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Customer Review

on 29 August 2006
Although generally regarded as Hammer's first foray into the realm of science-fiction, two previous films THE FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE and SPACEWAYS had suggested with their overall ineptitude that genre films were perhaps something Hammer should steer clear of. But in re-making a BBC TV serial for the big screen Hammer had an ace up their sleeve and an audience ready made for the big screen adventures of Prof. Bernard Quatermass. Despite the terrible miscasting of Brian Donlevy as Quatermass, the film succeeds admirably. It still feels odd to watch a Hammer film in Black and White, but this adds to the documentary like quality that veteran director Val Guest was seeking (to aid this attempt at verisimilitude, we also have newspaper headlines and on a few occasions some hand-held camera work - very rare for 1955). With its dedication to actual scientific concepts and well written and researched source material by Nigel Kneale (a writer who is criminally under-rated) THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT retains a topical feel. In Quatermass' constant clashes with authority, Kneale threads in a number of critiques about modern society and its absurd predilection for red tape and bureaucracy. Despite these and other things, when reduced to its basic narrative, this film is an exploration of possession and feeds into the same paranoid fears that Don Siegel exposed so well with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Gothic elements abound also, with the eerie isolated location that opens the film and the idea of double or multiple identities. Sadly Kneale over-emphasises Britain's importance in the world and the idea of the United Kingdom being the first country to send manned rockets into space is rather quaint and somewhat amusing. Donlevy's boorish and arrogant Quatermass is balanced well with the genuinely moving and upsetting performance by Richard Wordsworth as the invaded astronaut Caroon. For pure atmosphere and tension this remains a high watermark for Hammer, only bettered perhaps by the sequel QUATERMASS 2
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