THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT. (1955) A HAMMER MASTERPIECE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT. (1955) DIRECTED BY VAL GUEST. BASED ON THE 1953 BBC TELEVISION SERIAL ‘THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT’ WRITTEN BY NIGEL KNEALE. PRODUCED BY HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS.

STARRING BRIAN DONLEVY, RICHARD WORDSWORTH, JACK WARNER AND MARGIA DEAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This excellent British sci-fi horror film was one of the productions that gave Hammer its reputation for making terrific horror movies. I love their three Quatermass films, and couldn’t really choose a favourite out of the three as they’re all so top-notch. Films one and two are black-and-white and have a deliciously ancient feel to them. The third film is more modern and is even made in colour, and features a different actor playing the eponymous Quatermass.

THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT tells the story of a rocket ship, that’s been on a tour of outer space, crashing one dark night into an English country field. If the ship was unmanned, it might not have been such a catastrophe, but there were three men aboard that ship.

Professor Quatermass, the abrupt-to-the-point-of-rudeness academic responsible for launching the rocket, orders the craft opened. Out staggers, amid much tension, the one member of the crew who’s still alive… the astronaut Victor Carroon. Something horrible has killed his two companions, and all Carroon is able to say on the subject are two little words: ‘Help me…’

Aside from giving a superb performance as the poor tormented Carroon, the distinctly aristocratic-looking actor Richard Curwen Wordsworth who plays him comes from very interesting and exalted stock indeed.

He is the great-great-grandson of one of England’s best-loved poets, William Wordsworth, the chap I remember from my schooldays as being the ‘daffodils poet,’ and he also founded the famous Wordsworth Summer School, a week of poetry, lectures and walking tours in England’s lovely Lake District. It’s a bit like being descended from old Willie Shakespeare or Charlie Dickens, is that.

Anyway, it quickly beomes clear to Quatermass and the medical staff caring for Carroon that he has undergone a trauma in outer space that we down here on earth would be hard pressed to understand. Strange markings and even changes on and to his face and shoulder indicate that the trauma might be more than just emotional and mental. It’s probably physical as well…

The poor guy is undergoing an horrific mutation, through no fault of his own, that could have serious implications, not only for Carroon and his ‘Fifties wife Judith (tight skirt, high heels, short modern hairstyle, smokes cigarettes and even knows how to drive), but for the rest of the human race as well.

And, speaking of races, the film turns into a tense-as-hell race against time when Carroon escapes from his hospital room with the help of Judith, who, if she hadn’t been so unnaturally modern and inclined to think thoughts about things and have opinions of her own in such a distinctly unfeminine fashion, would never have aided and abetted in something so law-unabiding!

Quatermass and his chum in the police force, Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lomax, have to find Carroon before the gross mutation that’s taking him over can finish the job, killing Carroon while, more importantly from Quatermass and Inspector Lomax’s point of view, managing to multiply so quickly that it’s only a matter of time before the alien life force takes over the world and everyone in it…

There are some truly memorable, stunning-looking scenes that occur during the search for Carroon, including a rather frightening interlude in an olde-style apothecary and some distressing scenes in Chessington Zoo, a lovely, old-fashioned zoological gardens like the one in Val Lewton’s CAT PEOPLE.

There’s also some light comedy from British actress Thora Hird as a homeless, gin-soaked old dear (not unlike some roles we’ve seen Joan Hicks from the CARRY Ons play) who turns up at her local cop-shop and unwittingly gives the police a lead to Carroon.

There’s also a beautiful scene, reminiscent of James Whale’s 1931 horror classic FRANKENSTEIN, in which a blonde-haired little girl (played by child actress Jane Asher) asks Carroon to play with her, unafraid of him and completely unrepulsed by his physical appearance. This scene is filmed at the old defunct, history-steeped East India Docks.

The film climaxes in that grand old bastion of Britishness, Westminster Abbey (not the real one, sadly, but a really smashing set!). Gordon Jackson, better known as the Scottish butler Angus Hudson from the original UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS, turns up here as a BBC TV producer.

Marianne Stone from the CARRY ON films and Lionel Jeffries also have small roles in THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, a film so good it spawned many imitators. Enjoy it. It’s the real deal all right. But if you’ve been wondering what to get me for Christmas (the year’s flying; it’ll be here sooner than you think!), I have just one caveat. No cacti, ta. I’m prickly enough…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958): A DOUBLE BILL OF B-MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Earth-vs.-the-Flying-Saucers-1956

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) AND IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. (1958) A DOUBLE BILL OF SCI-FI B-MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this pair of little beauts back-to-back and they seemed to go really well together. Both black-and-white, they each feature a beefcake ‘Fifties male, complete with pointy-bosomed female counterpart (in a supporting role in every sense of the word, of course!), whose job it is to save the world (EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS) or the crew of his spaceship (IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE) from perils posed by creatures from Outer Space, and of course it wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that they each do a bang-up job.

The excellent stop-motion animation special effects in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS were done by stop-motion animator extraordinaire Ray Harryhausen of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS fame. (Also CLASH OF THE TITANS, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, among others!)

