Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Five Million Years to Earth

US release poster

A long time ago (before Doctor Who took off on journeys through time and space), the definitive British sci-fi program were the three mini-series of Quatermass. Written by Nigel Neale, the Quatermass TV shows provided some of the finest and most thought-provoking science-fiction of the 1950s.

They also resulted in two very so-so movies with American actor Brian Donlevy inexplicably cast as the determined leader of the British rocket program. Aside from the odd casting, the two movies (Quatermass Experiment aka The Creeping Unknown and Quatermass II aka Enemies From Space) were half decent but severely hindered by their attempt to reduce a three hour plus storyline into 80 minutes of film. Lots of major points kept getting left out of the movies.

But the movie version of Quatermass and the Pit (US title Five Million Years to Earth) is different. Neale wrote the condensed version himself, carefully stripping the original TV storyline to its most basic and major points. With Andrew Keir as Prof. Quatermass, the film came much closer to capturing the very intense (and intensely English) drive of the character. It also had a surprisingly strong directorial approach from Roy Ward Baker and this is the single finest job of the man's otherwise lackluster career.

The result is a spooky, extremely intense and utterly crazed drive into a modern apocalypse about to be unleashed by ancient alien forces.Influenced by such thinkers as H. G. Wells and Carl Jung, Quatermass and the Pit remains of the single most unique alien invasion movies ever made and has been a major influence on many later films and novels. It is the closest thing you will find to a cerebral roller-coaster ride with an ending that lingers long afterwards in the memory.

Link to free version on YouTube

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