Nigel Kneale is one of my favourite writers for television and film. If you don’t know who that is go hunt down Quatermass and the Pit (TV version preferably) I’ll be here when you get back.
Early on in British television there was a series called Sunday Night Theatre. Nigel Kneale wrote several episodes for it such as The Road. Sadly many if not all these are now lost (I have mentioned before I do not blame the BBC for this as it was a new medium and there were many unanswered questions about repeats) But several of his stories would go on to be remade by Hammer Horror, such as this one. Originally broadcast in 1955 as The Creature it was later adapted into the Hammer Horror movie The Abominable Snowman in 1957 which we do have and is available on DVD, so let’s watch.
So the film stars Peter Cushing who, for the purposes of being funny I shall refer to as Grand Moff Tarkin. He has arrived in the Himalayas and specifically at a monastery having been a seasoned climber until a certain incident. He is with a botanical expedition along with his wife played by Maureen Connell and their assistant Peter Fox. They meet the Lama played by Arnold Marlé and it’s very quick to see something is odd about him as he seems to know more than he should, including that Tarkin is actually going on another expedition led by an American called Tom Friend played by Forrest Tucker to in fact hunt for the legendary yeti who Tarkin apparently had a past encounter with of the sorts before his accident.
Now I know what you are thinking. This is going to be a film where slowly they are in fact hunted by the abominable snowman as they must use their wit and American guns to take down the creature… well that would have been the case if this had been made in America (it was the 50s after all, the golden age of B movies). No instead you have a psychological story as Tarken discovers there is much more to the yeti than being some sort of animal or missing link. And that he may be coming to terms with the fate of man as he witnesses what truly drives his fellow expedition members.
Nigel Kneale once more uses what is essentially this time a monster story to instead tell a story about humanity and how some of the very same drives that pushed us this far may bring about our own destruction if used for our own selfish gains. It must be remembered that this was written in the 50s and it looked very much like the world could end any day, mention is made of the bomb being dropped. Interestingly it’s not the only piece of work by Kneale that pertains to Man’s potential doom by his own hands.
The film isn’t long at 91 minutes but it’s definitely worth checking out. I actually first caught it around Christmas time on the horror channel and then decided to get it on DVD to show a friend because we are both quite fond of his works. I will definitely return to the works of Kneale. There are plenty to choose from, not just the masterpiece that is Quatermass and the Pit.