Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth)

Year: 1967

Production: Hammer / Seven Arts.

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, James Donald

Screenwriter: Nigel Kneale

Based on the BBC TV serial by Nigel Kneale

97 minutes; Color


Hammer's third Quatermass film, a decade after the second and the only one with an English actor (Keir) in the title role. The first two were The Quatermass Xperiment (The Creeping Unknown) (1955) and Quatermass II (Enemy from Space) (1957). Workers excavating a tunnel find an apparent unexploded bomb; it is actually a Martian spaceship. In a plot-turn deftly blending sf with speculation on Jungian archetype, it turns out that racial memories have been coded in our brains by Martians during our prehistory: out image of the Devil is a distorted "memory" of the Martians' appearance (antenna equalling horns), and our irrational belligerence reflects the Martian's ritualistic culling of the weaker members of their species. The spaceship's power source is merely dormant, and as it comes to life (poltergeist phenomena being the first effect) it reinforces ancient nightmares. In the disturbing climax panicked Londoners begin an orgy of destruction as a Devil's head rises above the streets and paranormal powers are let loose. Quatermass and the Pit is surely the inspiration for Stephen King's novel The Tommyknockers (1987).

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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