Saturday, February 21, 2009

Things Remembered: Quatermass And The Pit(1967)

While I don't have every Hammer Films sci-fi and horror movie on DVD yet, I have most of them. These movies are among my favorites in my growing DVD collection, none more so than 1967's Quatermass And The Pit, aka "Five Million Years To Earth", the film directed by Roy Ward Baker and based on a story by Nigel Kneale.

The film's story: a mysterious object is unearthed by workers during the construction of an underground subway tunnel in London(UK). The local military begins uncovering the object while the site is isolated from the general public. The military and scientists, among them astro-physicist Professor Bernard Quatermass, begin an investigation into the object: what it is and where it may have come from. Tensions mount between Quatermass and his military counterpart, Colonel Breen. The colonel believes the object is an unexploded "dud" World War II "V" rocket" while Professor Quatermass and his colleagues begin to suspect the object may be a space ship.

The discovery of insect-like alien corpses inside the object would seem to confirm Quatermass' theory about what the object is. Things get even more unsettling when the object seems to come alive, and able to activate long dormant memories within select people near it, including Dr. Rooney's assistant Barbara Judd(played by veteran Hammer Films actress Barbara Shelley). These memories play out in Ms. Judd's mind, and the vision, captured on an electronic device later, reveal what appears to be a massive and chaotic event among the insectoid aliens, presumably on the planet Mars.

The ship's energy becomes stronger and more and more local citizenry are affected, which soon leads to rioting and chaos in the streets above the station, Dr. Quatermass and Dr. Roney(played by James Donald) the only two who know how to stop the ship's destructive energy projection. (no other spoilers).

Andrew Keir is very good good in this film in his portrayal of "Bernard Quatermass", a hard working and energetic man who is takes his work very seriously and who is also not shy about standing up for his beliefs in the face of withering disdain and criticism from both government officials and the lead military liason, Colonel Breen(played by Julian Glover), who is assigned to work with Quatermass in the investigation of the mystery object.

The verbal skirmishes between Quatermass and Breen are often amusing. James Donald is also effective as "Dr. Roney" and the lovely Barbara Shelley(who also starred in The Gorgon, a 1964 Hammer horror film) is always a welcome site for fans of "Hammer". The special effects won't blow anyone away but this film is not about special effects but rather is more about science. Still, the revelation of humanity's origins in this movie is at once startling and perhaps a bit disturbing as well.

The trailer for Quatermass And The Pit: