B&W, 1957, 91m. / Directed by Val Guest / Starring Peter Cushing, Forrest Tucker / Anchor Bay (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

A solidly crafted monster movie which manipulates viewers' imaginations with the precise skill of a surgeon, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (or just The Abominable Snowman to Yanks) features much of the crew present for early Hammer Films classics like the Quatermass sci-fi yarns. Here writer Nigel Kneale wisely relies on atmosphere and characterization to deliver palpable chills instead of a man in a shaggy suit romping through the snow. In the icy wilds of the Himalayan Mountains, botanist John Rollason (Peter Cushing) angers his wife (Maureen Connell) when he announces his intention to join an American-led expedition headed by craven adventurer Jon Friend (Forrest Tucker). These explorers ascend the mountains in search of the mysterious Yeti, or as history now calls it, the Abominable Snowman. The peaceful Lama explains that the Yeti are a race of superhuman creatures meant to be preserved in the mountains until mankind destroys itself and allows them to take over the world. The men press on anyway, with Rollason embarking in the name of scientific curiosity and Friend intending only to make a fast buck. All of the men get more than they bargained for, however, when a creature finally rears its head in the snowy darkness.

More of a meditation on man's inability to cope with strange forces than a standard campfire tale, The Abominable Snowman compares favorably to Howard Hawks' similarly themed The Thing (from Another World), both of which make excellent use of snowy isolation as a springboard for a microcosm of universal ideas. Cushing as usual turns in an excellent performance, both sympathetic and deeply flawed, while Tucker provides shadings beyond the standard evil great white hunter. Guest once again proves his sure hand behind the camera as he guides the viewer through a creepy world most people never see first person, and the chilling sound effects are far more horrifying than anything the filmmakers could have shown onscreen. Previously issued as a widescreen laserdisc from The Roan Group, this film looks even better on DVD thanks to Anchor Bay's immaculate 16:9 transfer. The beautiful black and white scope photography has never been so effective, and Guest's effective, careful visual compositions are well preserved throughout. The usual great Hammer extras are included, such as the laser's commentary track with Kneale and Guest (largely concerned with the story's development from an early treatment by Kneale and the difficulties of recreating Himalayan snow storms on film), the American trailer, and a World of Hammer episode devoted to Peter Cushing. Even if you don't watch this on a dark wintry evening, this DVD will give you chills.

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