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X: The Unknown (1956)

 -  Sci-Fi | Mystery | Horror  -  May 1957 (USA)
6.3
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 1,336 users  
Reviews: 49 user | 29 critic

Radioactive mud-like creature terrorizes a Scottish village during the 1950's.

Directors:

(as Joseph Walton) ,

Writer:

(story)
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Cast

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

Sci-Fi | Mystery | Horror

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:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Governmental group the Atomic Energy Establishment is based at Lochmouth, Scotland. See more »

Goofs

When the two soldiers "Spider" and "Haggis" are patrolling the crevasse and are confronted by "X" they are both carrying Thompson sub-machine guns. This firearm was never issued to British forces. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Adam Royston: Now, Mac, how would you go about killing that?
Inspector McGill: What is it?
Dr. Adam Royston: It's a particle of mud. But by virtue of its atomic structure it emits radiation. That's all it is. Just mud. How do you kill mud?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Stuff (1985) 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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