QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, 1967
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring: James Donald, Andrew Keir
Review by Ace Masters
While digging a new subway line in London, a construction crew discovers first: a skeleton, then what they think is an old World War II German missle. Upon closer examination the “missle” appears to be not of this earth! This movie examines the age old question of how we came to be on this planet.
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Hammer Films made great movies. They didn’t rely on special effects, blood and gore, but on mood, setting, acting and writing. After all they were a British film company and for all their accolades British film and TV have never been know for special effects – until recently.
And, when watching it, keep in mind this is a British film, it will make it easier to swallow the plot of Martians actually being giant, intelligent Locust.
Five Million Years to Earth is the American release name (and the more original, eye-catching name of the two) of the Hammer film Quatermass and the Pit, starring Andrew Keir as Professor Bernard Quatermass. Itself a film adaption of the original 1950’s BBC television serial Quatermass and the Pit.
When skeletal remains of potential human ancestors are found during a re-development dig at Hobb’s Lane, London the re-development is postponed for an archeological dig. Professor Quatermass and military weapons expert Colonel Breen become involved when a large object is found that is initially believed to be an unexploded Nazi bomb from World War II.
Quatermass soon discovers the truth. The object is not a bomb, but a Martian spaceship. Five Million Years ago Mars was dying; its population – a race of advanced, intelligent Locust – was in the midst of extinction. They turned to Earth for their salvation.
With the object disturbed and the military and government refusing to believe Quatermass, the human race is put into jeopardy, as the plans the Locusts had for colonizing Earth than, threaten us now.
Andrew Keir plays Quatermass perfectly with the right amount of intelligence, awe and anti-authority. He is at once part of the government buts disdain the government as well. He is a brilliant man in his field and in general, but doesn’t know everything and doesn’t act like he does. Like any good scientist, he researches, theorizes and wants to learn the truth, even if the truth may destroy him.
Like almost all Hammer films this one is beautifully filmed, with excellent settings and a mood that fits perfectly into its sci-fi story. The only thing that lacks is the physical remains of the locusts, which are obviously fake – but done as well as they could with their budget and the limitations of the day.Beyond Andrew Keir’s performance and the look of the film, the writing is the shinning gem. Characters are handled deftly and for the most part are three-dimensional. Even Colonel Breene shows a multitude of dimensions until he becomes convinced he is right and Quatermass is wrong, then he becomes one-dimensional and single minded.
The plot is not original – Aliens wanting to take over the Earth – but the twist is. The takeover, or “colonization,” was attempted Five Million Years ago and the left over artifact is threatening us now.
The best part of the film is the act of discovery. The film never reveals too much information to the viewer, nor does it talk down to them. We discover things and learn what is going on as the characters do. This sense of discovery integrates us more into the story, unlike films where we know what is going on and are waiting for the characters to play catch-up.
If you like Hammer Films or old sci-fi films in general, than Five Million Years to Earth (aka Quatermass and the Pit) should be right up your alley. It is the second of three Quatermass films from Hammer Films, all three adaptations of early BBC serials. After viewing this one, you’ll surely want to see the others.It is a shame that a full fledge revival of Quatermass has never truly taken place.