X the Unknown (1956)

General Information

Director: Leslie Norman

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Cast: Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern, Anthony Newley, Jameson Clark, William Lucas, Peter Hammond, Marianne Brauns, Ian McNaughton, Michael Ripper, John Harvey, Edwin Richfield, Jane Aird, Norman Macowan, Neil Hallet, Kenneth Cope, Michael Brook, and Fraser Hines

Composer: James Bernard

Release Date: 11/5/1956

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

X the UnknownWhen a strange entity emerges from a bottomless fissure, Doctor Adam Royston (Dean Jagger) is called to investigate. Thereafter, an amorphous, radioactive creature begins dissolving the residents of a Scotland village.

A precursor to The Blob, X the Unknown may appeal to those who enjoy creature features with a sci-fi twist. Especially worth noting is the atmospheric tension of this film, which amalgamates Gothic horror tropes (e.g. creepy graveyards and medieval castles) with science fiction elements.

 

Pros

X the Unknown deserves praise for its gory make-up effects, which will captivate fans of the body horror genre. Sickening highlights include radiation burns, meltingX the Unknown faces, and blistering skin lesions—all contributions of Hammer veteran Phil Leakey.

This offering should also be commended for its sympathetic protagonist, who, though driven by a passion for scientific discovery, employs tremendous caution when overseeing the welfare of other people—much in contrast to Professor Quatermass, depicted as a cold and callous figure when confronting the gruesome aftermath of his experiment.

 

Cons

X the Unknown is marred by an abrupt climax, a severely constrained budget, and a ridiculous blob monster—similar to a giant mass of Silly Putty.

 

Analysis

X the UnknownExploring the potential for radioactivity to disturb natural forces, X the Unknown offers a Cold War subtext within a science fiction setting—reminiscent of nearly every creature feature produced during the 1950s.

 

Concluding Comments

Combining the narrative structure of The Quatermass Xperiment with the chilling Gothic atmosphere from The Curse of Frankenstein, X the Unknown is an underrated effort by Hammer Productions. British horror buffs and sci-fi enthusiasts will therefore appreciate this film, which suffers only from technical and budgetary limitations.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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