Cinema Sunday: The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas) (1957)

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Title: The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas – U.S.)

Distributor: Hammer/ Warner Bros.

Writer: Nigel Kneale

Director: Val Guest

Producer: Aubrey Baring

Starring: Forrest Tucker, Peter Cushing, Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis, Robert Brown

Released: August 1957

MPAA: Approved

 

Welcome friends, to another week of Hammer Studios greatness! This week’s film is one that I honestly thought I’d already reviewed! After a quick search, I realized I hadn’t. So, I must present this little gem that was lost in the archives mainly because of the success of Curse of Frankenstein, that was released the same year. With some familiar faces, solid acting, and a setting that is very creepy, this one definitely needs to be revisited, so let’s get down to business!

 

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As the film begins, we see Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing), talking to the Lama (Arnold Marlé). The Lama questions why Rollason has agreed to meet with an adventurer type guy that is coming to explore the area that the monastery is located. Rollason tries to calm the Lama’s fears, but he cannot. A few moments later, the Lama tells Rollason that his wife, Helen (Maureen Connell) is approaching, and seconds later, she walks in the room along with his assistant, Peter Fox (Richard Wattis). Both enter and are upset with Rollason because he’s agreed to go on the expedition with this other man, rather than continuing his research.

 

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In the next scene, we meet the explorer, and the burly Dr. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker), is leading his men through the town to meet Rollason. Friend has also brought along a trapper named Ed Shelley (Robert Brown), a photographer, Andrew McNee (Michael Brill), and a local guide named Kusang (Wolf Morris). They all meet and make arrangements to have dinner together later, and meet the Lama. At the dinner party, the Lama again questions the motives of the expedition, and eventually, the truth comes out. Friend and his group are there to find the mysterious Yeti of that region, and we also find out (eventually) that he wants to capture one alive!

 

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The next day, the expedition sets off and begins their long journey up the mountain. They keep the group small, because Friend believes that marching an army up there would scare off the Yeti. Friend has already been to great heights on this mountain, and hid equipment in caves along the way. After a day’s journey, they stop at one of the resting points. They make camp, and have a fire going, but one of the men seems uneasy. As they’re settling in for the night, one of the team believes he heard something nearby. Everyone heads out to investigate, but no evidence can be found.

 

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The following day brings an avalanche, and then one of the men, McNee, gets his leg caught in a trap and gets injured. They take him to the tent and he relaxes there for a while. Rollason stays with him as the other push ahead. When they catch up, Ed tells them that he’s captured a Yeti. They rush to see it, and are astonished at the creatures size. That night, more of the Yeti come to take back the body and to terrorize the camp. Ed shoots and kills one of them, and the group realizes that now the Yeti might get hostile towards them. McNee is almost crazy from the pain of his injury, but he also seems to be sensitive to the presence of these creatures. Friend thinks he can use this to his advantage though, and begins to scheme about another trap.

 

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Kusang sees one of the yeti reaching into the tent, and the fright of the ordeal is too much for him, so he flees. Friend and Rollason stop him and ask what he saw, but he only responds with…”I see, what man should not see!” McNee ends up wandering off the next day, and falls off of a cliff. He’s completely delusional at this point, and the fall kills him instantly. That leaves Friend, Rollason, and Ed. Speaking of Ed, he seems to be in the beginning stages of schizophrenia, and is a liability at this point. Rollason buries McNee, but Friend and Ed will have nothing of it, and continue to lay their trap. Meanwhile, Helen and Fox are leading another expedition to find the others, but they’re way behind.

 

Robert Brown and Forrest Tucker in The Abominable Snowman

Will Helen and Fox reach the others in time? Will the Lama’s prophecy come true that no man will see the creature and live? Watch to find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, well, as I said initially, this film is fantastic, but was definitely overshadowed by Curse of Frankenstein, that followed soon after this film. It’s really a shame though, because this film has a lot to offer. The script, locations, music, and acting were all very good. The only thing I think that could’ve been better were the creatures themselves. We never get to see any Yeti action (attacking/killing)! That for me is the only glaring missed opportunity in this entire film. No one is to blame, especially not the special effects people, who coincidentally did a fine job. I understand the notion of not showing the Yeti’s and letting your imagination run wild with different scenarios, but even just one or two scenes would’ve sufficed.

As far as the cast goes, Cushing and Tucker really made this one great. The Lama was pretty good too, and really gave a creepy performance. The others were at least average, and none of the players weighed down the film. I will say that Kusang was played brilliantly as well, and he and the Lama were very convincing. Do yourself a favor, and get a copy of this film either online streaming or grab a copy somewhere. You wont regret it!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

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Title: Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth – U.S.)

Distributor: Hammer Studios, ABPC, (20th Century Fox (U.S.))

