Thursday, October 02, 2008
The Abominable Snowman
Peter Cushing is Dr. John Rollason, a botanist who is in the Himalayas looking for plants (I guess). When presented with the opportunity to join a scientific expedition seeking the mythological Yeti it’s an offer he can’t refuse, despite his wife nagging him not to (of course) as well as resistance from the local pain in the ass High Lhama, who speaks in riddles and offers zero help or guidance (of course). Soon into the trip John learns that the true nature of the expedition is to trap and exploit a Yeti for financial gain rather than for the sake of science and understanding. Briefly protesting, John relents and agrees to continue with the group. The hunters eventually become the hunted when the wrath of the Yeti is unleashed and the group learns that they vastly underestimated what they were dealing with.
Superior to most of the Hammer horror films I’ve watched, The Abominable Snowman succeeds where the others have failed; better pacing and more satisfying. Like other Hammer films The Abominable Snowman is a bit dialogue heavy, but for the most part it does not feel like the film is being padded out for its 90-minute length and the dialogue is actually interesting, especially when moral/ethical questions are posed (e.g., do the ends justify the means when it comes to scientific exploration). Is bringing home a Yeti worth the cost?
This is a nifty film that wisely uses Yeti screams, shadows and sounds to ratchet up the tension (e.g., think Alien) rather than having someone walk around in a bad costume. The principal of less = more = scarier is alive and well here. The cinematography is crisp and the black and white film is well suited for wide, sweeping shots of the Himalayas (actually French Pyrenees). Although the majority of the film is obviously shot on large sets, the sets are immense, which is especially impressive because you know that there is no CG trickery here, they had to build those suckers!
Peter Cushing is an odd duck. He plays the same character he always plays, the good guy who steps in as the voice of reason, and the non-threatening male that somehow gets the woman. To me, however, Cushing always seems to be a homely man, full of tension and rage just below the surface.