Contents of Issue #5 Contents of Issue #5 [Welcome] [Features] [In Focus] [Reviews] [Info]

video review by Gary Johnson

The first two movies in the Quatermass saga--The Quatermass Experiment (U.S. title: The Creeping Unknown) and Quatermass 2 (U.S. title: Enemy from Space)--have always received the most attention, but arguably the best movie in the series is Quatermass and the Pit (U.S. title: Five Million Years to Earth). It's one of the most underrated sci-fi movies ever made, an ambitious and thought provoking film that manages to rewrite human history and the nature of religion.

Now thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment, Quatermass and the Pit is finally available on video. It's part of their new "Hammer Collection" series. The other movies in the series include The Reptile, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Lost Continent, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and Plague of the Zombies. All of these movies are making their first appearance on video. Anchor Bay hasn't spared expenses. The videos include multiple theatrical trailers, clamshell cases, and liner notes on double-sided insert cards that can be removed from the cases. All the movies are presented in widescreen format (however, the letterboxing still noticeably lops off the left and right edges of the images).

Based on the Nigel Kneale-scripted BBC classic television series of the same name, Quatermass and the Pit followed the first two Quatermass movies by ten years. Shortly after, Quatermass 2 was released in 1958, Hammer found their true calling with new versions of the Frankenstein and Dracula legends. As a result, the third Quatermass movie was put on indefinite hold until 1968--the same year that 2001--A Space Odyssey was released. While Quatermass and the Pit covers some of the same terrain as 2001, it doesn't suffer in comparison. It gives us an ambitious revision of human history as we know it, while suggesting that racial history is stored in our brains--dormant recollections that can be triggered, with catastrophic results.

The genesis of Quatermass and the Pit was the extensive construction work that took place in London after WWII. As bomb-damaged buildings were demolished and new buildings erected, construction workers occasionally discovered unexploded German bombs and old Roman ruins. In this movie, construction workers are building a new subway tunnel when they discover an object, which the British military immediately calls a "torpedo." Once the object is completely excavated, its contoured sides and strange hive-like shape suggest it's much more than an unexploded German bomb. But what exactly is it? The plausibility of the initial situation--and its similarities to real-life bomb discoveries in London--helps suck us into the story, and then screenwriter Kneale ups the ante by introducing elements of mystery and the supernatural. These elements become part of a larger mythology involving ghosts, demons, ancient man, and alien astronauts.

While most movies that contrasted the military and the scientific tended to side with the military, Quatermass and the Pit portrays scientists sympathetically. In The Thing, for example, scientists become dangerous idealists who were willing to allow their team members to die in exchange for scientific knowledge. However, the scientists in Quatermass and the Pit are portrayed as knowledgeable and intelligent, while the military is depicted as narrow-minded, egotistical, and potentially dangerous.

Unfortunately, the movie's small budget and lack of big name stars have tended to keep it a secret; you won't find Hammer regulars Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee anywhere in sight. However, Andrew Keir's interpretation of Professor Quatermass is one of the very best committed to film. Also on hand are Barbara Shelley (who also starred in Dracula: Prince of Darkness) and James Donald (who starred in The Great Escape).

Science-fiction fans have long reverred Quatermass and the Pit; now, thankfully, everyone else can experience one of the best science-fiction movies ever made. A must-see experience for all sci-fi lovers.


Thus far, The Hammer Collection includes The Reptile, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Lost Continent, Rasputin the Mad Monk, Plague of the Zombies, and Quatermass and the Pit. All the movies in the series are presented in widescreen format. In addition, the videos include theatrical trailers. Suggested retail price: $14.95 each. For more information, we suggest you check out the Web site for The Hammer Horror Collector's Network, "The Official Hammer Fan Organization":


Top Welcome Features In Focus Reviews Info