6.2/10
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X the Unknown (1956)

Approved | | Horror, Sci-Fi | May 1957 (USA)
A radioactive, mud-like creature terrorizes a Scottish village.

Directors:

, (uncredited)

Writer:

(story and screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Edward Chapman ...
John Elliott
...
Insp. 'Mac' McGill
...
LCpl. 'Spider' Webb
...
Jack Harding
...
Peter Elliott
Peter Hammond ...
Lt. Bannerman
Marianne Brauns ...
Zena, the Nurse
Ian MacNaughton ...
Haggis (as Ian McNaughton)
...
Sgt. Harry Grimsdyke
John Harvey ...
Maj. Cartwright
...
Soldier Burned on Back
Jane Aird ...
Vi Harding
...
Old Tom (as Norman Macowan)
...
Unwin (as Neil Hallet)
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Storyline

British Army radiation drills at a remote Scottish base attract a subterranean, radioactive entity of unknown nature that vanishes, leaving two severely radiation-burned soldiers... and a "bottomless" crack in the earth. Others who meet the thing in the night suffer likewise, and with increasing severity; it seems to be able to "absorb" radiation from any source, growing bigger and bigger. What is it?? How do you destroy a thing that "feeds" on energy? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

NOTHING CAN STOP IT! (original print ad - all caps) See more »

Genres:

Horror | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

May 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Het onbekende  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Jimmy Sangster, director Leslie Norman was not overly interested in making this film, but did anyway for the sake of work. Dean Jagger and other crew members, not to mention Hammer brass, all found Norman very difficult to work with, so much so that despite the film receiving some good notices, Hammer never worked with Norman again. See more »

Goofs

Out of interest, the Thompson sub machine gun was issued to British forces. It was issued to regular army, Home guard (later TA) and especially auxiliary units. It was also issued to commandos, both army and later RN. Originating from the early twenties, the Tommy gun was issued to Brits much later, and some stayed in service for a very long time. See more »

Quotes

Peter Elliott: What happened, sir? I don't understand.
Dr. Adam Royston: Peter, I'm afraid I don't either. Yesterday the material in that container was giving a danger-point radiation reading. Now, as you just saw, it's nothing.
Peter Elliott: But that's impossible! Isn't it?
Dr. Adam Royston: Yesterday I would have said yes, but this fact is inescapable: The energy trapped in that trinium has been sucked right out of it. And furthermore, that window was barred and these doors were locked all night. So whoever it was came in here must be most ... unusual.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The World of Hammer: Sci-Fi (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22: V. Finale: Allegro vivace
(uncredited)
Written by Antonín Dvorák
See more »

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User Reviews

Good, grim, post-Quatermass horror/sci-fi
30 January 2002 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

The plot: In the remote Scottish Highlands, a living radioactive mass seethes out of the depths of the earth and kills everyone in its path as it seeks fresh radioactive energy. Luckily an American scientist is about the place and kicks the 'thing' back down from whence it came.

X the Unknown, while not having the innate intelligence of the Quatermass movies, is a good example of 1950's British pulp science-fiction cinema. While most of its American counterparts visited fantastic worlds inhabited by outlandish monsters and gorgeous 'space-babes', X the Unknown was a truly British effort: our monster was dollop of mud out of a hole in the ground doing a slow crawl around a dingy moor.

It's effective though. It has the same austere, grim intensity which made the Quatermass movies so memorable. The film also benefits from moody, high-contrast black and white photography, a typically acerbic score from James Bernard, and a good cast; Leo Mckern turns in a very good, naturalistic performance, much like his turn in The Day The Earth Caught Fire.

I first saw this movie when I was about six and the extraordinarily graphic scene depicting the monster 'devouring' a hospital doctor gave me a few... err....sleepless nights (there's a particularly ruthless zoom-in to the poor guys hand as it expands and melts!). Perhaps I should have stuck to Bugs Bunny.

Overall, a decent chiller, well directed by Leslie Norman (late father of the superb British film critic Barry Norman).

One last memory of a six year-old's first viewing of this picture: I remember sitting there stunned and horrified as the end credits rolled; I was not looking forward to a good nights sleep. The statutorily paternal BBC announcer came on and cracked the following nervous joke: "Well, I'll never eat cheese on toast again" (see the film and you'll know what he meant). I laughed with relief and my childhood was thus saved a terrible trauma! Thanks Uncle Beeb.


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