Writer: Nigel Kneale

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: James Donald, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover

Released: November 1967

MPAA: Approved

 

I feel like its been a while since I did a Sci-fi film, so why not take a peek at a Hammer film from that genre! This is the third installment (big screen) of this franchise, and for reasons I’ll get into later, they switched actors for the main character, Professor Quatermass. The replacement was a fine actor, and with a regular Hammer leading lady, the film carried on the tradition well. The series was initially on British television, and the adaptation is well worth the watch. Alright, let us journey into the past, and see some cool science fiction, Hammer studio style!

 

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The film begins with a Bobby walking down a dark street. He enters a subway outlet called “Hobbs End” and sees a sign telling the viewers that it’s under construction. The scene switches to the construction workers below, as they continue their mind-numbing work. As they dig deeper, they discover a skull, but keep going anyway. Within seconds, one of the other workers finds a complete human skeleton! They realize they must stop at this point, and call in reinforcements.

 

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A  few days later, a team of researchers is seeking answers, and one man, Doctor Roney (James Donald). tells the press that he needs their help in seeking public approval to influence the government to let the work continue. As this conversation is continuing, Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley – The Gorgon, Rasputin the Mad Monk), and another assistant make another discovery. They find something metallic, but can’t figure out what it might be. Suddenly, a man believes it could be an undetonated bomb from WWII. The police, and then the bomb squad arrive to take action, but they’ll soon find out that this “bomb” will be much more deadly than any other!

 

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As they dig out around the supposed bomb, they come to realize that they are more than likely wrong about the device. Doctor Roney then questions the young officer about his experience, so he calls his superior for a second opinion. The phone calls goes to a man named Colonel Breen (Julian Glover), and he’s actually in a meeting with a certain renegade scientist, Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir)! They are discussing a government operation that he started, but that they are taking over. The government wants to get into space and have missiles to get the upper-hand. Breen and some pencil-pusher tell Quatermass that he’ll be on board or out on his own. Breen then gets the note about the “bomb,” and the two head over to check it out.

 

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Once they arrive, Breen and Quatermass have differing opinions on what’s going on below. A local policeman tells Quatermass that the area was abandoned years before the war, so those remains can’t be of the British populace. Some kind of superstition was keeping people away. He investigates some of the houses in the area, and they see some claw marks on the walls. The policeman can’t explain them, and he gets very nervous while they look around. So much so that he leaves abruptly. Miss Judd joins them, and gets spooked too, and then tells Quatermass that the name of the area, “Hobbs,” was an old nickname for the devil.

 

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Later, over at the Doctor’s lab, Quatermass questions Roney about the authenticity of these skulls, and seems to be suspicious of the “ape-man” theories. Miss Judd shows up and has some newspaper clippings about some of the supernatural goings-on in Hobbs Lane years before the war. Back at the dig site, the military has just about unearthed the entire “bomb” and now must finally come to the fact that it isn’t of this Earth. The Sargent and Quatermass seem to be on the same page and that page is not the one that Breen is on. Just as they are theorizing about it, a scream comes from inside the shell, and they find one of the soldiers raving. He states that he’s seen something terrible, and that it reached out for him.

 

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Quatermass and Judd then head to the archives to investigate further into the matters from decades before. A historian tells them about the things that were seen, and then Quatermass gets an idea, then heads back to the dig site. The military has procured a special drill to try to get inside the structure, but not even that works. In the process, they seem to have activated a defense mechanism, and it nearly drives them mad. They leave the pod for a minute to gather themselves, and another soldier looks inside. He sees a hole where they were drilling, but one that is bigger than the drill, so it couldn’t have been them. Suddenly, the hole gets bigger, and the entire wall disintegrates.  Behind that very wall is a honeycomb like area that is housing dead (but gigantic) locusts!

 

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Were these giant creatures the aliens or their food? And what do the ape men have to do with all of this? Your questions will be answered by the enigmatic Professor Quatermass!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Let me start out by saying that I love Andrew Keir as an actor. He does a fine job as Quatermass, he was outstanding in Dracula Prince of Darkness,  and in the Pirates of Blood River. That being said, I prefer Brian Donlevy to him as Quatermass. His demeanor was perfect for the role, and although Keir did act mildly abrasive sometimes, he just wasn’t quite as good. Barbara Shelley (image below) added her usual electricity to the film, and was very lovely as well. James Donald (Roney) was another fine addition to the cast. He commanded the scenes he was in, and really played well opposite of Julian Glover (Breen). Also look for a small role by Hammer films stalwart, Duncan Lamont!

I’ve got to say that with a limited budget, the special effects were pretty good. There was a group of five gentlemen that worked on this film, uncredited. Musically, the film doesn’t offer much, but does hit some good peaks during/leading up to the action. The film was a little dark in some scenes, but nothing too terrible. Overall, I’d rate the film a “B” for the action, acting, and cool story and effects. I’ll definitely be reviewing the first two Quatermass films eventually, and probably in sequence as well. Look for them in the near future!

 

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Click here for the trailer!