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Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Quatermass And The Pit Large

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Nigel Kneale
1967, 98 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 30th, 2019

Starring:
Andrew Keir as Quatermass
James Donald as Doctor Roney
Barbara Shelley as Barbara Judd
Julian Glover as Colonel Breen
Duncan Lamont as Sladden
Bryan Marshall as Captain Potter
Peter Copley as Howell

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Review:

New extension tunnels are being constructed in the London Underground and the Hobbs End station is well underway when the workers make a shocking discovery: a misshapen skull. Soon there are many bones and something large and metallic found within the clay walls. Fearing the object may be an unexploded bomb, the Ministry of Defense is called in for assistance. Prof. Bernard Quatermass of the British Experimental Rocket Group is meeting with the minister when the call comes in, so he joins the team out of curiosity. Excavation at the site continues, revealing the metal object to be something more like a ship. Quatermass takes a keen interest in the finding and suspects alien technology. What they discover inside the craft will shake the foundations of human existence.

In 1953, BBC television began a very popular serial called The Quatermass Experiment, created by writer Nigel Kneale (The First Men in the Moon). The program is about Britain’s most clever scientist and the consequences of space exploration. The series was adapted into the feature The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), which was soon followed by the sequel Quatermass II (1957). The movies were produced by Hammer Films and their success led to plans for a third installment in the franchise. The project languished in development hell for various reasons for a full decade before going before the cameras as 1967’s Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Million Years to Earth). Nigel Kneale was on board as screenwriter and veteran Hammer director Roy Ward Baker (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) was placed at the helm.

Quatermass and the Pit is a high-concept picture that has influenced countless filmmakers for the past five decades. The script is filled with big ideas that trace the history of human evolution and poses some interesting possibilities that are both intriguing and haunting. There are no explicit theological discussions, but religious themes are prevalent throughout. With the discovery of alien life forms inside the ship the government has little choice but to remain open to a non-traditional response. The military is less receptive and proves more of an obstacle in the search for answers. Quatermass employs an experimental device that resembles a Virtual Reality headset used to record people’s thoughts. The central idea of the plot is highly original and variations on the theme have appeared in countless movies since.

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Andrew Keir (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) stars as Prof. Quatermass and has quite the screen presence. The character is a towering figure in the science fiction genre and Keir brings gravitas to the role. James Donald (The Bridge on the River Kwai) co-stars as Doctor Roney, the man who assumes control of the dig site and proves to be an asset in a crisis. The lovely Barbara Shelley (Village of the Damned) plays Barbara Judd, Roney’s assistant who holds her own as the situation spirals out of control. Julian Glover (The Empire Strikes Back) is the antagonist Col. Breen, who stands in Quatermass’ way and is the source for much of the story’s conflict.

Quatermass and the Pit is a fun picture that introduces a big “what if” and traces the thread to an exciting finale. The characters are well-realized and the plot moves swiftly. Roy Ward Baker creates a picture full of suspense and gripping action. This is a standalone story; you don’t need to have seen the two previous films in the series to enjoy this one. Keir does a fine job with the title role and makes the character his own. It is easy to recommend this title, as it holds such a solid position in genre history.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the picture is in great shape with strong colors and rich black levels. The print is free from scratches, dirt or other debris and there is plenty of small-object detail.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix preserves the original recordings with well-balanced music and effects tracks. An expanded DTS-HD MA 5.1 track opens things up nicely, as the rear channels receive a lot of attention. Dialogue levels are clean and free from any hiss or distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

There are three audio commentaries on this release, including two newly recorded tracks and a vintage discussion with the filmmakers. The first commentary features film historian Bruce Hallenbeck, who covers a lot of territory in relaying the information behind the long road taken to bring this film to life. He offers insight on the original television serial the movie is based on and shares interesting anecdotes about both Nigel Kneale and Roy Ward Baker.

The second commentary is hosted by film historians Constantine Nasr and Steve Haberman, who share an enthusiastic conversation about this picture. Some of the topics covered include casting, the script, recurring themes and the influence on later works. This is an informative and entertaining discussion well worth a listen.

Director Roy Ward Baker and writer Nigel Kneale share their memories from the production on the third commentary. There is discussion of the influences on the material and the approach to directing the film. There are many great stories, but unfortunately there are also frequent gaps of silence.

Actor Hugh Futcher played the construction worker who discovers the skeleton in the tunnel wall and is the star of this newly-recorded interview (7 minutes). He tells an amusing story of working with the director and has kind words for his co-stars.

Academy Award winning special effects artist Brian Johnson (Alien) appears in a short interview (5 minutes) where he recounts his work on this picture. He talks about the creature effects, working with models and what went into filming the destructive finale.

Trevor Coop worked in the camera department and is the subject of another brief interview (8 minutes). He tells of how he got into the industry and shares various production stories from this film. He discusses the special effects team and working with practical effects and shares his memories of director Baker.

Focus puller Bob Jordan remembers his time on this shoot as smooth and easygoing in this new interview (2 minutes). He shares a quick production story about shooting the chaotic pub scene during the finale.

Nigel Kneale’s former wife, author Judith Kerr, reflects on her life with the writer, whom she refers to as “Tom” in this wide-ranging interview (18 minutes). She recalls how they met, his work on the Quatermass scripts and their lasting appeal.

Actor Julian Glover sits down for an interview (31 minutes) in which he shares his thoughts on his character and his memories of the director and his co-stars. He tells several entertaining production stories and also briefly discusses his work on The Empire Strikes Back.

Sherlock actor/writer Mark Gatiss is a big fan of this movie and provides a video appreciation (20 minutes) in which he reflects on his introduction to Hammer Films and his respect for Nigel Kneale’s storytelling ability.

Director Joe Dante (The Howling) provides a video appreciation (12 minutes) of this picture and shares his thoughts on the legacy of the Quatermass franchise. He talks about his love of Hammer Films, his admiration of Nigel Kneale’s writing and his criticism of some of the special effects.

Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn discusses the importance of the Quatermass series to the studio and how it shaped their film output for years to come in this informative interview (13 minutes). He talks about the lengthy development process of bringing this story before cameras and comments on Roy Ward Baker’s directorial style.

Film historian Kim Newman shares his thoughts on the picture in a lengthy video appreciation (31 minutes) that is full of praise. He reflects on his introduction to the franchise and the social commentary of this picture. He shares his thoughts on the writer and director and the lasting legacy of their work.

An episode of World of Hammer titled “Sci-Fi” showcases a variety of clips from Hammer Films productions, including Frankenstein Created Woman, The Damned, X-The Unknown and the Quatermass franchise.

Two spoiler-heavy trailers are present, including one under the alternate title Five Million Years to Earth. There are also two TV spots for the film.

The U.S. opening credits featuring the alternate Five Million Years to Earth title appear here for completists.

A still gallery of publicity shots, behind-the-scenes images, international poster art and lobby cards plays as a silent slideshow (6 minutes).

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Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Quatermass And The Pit Small
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Threeandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Fivestars
Overall: Threeandahalfstars

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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