This Hammer production was released in the US as The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas and featured ‘token’ American actor Forrest Tucker, whose value to the film proved minimal.
Peter Cushing, on the other hand, comes across splendidly as the sensitive botanist and ex-mountain climber, Dr John Rollason. The doctor agrees to join an expedition led by the somewhat dodgy and opportunistic Dr Tom Friend (Tucker) into the Himalayas to search for the elusive half-human ape-like creature known as the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman.
The scientists are guided by the kindly but mysterious Lhama (Arnold Marle) from the local Tibetan monastery.
Besides appearing to have extra-sensory perception, the Lhama chides the men about their Western ways and even meddles in John’s relationship with his nervous wife Helen (Maureen Connell) when she objects to an unplanned detour in John’s research.
The party finds a series of gigantic footprints high above the snow line and eventually spot a Yeti.
A trap set by the reckless Ed Shelley (Robert Brown) breaks the ankle of team member McNee (Michael Brill), who goes quietly insane watching a gigantic Yeti hand reach into his tent. Shelley succeeds in shooting one of the ten-foot beasts, but the situation quickly deteriorates thanks to Tom Friend’s willingness to expose his comrades to danger.
John becomes convinced that the Yeti are actually ultra-intelligent, and too late realises that they are using telepathic powers to manipulate the minds of the surviving expedition members. The porters desert, one of the party goes mad and leaps over a cliff and another suffers a heart attack while keeping watch near the dead Yeti.
Eventually, alone and trapped in a cave by other Yeti, Friend and Rollason get ready to leave the mountain. The Yeti lure Friend out of the cave and he is killed by an avalanche.
The Yeti enter the cave to reclaim their dead comrade, and Rollason faints before them.
The Lhama takes steps to see that John Rollason comes out alive (he awakes to find himself safely half-way down the hazardous mountain), but why, exactly?
Does he want to save the scientist because he recognises a kindred spirit, or is he callously using Rollason to quash curiosity about the Yeti?
The intriguingly ambivalent tease ending of The Abominable Snowman is priceless. A rescued Rollason meekly endorses the Lhama’s assertion that “there is no Yeti”. The impression is given that John is voluntarily lying, that he’s been morally converted to the Lhama’s position. But in his final close-up, Cushing’s pale, staring face conveys an impression of involuntary brainwashing.
Compared to the original teleplay by Nigel Kneale (The Creature), the film version is disappointing. The Yeti are only glimpsed briefly, and they’re not too impressive.
The majority of the atmosphere in the film comes from the music of John Hollingsworth.
Dr John Rollason