Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

...aka: Five Million Years to Earth
...aka: Mind Benders, The

Directed by:
Roy Ward Baker

Workers at the Hobb's End Underground Transport unearth skeletal remains that seem to date back five-million years. They also hit a strange non-metallic plate that ends up being part of an alien spacecraft. Perplexed by the substance, which is harder than diamond and resistant to the 3000 degree flames from a blow-torch, some conflicting experts are called in to investigate. Derelict apartments across the street from the excavation site have strange claw marks on the walls. A hidden compartment on the ship also houses some dead, medium-sized, horned, green, insect-like creatures. But it's really the ship itself that poses the strongest threat. And what is lying dormant in all of our minds. The military, of course, continually butt heads with the scientists and call the whole discovery a hoax (a "German propaganda item" from World War II). But Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) thinks otherwise and proposes a theory that offends just about everyone involved; managing to question both creationism and evolution. Quatermass comes to the conclusion that millions of years ago, aliens landed on Earth, removed primitive apes and took them back to their home planet (which may have been Mars) for experimentation. They continued to do so, each time making them more intelligent until man was eventually born… He could be right, but not necessarily. The government definitely is on the wrong track and open up the site to the general public. The dormant evil is unleashed and those exposed to it become mindless and violent. Buildings collapse, fires start, citizens go on a rampage and London will eventually be completely leveled if Quatermass and chief archaeologist Dr. Roney (James Donald) can't stop it. Barbara Shelley co-stars as Barbara Judd, an assistant who has visions of an alien colony and becomes possessed, eventually getting socked in the face by Quatermass himself! Julian Glover is the close-minded militarist who's fried into a crispy critter.

All four of the principal actors are excellent in this intelligent, thoughtful and multi-layered science-fiction film, which raises an impressive number of interesting questions. And it's not without a sense of humor. The "Hammer Collection" DVD has both the UK and US trailers ("It could happen in your lifetime!"), plus the science fiction episode of the ho-hum 1990 WORLD OF HAMMER TV documentary series (narrated by Oliver Reed), which covers the titles DICK BARTON STRIKES BACK, THE DAMNED (aka THESE ARE THE DAMNED), FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, QUATERMASS 2, QATP, QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, SPACEWAYS, X THE UNKNOWN and a few others.


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