Quatermass and the Pit (Made in Britain film season)
Quatermass and the Pit
(Roy Ward Baker, 1967)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Re-released with a nice transfer, 'Quatermass and the Pit' is a slow burning Hammer horror - light on horror but high on lazy clichés followed by dicey effects.
'Quatermass and the Pit' is a very dated watch. Sure it's an enjoyable slice of 60s Hammer schlock, but it fails because it finds itself awkwardly sitting between the usual fast-paced gloss of that seminal horror studio and a thoughtful, slow-burning sci-fi.
A spaceship is unearthed in a London Underground station prompting a public panic as the military and their scientist consultants fight over what the best course of action to take is. Clichés abound as the gung ho Colonel Breen (Julian Glover) wants to show it off to the press as a piece of Nazi propaganda, ignoring the ship's otherworldly powers to take control of the minds of anyone who gets to close. More rational is Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) who explores the find with caution.
The trouble is that all this exploring and back-and-forth silly arguments between the two men take up nearly half of the film before a creature is actually discovered. Slow burning works fine (especially for sci-fi horror ala 'The Thing') but when the big reveal is obviously a very cheap prosthetic dummy the payoff is laughable. To say that the effects have dated since the 60s isn't enough, there were better - and, importantly, more inventive - effects decades prior.
You can't take these monsters seriously when the effects are this bad, and director Roy Ward Baker can't hold the tension after the reveal. Also lacking is a motive for their deeds or any development on their part. Slowly but surely, people get possessed by the beast and dance around before Quatermass takes matters into his own hands and attempts to defeat the head beast in a woeful conclusion that is actually the best set piece in the whole film. But by then it's too late.
This has been restored and re-released into UK cinemas for a limited engagement as part of Studio Canal's Made in Britain film season.
To find out more info and what other unique, forgotten British classics you can expect from the season check out our feature that contains a link to the showtimes and participating cinemas right HERE.
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