* Prices may differ from that shown
While building an extension on the London Underground station of Hobbs End, workers discover a set of human like skeletons buried deep in the clay. Archaeologist Dr. Mathew Roney and his lab assistant Barbara Judd are excited to find that the skeletons are not of Homo sapiens. They are a missing link in human evolution dating back much further than any other ancestor discovered so far. What starts off as a very exciting scientific discovery soon takes on much more sinister overtones as what looks like an unexploded WW2 Nazi bomb is uncovered on the same site. The area where the station is being built has a troubled history; the houses in the area have been left unoccupied since before the War the previous tenants complaining of strange apparitions, eventually believing the whole area to be haunted. Stories and rumours of ghosts and demons in the locality go back to Romans times and soon strange unexplained events start to happen once again. Prof. Quatermass working on a secret government rocket project happens to be visiting the site and soon takes an interest. When the unexploded bomb turns out to be some kind of alien spacecraft the mystery deepens. What dangers lurk in Hob's lane? What evil presence have the excavations once again released from their ancient tombs?
"TERROR 5 MILLION YEARS OLD"
This is classic 1960's sci-fi horror. The story by the legendary sci-fi screen writer Nigel Kneale is quite complex involving alien invasions, genetic manipulation, telekinesis and the occult. Like the previous Quatermass films 'The Quatermass Experiment' (1955) and 'Quatermass 2' (1957) this film was also adapted from a previous TV serial. Considering when it was made and the crudeness of some of the special effects it remains surprisingly scary in parts.
In the lead role we have Andrew Keir taking on the role of Quatermass and it is a relief to have a British actor taking on the role after the previous Quatermass films made by Hammer where the American actor Brian Donlevy. Although those films were a success for Hammer for me Donlevy simply wasn't believable in the role of the rebellious scientist. Andrew Keir a Hammer regular brings gravitas and realism to the role and even when he's spouting pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo you believe in what he's saying. Nigel Kneale the author was especially pleased with the central performance of Andrew Keir as Quatermass. Kneale had been very disparaging of the previous choice of Donlevy as Quatermass describing his performances as 'belligerent' and was only tempted on board of this latest film when he was assured that Donlevy was not going to star. The choice of Keir was by no means a simple one and plenty of big name stars were considered including Peter Finch, Trevor Howard, Kenneth Moore and another Hammer regular Andre Morrell. In the end I think they made the right choice.
Great support is given by the ever dependable James Donald one of our very best characters actors. The elegant looking Barbara Shelley also known as the "The First Leading Lady of British Horror" due to her featuring in many of the best horror films of the period including plenty made by Hammer, is in fine form as Roney's research assistant. For once the female lead in a horror film doesn't spend her whole time screaming and running away from danger. In fact she helps solve the mystery at the heart of the underground discoveries and ultimately in instrumental in saving the day. Another of our top character actors Julian Glover plays the baddie as the pig headed military man Colonel Breen who from the outset is at loggerhead with Quatermass over how the situation should be dealt with.
"MORE HORROR THAN THE HUMAN MIND CAN DARE"
This film was made in 1967 and it's definitely 'old school' Science fiction. In this type of story the scientist represent hope and are trustworthy, they seek the truth and are invariably right about the consequences of ignoring the science and making the wrong decision. The army and the government are those who can't be trusted, they invariably want to cover up any inconvenient truth and are constantly trying to restrict what scientist should do. The exception to the rule is obviously scientist behind the iron curtain, they are always evil, we were still fighting the cold war after all! Scientists were later to become the villains in many Sci-fi stories that followed in the 1970's as writers, filmmakers and audiences became more and more cynical about undisputed benefits of science and progress. This cynicism is still alive and well today!
As we can expect with a Hammer production the colours are vivid and the set design were good what suffered at the hands of a restricted budget were the special effects which can be a drawback for a science fiction film, however a certain amount of ingenuity and a some good sound special effects made up for some low productions values and they just about get away with it. By this time production had moved from the traditional setting at Bray studios and the film was mostly filmed in the M-G-M studios at Borehamwood so purist might notice the lack of the customary Hammer atmosphere. Despite this and some rather lacklustre special effects the project was well received by the critics and audiences.
