Quatermass and the Pit (1958)


Rating *5*

Created and written by Nigel Kneale

Starring André Morell (Professor Bernard Quatermass), Cec Linder (Dr Matthew Roney), Antony Bushell (Colonel James Breen), John Stratton (Captain Potter), Christine Finn (Barbara Judd), Harold Goodwin (Corporal Gibson), Brian Worth (James Fullalove), Richard Shaw (Sladden), Hilda Barry (Mrs Anne Chilcot), Howell Davies (Mr Chilcot), Victor Platt (PC Ellis), Richard Dare (Private Secretary) and Michael Ripper (Sergeant)

A pre-human skull is discovered on building works in Hobbs Lane in Knightsbridge. Palaeontologist Dr Matthew Roney identifies it as a missing link, many thousands of years old, and obtains permission to carry out archaeological excavation of the site. However, when what appears to be a previously-unidentified unexploded World War II German missile is discovered, the site is closed off by an Army bomb disposal team. Roney asks his friend Professor Bernard Quatermass of the British Experimental Rocket Group to intercede on his behalf and they begin to piece together the terrible truth about the origins of the human species.


When I was growing up, the 1967 Hammer Films version of ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ was one of my favourite films. I guess I would first have watched it as a teenager sometime in the early to mid-1970s. I remain very fond of it. Like the two earlier Quatermass films made by Hammer, it was a remake of a 1950s BBC serial. ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ was the final one in the trilogy, broadcast in six 30-minute segments between 22 December 1958 and 26 January 1959, most of it performed live.

‘Quatermass and the Pit’ is a wildly acknowledged classic, possibly the single greatest example of British science fiction. It was hugely influential, both in style and theme. Doctor Who is a very obvious example of the influence of the Quatermass trilogy, but it extends much wider than just that.

It might be a little bit dated and stagey now, but science fiction does not get any better or more intelligent than this. The quality of the surviving print is also superior to the first two instalments in the trilogy, ‘The Quatermass Experiment’ (1953) and ‘Quatermass II’ (1955).

Review posted on 21 November 2010


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