Abominable Snowman’s Writer Dies

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 1st, 2006

Abominable Snowman

One of the most influential television writers of the 20th century and the writer of one of the most important motion pictures in Yeti cryptofiction has died.

Earlier this year, I noted that director Val Guest died on May 10, 2006, in California.

Now, Nigel has passed away.

Abominable Snowman

That would be Nigel Kneale, here pictured from the 1950s.

At the Hammer Film’s site, in a remembrance there, writer Robert Simpson shares the sad news:

Tom Kneale (better known as Nigel Kneale) died on Sunday 29 October 2006 aged 84. To many he was the godfather of television science fiction, a literary genius, and one whose work for Hammer Film Productions was of immeasurable importance to the development of the company.

Established myth has Kneale born on the Isle of Man in April 1922, and although he grew up on the island, he was in fact born in Lancashire, England.  Kneale spent time as an actor and a writer of prose before commencing work as a scriptwriter for the BBC.

It was whilst at the BBC in the early 1950s that Nigel Kneale wrote the ground-breaking serial The Quatermass Experiment. It was event television, emptying the streets and pubs for the six weeks of its duration. Hammer director Anthony Hinds saw the first episode, and by the time of the second instalment’s broadcast, had secured a deal with the BBC for Hammer to make a film version.

Abominable Snowman

Here is Kneale, shown in 2002.

Simpson details most of his column with background on The Quatermass Experiment television series, and the movies of the same name, directed by Val Guest. But for one paragraph, Kneale is remembered for the reason he is most significant to me.

Abominable Snowman

Simpson writes:

Kneale also adapted his own BBC serial The Creature for Hammer as The Abominable Snowman in 1957 and wrote the final script for Joan Fontaine vehicle The Witches in 1966. Hammer Film Productions’ Chairman Larry Chrisfield said “He made a huge contribution to Hammer’s  history and we are greatly indebted to him.”

The Abominable Snowman, also known as The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas is one of those remarkable films that captures so many levels of the cryptozoological pursuit of the Yeti. It has a status similar to Half Human (1955 in Japan, 1957 in the USA), in my mind, and elevated the story of the Snowman above the level of other 1950s’ movies, such as The Snow Creature (1954) and Man Beast (1956), which had more in common with drive-in theater fare.

Abominable Snowman

The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas is the story of an English botanist, Dr. John Rollason (played with extreme intelligent by Peter Cushing) who agrees to go on an American expedition lead by Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker), who is at first covertly looking for the Yeti. As it turns out, the Friend character is out to kill and/or capture the Yeti.

Abominable Snowman

The curse of the Snowman dogs the expedition after the trapper Ed Shelley (Robert Brown) kills one of the creatures, as he and others die throughout the film. I won’t spoil the movie if you haven’t seen it, but the portrayal of the Yeti comes out far better than that of the ugly American characterizations.

Abominable Snowman

Especially interesting to me is a question I have never had answered: Was the character of the American Yeti hunter and exploiter “Tom Friend” (shown above next to the film’s Yeti body) based, in some part, on the real Texan Yeti hunter Tom Slick. Slick received a good deal of mass media attention from the mid-1950s through the beginning of his February 1957 expedition. The fact he was bringing guns, was accused by the Chinese of spying, and in general a “rich American” looking for the Abominable Snowman got the attention of such press outlets as Time Magazine, Newsweek, Reuters, and The New York Times. Since the movie was based on a teleplay, which would have been very responsive to current events, I think there is a direct link here between “Friend” and Slick.

The English character Dr. John Rollason carries Kneale’s dialogue that killing a Yeti by this cold-blooded American (“Tom Friend”) is not the greatest idea in the world. This was a common perception that was being expressed in the 1950s’ British and Indian press when mentioning the forthcoming Yeti hunts of Tom Slick. Slick was discussed rather chillingly as an “American millionaire” out to catch a Yeti and a person who pushed hard to obtain special permits from Nepal to shoot one in self-defense, if it came to that. It does not take a deep reading of the media at the time to see that concerns were being raised about Slick’s definition of “personal safety.”

Abominable Snowman

To me, every time I watch The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, I see one way that Tom Slick was viewed in 1957, and it serves as a significant historical window on how people were against the American search for the Yeti in the Fifties.

I love this movie!

Sorry to hear that Nigel Kneale has passed away, who gave us this wonderful motion picture, and my thoughts go out to his family and fans.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

9 Responses to “Abominable Snowman’s Writer Dies”

  1. Darkwing2006 responds:

    I actually got to watch this movie the weekend before Halloween, and it was a good one to watch. Forrest Tucker is always good as the bad guy, and of course Peter Cushing is always great to watch. The way they protrayed everything makes me wish they could make movies like that today, just update the special effects and makeup.

  2. scousequatch responds:

    Really enjoyable movie. I might not have bothered watching it but for your excellent book on Tom Slick, Mr. Coleman! And, FWIW, I’m with you re: Friend = Slick.

    RIP Mr. Kneale


  3. gridbug responds:

    Agreed, this film is a class act. Spooky and atmospheric, and with one of the greatest reveals of all time. Hard to find nowadays, and expensive when you do come across it… hopefully we’ll see a re-release soon.

  4. derfboy responds:

    Where can one get a copy of this movie?

  5. Craig Woolheater responds:

    One can purchase a copy of the film from Amazon.com. Click on any of the links in Loren’s post above. It will take you to this item on Amazon.com’s website where you can make your purchase.

  6. greatanarch responds:

    Very sorry to hear of Nigel Kneale’s death. ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ is the pinnacle of television science fiction: the series of the 60’s were space opera by comparison.

  7. derfboy responds:

    Thanks Craig looking foward to watching it.

  8. captiannemo responds:

    The mind control aspect of the Yeti in the movie might be compared to the Gray man of Ben Macdui in Scotland. With the similar type of mind control and running in blind panic!

  9. Alex Jones responds:

    This movie was an early globalist movie pushing the old ‘humans = bad, animals = good’ garbage.

    And it did indeed portray the Ugly American portrait as opposed to the Fabulous educated in other worldly things Limey concept.

    Tom Good should have blasted both the Yeti and the Limey!

    The movie also pushed a subtle Gaia tree worship as World Religion propaganda.

    Christian, Judaisn, Islam Religions = Bad! Tree Spirit and Big Stinking Wooly Yeti Worship = Good!

    Yeah, right, zzzzzzzzzzzzz….The film is notable only as an early piece of propaganda, clumsy as that presentation was. Today the propaganda and Agenda-Pushing is much more sophisticated with all the stuff we see coming out of Hollyweird …

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