Surreal Mountain Climbing

While it seems Hammer Studio’s Abominable Snowman makes light of Tibetan peacefulness and Buddhist philosophies (prominent gong strikes, vaguely oriental music, and dance displays), instead it uses this setting to belie western civilization’s rush to violence. And, that need to exploit foreign culture for financial gain.

It’s stark and damning in a way monster/horror movies generally avoid, doubly so in the west. Peter Cushing stars as the scientist searching for truth to myth. At first, he’s a cliché. The Thing did this before, turning research into madness. Aggression is needed with such invaders, not kindness. That post-WWII fire keeps the non-scientists in this crew ready to shoot. Cushing seeks to change that fighting ideology.

A smugness is evident in these westerners in Tibet. They reject “sham magic” shared by monks in a temple, at the foot of the Himalayas. That attitude is soon changed; the monks share a connection to the mountain beasts. Even the “monsters” have more empathy than gun-toting Brits seeking a payday.

To this day, Abominable Snowman is the only telepathic Yeti movie in existence

Man is bad, or so Abominable Snowman surmises. That’s too simple though. It’s about cruelty, invasion, and indifference to the natural order. Cushing is sensational in making the case, earnestly pleading about the species’ place on the planet. Decades before climate change entered the dialog, Abominable Snowman was indirectly suggesting a similar man-made tragedy.

Mostly, the climbing team only sees a hand. When they discover a Yeti body, it’s off screen. There’s disinterest in seeing the creatures. Whatever evolutionary traits Yeti possess is secondary – all that matters to this team is what’s salable to people back home. The look is irrelevant; the marketing potential in a mystery is what counts.

For the ‘50s, Abominable Snowman lacks the dynamism typical in the genre. It’s slow, even ponderous, more adventure than thriller. Later, even abstract. To this day, Abominable Snowman is the only telepathic Yeti movie in existence. Yet, to what extent these mythical creatures use their evolutionary skills is unknown. Hunters and gunfire ensure no one will ever know.

The sense of reason – rather than spite and hate – is unusual. While classics like Day the Earth Stood Still brought similar thematic urging in the decade, coming from a title like Abominable Snowman makes this Hammer offering a decided oddity. That’s for the best given the opening act’s insufficient tensions. Cushing makes this work.

Video

Opening text notes the distributor did not give Shout/Scream Factory a complete HD version. That’s odd. So, Scream fills in the blank spaces with SD DVD footage. It’s more of the runtime than expected.

The rest draws sharpness with precision and high resolution. Grain resolves naturally, if a little buzzy. Gray scale doesn’t hit full peaks yet finds enough energy to establish depth. While in need of clean-up and restoration, the master is more than sufficient for Blu-ray.

Inconsistencies bring problems though. A little before the hour mark, vertical rolling and banding appears. That continues until the end, suggesting another print used in putting this one together – and a lesser one at that. Sharpness isn’t lost, but those vertical lines distract.

Note an alternate version, made entirely from the HD footage (no SD anywhere) is offered too. This is in the same quality as the main feature.

Audio

Equivalent to the video, things do not hold together in the audio either. Around 20-minutes, there’s a significant bump in volume. Be ready. SD footage takes a notable dip in fidelity, this from a track already strained.

Heavy static runs through the full runtime. Dialog’s scratchiness grates after a while. The score’s upper registers are effectively lost. Source damage adds a bloated low-end touch to the aging mono track, irritating enough to further cause issues.

Extras

Ted Newsom provides a new commentary, this in addition to a previously available track from director Val Guest and writer Nigel Kneale. Historian Johnathan Rigby digs into the production and what led Hammer to Abominable Snowman; he speaks for 23-minutes. An episode from World of Hammer focuses on Cushing for 25-minutes. Joe Dante pops up via his Trailers from Hell series, followed by trailers and stills.

The Ambominable Snowman
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Uniquely told British horror, The Abominable Snowman tells a story of cultures at odds, and science bringing reason to extraordinary circumstances.

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