26 April 2010

Fin's Review: Quatermass And The Pit

Quatermass And The Pit is a true Hammer classic and one of the best films to come out of the legendary British production company. This film was released in 1967 at a time when Hammer films dominated the world of horror. This was also a time when Hammer was making and releasing interesting and unique films, before the silly and self-parodying films they came to be known for in the the mid 70s.

Hammer cannot lay claim to all of the credit for Quartermass and the Pit, because the film is based upon the seminal 1950s TV serials produced by the BBC. However, it was Hammer who added their unique vision and technicolour flair to produce a  British Sci-Fi horror classic. I'm a huge fan of the 1950s and 60s alien invasion/radioactive monster sub-genre (such as Them, Invasion Of the Body Snatchers, Earth Versus The Flying Saucers, etc etc) and for me Quatermass and the Pit is every bit as good as these paranoid American classics. In many ways, it transcends them.

Nigel Keale's script is sublime and as a result a film that superficially sits alongside the other classics of the B-movie genre is actually more comparable with perhaps the ultimate sci-fi film of all time: Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey 2001, released the year after Quatermass and the Pit.

On first viewing this comparison may seem ridiculous, and indeed the film seems small compared to the impact, vision and craft encompassed in Kubrick's masterpiece. However, with a tiny fraction of the budget, Nigel Keale manages to craft a script which contends with ideas every bit as complex as Odyssey. In this age of Michael Bay and Transformers 97 it can be forgotten that sci-fi films used to be some of the most exciting and intellectually challenging of any genre and Quartermass can sit proudly with 2001 in demonstrating the full potential of the genre. Whereas Kubrick had the money and special effects talent to implement his vision, Keale had to rely almost entirely on the script and he does so masterfully.

Both films have surprisingly similar storylines concerning the impact of extraterrestrial life on human history; however, the impact of this influence is very different. In 2001, alien influence is seen to be interacting with our evolutionary story in a benevolent fashion, lifting us on to successivelly higher levels of consciousness. In Quatermass it is the complete opposite, with benign influences replace by pure evil.

Due to both the talent of Keale and the tiny budget, the story of this malign influence on human affairs is developed in a restrained and focused manner. Quatermass traces the impact of the alien parasite from the days of an Eden-like paradise, where humans lived in peace, through Roman times and ultimately to the Nazi extermination camps and it is from this chilling march of human degeneration that Keale draws the horror of the film.

If you have not seen this film it is well worth a watch, particularly if you are a sci-fi fan. If you can see past the primitive special effects you will enjoy a film of rare vision with a story that contains more ideas than Hollywood has dreamt up in twenty years. If nothing else this film is stylish as balls - I mean, who wouldn't want to be in The British Experimental Rocket Group.

1 comment:

  1. I was all ready to slate this review after 7 weeks in the making, but I have to be honest I did enjoy this Fin. Looking forward to your Friday the 13th part 7 and 8 reviews too.

    You forgot to mention "not a sausage" though.


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