1957 was a big year for Hammer. They had Quatermass 2 and this horror film from Quatermass writer Nigel Kneale based on Kneale TV play The Creature. But both features were overshadowed by the release of The Curse of Frankenstein. Still Kneale’s The Abominable Snowman or The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas as it was known in the U.S. (I guess Americans needed to be told where yetis come from) is an excellent low budget horror film.
Kneale wrote the screenplay and Peter Cushing, who was mostly a TV actor at the time was cast in the lead, a role that he had played in the TV version of The Creature. Cushing was also cast in em>The Curse of Frankenstein and would quickly become a steady part of Hammer’s horror success.
Cushing is a scientist visiting a monastery in the Himalayas along with his wife and assistant. He crosses paths with Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) who along with a trapper and a photographer are searching for the Yeti. Cushing intrigued by the scientific thought of the missing link decides to go with them despite protests from the Lama and his wife.
As the group continues to climb up higher in the mountains, they discover tracks proving that the Yeti exists. It becomes clear to Cushing that Friend is only in it for the money, he wants to either catch a live Yeti or kill one to bring back for fame and fortune. The photographer gets injured and tension starts to rise among the group. After the trapper shoots and kills a Yeti, it becomes clear that the beast is not alone in the snow.
Director Val Guest managed to make of the most of the small budget and he decided it would be better not to really show the Yeti in but rather imply it, a hand here, some eyes there. The tension comes more from the men in the party going mad from the cries of companions lost in the snow. The black and white photography creates a cold icy adventure in the snow and ice.
The movie wasn’t a big hit for Hammer but over the years it has been reevaluated and has gained a following. The new Hammer Film productions that just started up a few years ago making movies like Let Me In and The Woman in Black has expressed interest in remaking The Abominable Snowman. Not sure it’s going to happen but it would be interesting to see if it maintains the psychological aspects of the story – guilt, greed and paranoia or will they turn it into a CGI monster movie. I’d opt for the first choice.