Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quatermass and the Pitt (1967)

I first saw this film when I was a kid one Saturday afternoon under the title Five Million Years to Earth. At the time I was pretty enthralled with aliens after seeing Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Any movie with alien life forms in it was A-OK in my book and Five Million Years to Earth was no exception.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker (A Night to Remember, The Vampire Lovers) , this Hammer Films outing stars Andrew Keir as Prof. Bernard Quatermass who is sent to investigate the unearthing of a “missile” during a subway construction in London. This missile proves to be an alien spacecraft which had crashed here on earth many moons ago. Once gaining entry into the spacecraft an inner wall is breached exposing the craft’s cargo, the fossilized remains of insect like alien beings!

Quatermass soon discovers that the alien beings are still able to communicate telepathically to the human mind. A pretty nifty device is used to transmit human thought into video projections, allowing Quatermass to see the alien beings on their own planet of Mars. These Martians committed genocide on their own planet and came here to earth with the intent on taking over. Telepathically they are able to awaken the inherent evil that resides in all human beings. Soon this inherent evil is realized and all hell literally breaks loose in the streets of London. Citizens are suddenly turned into hypnotized killers committing genocide on others. This evil “energy” comes to psychical fruition in the form of a ghostly specter looming over the area the spacecraft resides. Quatermass’ colleague, Dr. Roney (James Donald), sacrifices himself by steering a large metal crane into form. Discharging the energy and saving the human race. That last shot of the good Doc riding the crane into the face of pure evil and his own demise is quite the memorable payoff. One that left my jaw on the floor as a young kid…..and still does to this day!

Quatermass and the Pitt is based off the BBC Television production of the same name that ran in December 1958 through January 1959. It is largely faithful to the original production as well. What I like most of this film is the blending of Science Fiction and Horror elements. Insect like creatures from Mars that have a rather horned devil look to them combined with the psychic evil and a history of the supernatural events surrounding the area of “Hobb’s End” where the subway is being constructed, is fine story telling indeed. Roy Ward Baker’s direction is top notch and the performances from Kier, Donald, Barbara Shelley and Julian Glover are lively and believable. Unlike some of Hammer’s productions, Quatermass and the Pitt runs at a pretty good clip. Every minute of film time is devoted to pulling in the viewer and figuring out the mystery at hand. The film is genuinely spooky and holds up well considering its age and the somewhat hokey looking alien life forms seen in the telepathically captured footage sequence. That footage is probably my only beef with the film but is quickly swept aside by the acting, story telling and knock out punch ending.

Quatermass and the Pitt was preceded by two other films based on the BBC Television series, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955; U.S. title The Creeping Unknown) and Quatermass 2 (1957; U.S. title The Enemy from Space) respectively. In 1979 a fourth Quatermass production was filmed for BBC Television simply titled Quatermass. In 2005 a live broadcast remake of The Quatermass Experiment was aired as well. Is there more for Professor Quatermass in our future? With the re emergence of Hammer Films Productions there most certainly could be the chance!

1 comment:

  1. Love this movie...it wasn't until a year or so ago when I woke up from a nap to see the glowing demon cricket on tv and took me right back to being a kid. For decades I had tried to remember which movie it was from and was finally relieved to figure it out.