There are a number of reasons why Quatermass And The
Pit is one of the best British horror movies ever made.
One is Nigel Kneale’s script. A perfect balance of science fiction and demonic horror that
Kneale excels at. His ability to make the ridiculous, plausible and believable
is exemplified in Quatermass and The Pit.
A story that starts weird, a strange ship found buried behind some prehistoric
skeletons during an extension of the London Underground, just gets weirder and more
unsettling at every plot twist. Workmen go crazy then locals go crazier,
ultimately turning into a murderous lynch mob, while Quatermass faces the devil
Another is that it was produced by the iconic Hammer Films. By the time this streamlined
version of Kneale’s original TV series (airing in the 50’s) was made, Hammer
had already defined itself as a purveyor of fine period horror through its own
versions of the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy myths. So Quatermass And The Pit in this respect was unusual as it was set in
a contemporary timeframe.
Hammer legend Roy Ward Baker provided no-nonsense and well paced direction while Tristram
Cary provided an awesome and over looked experimental soundtrack for it. The
score, if it can be called that, differed from Hammer’s usual sweeping
orchestral pieces in that is was more of a dark, electro-soundscape than music,
very modern for the time and still fresh even now.
Finally a strong cast, especially the conflict between peace-loving Andrew Kier’s Quatermass and
Julian Glover’s ‘don’t spare ‘em the rod’ Colonel Breen, provides the depth
that the special effects do their best to undermine. I still find those melting
martian grasshoppers frightening, though it’s what they represent rather than
their papier-mâché production that unsettles.
Quatermass And The Pit just works its way under your skin and reminds us
that as humans we’re still (despite our advanced technology) superstitious,
self-important and un-evolved.
Review by Anthony Gates
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