Category Archives: Val Guest

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)

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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).

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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

Blu-Ray News #246: The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas (1957).

Directed by Val Guest
​Screenplay by Nigel Kneale
Based on the teleplay “The Creature” by Nigel Kneale
​Starring Forrest Tucker​, ​Peter Cushing​, ​Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis​, ​Arnold Marle

Over the years, this early Hammer film has been as hard to see as its maybe-real namesake, The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas (1957). There was a letterboxed laserdisc and early DVD from Anchor Bay, which is now a collectors’ item. So Scream Factory’s announcement of an upcoming Blu-Ray is big news.

An early Bigfoot movie, The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas left some mighty big shoes to fill. It appeals to me on so many levels — Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Forrest Tucker (a staple of 50s Westerns), Regalscope, Val Guest and on and on.

Black and white CinemaScope (which is what Regalscope was) looks great on Blu-Ray, and Scream Factory has done a tremendous job with all their Hammer releases so far. There’s no release date for this yet (it was announced at Comic-Con this weekend). I can’t wait. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Forrest Tucker, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Val Guest

How’s The Weather?

Yesterday was Raleigh’s hottest day of the year so far. Today, it’s 94 degrees, and I swear the humidity has to be 413%. Anyway, this movie came to mind.

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Filed under 1961, Val Guest

Blu-Ray News #166: Hammer Vol. 3 – Blood And Terror.

Indicator has announced their upcoming boxed set Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror. It gathers up four non-horror pictures from Hammer’s glorious do-no-wrong period. The set includes —

The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Directed by Val Guest
​S​tarring Carl Möhner, André Morell, Edward Underdown, Walter Fitzgeral​d, Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper

Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
Directed by Val Guest
Starring Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, Gordon Jackson

The Stranglers Of Bombay (1959)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Guy Rolfe, Jan Holden

The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
Directed by Anthony Bushell
Starring Geoffrey Toone, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur

POWs, firing squads, Thuggee cults, Chinese crime families — this set’s got something for everyone.

Chung King (Christopher Lee): “Have you ever had your bones scraped, Captain? It is painful in the extreme I can assure you.”

As a kid, The Terror Of The Tongs haunted me for days after catching it on TV. Yesterday’s Enemy is one of the best films Hammer ever did. The Camp On Blood Island and The Stranglers Of Bombay (in Strangloscope!) are both wonderfully exploitive. Coming in July. It’s gonna be great.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1961, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher, Val Guest

Blu-Ray News #100: When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970).

when-dinosairs-ruled-hs

Written and Directed by Val Guest
Starring Victoria Vetri, Robin Hawdon, Patrick Allen, Imogen Hassall

Hammer’s One Million Years B.C. (1966) was a huge international hit, thanks largely to Ray Harryhausen’s dinosaurs and Raquel Welch in a fur bikini. It’s followup, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970), boasts stop-motion effects from Jim Danforth — and Victoria Vetri in a fur bikini (or less).

Val Guest and Victoria Vetri

It presents a world where dinosaurs and cave people lived at the same time. Danforth’s work is excellent and Val Guest demonstrates his usual flair. Here in the States, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth had a G rating. Elsewhere, it was was longer and certainly racier. That’s the version Warner Archive will release on Blu-Ray in February.

dinosaurs-ruled-dictionary-poster

To help you make the most of your viewing experience when your Blu-Ray arrives, hang onto this Caveman’s Dictionary — its a poster that hung in the lobbies of U.S. theaters back in 1970.

By the way, Victoria Vetri is currently in prison for attempted voluntary manslaughter.

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Filed under 1970, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Val Guest, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #91: The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961).

day_earth_caught_fire_poster_02

Directed by Val Guest
Starring Janet Munro, Leo McKern, Edward Judd

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) is an almost impossibly good science fiction movie from Val Guest. It’s coming to Blu-Ray, with a new 2K restoration, in 2017 from Cohen Media Group.

The premise is very simple. Nuclear blasts at the North and South Poles knock the Earth off its axis and send it headed straight for the sun. Sweating and panic ensue as London prepares for what may be The End.

Seeing it as a kid, in a crappy pan and scan late-night TV airing, I was glued to the screen — wanting to throw a brick through the tube when the station went to a commercial break. Back then, I knew Leo McKern from Help! (1965) — “Psst! Hey, Be-a-tle! You shall have fun, yes?” — and Janet Munro from The Crawling Eye (1958) and Darby O’Gill And The Little People (1959). I was surprised to see them in something so dark and intense — and her so near-naked.

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Val Guest’s direction here is top-notch. He got a tremendous amount of movie out of his paltry budget, masterfully using stock footage and matte paintings (by Les Bowie) to create London’s brink-of-desctruction weather. Today, we’d just throw CGI at this story and render it soulless — in 1961, writing, acting and craftsmanship came together to create something really special.

Also of note is Guest and DP Harry Waxman’s use of Dyaliscope, a French anamorphic process. The thought of their work in high definition has me giddy. As you can tell, I am a big fan of this movie. Can’t wait to slide this thing into my Blu-Ray player. As I see it, this one is essential.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Beatles, Val Guest