The Abominable Snowman [of the Himalayas] (1958)
Posted July 23, 2011on:
A Hammer Film or not?
Film historian Sam Sherman nails it….
(A series of emails between film historians Sam Sherman and Rick Mitchell as prompted by my blog)
RICK MITCHELL: …but all Regal [“B” movies produced by Robert L. Lippert and released by 20th Century-Fox] films I’ve seen after that were credited in being in RegalScope, including British made THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS, which was actually shot in what’s now called Super 35; [a film collector] e-mailed me that his 35mm print credits Megascope, the term Hammer used for the films it shot in Super 35 and Columbia used on spherical films it released in Europe with anamorphic prints.
SAM SHERMAN: There is so much information and especially mis-information on this title due to several reasons – The claims that this is a Hammer film or a Regal film are completely Wrong. The film was originally made as a US British co-production between (US) Buzz Productions Inc. (Bob Lippert, Bill PIzor, Irwin Pizor) [**] and (UK) Clarion Films Ltd. (Jimmy Carreras) (a separate company and not legally part of Hammer) with Fox handling all world-wide distribution outside of the Clarion territories of UK and Japan, as the film was a UK quota financed film there, as released by Warners. The process listed was somewhere “Hammerscope” elsewhere “RegalScope”, but was most likely regular Cinemascope.
In the Fox territories the film was cut by several minutes and re-titled ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS. Videos here are from the British master and show the Warners logo and UK credits. The US Theatrical release was the top of a double bill with GHOST DIVER, which I think is a Regal film…, as second feature. US TV was originally handled by Seven Arts (which had a Fox TV film group package) and later became part of Warners. I have a Seven Arts 16MM TV print with different (US) credits which had a prominent credit for Buzz Productions, rarely seen elsewhere. My company (IIP) [Independent International Pictures] is the owner of the Buzz Productions interests. This is probably the best film that the Clarion and Hammer production team ever made. It is finally getting a reputation, is shown yearly at a special film festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and fans finally have gotten to appreciate it. When I took over the rights to this film and started working with Fox they thought nothing of the film until I told them it was great! They didn’t believe in it as they had mis-handled it originally and it made no money. Once, due to my efforts, they reviewed all of these issues and they started marketing it to Cable TV in the US (including HBO) where they did a great deal of business. This film was in the Red from 1957 to the 1990s until I took it over and now, it is solidly in the black.
RICK: Kit Parker forwarded to me your comments about the rights history of this film, which sound very complicated because it was an international co-production. ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN was shot by the technique known today as Super 35: full aperture spherical photography composed for 2.35, which would be extracted and squeezed to a dupe negative for release printing. This was originally done as Superscope but didn’t work as well on color films as with black-and-white and we are now discovering that a number of black-and-white films from the late Fifties released with anamorphic prints and advertised as being in CinemaScope or similar “Scopes” were actually shot that way. Megascope was Hammer’s term for films shot this way and Columbia used it on some films shot and released spherically in the US but with anamorphic prints in Europe, including THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD !
SAM: I won’t believe this super-35 story on ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN until I see a piece of film in my hand like that. I remember seeing some Superscope films in theatres (Tushinsky process) originally… especially INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS . It was inferior looking and very grainy from blowing up that negative. ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN always looks very good leading me to believe it was shot with an anamorphic lens and not blown up from part of a negative. I worked on two films shot in Techniscope (a similar idea using half the negative) and squeezed into an anamorphic version – and it usually looked grainy and horrible. If SNOWMAN was shot the same way, it should look equally bad which it does not.
Unfortunately, we have not had access to MGM’s files to get their side of this, only Panavision’s. Obviously, they couldn’t publicly announce it as it would have been in violation of their licensing agreement with Fox. One giveaway is there is a credit on these films saying “Process lenses by Panavision”, which was used when Panavision optical printer lenses were used for conversions. Through 1960, films shot with Panavision lenses, though credited as being in CinemaScope, carried a sub credit “Photographic lenses by Panavision. Unfortunately, this credit appears near the end of the main title sequence on the card with the copyright notice, etc., so you have to watch the film’s main title sequence to catch it. One other thing I noted was that the films’ original negatives were cut into A&B rolls so they wouldn’t have to go to another dupe stage for dissolves and fades, just title sequences and opticals. We’re fairly certain all their black-and-white “CinemaScope” pictures released in 1957 and 58 were done this way, but still need to research the 1959-60 releases because MGM had begun using Panavision lenses on its color films about that time. Marty has confirmed that THE GAZEBO, released at the end of 1959, was shot anamorphic.
[**] The name “Buzz” probably came from Robert L. Lippert, who had just produced “The Fly” (1958).
Sam Sherman, writer, producer, distributor, and film historian:
Rick Mitchell, film editor and film historian.
Wide Screen 101: