Sunday, October 16, 2011

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16 - Movie 2

While excavating an extension of the London Underground, fossil remains of human ancestors that are determined to be five million years old are unearthed along with a strange object containing locust-like remains. This object is a Martian spacecraft. Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir) theorizes that Martians influenced human evolution and the development of human intelligence. The long history of the place where the craft was found suggests that the craft hasn't been entirely dormant because of repeated sightings of strange dwarf-like creatures, and other manifestations suggesting hauntings, or demonic visitations. The craft does in fact turn out to be still active and exerts a malevolent psychic influence on the populace nearby, causing them to act violently. The psychic energies manifest as a satanic apparition in the sky above the area which grows in power. 

Quatermass and the Pit, aka Five Million Years to Earth (1967) is a movie based on the influential television serial written by Nigel Kneale, and the third in the series of films (also based on previous television serials) featuring professor Quatermass and his interactions with the unknown. The plot of this movie feels very much like a storyline from Doctor Who, which should not be surprising since the Quatermass television serials had a big influence on Doctor Who. This movie has an excellent script, direction by Roy Ward Baker, and an excellent cast including James Donald, Barbara Shelley (in my favorite role of hers) and Julian Glover. 

Aside from some masonry rubble which blow through the air with about as much wind resistance as a sheet of newspaper, and some not always convincing Martian remains, Quatermass and the Pit has some  excellent production values and convincingly eerie special effects. The man afflicted by contact with the craft so that objects are telekinetically hurled around in his wake is just one example of the excellent manner in which the Martian's impact of the humans that come into contact with them is demonstrated. 

On a personal note, for those of you who have followed my work. when I first saw this movie as a child, something about scientists whose profession was to investigate weird phenomena registered in my brain and I became fascinated with the idea of this. This was the seed that would later develop into Midnight, Mass. with Professor Quatermass and Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley) finding their way into Adam and Julia Kadmon. 



Steven Altis said...

One of my all time favorite creepy movies. Stumbled across this one as a kid late one Saturday afternoon on a local TV station, long before we had cable. Freaked me out all kinds of ways, especially that nightmarish devil/Martian hovering in the sky at the end. The perfect example of the kind of low-key dread that British film makers can do so well.

Monster Dad said...

I have to echo what Steven said. This is one of my all-time favorites from childhood (and one of the scariest for me too). It wasn't until seeing it again a few years back that I realized that the devil at the end (which is what I always thought it was) was actually the head of one of the "grasshopper" aliens. I just recently heard that "Quatermass and the Pit" is supposed to be getting released soon on Blu-Ray. Maybe that will be the thing to finally get me to go Blu-Ray!