At a remote lamasery in the Himalayas, scientist John Rollason studies rare mountain herbs with the help of his wife Helen, and associate Peter, while awaiting the arrival of an American named Tom Friend. Over Helen's objections and warnings by the High Lama, he sets out with Friend on an expedition to find the elusive Yeti, accompanied by another American named Shelley and a young Scotsman, McNee, who claims to have seen the thing. Footprints are found in the snows and McNee seems queerly affected the closer they get to their quarry's likely habitat but the biggest shock to Rollason is discovering Friend is a showman who only intends to exploit their find, with Shelley his game hunter/marksman. The conflict between science and commercialism only increases when an enormous anthropoid is shot, and the horror only increases as the party realizes the other Yeti intend to retrieve their fallen comrade and have powers to do so which seem extra-human.Written by
Rich Wannen <RichWannen@worldnet.att.net>
In the fifties, Hammer produced a few highly noted films that were scripted by Nigel Kneale and directed by Val Guest. Among them were QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT and the highly disturbing QUATERMASS II (a.k.a. ENEMY FROM SPACE). Though produced on low budgets, these productions were of a higher quality than most of the usual Science-Fiction releases at the time.
Kneale's literate screenplays were directed towards a more sophisticated audience and Guest's direction displayed much creative imagination, proving that innovation can often override a limited budget.
The story begins as botanist Peter Cushing teams up with crass hustler Forrest Tucker for the purpose of finding the ever elusive Yeti, despite protests and warnings from Cushing's wife (Maureen Connell) and the llama. As the research team progresses on its expedition, they begin to find subtle clues that the yeti may truly exist. While they sleep, they are awaken by the sounds of strange wailing in the night. Upon investigating, they find large footprints of something not apparently human.
Cushing, an honorable man of decent principles, is outraged when he learns that Tucker's real aim is to capture and cheaply exploit the yeti for monetary and personal status gain. During the night, a claw reaches into the tent, sending their superstitious guide out into the night in a fit of total panic. The other members, with the exception of Cushing who tries to maintain his sense of reason, become more and more unhinged as they fear that the creatures are now stalking them. Member Macnee (who claims he once caught a glimpse of one on a previous expedition) believes that they are trying to psychically attack him and he falls to death. Cushing asserts that Macnee was mentally unstable and fell victim to his own frightened carelessness, while Tucker cynically feels that they deliberately drove him to his death.
Tucker proposes a reckless trick to entrap one of the creatures in a cave with a steel net, as his trapper buddy stands by with a gun, just in case. As Cushing and Tucker wait in a nearby tent, a raging blizzard breaks out. Cushing deduces that the Yeti may actually be intelligent beings, perhaps the missing link between man and ape and are a lost chapter in our history of evolution. He feels its possible that they may actually be biding their time, waiting for mankind to die out, so that they can then take over. Tucker only has money-money-money on his sleazy mind and thinks the scientist has flipped-out from cabin fever and is off on an intellectual tangent. Besides, being the hollow man he finally reveals himself to be, Tucker couldn't care less.
The pair hear the hunter's scream and a roar from the cave. They find his dead body with an expression of sheer horror on his face and see that the steel net has been ripped to shreds. As the remaining two members decide to hold-up in the cave til morning, Cushing then hears the radio announcer saying that they are strongly advised to leave their gear and get out of the area immediately. There is only one problem: The radio was busted earlier and is not working, and Tucker says that he didn't hear any such announcement.
I won't say anymore. In many ways Kneale's intriguing story (based on his acclaimed BBC serial THE CREATURE) bears allegorical similarities to Huston's TREASURE OF THE SERRA MADRA, in that the characters are actually pursuing a myth and are inevitably destroyed by their own greed and paranoia. Like TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS, the science-fiction premise takes on supernatural overtones and serves as a cautionary morality play. Though some may think that that old "there are some things that man should not meddle with" message is a preachy cliche, it does have validity when the man's sense of perception, judgement, personal ethics and real motives are highly in question.
Director Guest creates an absorbing atmosphere of mounting terror from beginning to end as the characters' (and the viewers') smugness and complacency is gradually devoured; then the unknown takes over, and total helplessness and fear become the terrifying and tragic results. What at first seemed far-fetched now becomes all too real. This skillful technique was effectively employed in the Quatermass films as well as Tourneur's memorable scare classic NIGHT OF THE DEMON.
The B & W photography evokes the proper dark, eerie mood which leaves you with that unsettling feeling that something truly is out there and it's inevitably closing in on you. Though many critics and viewers felt that the highly overpraised BLAIR WITCH was original with its idea of the unseen menace that preys upon your doubt and paranoia, it's now obvious that it was nothing more than a slipshod rehash of these notable films that were produced decades earlier.
As long as you're not expecting some stupid, slasher monster movie, sophomoric puns and another overblown demo roll of special-effects, then give this unique, intelligent film your serious consideration. It may leave you haunted and disturbed.
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