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Quatermass And The Pit (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Quatermass And The Pit (DVD)
Advantages: Great story, Good lead performances
Disadvantages: Slightly cheesy special effects
"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.
Summary: The best of Hammer studio's Quatermass films.