. Peter Cushing plays a wuss botanist named Dr. John Rollason who’s up in those parts doing prissy things like studying rare plants, sipping tea, and generally sucking up to the lama that runs the monastery that he, his way too young wife and his weirdo wimpy assistant are crashing at during the course of their stay.
The lama is one of those all-knowing type dudes. You can tell because he’s always sitting cross legged and muttering incomprehensible blather that Dr. Rollason kind of squints at and doesn’t really understand until the end of the movie after the Yeti tried to eat him or something. Eventually, the lama babbles about some group that is coming to the monastery and Cushing seems to know who they are.
The team of newcomers arrive and it is obvious from the get-go that they are the crass Americans the back of the DVD described. They bluster in hooting and hollering, making fun of the natives, dissing the mountains, calling out the Yeti and pretty much make royal asses of themselves. In short, they’re awesome.
The team is lead by Tom Friend. He’s a big galoot full of vim and vigor and is a big game hunter version of P.T. Barnum. He’s also got a trapper with him named Ed Shelley and a guy named McNee who’s had an encounter with a Yeti and has been obsessed ever since.
Dr. Rollason joins them and they all set off on their journey and discover that this is one of those movies where people climb for awhile, then stop, make camp and talk a lot.
We learn that Tom Friend is really in it for the money and not to expand people’s knowledge. Rollason had somehow convinced himself that Friend was in it for all the right reasons and was outraged to find out otherwise. We also learn that Friend was responsible for promoting a bunch of Mexican wolf children or something earlier which turned out to be a hoax. What happened to that movie, Hammer?
In any event there’s entirely too much blah blah and not enough Yeti attacks. Since this is a mountain climbing movie, you get your standard radio report announcing that the worst snow storm since the Ice Age is going to hit Mt. Yeti and that all crass, American-led teams in search of a missing link should use extreme caution and expect everyone in their party except the star to be wiped out. So Tom Friend hears that and says: “Lets get going!”
As you might expect, the trip up to the top of the mountain is not without issues. McNee gets his ankle all busted up somehow and then the howling of the Yeti begins!
McNee also goes into a trance whenever the Yetis are around and Dr. Rollason wisely asserts that it must be because McNee is hypersensitive to their presence.
Shelley shoots and kills one of these beasts that’s been lurking around the camp looking for hot dogs and candy bars, but we are only given a glimpse of its big hairy arm. They think they’re building suspense by doing that and yes I did want to see what the dang thing looked like, but only because up until this point the whole movie was a regular hen party.
They wrap the thing up and haul it off to a cave. Tom Friend has seen all these giant monster movies so he knows that the only way to appreciate a rampaging monster is to exhibit a live one in a major metropolitan area, so this Yeti roadkill just isn’t going to cut it.
McNee decides to jump off the side of the mountain at about this time. We get to see him go thudding off a big rock and land in a busted up heap.
Everybody blames the Yeti for exercising some kind of mind control on McNee. (Why didn’t the Yeti just use its hocus pocus on them earlier or even before they got up there?)
But what better time then for Friend to devise his ingenious plan to catch a live Yeti! He has Shelley, the trapper wait in the cave with the corpse of the Yeti he shot, hangs a big steel net up and tells him that right before the Yeti comes to eat him, just drop the net on his furry butt. No fuss, no muss. Just to be on the safe side though, Friend loads Shelley’s gun with blanks so that when Shelley gets nervous he won’t blow the Yeti away like he did the last time!
Nigel Kneale wrote the story and screenplay which was based on his television play and he plays with themes here that he better developed in Quatermass And The Pit – strange monsters that we usually think of as being savages (Martians, Yetis) that are actually much more evolved than humans and have developed their mental powers as opposed to their physical abilities.
Quatermass and the Pit was more successful because you could believe that maybe Martians had strange mental abilities since they were from an alien world. It doesn’t work here because it’s just a bunch of overgrown apes living on a really cold mountain with no sign of any type of civilization.
You also had a fair deal of action in Quatermass and the Pit to keep things moving so you didn’t dwell on how ridiculous the explanations were for what connections some humans had to Martians. With this movie, nothing much happened.
Its origins as TV play were obvious with all the low-budget blathering that went on. I also never really understood why Rollason was going up the mountain with Tom Friend. Surely he knew who this guy was. You don’t sign on to something like this without checking the background of the people you’re going with. What did he think was going to happen? And what does a botanist know about looking for abominable snowmen, anyway? You don’t need to be a psychic yeti to know this movie is one mountain you don’t want to climb.
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