Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

General Information

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Writer: Nigel Kneale

Cast: James Donald, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover, Duncan Lamont, Bryan Marshall, Peter Copley, Edwin Richfield, Grant Taylor, Maurice Good, Robert Morris, Sheila Steafel, Hugh Futcher, Hugh Morton, Thomas Heathcote, Noel Howlett, Hugh Manning, June Ellis, Keith Marsh, James Culliford, Bee Duffell, Roger Avon, Brain Peck, John Graham, and Charles Lamb

Composer: Tristram Carey

Release Date: 11/9/1967

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

While working on the London Underground, a construction crew discovers the skeletal remains of a five-million-year-old ape man. Rejecting the terrestrial hypothesis of Quatermass and the Pithis colleague Doctor Roney (James Donald), Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) attributes the bizarre findings to a colony of insects from Mars—with a controversial outcome.

The third and final installment in Hammer’s Quatermass trilogy, Quatermass and the Pit provides an intellectual twist on the alien invasion trope. Science fiction fans and creature feature buffs will therefore enjoy this offering, dated special effects notwithstanding.

 

Pros

Balancing his scientific curiosity with an air of human understanding, the Bernard Quatermass played by Andrew Keir (whom Hammer buffs will recognize from Dracula: Prince of Darkness) comes across as a sympathetic figure—in contrast toQuatermass and the Pit Brian Donlevy’s cold and apathetic version of the character, who appears in the film adaptations of The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2.

Hinting at a race of Martian insects who shaped the process of human evolution, Quatermass and the Pit also builds a compelling layer of mystery around its sci-fi/horror themes. Specifically worth praising are the conflicting theories about the insects from Mars, who some believe to be forces from a demonic realm or German propaganda machines left over from World War II—speculation that serves to heighten the suspense and uncertainty around the fossilized remains.

 

Cons

Quatermass and the PitQuatermass and the Pit is marred by poor productions values, which hamper the realism of an otherwise complex and thought-provoking story. The alien creature designs, for example, resemble papier-mâché grasshoppers rather than lifelike arthropods, preventing the audience from fully accepting the aliens as a credible threat to the human race.

 

Analysis

Connecting ancient legends of Devil sightings, psychic abilities, and supernatural occurrences to the interference of extraterrestrial beings, Quatermass and the Pit offers an intelligent and fascinating, if hypothetical, explanation for alleged paranormal activity.

 

Concluding Comments

Quatermass and the Pit is a clever and intriguing science fiction film. Exceptionally compelling is the film’s use of alien invaders to explain human origins—a premise that, though often used, here benefits from a convincing execution.

 

Overall Quality: 9/10

 

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2 thoughts on “Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

  1. I saw this film yesterday for the first time for several years.

    I agree that the effects are dated – in fact the views of the culling on Mars were done better in the earlier TV version.

    But the ideas and most of the acting are still good making it a well above average offering in the genre.

    It was made for an inflation adjusted £5m – a paltry sum – especially when compared to modern films with their budgets often topping $200m

    It’s a pity that with all the money available for science fiction films at the moment that more work isn’t put into an intelligent story instead of now boring CGI effects and inane dialogue.

  2. One of the great SciFi films of the late sixties (The same period that gave us 2001 and Planet of The Apes… what an era!) As for the SPFX …. eh, no worse than classic Trek or Who from that era and Hammer was never known for lavish budgets.