Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing), his wife, Helen (Maureen Connell), and a colleague, Peter Fox (Richard Wattis), have traveled to a remote location in the Himalayas, ostensibly to study rare plant specimens. However, Helen and Peter soon learn that John had an ulterior motive, when he reveals that a ragtag group of explorers, headed by Dr. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) are on their way to meet up with John. They plan to lead a small expedition further into the mountains, in search for the infamous abominable snowman, or Yeti.
The Abominable Snowman is a marvelous combination of adventure, horror, and a film with a broader message. The beginning may seem a bit slow to younger viewers, but it is crucial to the plot, and Peter Cushing, as always, turns in a tremendous performance. The monastery setting seems authentic, as do the climbing shots that follow, even though most of the film was shot in Hammer's UK studios and the mountains are actually the Pyrenees in France.
It doesn't take long for director Val Guest to build tension, first dramatically with the ulterior motive revelation and the conflict is causes between John and his wife, then during the Friend expedition's climb, and most importantly, when our crew nears the Yeti. Because the creature effects, especially in the 1950s, can't rival the viewer's imagination, Guest wisely keeps the creatures off-screen for the bulk of the film, and when we see more, it's in heavy shadows. This makes the Yeti material extremely effective.
The message at the end is sincere and poignant, as it also would have been at the time of the film's release, when anthropological exploration of seemingly alien cultures was still regular, captivating news.
At a remote lhamasery in the Himalayas, scientist John Rollason studies rare mountain herbs with the help of his wife Helen, and associate Peter, while awaiting the arrival of an American named Tom Friend. Over Helen's objections and warnings by the High Lhama, he sets out with Friend on an expedition to find the elusive Yeti, accompanied by another American named Shelley and a young Scotsman, McNee, who claims to have seen the thing. Footprints are found in the snows and McNee seems queerly affected the closer they get to their quarry's likely habitat but the biggest shock to Rollason is discovering Friend is a showman who only intends to exploit their find, with Shelley his gamehunter-marksman. The conflict between science and commercialism only increases when an enormous anthropoid is shot, and the horror only increases as the party realizes the other Yeti intend to retrieve their fallen comrade and have powers to do so which seem extra-human...
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