In the mysterious snow-covered region of Tibet British researcher Dr John Rollason and his team are examining the flora and fauna of the area. When American Dr Tom Friend arrives at the remote monastery Rollason joins his team on an intriguing expedition to prove once and for whether there is any truth to the legend of the yeti. But not everyone will make it back from the treacherous mountain mission.
A remake of a BBC television production from the mind of Nigel Kneale – the writer behind such classic sci-fi tales as The Quatermass Experiment – The Abominable Snowman is a more cerebral offering from legendary horror studio Hammer. Rather than the typical monster movie plot that the premise would seem to lend itself to it’s primarily a dramatic affair, concentrating on the conflicting characters that set out to find the yeti for conflicting reasons.
Co-writer and director Val Guest (also responsible for the big screen version of The Quatermass Experiment – under its more thrilling title The Quatermass Xperiment) places these characters in an authentic atmosphere, starting with the mysterious Tibetan monastery from which the adventure begins to the hostile environment of the snowy mountainous peaks. This icy realm, which begins to play tricks on the mental state of the characters is brought to the screen through a combination of studio sets and impressive vistas of the Pyrenees, doubling for the Himalayas, blended seamlessly together.
Against this harsh backdrop Peter Cushing brings his customary realism and gravitas to the role of moral scientist Rollason. Forrest Tucker is also convincing as the brash American explorer Tom Friend, an obvious counterpoint to Rollason. The clash of ideals between the ethical Rollason and the more opportunistic glory hunter Friend is engaging throughout and Guest concentrates on the discussions of this duo along with the interactions between the impressive supporting cast as they attempt to find the hairy beast. He deliberately refuses to show the yeti in its entirety, but its presence is always hinted at and a palpable sense of something unknown observing the expedition is ever present, right up to the dénouement that contradicts viewer expectations.
A monster movie unlike the majority of Hammer's output The Abominable Snowman is an unexpected take on the legend of the yeti. A thoughtful dialogue driven script coupled with a sense of realism created by Val Guest results in an entertaining character based chiller which still has relevance to modern audiences given its ecological leanings.