Quatermass And The Pit Review

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Score

Roy Ward Baker's 1967 Hammer horror remains a paragon of hand-made, low-budget filmmaking. And it's pretty damn scary, too.

Reportedly made for a budget of just under a quarter of a million pounds back in 1967, Roy Ward Baker's hand-crafted, London-set Hammer chiller, Quatermass and the Pit, is a film in which every single penny is tossed violently at the screen.

Detailing the initial rumblings of a long-dormant Martian invasion in the claggy bowels of the fictional Hobbs End tube station, the film remains a paragon of ambition thwarting modest means.

While some of the special effects could easily be dismissed as quaint – the Martians themselves resemble an army of over-sized crickets as produced by an under-funded northern arts college – the tactile feel and the charming frayed edges on show are a reason why this film should be sincerely cherished and not giggled at.

Indeed, it's perhaps the Martian creatures' benign appearance which makes the film's explosive denouement all the more shocking.

Andrew Keir gnaws at the scenery as the perpetually tweed-suited Professor Bernard Quatermass, a moralistic and inquiring scholar who is drafted in to assist the army in their excavation of the alien site.

Regularly crossing swords with the officious and skeptical Colonel Breen (Julian Glover), who is swift to dismiss the entire hullabaloo as Nazi shock tactics left over from the war, Quatermass gradually discovers the energy-sapping methods with which these visitors aim to capture and enslave the people of Earth.

Though much of the film takes place on one or two cramped sets, there's still ample room to offer dismaying conjecture on the disharmony of science and politics, the impotence of the military in the face of superior intelligence, and the origins of the human race.

The iconography of the London Underground – the basic visual components of which are still employed today – root the film in the happenings of contemporary urban life. Also, it's interesting how the manual labourers on the site and the working class patrons of a nearby pub remain cheerfully convinced that there's nothing to worry about and that they will remain protected by their government.

Re-released for one day only (ahead of its plush Blu-ray treatment) as part of StudioCanal's Made in Britain season, Quatermass and the Pit remains a remarkable and innovative horror antique that should be seen by anyone and everyone who harbours a desire to make a movie.

Anticipation

A chance to revisit not only a classic homegrown horror, but one of the great London movies.

4

Enjoyment

No CG to paper over the budget cracks, and all the better for it.

4

In Retrospect

Easy to dismiss as camp folly, but you really shouldn't.

3
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