Aliens, Horror Classic, Science Fiction

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

0 Comments 30 October 2011

Quatermass Xperiment cover

aka The Creeping Unknown
Studio: MGM
Theatrical Release: Sept. 28th, 1955
DVD-R Release: Sept. 27th, 2011
Rated: G
Review by Craig Sorensen







A rocket crashes in the English countryside.  The brainchild of Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy of “Gammera the Invincible”), the rocket and it’s crew of three had gone missing before plummeting back to earth.  Out of the three crew members, only one remains, in a kind of trance (the only thing left of the others are their space suits).  But, this lone astronaut holds a terrible secret…

The thing that I think is most interesting about this film is in the way that it contrasts with similarly themed American films of the time period.  American science fiction of the 50’s tends to focus on plucky scientists saving the day through their ingenuity.  Even though they are dealing with the problems of rapidly expanding civilization/scientific knowledge there is still a sense of optimism throughout.  In The Quatermass Xperiment, that optimism is gone replaced by a brutish asshole of a scientist named Quatermass.  And he’s the hero.  Not only do the problems of the film seem to be caused by Quatermass rushing ahead and performing his experiment (or xperiment) without authorization but he never truly takes any responsibility for his actions.  It’s all in the name of progress.  I don’t want to give the ending away (as I think it’s one of the best endings I can remember from a 50’s science fiction film) but it really sums up the whole character of the film.  It’s just so downbeat.  It’s almost a threat.

The first time that I watched this (sometime in the 90’s on VHS I think) I remember thinking ‘I don’t want to watch Brian Donlevy playing a scientist.  Who the fuck cast this thing’?  But you know, it really is kind of perfect.  He is the last person you would expect to be cast in that role.  And he plays Quatermass as such a huge prick.  He really is almost the antithesis of the scientist character in other films of this type.  Donlevy was mostly know at this point for playing tough guys and thugs in noirs and westerns.  He certainly wasn’t known for his intellectual takes on the roles.  And he brings that same tough guy mentality to the super genius character of Quatermass.  And for the most part it works.  You get the impression that he really doesn’t give a fuck who gets hurt in his quest for knowledge.

The film recieves a new HD remastered transfer as part of the MGM Limited Edition collection of DVD-Rs.  There is a nice sheen of film grain throughout.  The only other format that I’ve seen this film in is VHS and this looks a hell of a lot better than that.  Detail is greatly improved.  I didn’t notice any kind of noise reduction or edge enhancement.  Now as far as I know this was shot in 1:33:1 and meant to be cropped to  1:66:1.  This transfer is shown in 1:33:1.  It didn’t really bother me at all though but some people might find that annoying.  You could just zoom in on your television I suppose.  Sound is a fine mono track.  Dialog, music and sound effects all sounded good to me but it’s nothing too special.  The only extra included with the disc is the original theatrical trailer.

- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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