When you see his name attached, you know the effects are going to be of top quality and in fact they are. When those naughty flying saucers are crashing into the various government buildings and monuments, you can tell by the way they’re crumbling to the ground that it’s the work of a certain Mr. RH. You guys know who I mean, right?

The film was inspired by the bestselling non-fiction book FLYING SAUCERS FROM OUTER SPACE by a chap called Major Donald Keyhoe. It features a newly-married husband and wife team (who haven’t even had time to consummate their marriage yet, I might add!)  battling against aliens in real, honest-to-goodness flying saucers that come in just the shapes and sizes we normally imagine them to so do.

The Saucer People attack the compound in which Dr. Russell Marvin- the beefcake- and his jiggly-bosomed missus Carol- as his secretary, of course!- are working on the American Space Programme. The Saucer People, to give them their due, hadn’t wanted to attack Skyhook, the base for the project, but it seems that the message saying that they wanted to come in peace was mislaid or misinterpreted somehow or reached the Earthlings too late.

This kind of incompetence is clearly the work of Dr. Marvin’s new wife-cum-secretary. He needs to put the dizzy wench over his knee and beat some efficiency into her with the flat of his hand, which I believe was perfectly legal and, in fact, encouraged, back in those days. She’ll certainly think twice before failing to correctly and swiftly interpret a message from Outer Space in the future, the wasp-waisted little hussy. Love the aliens’ metallic suits and the protective force field, by the way.

Anyway, talk about ‘take us to your leader…!’ After picking Carol’s Dad’s brains (quite literally), the aliens coolly announce that they want the Marvins to organise a conference of world leaders so that the aliens can negotiate their occupation-slash-takeover of Earth. Flamin’ cheek!

It’s up to the sex-starved Dr. Russell and his missus then to nobly and unselfishly delay their wedding night (and they’re so hot ‘n’ horny too!) so that they can figure out a way to stop these power-mad aliens from taking over the planet. It’s actually surprisingly easy to do. Putting the kybosh on the aliens, I mean. World leaders, take note for future reference, lol.

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE is great fun altogether. It might even have been the inspiration for the screenplay of Ridley Scott’s phenomenally famous ALIEN film. A handsome captain of a space expedition to Mars is accused of murdering his crew members for a few lousy old tins of spam and kidney beans. (How come nothing nice ever comes in tins?) When you see the film, you’ll understand what I mean.

Anyway, this fella, this Colonel Edward Carruthers, claims that his fellow crew members were murdered by an Alien Life Form. A load of old poppycock and balderdash, right? Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

Now he’s being brought home to Earth from Mars by a new crew (well, he broke his old one, lol!), and he’s being watched constantly so that this new crew can find out if he was telling the truth about what happened to the last lot.

They very quickly discover that the beefy Carruthers was being straight up about the Alien Life Form. It seems like something rather nasty has managed to stow away on their dinky little nuclear-powered spaceship (it’s 1973 in the film, by the way) and It has every intention of doing to this crew what It did to the last.

It’s a somewhat vampiric creature, as it stays alive by absorbing the vital bodily fluids of its victims and leaves them as a dried-out shell, rather like what Imhotep the Mummy does to his victims in the first two terrific films in THE MUMMY series by Stephen Sommers. Sucking out their essence and so on. It’s a pretty icky business and the end result ain’t particularly photogenic.

In fact, the film was originally known as IT! THE VAMPIRE FROM BEYOND SPACE. The film-makers were right to change it, as audiences would have been expecting their vampire to be a suave, black-caped neck-biter with a sexy Hungarian accent and piercing eyes, and that would have been a different film altogether.

In fact, on exiting the movie theatres back in the day, there might even have been cries of: ‘There was no bleedin’ vampire in that fuckin’ film!’ and there would just have been too much confusion all round.

I personally think that the Creature here is cuddly and adorable, and that he looks like a cross between THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and Ray Harryhausen’s own marvellous handiwork in 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. He’s violent and mean-minded, sure, but he’s a very misunderstood alien being. I think I could change him. Tame him. Save him. It’d take some time but I think I could do it. Then maybe he could save me, lol.

The beefy Carruthers, also misunderstood and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, does a lot of lovey-dovey hand-holding here with crew member Ann Anderson, who’s supposed to be the gal of the spaceship’s new boss, Colonel Ben Van Heusen. Ben is a dreamboat too, but maybe he doesn’t hold hands and gaze soulfully into a gal’s eyes the way Carruthers does.

By the way, if you think you recognise crew member Eric Royce, you’re right. The actor Dabbs Greer spent many years as the Reverend Alden in the super-popular television series, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. (Did anyone else fancy Almanzo Wilder, or was it just me?) Dabbs Greer also played supporting roles in a bazillion other films and television series and he lived to be a respectable ninety, which is the age I’m expecting to live to myself.

I don’t know how I know this. I just have this very clear vision of myself at ninety, still quaffing wine and churning out books no-one reads every year, and still egotistically expecting everyone to agree with every word out of my denture-filled mouth or I’ll put ’em on my Enemies List. That list is getting awfully long. At some stage, we’re almost certainly gonna need a bigger boat…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor