The always wonderful Peter Cushing stars as Dr. Rollasan, a British botanist sent to Tibet to study rare plants. Cushing’s mere presence lends dignity to the story of a creature with which his interests really lie, what the Tibetans call the Yeti. Neither beast nor man, the legend of the Yeti says that they live in the high frozen Himalayan mountains. Huge footsteps are the only evidence ever seen by man. Dr. Rollasan believes that the Yeti may be a third branch of the great evolutionary split between ape and man. He wants to find the Yeti for his own knowledge and for the sake of science.
The great Himalayans are like a living entity in this film. The film makers used the Pyrenees mountains in France during winter to double for the long shots of the mountain range. The overwhelming vastness of the Himalayans is captured cleverly by cinematographer Arthur Grant, as well as the art and set directors, smoothly blending the real location shots with some of the most realistic studio sets I’ve ever seen. We are inexorably drawn into the feeling of howling winds, cold, exhaustion and fear of the climbing group led by Dr. Rollasan.
The supporting case complements the story beautifully, with special mention for Arnold Marle as the High Lama of the Buddhist lamasery from which the expedition commences. He is mysterious, cunning, other-worldly, possessed with strange powers of knowledge.
Director Val Guest makes the most of a small budget and delivers a movie that is poetic in nature and haunting in style. When you meet the Yeti, it will not be in a way you might expect. I have never forgotten it, and I suspect you won’t either.