Quatermass and the Pit

Title: Quatermass and the Pit
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Hammer Horror
Starring: James Donald, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Release Date: 1967

A British Film Production Company, Hammer Film's became notorious in the late 50s for their trademark style of Gothic Horror films, creating many films that remain iconic even today. As Horror films became more sophisticated and with foreign financiers backing out, towards the end of their reign they tried to establish a new niche and became lower budgeted and self-parodical in nature, releasing multiple sequels to their earlier successes in the process until their demise in the late 70s.

I always despise the idea of making New Year's resolutions. They never seem to work; people make great exclamations of “I'm going to lose all that weight,” “I'll stop smoking” or “I'll only drink on days containing the letter a.”* This year, however, it seems like a good opportunity to make a small resolution to correct something that as an English Horror fan seems rather shameful to admit: I had never seen a Hammer Horror. Of course, that's no longer true else I wouldn't be writing this now, but nonetheless, is something I plan on rectifying by making my way through a decent chunk of their back catalogue, from the classics of Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and Dracula to the perhaps not so classic Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Frankenstein created Woman and Countess Dracula. And what a shoddier way to start than here, unwittingly watching the third in a series of films as my first foray entirely by mistake.

What begins as a very plausible scientific situation gradually spirals out of control following the discovery of a mysterious shell deep in the London underground during some ongoing extension work. Thought to be a bomb, a disposal unit is sent but it soon becomes apparent that identifying the unusual object is beyond his scope of expertise. With an archaeologist already on the scene, fascinated by their own discovery of an ape like caveman pre-dating existing records, Professor Quatermass – part physicist, part conspiracy nut – and a man from the military intent on assessing it's threat and forming far-fetched theories of his own soon enter the fray. But at least his didn't involve an ancient alien race of grasshoppers conquering the Earth, and such a shame he turned out to be wrong.

And that's basically my issue with this film; what starts out so well in providing fascinating insight into the mysterious craft and it's baffling properties and events that seem to surround it (not in the least the history of the area that's uncovered) and the manner the military and government are in constant battle with the scientists and the press, trying to prevent widespread panic and assess the situation carefully. It's almost frightening in how plausible it all seems; somewhere between a “War of the Worlds” type ideology (the Radio show, not the film) and the classic Dr. Who philosophy of relying on the mind, having everything just out of sight and using the power of suggestion. And indeed, there are few effects used (and employed effectively with the minimal budget) but the moment the aliens are revealed, the whole films plausibility spirals out of control until the ludicrous and borderline incomprehensible finalĂ©, which is a tragedy as everything started out with such promise.

*Did you catch this one or are you still half-sleeping? It's actually quite feasible.


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