The Abominable Snowman (1957)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Peter Cushing, Maureen Connell, Michael Brill, Forrest Tucker
Extras: Audio Commentary, Theatrical Trailer, World of Hammer -- Peter Cushing
So, Guido gives me the DVD of "The Abominable Snowman" and says, "I want you to review this. Have you seen it?" And I replied, "Not Yeti."
(OK, now that I’ve gotten my Yeti joke out of the way, on with the review!)
"The Abominable Snowman" is the latest release from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Hammer Collection. Anchor Bay has dedicated themselves to restoring these classic films and presenting them in the best manner possible. "The Abominable Snowman" marks a departure in some ways from the typical Hammer fare, but the DVD shows Anchor Bay’s usual mark of quality.
"The Abominable Snowman" takes place high in the Himalayan Mountains. There, Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is studying rare mountain herbs with the help of his wife Helen (Maureen Connell). Things are peaceful and Rollason and Helen get along well with the locals.
Things change when Dr. Tom Friend (a pre-"F-Troop" Forrest Tucker) arrives at the camp. Friend is on the trail of the legendary Yeti — the Abominable Snowman. Friend is accompanied by McNee (Michael Brill), who claims to have seen the creature on a previous occasion. Friend asks Rollason to assist in his search for the creature, in the name of science. Rollason agrees, but Helen has her doubts about this American scientist. Upon discovering evidence that the creatures do exist, Friend reveals his true colors. He doesn’t want to study the Yeti, he wants to capture them and display them in a carnival-type show. Rollason is now faced with dual challenges — he must learn the true nature of these mysterious creatures and also, he must stop Friend from interfering with nature.
"The Abominable Snowman" offers a suspenseful story that makes the most of its converging storylines. Director Val Guest and writer Nigel Kneale, who worked together on the "Quatermass" films, have created a film that exploits the full potential of its seemingly simple storyline. First, there is suspense with the creatures themselves. At first, we wonder if they are real and when the do appear (sparingly, in classic 50’s style), we wonder what their motives are. There is a classic scene involving a hairy arm reaching into a tent. But, there is also suspense with the struggle between the two scientists. From the beginning, we wonder what Friend (interesting name) is up to, and when we learn his true nature, the question arises as to what Rollason is going to do about the situation. Being the hero of the film, we assume that he’s going to try and stop Friend, but there is suspense here as well.
To be fair, "The Abominable Snowman" does suffer at times from what I like to call "’50s-itis". The pacing drags a bit at the beginning as we meet all of the characters and learn what they are doing in the Himalayas. Once the expedition to find the Yeti begins, things do pick up. The sets and special effects look dated of course, but most of them work. As mentioned above, we only get brief glimpses of the monster of the titles (of which there is more than one), leaving more questions than answers. But, if you’re a fan of the subtle sci-fi/horror films of the ’50s, then "The Abominable Snowman" is right up your alley.
Peter Cushing is excellent as always in "The Abominable Snowman". His typically reserved manner works well here as he portrays a man who is dealing with a great deal of inner turmoil. Tucker is good as Friend, but for some reason, I had trouble buying him as a scientist. Maureen Connell is very good as Helen, a woman who loves her husband and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in.
The Anchor Bay DVD of "The Abominable Snowman" gives us a nearly flawless transfer of the film. The movie is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen>, which is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1. The black and white photography looks fantastic and the picture is incredibly crisp. The blacks are a true black, making the grays and whites very distinctive. This gives a true feeling of depth to the picture, who adds to the dramatic effect during the nighttime sequences. Defects from the source material are scant and there is hardly any graininess to the picture. This is truly an impressive transfer for a film that is over forty years old. The audio on the DVD is a digital mono, which isn’t surprising for a film of this age. Still, it would’ve have been nice to hear that swirling mountain wind in surround sound.
The DVD offers many nice extra features. There is an <$commentary,audio commentary> with director Val Guest and writer Nigel Kneale. Unfortunately, the commentaries were recorded seperately, so they aren’t able to play off of one another’s comments. Both Guest and Kneale have amazing recall about the production of the film and share many anecdotes, especially about Peter Cushing. There is an odd error near the beginning of the commentary where one of Kneale’s comments is repeated twice.
Another extra feature is a segment of "The World of Hammer" series. This 30-minute show focuses on the career of Peter Cushing at Hammer. There are many clips from Cushing’s memorable roles as Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, and Baron Frankenstein. The theatrical trailer is also present, and is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1. In classic 50’s fashion, it offers "hellish horror", but fails to warn viewers to "bring your own tranquilizers" as some American ads did.
"The Abominable Snowman" marks another milestone in Anchor Bay’s series of Hammer films. The DVD offers an amazingly crisp transfer of the film and some nice bonus features. The film suffers from 50’s hokiness at times, but overall comes across as a very serious and suspenseful film.