"YOU DESCEND INTO THE PIT OF HELL"
Overall the film is one of the best British science fiction films of the period, it's also quite scary in parts although it wouldn't bother a modern gore desensitised audience. I think the UK 12 certificate is probably justified. The best aspect of the film is the clever story that once again shows what an excellent scriptwriter Nigel Kneale was. His careful and skilful weave of disparate themes within this story is masterful and pre-dated many other authors that used the same premise in later years. We are presented with an age old struggle between good and evil fighting for the very essence of the human soul; it is really a simple morality tale but very well told.
This was to be the last Quatermass film made by Hammer although Kneale was behind a 1979 TV movie starring John Mills as Quatermass.
CAST, DVD TECHNICAL DETAILS AND BONUS MATERIAL
James Donald ... Dr. Mathew Roney
Andrew Keir ... Prof. Bernard Quatermass
Barbara Shelley ... Barbara Judd
Julian Glover ... Colonel Breen
Duncan Lamont ... Sladden
Bryan Marshall ... Captain Potter
Run Time: 93 minutes
This version was part of the Hammer collection and in common with many of the other releases there is almost no bonus material Included on the DVD in fact the only bonus feature is the original trailer, which shows more spoilers than it really should and yet manages to give the wrong impression of what the film is actually like. A standard scene selection option is also included and that's all. For once with the Hammer collection films the quality of the print is quite good although not to re-mastered quality.
'Quatermass and the Pit' can be bought on DVD from Amazon.co.uk for £4.49 (including p&p) at time of writing this review.
This is a decent Hammer Horror attempt at one of the more interesting stories that was being bounced around at the time. In contrast to other attempts, this one is actually a fairly accurate adaption of the story, and it benefits from a first rate cast, including Andrew Keir and Julian Glover. Of course, it's still a Hammer Horror, and at times it does feel it. Some of the special effects are dated. But, in all fairness, this carries a lot of weight and is entertaining enough.
Workmen in London are constructing a new underground station in Hobb's End. As they dig, they come across the remains of some skeletons. They bring in an expert, named Dr Roney, who starts to look at the skeletons, and ends up concluding that they are a very primitive version of the human race. Naturally he is not believed, but things do take a disturbing turn when they dig further and find what seems to be a rocket, or a space ship.
At this point, Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir), who works at a government science department focusing on rockets is brought in to investigate, as is an army bomb expert Colonel Breen (Julian Glover). Colonel Green becomes convinced that the rocket is an experimental German WW2 model that was meant to scare. Professor Quatermass remains skeptical, and continues to investigate. The two men continue to disagree, and finally the Home Secretary sides with Colonel Breen.
Refusing to give in, Quatermass remains ever present, even though he is often prevented from doing what he wants to.
However, thing take an even more disturbing turn when a workman who is inside the rocket seems to go mad. Now it's a race against time as Quatermass tries desperately to prove that the rocket is an alien craft, and that it is incredibly dangerous, leading to a typical Hammer climax.
As with the majority of Hammer films, there is always an element of the unbelievable, or the daft. And once or twice, those daft moments to creep in to this film.
However, this really is a much better attempt than some other Hammer films, and does have a few shocks and a lot of entertainment along the way.
Certainly the acting makes this film. Andrew Keir is on top form as Professor Quatermass, and many consider his portrayal to be very faithful. The man who makes this film though is Julian Glover as Colonel Breen. You end up wanting to shout at him to listen, and his acting is so good that your blood will boil until the point where you are able to say "He told you so".
The action is also pretty decent. It has Hammer style special effects, so don't hope for anything exceptional. But the action is paced, and it's entertaining.
All in all, one of the better Hammer films that was produced.
** Quatermass And The Pit **
I love those old Hammer films and one or other of the family is constantly updating our DVD collection with some film or other. The latest addition is Quatermass And The Pit which we got from Amazon for £3.98 including free super saver delivery.
