Quatermass and the Pit

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Quatermass and the Pit is a 1967 British science fiction horror film from Hammer Film Productions, a sequel to the earlier Hammer films The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2. Like its predecessors it is based on a BBC Television serial, in this case Quatermass and the Pit, written by Nigel Kneale.

The storyline, which is largely faithful to the original television production, centres on the discovery of a mysterious object buried at the site of an extension to the London Underground. Also uncovered nearby are the remains of early human ancestors more than five million years old.

Realising that the object is in fact an ancient Martian spacecraft, Quatermass deduces that the aliens have influenced human evolution and the development of human intelligence. The spacecraft has an intelligence of its own, and once uncovered begins to exert a malign influence, resurrecting Martian memories and instincts buried deep within the human psyche.

Nigel Kneale wrote the first draft of the screenplay in 1961, but difficulties in attracting interest from American co-financiers meant the film did not go into production until 1967. The director, Roy Ward Baker, was chosen because of his experience with technically demanding productions such as A Night to Remember; this was the first of six films that he directed for Hammer.

Andrew Keir, playing Quatermass, found making the film an unhappy experience, believing Baker had wanted Kenneth More to play the role. Owing to a lack of space, the film was shot at the MGM studios in Elstree, Borehamwood, rather than Hammer’s usual home at the time, which was the Associated British Studios, also in Elstree.

Workers building an extension to the London Underground at Hobbs End dig up an odd skull. Palaeontologist Dr Matthew Roney (James Donald) identifies the skull as a five-million-year-old apeman, more ancient than any previous finds. One of Roney’s assistants uncovers part of a metallic object nearby. Believing it to be an unexploded bomb, they call in an army bomb disposal team.

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 missile. Upon closer examination the “missile” appears to be not of this earth!

This movie examines the age old question of where did we come from and comes up with an interesting answer.

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