The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas
Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 18 January 2005
Source Fox Movie Channel Broadcast
“There is no Yeti,” declares the far-seeing Tibetan Lhama, staring determinedly at his English guests, and assuming a bearing that will stand no argument. And yet, as these final words of The Abominable Snowman fade into wide shots of the impenetrable Himalaya Mountain Range, we are left with nothing but uncertainty. Did the expedition really encounter the mythical creatures, or were they a product of overstimulated imaginations? Does the Lhama truly disbelieve in the reality of the beasts, or is he deliberately attempting to mislead his guests, and dissuade any future curiosity seekers from discovering the truth? Far from the simple adventure tale which at first it seems, this memorable Hammer Studios production offers intriguing speculations into the ultimate fate of humanity, the power of belief, and the unknown potential of the human mind.
The tale begins in an isolated Tibetan village, with a group of westerners preparing for an exploratory journey into the snowy wilds in search of the elusive Yeti. Warned by the village Lhama that their effort is both foolish and useless, as the creature certainly does not exist, the brash foreigners continue with their plan, convinced that the legends must be true. Leading the effort is a loudmouthed American named Tom Friend, hoping to capture the creature and make a hefty profit. Assisting his efforts is a renowned scientist, Dr. Rollason (played by the always astute Peter Cushing), who has spent much of his life studying the area and has developed a keen interest in discovering what he can about whatever it is that roams the region’s desolate valleys. Also along for the ride are Ed Shelley, a trapper and disciple of Friend’s; Andrew McNee, a poor climber who bribed his way into the expedition merely to satisfy his own curiosity; and Kusang, a hired Tibetan sherpa.
As the journey begins and the ethereal mystery of the village gives way to the harsh realities of life at fifteen thousand feet, the story is dominated by expected adventure movie scenes: rugged men tramping through snow drifts, dodging avalanches, and surviving harrowing stumbles on steep hills. But as the men ascend higher and higher into the mountains, and closer to prime Yeti territory, an indefinable shroud falls over the group, affecting each man in a unique way. For Friend and Shelley, the plaintive, inhuman wails echoing off the sheer rock faces are portents of doom, a sure sign that the creatures will soon descend upon and destroy the trespassers. For McNee, the idea of potentially coming face to face with the object of his search is enough to send him into delirium. And for Rollason, the chance that there may be life, intelligent, sagacious life living peacefully within that desolate landscape is enough to make him question mankind’s self-proclaimed spot at the head of all the earth’s creatures.
Each man’s hopes and fears find their respective outlets when contact is finally made, those who feared the beasts succumbing to their own shortsightedness, and those who attempted to understand them coming away with an altered life perspective. Thankfully, the filmmakers limited our views of the creatures to distant, shadowy silhouettes, and a select few well framed close-ups (my favorite being a shot of a hairy, clawed hand groping inquisitively beneath the flaps of a tent), allowing us to keep our attention focused on the reactions of the men to the strange encounters. The result of this technique is an unexpectedly moving and thought-provoking film, one that deftly employs the search-for-mythical-creature genre to tell a uniquely human tale.