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The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • 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.

  • A missile, launched by the team led by Prof. Quatermass, lands in the English countryside. Of the three members of the crew, two have mysteriously disappeared. The third one, barely alive, undergoes an horrible metamorphosis turning into a monstrous "thing". When he breaks out and, chased in vain by inspector Lomax, starts killing humans and animals to feed his transformation, Quatermass realizes that this is the way chosen by an alien form of life to invade the Earth.

  • Professor Bernard Quatermass is in charge of a manned rocket mission that has gone awry. They lost contact with the spaceship at one point and have no idea how far into space it may have traveled. When the rocket crash lands in a farmer's field they find that only one of the three occupants, Victor Carroon, is on board; the others have simply vanished. Slowly, the surviving astronaut begins to transform into a hideous creature and Quatermass realizes that Carroon may have been infected by an alien being. When Carroon escapes from the hospital with the help of his unsuspecting wife, the authorities race to destroy it before it multiplies.

  • 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.

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Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The rocket, to a design reminiscent of every pulp comic book, ends up nose down in a field. Creating a wave of interest, the uniforms soon arrive, followed by our interpid hero (Prof Bernard Quartermass, Brian Donlevy) and his helpers in a early model VW people carrier. Also on board is an 'Astronauts Wife', and a man from the ministry (Blake, Lionel Jeffries).

    After some interplay between the uniforms and the scientists, the door to the rocket (amazingly visible just above ground level) is opened remotely. (Pity the poor fireman who seemed to be suffering a lack of pressure with his hose pipe - screen left at this critical moment). A single Astronaut rolls out of the door, and is greeted by his wife and Quatermass.

    He is whisked off in an ambulance (classic!) after Quatermass tries to glean some information from him about the rest of the crew, for by now it appears that there is no-one else on board - just two empty space suits.

    Headlines shown the next day indicate a mystery - and of course this leads to police involvement (they fingerprinted the poor bloke in the ambulance) led by Lomax of the Yard, played by that old stalwart copper, Jack Warner. The running gag here is that he is always trying to shave - watch toward the end of the film when the pressure builds, and he has a 9 o'clock shadow! Anyway, it appears that the Yard feel this is a murder enquiry, and Lomax's mood is not helped by the arrival in his office of Quatermass - a brusque initial exchange leads to an agreement of sorts, as Quatermass leaves full information on the three spacemen.

    Quatermass visits Victor Caroon (Richard Wordsworth) at the lab, and is disappointed to see that he still is not talking, although there are some strange marks appearing on his shoulder. The Wife arrives, and helps lead him to bed, to be monitored by the Professors able assistant.

    Inspector Lomax reappears in the Professors office, issuing the classic line "no one wins in a cold war", and shows that the fingerprints taken from the Astronaut in the ambulance are totally different from those provided by the Professor. The Professor indicates that '.... these are not human....!'

    At this stage, the Professors helper convinces him that he can no longer look after Caroon. He needs to be in a hospital, closely monitored and cared for. The professor concedes this point, so we next see the Wife and a helper outside the hospital in the rain, obviously trying to spring the poor bloke from his hospital bed. At one point, when the helper goes to get the lift, Caroon hits an innocent cactus plant so hard that the pot goes flying over the room - this has a bearing on subsequent events. After some light repartee, the helper, who seems to indicate that he is a PI of sorts, gets Caroon in the lift. All seems well, until the helper wants to know what he is hiding under his coat - and ends his role in the film for his trouble. Caroon leaves with his wife, and the body of the helper is found by a nurse with suitable screams.

    Caroon is seen with his wife, who thinks nothing of smoking and driving. She is rambling on about how she will look after him, when she also notices his hand under the coat, and pulls the car over. After Caroon shows her (but not the audience) his hand, she screams fit to burst whilst he makes his escape.

    Meanwhile, back a the hospital, all the main actors have arrived. The helper has had his skull caved in and is drained of blood.

    The police put out an APB for the missing man, whilst Quatermass tries to figure out what is going on. About now, a film from the space ship is finally processed, and in what is another key point in the film we are able to share with all the main actors some excellent effect work showing the three space men at work and play. It is obvious that something disabled the craft, finished off two of the Astronauts, and left Caroon with the mother of all problems.

    Caroon then proceeds to stumble around various locations; the chemists shop (with the actor who was to become Sam Pearson in Emmerdale Farm, Toke Townley) being erased; a young Jane Asher missing out on a similar fate whilst Caroon struggles with his metamorphis; and then London Zoo, where as we subsequently discover a number of animals do not manage to escape.

    As the creature mutates, it starts to leave a trail (evident at the Zoo) like a snail, but it seems that this is too obvious for the Police to follow. At the Zoo they discover a fragment of the creature, and back in the lab this seems to be self sufficient and develops in its own right. The danger is that the 'creature' can self procreate, and that within 24 hours London will be a morass of slithering life draining aliens.

    A young Thora Hird entertains as bag lady in the police station, but she is coherent enough to ensure that that Police arrive at the latest sighting point. This after mobilisation of the armed forces, all police, and the now disbanded Civil Defence units, who could find no trace. Good old Thora.

    It then seems that the 'trail' leads to Westminster Abbey, where we see the BBC Outside Broadcasting unit set up and about to give a live broadcast on the restoration work then being undertaken. The producer is played by Gordon Jackson (Upstairs, Downstairs (1971), The Professionals (1977)), and eventually the cameras focus on the Thing - how it managed to get onto that scaffolding remains a secret - but its there is all its gruesome glory. No trace of the astronaut remain - just scales, and eye, and thorns from the cactus.

    Some discussion takes place about the best way to terminate the creature without releasing spores all over London - eventually it is decided to route the entire elctricity grid to the Abbey to a cable that will be attached to the scaffolding. A great shot here of Battersea Power station (I wonder if that was the actual interior?), and when all the lights in old London town are dimmed and go out, the creature meets its maker. Frazzled.

    Quatermass ends by saying that he will 'start again'; Lomax hopefully gets the shave he has been after all through the film; and we have been wonderfully entertained in a classic of British mid-50's cinema. Enjoy.

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