This film is from 1967 but Hammer had already madea couple of Quatermass films back in the 50s so I suppose Quatermass And The Pit could be considered a sequel. Though continuity was not one of the things Hammer films are renowned for. In fact it is often the silly aspects of the film that make them more endearing I think. If Hammer had made perfect well thought out films and smoothly linked to previous films they wouldn't be half soquirky and entertaining.
Actually I'm being too harsh because Quatermass is a scientist who gets brought in to solve various weird and wonderful problems like a slighter darker in character less flamboyant Dr Who.
I won't spoil the plot of Quatermass And The Pit but there are a few points I'd like to make about it that hopefully won't intrude on your enjoyment of the film if you've yet to see it.
The plot is not as waifer thin as you might think. I was quite impressed by the levels of thought that had gone into this plot. It is a lot weirder than Dr Who. The fictitious background to the plot is well laid out as it involves ramifications for the whole human race, evolution and a shift in the whole philosophy and understanding of good and evil.
Built into the plot is also a bleakness, great touches like telekinesis and views into wholly alien histories. You'd be forgiven for missing some of the more subtle aspects after only one viewing. I've seen this film ten times at least over the years and there are still new things I pick up on.
The film is both a science fiction film - complete with strange phenomenon science and aliens all done in the Dr Who mould though wonderfully darker in mood and but also, probably because it's a Hammer film Quatermass And The Pit is also a horror film.
There is even a psuedo devil and mass contolling of human minds plus a healthy bit of action thrown in here and there for good measure.
Most of the above stuff plays only a small part to the plot as it unfolds out from it's beginnings in the London Underground. I haven't even begun to sketch out the skeleton of the plot with what I've written and speaking of skeletons yes it has those too :o)
There is a lot of depth to this film. Perhaps the acting isn't first rate but it's a very good B plus effort most of the time and never gets in the way of enjoying the film.
** In conclusion **
If you like sci-fi with a mountain more imagination than Star Trek voyager and horror a bit more engaging than endless variations on zombie films treat yourself to a slice of real imagination and watch Quatermass And The Pit. It's bloody great!
Thanks for reading my review.
Film's Title - Quatermass and the Pit
Year of Release - 1967
Director - Roy Ward Baker
Stars of the Film - Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover, James Donald
I remember watching a version of Quatermass on television years ago, which I enjoyed, but this was the first time I had seen the 1967 Hammer film Quatermass and the Pit. Nigel Kneale wrote this and the other versions of the Quatermass story, which has resurfaced in several guises over the years, including the 2005 version starring David Tennant, Andrew Tiernan and Indira Varma.
Having so far watched ten Hammer films in this DVD box set, I now notice regular members of the Hammer "repertory cast" who keep popping up. This time, we have Andrew Keir in the starring role of Professor Bernard Quatermass, who impressed me as Father Sandor in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966). Barbara Shelley plays Barbara Judd here, but previously provided the glamour in Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966) and the afore-mentioned Dracula movie.
In the supporting cast, we have Robert Morris and Duncan Lamont, who both featured in Frankenstein Created Woman. Alongside these Hammer "regulars", there are many other familiar faces including Julian Glover as Colonel Breen and Sheila Steafel in a small role as a journalist.
The story unravels slightly slowly at first, but soon gathers pace and becomes exciting, dramatic and very enjoyable. We follow a scientific team's investigations, as the building of a new part of the London Underground produces some shocking discoveries. As skeletal remains are found, the scientists try to determine the age of them. As the excavations continue, it appears there is some kind of bomb hidden too, so the military are called in.
This leads to inevitable tension between the two camps as the military - led by Colonel Breen - are keen to provide a logical explanation for the discovery, preferably blaming the Germans! The scientists - including Prof. Quatermass, Barbara Judd and Dr. Mathew Roney (James Donald) - are more open to other theories and further research into old documents uncovers previous sighting of "demons" in the area. Could this be a supernatural force at work or even aliens?
As the plot develops, the pace gathers speed and the last half an hour or so is very exciting. It reminded me of a disaster movie or an episode of Doctor Who - both of which I love! (My husband informs me that the 1970 Jon Pertwee story 'Doctor Who and the Silurians' was inspired by the Quatermass story.)
