The Quatermass Xperiment

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(7/10) Released in the US as The Creeping Unknown, this British 1955 sci-fi horror film is a landmark of the genre. Based on a popular TV series, it was Hammer Films’ first horror movie and their first major hit film. American heavy Brian Donlevy stars as Quatermass, a bulldozer of a rocket scientist trying to solve the mystery of a returned astronaut being transformed from within by an alien life-force that threatens to release its spores all over London. A dark, unsettling sci-fi thriller that still resonates today.

The crashed Quatermass rocket.

The crashed Quatermass rocket.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955, UK). Directed by Val Guest. Written by Val Guest & Richard Landau, based on the TV series The Quatermass Experiment, written by Nigel Kneale. Starring: Brian Donlevy, Richard Wordsworth, Jack Warner, Margia Dean, David King-Wood, Lionel Jeffries, Maurice Kaufmann, Thora Hird, Jane Asher. Produced by Anthony Hinds and Robert L. Lippert for Hammer Films and Exclusive Productions.
IMDb rating: 6.8/10. Tomatometer: 92% Fresh. Metascore: N/A. 

Blu-Ray sleeve.

Blu-Ray sleeve.

Ah! Young love. A starry summer night on the rural outskirts of London. A playful couple on their way home from a night on the town tease and giggle as they fall into each other’s arms in the hay. But that’s all the romance and peace we have time for in this movie. Because just as the young lovers settle into an embrace, something comes roaring across the night sky, and from there on this 80 minute movie never once lets up it relentless pace. ‘

”What is that?” asks the boy.

”Is it a jet?” replies the girl.

”That’s no jet!” exclamates the boy, then points to the sky, horrified.

”Look!”

Fear-struck the couple race for safety, getting called into a house by a frightened farmer. ”Dad!” shouts the girls as the trio ducks for cover. There’s a tremendous roar and a crash outside. The roof of the house collapses. All are fine, but dad grabs his rifle and decides to have a look outside, only to be stopped with a dumb-struck look on his face. The camera cuts to his field, where flames and smoke rise, and in the middle of it a huge rocket has crashed nose first into the ground. Continue reading

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Dick Barton Strikes Back

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(5/10) In a nutshell: A proto-James Bond battles an evil villain set to rule the world with his secret weapon that turns brains into jelly in this first science fiction entry by Hammer Films in 1949. It’s a juvenile quota quickie with an often less than perfect script, and some hammy acting, but with surprisingly solid production values, great atmosphere and good pacing.

Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949). Directed by Godfrey Grayson. Written by Elizabeth Baron and Ambrose Grayson. Starring: Don Stannard, Bruce Walker, Sebastian Cabot, James Raglan, Jean Lodge, Peter Wyngarde.  Produced by Anthony Hinds and Mae Murray for Hammer Films. IMDb score: 5.9

Publicity poster for Dick Barton Strikes Back.

Publicity poster for Dick Barton Strikes Back.

We have another British sci-fi(ish) film! After years of licking their wounds from the financial disaster that was H.G. Wells’ Things to Come (1936, review), the British film industry rediscovered the genre in the late forties. After the time travel comedy Time Flies (1946, review) and the robot bedroom farce The Perfect Woman (1949, review), we get Dick Barton, special agent, in this 1949 mystery thriller, Dick Barton Strikes Back, featuring a James Bond-styled villain with a secret futuristic weapon. Continue reading