Monday, October 31, 2011

Creature Feature

I interrupt the 30 day science fiction challenge for The Abominable Snowman (as you do). This is the 1957 black and white Hammer film directed by Val Guest. It was adapted by Nigel Kneale from his 1955 BBC TV play called The Creature. Sadly that BBC version doesn't survive but the Hammer movie has recently been re-issued on DVD and I got it as part of this year's birthday haul.

The plot is fairly straightforward, Peter Cushing recreates his role from the TV version as Dr John Rollason, a botanist and climber who is researching Tibetan plants while staying in a remote lamasery in the Himalayas. He gets recruited by an American expedition who are looking for the Yeti. Five climbers set off together and ..., well things don't go according to plan.

Peter Cushing is, as ever, fantastically watch-able. I think it is the air of calm competence that he brings to all his roles. Whether he is playing Sherlock Holmes, Van Helsing or Grand Moff Tarkin he always seems to know exactly what he is doing. Here he is absolutely convincing as an efficient climber and a calm and rational scientist. This contrasts with the loud and brash Americans who deliver all their lines as if shouting in a street market. Although, to be fair, one of the Yanks is played by a British actor, Robert Brown, who would later go on to play M in the James Bond movies of the 70s and 80s.

You could choose to read some form of assessment of post war relationships into this film. The Americans have all the money and the guns, and Britain has the technical know-how and a placid stoicism to go with it. I can imagine British cinema audiences being quietly appalled by the shouting Americans and siding with Peter Cushing who doesn't make a fuss but just gets on with things.

Anyway, that may be too deep a reading for what is essentially a Hammer monster movie. It's a pretty good one at that. We do eventually get to see the titular creature but like any good horror film they save the reveal until the very end. I won't give to much away but suffice it to say the ending relies on Cushing to make a peaceful and rational decision, much like conclusions that Kneale wrote for Professor Quatermass.

This doesn't get a Joe Bob star rating because this isn't a candidate for bad movie bingo. Instead it represents the only chance to see any form of Kneale's 1955 TV show. A stealth British Invaders review perhaps?

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