Quatermass and the Pit is a well-made film which looks classy and high budget (despite being made relatively cheaply, as all Hammer films were), with very good special effects for the time. Though some of the creatures themselves look a bit unrealistic, the film usually relies on things flying around for the tension and this is very effective.
While sometimes classed as a horror film, this is more akin to sci-fi for me with some drama thrown in. It is rated a 12 in the UK, which seems about right to me, as there are some moments which would scare youngsters.
The acting is good overall, though the subject matter does lend itself to a few instances of over-acting, melodrama and a touch of gurning! The leads are convincing though, with convincing performances from Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, James Donald and Julian Glover. I did feel that Andrew Keir lacked a bit of charisma though; I wanted to warm to him and care about him more than I did.
Overall though, it is a very good film and I enjoyed it. Apart from some slow atmosphere-setting scenes near the start, it held my attention well. It provides plenty of unpredictability with many shocks and surprises throughout. It does have a rather bleak ending, but this felt realistic and added to the darkness of the film. Although it has dated over the last four decades, the threat feels believable, set against the still-familiar backdrop of the London Underground. As ever, fear is at its scariest when it is close to home.
8 out of 10. Recommended.
I own this as part of The Hammer Collection DVD boxset, but it is available by itself for £4.28 from Amazon UK.
Based on a TV serial of the same name, 1955's "The Quatermass Xperiment" is often considered to be the first proper Hammer horror, the studio that would go on to make big names of Peter Cushing and Christoper Lee.
"The Quatermass Xperiment" was derided by the serial's original creator for its casting of the American Brian Donlevy in the title role, but yet he still returned for the bigger budget and better sequel "Quatermass 2" two years later.
It would be ten years before Hammer got their grubby mits on a third Quatermass serial, and with it came the art of colour film-making as well as a brand new star as Bernard Quatermass, the top-thinking English professor.
In the London underground, extension work is being made to one of the tunnels at Hobb's End - only when the workers discover a host of skeletons in the wall, archeologist Dr. Mathew Roney (James Donald) is called in with his team to take over the delicate excavations.
Meanwhile, Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is having trouble with the government top-brass who want to turn his moon-base research over to the military, so he is forced to have the one-track-mind of Colonel Breen (Julian Glover) join his team.
But when Dr. Roney uncovers what might be an unexploded bomb in the Hobb's End pit, Breen as an expert is called in to deal with it, bringing Quatermass in on the proceedings as well.
As the strange vessel is unearthed and Quatermass researches into the background of Hobb's End and the strange goings-on that have been linked to the place over the years, he begins to unravel a horrible truth about the nature of man itself that might ultimately destroy the human race.
"Quatermass and the Pit" starts off well, introducing relatively interesting characters, especially the officious Colonel Breen played expertly by Julian Glover, but by the time sets start wobbling and wire is waved in front of the camera as if its moving by itself, it all goes downhill and we run way off the silliness-meter.
Although I didn't initially like Brian Donlevy in the title role as Quatermass, by the time "Quatermass 2" came along I was quite happy with him, especially since his manic running around and cutting people off mid-sentence kept the pace of the movie really fast and made it all entertaining.
This film is really missing his energy and I was hoping he would turn up, yell a bit and set everything straight, because I'm sure he would have saved the day in half the time.
Instead we have the Scottish actor Andrew Keir, who certainly looks like an English professor with his tweed jacket, white hair and big bushy beard, but he constantly looks grim and perplexed, taking ages to work anything out, especially when the audience is always two steps ahead.
Keir brings little enthusiasm to the role, and while the film does have similarities to a Pertwee-era Doctor Who story, Pertwee was so much more effective as a hero, even in the gurning scenes.
When the 'bomb' begins to awaken, pots and pans are thrown across the screen as if by magic, and the characters are subjected to a mass shaking, producing many hammy faces - at one point Julian Glover looks like he's having a fit.
Glover is probably the most impressive of the lacklustre cast, playing the cliche narrow-minded military chief well, but it is all a bit by-numbers.
