Blu-Ray Review: The Abominable Snowman (Of The Himalayas) (1957).

Directed by Val Guest
Written by Nigel Kneale
Based on his 1955 TV play The Creature
Cinematographer: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Bill Linney
Music by Humphrey Searle

Cast: Forrest Tucker (Tom Friend), Peter Cushing (Dr. John Rollason), Arnold Marlé (The Lhama), Maureen Connell (Helen Rollason), Richard Wattis (Peter Fox), Robert Brown (Ed Shelley), Michael Brill (Andrew McNee)

__________

The Western part of North Carolina certainly gets its share of Sasquatch sightings. So many, in fact, that a small town (Marion) held its second Bigfoot Festival back in September. With all the talk of Sasquatch/Yeti/Bigfoot going on around here, Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray of Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957) seems almost topical.

It’s a movie I’ve loved since I was a kid, and the chance to see Arthur Grant’s B&W Regalscope cinematography in high definition is a huge deal.

Stanley Baker and Peter Cushing in The Creature, live on BBC TV in January 1955.

The Abominable Snowman began as a live TV program from the BBC, The Creature, written by Nigel Kneale — drawing on recent Yeti sightings and Mount Everest expeditions for inspiration. It starred Stanley Baker as Tom Friend and Peter Cushing as John Rollason. Two performances were aired live in January 1955 — neither were recorded. What a drag.

Hammer Films had turned a Kneale TV serial, The Quatermass Xperiment, into a successful film in 1955 (they’d do the same with its TV sequel), and they bought the movie rights for The Creature. Val Guest, who’d directed the Quatermass feature was brought back. Peter Cushing, who’d not only starred in The Creature, but had begun an association with Hammer with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), was also put on the payroll. Forrest Tucker was cast as Tom Friend, making the explorer/entrepreneur an American.

Nigel Kneale turned his own teleplay into a screenplay, calling it The Snow Creature — until someone realized there already was a picture with that title. (The Snow Creature is a cheap piece of junk from 1954, with the distinction of being the first Bigfoot movie.) Hammer eventually settled on The Abominable Snowman. In the States, the title was extended to The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. Kneale gets solo credit for the script, but Val Guest did a rewrite cutting back on a lot of the dialogue.

The production kicked off with a small crew doing some location shooting in the French Pyrenees in mid-January 1957. None of the cast made the trip; they used doubles. Some of the impressive mountain scenes used a helicopter, others were snagged from a cable car. Principal photography ran from January 28th to March 5th at Bray and Pinewood studios. The monastery set was built at Bray (with waiters from local Chinese restaurants playing the monks), while the snowy mountain stuff required the larger space to be found at Pinewood.

The story is pretty simple, at least on the surface. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) brings an exhibition to a monastery in the Himalayas, where Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is conducting botany research. Tucker’s after the Yeti, and he convinces Cushing to come along. It would’ve been better for all concerned if they’d stayed home. They do indeed find the Yeti — gentle, intelligent creatures waiting around for us to wipe ourselves out so they can take over.

Tucker and Cushing are perfect for their roles, and they really put this one over. Guest’s direction is quite good — keeping things moving, building tension and doing a great job of cutting together the location and studio stuff — they say he kept a Moviola on the set so he could refer to the mountain footage. This was cinematographer Arthur Grant’s first film for Hammer, and it looks terrific. He’d eventually replace Jack Asher as Hammer’s go-to DP.

I’ve raved about Scream Factory’s previous Hammer Blu-Ray releases, and The Abominable Snowman continues their stellar track record. When they received the HD material, they found it five minutes short. That footage has been reinstated from an (upscaled) SD source, though you can watch the shorter, all-HD version if you prefer. Either way, it looks terrific (go with the complete one), with the B&W ‘Scope a real knockout. The sound’s good, giving real power to the windy sound effects and Humphrey Searle’s score. There are plenty of extras, too — commentary, trailer, Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell piece, etc. A nice package all-around.

​In the UK, ​The Abominable Snowman was often paired with Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. Now that was a nice night at the movies. I highly recommend The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. It’s still the best movie ever made about Bigfoot (to be honest, it doesn’t have much competition) — and this Blu-Ray is the perfect way to see it (especially if you’ve got a big TV).

3 Comments

Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Arthur Grant, Forrest Tucker, Hammer Films, Lippert/Regal/API, Mamie Van Doren, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Val Guest

3 responses to “Blu-Ray Review: The Abominable Snowman (Of The Himalayas) (1957).

  1. john k

    SNAPPY NEW YEAR! 🙂
    For starters this was a Hammerscope production-it was promoted as
    a Regalscope flick when Fox/Lippert picked up the USA rights.
    It did play as a main feature above UNTAMED YOUTH when distributed
    by Warner Brothers in the UK.
    Someone (and here’s the snappy bit!) on the Indicator Facebook page
    is hoping they (Indicator) can improve on Shout Factory’s less than stellar
    version. Forget it Dude-it’s not gonna happen the 5 minute standard def
    footage does not exist in any other format.
    These UK Horror fans are a hoot sometimes-blissfully unaware of the
    wonderful work done by Shout Factory on a whole heap of English
    “lost treasures”

    Like

  2. john k

    Thanks,Toby for the Baker/Cushing pic-sadly that’s all we are gonna get
    regarding the TV version.
    The Baker/Cushing JD flick VIOLENT PLAYGROUND is easy enough
    to track down and is a prime target for a Blu Ray upgrade-hopefully Kino
    who are on a UK roll at the moment.
    The duo’s THE MAN WHO FINALLY DIED is also a more than worthy
    B & W Widescreen thriller.
    Baker later teamed up with Val Guest for a couple of films notably
    the Cop Thriller HELL IS A CITY another picture many of us are hoping
    will get a high def upgrade sooner rather than later.
    Tucker and Cushing got on really well-Guest put this down to,among
    other things,the fact that they were cast iron pros-they always turned
    up on set fully prepared,never needed prompts,always knew their lines.
    Guest did state that the duo’s attitude was unlike “Dear Mr Donlevy”
    I’ve plugged it before on these pages,so I’ll do it again…Toby don’t
    miss out on Kino’s forthcoming 4K restoration of THE CRIMINAL with
    Stanley Baker; which has the actor,in his prime,at the top of his game.

    Like

  3. john k

    As I name dropped VIOLENT PLAYGROUND earlier I just thought
    I’d mention that Glenn Erickson also name drops it in his superb
    review of Lewis Gilbert’s COSH BOY (The Slasher)
    As much as I admire what Kino are doing with their Brit Noir releases
    I would advise fans (with multi region players) to hold out for the
    forthcoming BFI (UK) release which has a whole raft of attractive extras.
    It’s way overdue for VIOLENT PLAYGROUND to be given a Blu Ray
    release and certainly Gilbert’s later Noir THE GOOD DIE YOUNG.
    THE GOOD DIE YOUNG has a Noir cast that takes some beating,to
    say the least.

    Like

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