QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. (1967) A HAMMER CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. (1967) HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY ROY WARD BAKER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. WRITTEN BY NIGEL KNEALE.

STARRING BARBARA SHELLEY, JAMES DONALD, JULIAN GLOVER, DUNCAN LAMONT AND ANDREW KEIR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT is a sequel to earlier HAMMER films THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT and QUATERMASS 2. It’s a terrific blend of horror and science fiction with absolutely top-notch acting from some great English actors thrown in for good measure.

Basically, what happens in it is that the London Underground is being dug up for the purposes of extending it. Tell me about it. A few years back, Dublin was all dug up to actual buggery as our LUAS lines were extended, slowly and painfully, across the city. The LUAS is kind of like our London Underground, except that it’s above ground. It’s the Dublin Overground, lol.

Anyway, the difference between our LUAS works and the excavations in the film is that, in the film, an ancient Martian spacecraft is discovered amongst the rubble, along with the remains of early human ancestors in excess of five million years old. That’s quite the archaeological find, naturally, or it would be if there wasn’t a dreadful sense of evil emanating from the discoveries in waves.

Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir: Hammer’s BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS), who has uncovered a disturbing connection between the remains and pagan beliefs in the devil as related to the mythology of London, clashes with the military’s Colonel Breen on the matter.

Breen, an obnoxious autocratic snobbish type, refuses to believe that the spacecraft is anything but a Nazi missile left over from World War Two. Typical toff. Always bloomin’ thinking they know what’s best for everyone.

His narrow mind simply cannot conceive of anything as outlandish as an attempt by the Martians to colonise Earth millions of years ago. But war with the Nazis is something he knows and understands.

It’s tangible and can be quantified, calculated and put on a chart, followed and understood. Therefore, the spacecraft and ancient remains must have something to with those pesky Nazis.

Julian Glover, who plays Colonel Breen, and who also portrays the ill-fated Nazi officer Hermann Fegelein (Eva Braun’s brother-in-law) in the Alec Guinness film, HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS (1973), remarked of his role as Breen that he was ‘the obligatory asshole…!’

Barbara Shelley is wonderful as Dr. Roney’s assistant, Barbara Judd, the woman who has a kind of ‘shining’ thing going on with the spacecraft and the Martian remains. She’s a Hammer sex symbol for the thinking or discerning man, I always think, a class act, a real lady.

Okay, so her clothes don’t fall off her in every second scene like some of her fellow Hammer babes, but she’s drop-dead sexy nonetheless, even in a plain sweater and sensible knee-length skirt as she goes about her business here in QUATERMASS AND THE PIT.

However, if you do want to see her all sexed up and panting like a young one on her wedding night, then check out her performance in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS after she’s been vampirised by no less a personage than the Count himself.

Or even her portrayal of Sonia in Hammer’s RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK, in which she plays a woman driven to the brink of insanity by her love for the manipulative but desperately charismatic Rasputin, played by Hammer leading man Christopher Lee. She’s top totty, like Joanna Lumley. A piece of classy crumpet, lol.

The scene in which Barbara Judd and Sladden, the drill operator, get caught up in a terrifying windstorm emanating from the newly-unearthed missile is probably the best and most nail-bitingly exciting one in the whole film, and that’s really saying something.

Poor old Sladden (Duncan Lamont: Hammer’s THE WITCHES and FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN) is just an ordinary workman. He just wants to collect his tool bag and go home to bangers and mash with the missus. He doesn’t ask to be so heavily influenced by the waves of malignity that wash off the old spaceship that he nearly loses his mind.

First he’s being blown out of the Underground and across the street, then whooshed unceremoniously down the road, through the old churchyard and into a chair in front of the local vicar, who is deeply alarmed by the workman’s demented ramblings about an alien race of insects, of all things…!

The scene where the good old British bobby gets freaked-out by the obviously nearby presence of evil in Hob’s End always gives me a chill too. ‘Hob used to be an old name for the Devil…!’ If those old tenements can put the willies up a solid, stolid, soundly chin-strapped British copper, then you won’t find me poking about them, that’s for sure.

Other great scenes include poor Dr. Roney’s ultimate act of heroism and bravery (oh, his poor little grim determined face as he moves closer, inexorably closer to his nemesis and a certain doom! He should get a medal for what he does.) and also the removal of the huge oozing grasshopper thingies from the spaceship for closer scrutiny in Dr. Roney’s laboaratory.

I watched this film on the big screen in 2016 in the Irish Film Institute, by the way, as part of a much-welcome folk horror film festival they were hosting that summer. Remember when we used to be able to do stuff like that without even thinking about it…? God be with the days. Truly, we didn’t know what we had till we lost it. Let’s just hope we bloody well get it back at some stage.

The film was introduced in person by novelist and film critic Kim Newman, whom some of you might recognise as having written for EMPIRE magazine. He’s always being asked to comment on different movies for the extra features you find on your DVD. He’s good-humoured, funny, a snappy dresser (love the weskits and the ponytail!) and is super-knowledgeable on the subject of films and cinema history.

Anyway, he turned up in the sweltering heat wearing a big wide-brimmed hat which would have been useful for keeping the sun off his bonce. I think we might have been having our summer that day…!

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.

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.