Tuesday, May 3, 2011

THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (Val Guest, 1957)

Two disparate men search for the mystifying and elusive Yeti in the shadow of Mt. Everest, good intentions eclipsed by the ugly demon of avarice. Val Guest directs this metaphysical and metaphorical tale that may be set atop the highest mountain but casts a dehumanizing shadow into the deep valleys of the human soul.

Dr. Rollason is a British Botanist (expertly portrayed by Peter Cushing) who is investigating the fauna and flora of the Himalayas. He teams up with the ugly American adventurer Tom Friend (an unsympathetic performance by the dimensionless Forest Tucker) in search of the mysterious Yeti. Rollason wishes to learn and study from a live specimen, to examine the possibly intelligent creature with care and respect, while Friend wants to kill the beast for his traveling carnival, his love of money the root of his downfall.

The film may be read on two levels: one is the impotence of British Colonialism as Rollason represents the foreign invader, a virus that taints the cellular structure of the seemingly uneducated Sherpa. The Llama is the voice of reason and asks Rollason to leave in peace…but it’s too late: the Americans are on their way. The “civilized” culture subsumes and destroys the native population, malformed with greed. It is also an indictment of American values, as each becomes a violent caricature of gun wielding miscreants, who eat their just desserts. Both cultures are denounced as the Llama remains without sin, and the Yeti forever wait the endgame of the Cold War apocalypse for the right to inherit the Earth.

Val Guest uses shadow and sound to great effect without revealing the abominable riddle that stalks the mountain, a pulsing suspense of howling wind and stinging snow. He smartly chooses to keep the creature off screen until the brief revelation, where eyes gleam with gentleness and aged wisdom, and we are left to wonder who is the real monster.

Final Grade: (B)

1 comment:

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