A missile, launched by the team led by Prof. Quatermass, lands in the English countryside. Of the three members of the crew, two have mysteriously disappeared. The third one, barely alive, undergoes an horrible metamorphosis turning into a monstrous "thing". When he breaks out and, chased in vain by inspector Lomax, starts killing humans and animals to feed his transformation, Quatermass realizes that this is the way chosen by an alien form of life to invade the Earth.
Brian Donlevy ... Prof. Bernard Quatermass
Jack Warner ... Insp. Lomax
Margia Dean ... Mrs. Judith Carroon
Thora Hird ... Rosemary 'Rosie' Elizabeth Rigly
Gordon Jackson ... BBC TV producer
David King-Wood ... Dr. Gordon Briscoe (Quatermass' associate)
Harold Lang ... Christie (man who helps Victor escape)
Lionel Jeffries ... Blake
Sam Kydd ... Police sergeant questioning Rosie
'The Quatermass Xperiment' was the first Hammer horror/SF movie and despite being close to fifty years old is still very creepy and entertaining. Oldies who saw the original British TV version (now lost, I believe) claim that it was superior, and as I have compared the TV and Hammer movie versions of 'Quatermass And The Pit', I tend to believe them.
Anyway, the movie version is still very, very good. Brian Donlevy's Quatermass is much gruffer, more take charge and less likeable than Andre Morell's or Andrew Keir's Quatermass, but once you get used to his approach it works well with the material. Richard Wordsworth is surprisingly good as the astronaut who returns from space with, well, a little extra, and Jack Warner is fine as Inspector Lomax.
The special effects for the most part are very effective, and I think the movie has really stood the test of time. The basic concept may have been used before in SF literature, but the movie undoubtedly had a strong influence on subsequent similar movies. Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale is one of the most important science fiction popularizers of the post-WW2 period, and his TV shows and movies have had a huge impact on the genre, most notably on 'The X-Files'.
Many people think Chris Carter owes Kneale some acknowledgement, and I agree with them. 'The Quatermass Xperiment' is an excellent sci fi chiller in its own right, but I also highly recommend the other movies in the series, and also Kneale's underrated ghost story 'The Stone Tape'.
You can't even begin to describe how essential (and quintessential) this legendary Hammer-movie in fact is! It was the unexpected success of this movie that single-handedly caused the horror-boom all over Europe! If this adaptation from Nigel Kneale's play hadn't been so popular, Hammer Studios probably never would have started with re-telling other famous franchises, such as "Frankenstein", "Dracula" or "The Mummy". It was "The Quatermass Xperiment" that all of a sudden showed that the audience's hunger for morbid Sci-Fi and fantasy tales is insatiable and Hammer cleverly exploited this given bit by bit. The film itself is about 50 years old now, but it definitely still stands as one of the uncanniest and mesmerizing Sci-Fi films ever made. With its uniquely tense atmosphere, the astonishing performance by Richard Wordsworth and the intelligent script, this movie is an experience that'll keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Quatermass is the name of a brilliant (but slightly obnoxious) scientist who – apparently without permission of the legal authorities – launched a rocket with a 3-headed crew into space, to travel distances no other space-mission ever reached. The movie opens when a catastrophe already took place and the rocket crashes just outside London. Two crew members seemly vanished into thin air while the other (Wordsworth) is "possessed" with something. The unfortunate astronaut inexplicably turns into a monster that threatens to extinguish the entire world…
The premise of alien-intelligence invading earth through an unfortunate space-mission is extremely stereotyped by today's standards, but "The Quatermass Xperiment" is one of the only oldies in the genre that still feels genuine and original. A form of criticism I often encountered while browsing through other users' comments is that this production supposedly hasn't dated well and that it's nowhere near scary. Frankly, I don't share this opinion at all. First and foremost because the film suggests more terror rather than showing it explicitly! I am aware that few people nowadays appreciate horror film if it doesn't contain graphic violence and tons of blood, but it really is the unsettling atmosphere what makes this film so brilliant. And besides, I do think that the special and make-up effects are staggering although half a century old. The images of Wordsworth mutating arm wrapped in a filthy overcoat and his facial metamorphose are still definitely creepy! To wrap it all up: "The Quatermass Xperiment" is an exhilarating and trend-setting genre film that should be viewed by every fan of fantasy-flicks. Giant thumbs up for director Val Guest who also made another Hammer classic, "The Abominable Snowman"
Well written and terminally fascinating British sci-fi thriller from director Val Guest and writer Nigel Neale. It is a film of big ideas and planet-sized concepts that stares up into the unknown with a combination of wonderment and dread.
Originally a highly popular TV series, it spawned two excellent sequels and decades of creative Hollywood pilfering.
Brian Donlevy is wonderful as Quatermass, a scientist with the bullying manner of a military drill Sargent and a fierce, pragmatic streak. After a rocket that he sent into space crashes back to Earth, Quatermass and unofficial partner-in-crime Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner) uncover a bizarre alien conspiracy in which a surviving astronauts's body has been "borrowed" by extraterrestrials keen on relocating.
Director Guest gives the drama a no-nonsense, almost documentary feel. The special effects are perfectly acceptable for the period and the brooding sense of mid-century paranoia is well conveyed.
The hero is the script, though. The dialogue is fresh and colourful and writers Guest and Neale always keep the scientific jargon interesting. All the characters are believable and the performances are top notch.
Despite the fact that James Bernard's solid score is a little overbearing at times, this is a dashingly good science fiction film with a strong stench of horror.
* Among the materials used by Les Bowie to embellish the monster were bovine entrails and tripe.
* This film was originally slated to be released in the United States by 20th Century Fox. However, to convince more exhibitors to install Cinemascope equipment, studio chief, Darryl F. Zanuck, pledged that all future 20th Century Fox releases would be in Cinemascope or a compatible anamorphic process. Since this Hammer production was shot in standard academy (1.33:1), it had to be passed over. It was picked up and released through United Artists.
* The original British release billed Brian Donlevy and Jack Warner before the main title (The Quatermass Xperiment), with Margia Dean heading the supporting cast after the title. For the US release, Donlevy, then Ms. Dean, and then Warner were billed before the main title (The Creeping Unknown), moving Thora Hird up to the top of the supporting cast, the remaining order of which was not changed. Also, Val Guest did not receive co-screenplay credit on the US credits, Nigel Kneale's credit was altered to simply "Based on the play by", and the Acknowledgments credits were omitted altogether.
* The British Board of Film Censors had instituted the use of the "X" certificate in 1951 to indicate that certain films had themes that might be too strong or intense for persons under the age of 16. The film's title exploited the fact of receiving this "honor" by the spelling of the word "Xperiment".