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The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

Professor Bernard Quatermass' manned rocket ship returns to Earth, but two of the astronauts are missing and the survivor seems ill and unable to communicate.

Director:

Val Guest

Writers:

Richard H. Landau (screenplay) (as Richard Landau), Val Guest (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Brian Donlevy ... Prof. Bernard Quatermass
Jack Warner ... Insp. Lomax
Margia Dean ... Mrs. Judith Carroon
Thora Hird ... Rosemary 'Rosie' Elizabeth Wrigley
Gordon Jackson ... BBC TV producer
David King-Wood David King-Wood ... Dr. Gordon Briscoe
Harold Lang Harold Lang ... Christie
Lionel Jeffries ... Blake
Sam Kydd ... Police sergeant questioning Rosie
Richard Wordsworth Richard Wordsworth ... Victor Carroon
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Storyline

In the countryside of London, a rocket crashes on a farm and Professor Bernard Quatermass and Scotland Yard Inspector Lomax arrive in the spot. The rocket was launched by Prof. Quatermass with the astronauts Victor Carroon, Greene and Reichebheim; however only Carroon is found very sick in the cabin. He is transported to a private clinic to stay under observation despite the protests of his wife Mrs. Judith Carroon. She bribes a nurse to bring Carroon to her and she finds that he is transforming into a monster. Carroon escapes, killing people and animals during his metamorphosis while the Scotland Yard is hunting him down and Dr. Quatermass discovers that his process is an alien invasion. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Nothing Can Destroy It! See more »

Genres:

Horror | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 June 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Creeping Unknown See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£45,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hammer Films See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Val Guest heavily reworked Richard Landau's story draft (which assumed Quatermass would be British so changed Briscoe into a USAF Flight Surgeon), particularly tailoring the dialogue to compliment Donlevy's punchy no-nonsense acting style, which he believed helped to sell the more obscure SF plot elements to audiences. See more »

Goofs

Judith somehow deduces that the two nurses assigned to watch over her husband at the hospital are male nurses, despite being told only their last names. See more »

Quotes

Prof. Bernard Quatermass: There's no room for personal feelings in science, Judith!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original 1955 "Quatermass Xperiment" print has the closing caption "The End"; the reissued version (with a still bearing the new title "The Quatermass Experiment" inserted into the opening credits) replaces this with "A Hammer Production Produced at Bray Studios". See more »

Connections

Followed by Enemy from Space (1957) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Tense, Realistic, And Gritty Science Fiction Classic.
21 May 2008 | by timdalton007See all my reviews

Before a little British company called Hammer became famous for Dracula and Frankenstein, there were the adventures of Professor Bernard Quatermass. Based on the live BBC serial from 1953, The Quatermass Xperiment put Hammer on the film world map. How that happened it obvious from this tense, realistic, and gritty science fiction classic.

The film is immensely helped by an excellent cast. Brian Donlevy's Quatermass is the archetype science fiction film scientist: a scientist obsessed with their quest for science before turning having to deal with the consequences of that quest. Donlevy plays Quatermass to perfection as a scientist who is both horrified and fascinated by the events he has set in motion. It's a strong performance filled with realism. fascination and horror. The cast also includes terrific performances from Jack Warner as Scotland Yard's Inspector Lomax, Margia Dean who takes the potentially clichéd Judith Carroon and puts flesh and blood on the character, and David King-Wood as Quatermass's fellow scientist Doctor Briscoe. The best performance of the film may well be from the character who never speaks: Richard Wordsworth as Victor Carroon. Wordsworth perfectly plays both the horror of the lone surviving astronaut and also sympathy as the worst off victim of the Quatermass experiment. This is especially true in a scene where Caroon finds himself at a dock where a little girl approaches him with her doll. It reminds one of the scene from the Universal Frankensein where the seemingly innocent takes on a darker meaning. Overall, the film has a terrific cast of actors bringing it to life.

At a time when science fiction films were defined by the clichéd and outrageous monster and alien invasion films, this film (and its TV counterpart) went in the exact opposite direction. Director Val Guest choose to do the film not in the style of the time but in a near documentary style. That's why the film work's fifty years later: it seems real in that it is a product of its time are place. If Britian had started the space race in the mid-1950's, one feels this is how it would have been.

The film is also helped by two very strong elements: the black and white cinematography and the music score. Doing the film in black and white adds atmosphere to a film that is part alien invasion and part manhunt. It helps especially in the film's fiery finale. The music score by James Bernard is terrific in adding to the atmosphere of the film and it never intrudes, but just helps to bring one a little bit closer to the edge of one's seat. The film wouldn't be the same without either one of these two elements.

Yet as much as I would like to call this film perfect, it isn't. There is one thing that the film hits and misses on: special effects. The downside of the film being so much a product of its time is that when the special effects are looked back at from a distance, they look primitive. That's not to say that the special effects are bad. The prosthetics work in particular looks good even by today's standards as far as I'm concerned. The finale of the film is the most obvious spot where the special effects are a bit of a let down by modern standards. Then again, it is hard to compare special effects from one era to another so this is an issue for the viewer to decide on.

While the special effects may hamper the film for some, one must admit that The Quatermass Xperiment is a classic of the genre. From the terrific performance (espeically of Donlevy and Wordsworth), to the realistic style and tone, to the excellent cinematography, to the dark score by Jame Bernard, The Quatermass Xperiment is a tour de force for the more intelligent and less action based science fiction films. If you can put aside the mid-1950's special effects, you're going to find a tense, realistic, and gritty science fiction classic.


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