But the most ridiculous scene in the film is when the cast have sat down to watch a film made from the embedded thoughts from millions of years ago, of these locust-like aliens from Mars, or something, and all the model work is so rubbish that it looks like a poor attempt to rip-off the Clangers.
There's also the big smoky vision of the Devil in the finale, which made little sense whatsoever, but by that point I was just wanting the film to end.
"Quatermass and the Pit" is often praised for Keir's performance and a 'faithful' adaptation of the original Quatermass serials, but ultimately it is lifeless, stupid and doesn't have the energy of the previous movies.
If you want to watch the best one, go for "Quatermass 2" instead.
[The DVD can be purchased from play.com for £9.99 (at time of writing), including postage and packing]
This film was made in 1967...it's now 2008 and so I thought it about time I watched the darned thing!
To be honest I wasn't expecting much. I have read and heard much praise but being a lover of all things horror and science fiction I tend to be a little disappointed when lead by other people's opinions. However in this case I was pleasantly surprised.
The story revolves around the discovery of a mysterious object during renovations of the London Underground at the fictional station "Hobb's End". Without spoiling the plot this necessitates the arrival of the Army Bomb Disposal Squad along with a pacifist professor, his assistants and an army of press reporters.
This area of London has a reputation for strange events dating back hundreds of years in the film. What impressed me most about this seeming deviation for Hammer Horror Films into science-fiction was their ability to use their horror expertise to achieve a truly unsettling mood with a very limited budget. This movie really does begin to get under your skin as the atmosphere builds and the identity of the discovered object is discovered.
Performances are above par for Hammer Horror. Professor Quatermass himself (Andrew Keir) and the very easy-on-the-eye Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley) stand out and provide very believable performances. This is impressive in a plot which requires a very healthy dose of "suspension of disbelief".
Even with special effects limited by the age of the filming and an obviously tiny budget this manages to be worth a watch at least once by lovers of the two genres. Give it a go. It really is a classic.
Review: Mark Woods (LordBeanpod@Gmail.com).
A really enjoyable piece of British shock-sci-fi that cleverly mixes horror, science and alien invasion into 60's Britain. Actually it feels more like 50's Britain as there are no 'hippies' or Bless This House deocr in the film at all, which gives the film a more timeless setting and appeal - and why it has dated so well.
When scientists find remains of humans as well as a spaceship underneath an underground station, strange things start to happen. Is the spaceship and its strange alien creatures part of an invasion fleet or did the 'martians' have more of an impact into human development than we might like to think.
Quatermass and the Pit cleverly manages to go beyond just an alien storyline and questions human origins. Some of the effects do look a bit dodgy, but the storyline and great script more than make up for it. I especially enjoyed the performance of Andrew Kier who played Quatermass. The ending was superb as you didn't quite know which way things were going to go. Great stuff.
The residents of Hobbs Lane are being disturbed by noises and such and have largely moved out. Professor Quatermas comes to investigate and comes to the conclusion that large numbers of the inhabitants of earth are descendant from giant locust-like Martians (explains the fat bodies, I suppose). It ends in the Martian descendants trying to wipe out the few remaining Earth descendants and ultimate destruction of the Martians. Takes you through the discoveries nicely. Watch it.
This film is proof, if proof were needed, that a ludicrous story does not mean a film can't be both entertaining and scary. The story revolves around the discovery of an alien spaceship buried in the ground in the London Underground. Dead locust-looking creatures are discovered inside and things take an even odder turn, when the venerable Professor Quatermass, played by ever reliable Andrew Keir, realises that the space ship has been there since ancient times...who are the true earthlings? Man or the creatures? What's more...the space craft...or it's long dead occupents, seem to have a psychic power over certain people... Lovely Barbara Shelley discovers ESP, a workmn brought in to drill inside the craft is driven mad and a huge source of evil energy looms over London, intent on causing death and destruction. This is a good British horror/sci-fi film. Acted in a totally serious manner by some great character actors. The very fact that it is set in the familiar location of an Underground station, in fairly modern times (mid 60's), gives it the power to chill and worry the viewer more than most haunted house and dead of night locations do...it is the very familiarity that makes it scary. The film is looking a little dated now, but is still powerful and definitely worth watching.