Quatermass and the Pit – UK, 1967

Quatermass and the Pit (US title: Five Million Years to Earth) is a 1967 British science fiction horror film. Produced by Hammer Film Productions it is a sequel to the earlier Hammer films The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2.

Like its predecessors it is based on a BBC Television serial – Quatermass and the Pit – written by Nigel Kneale.

It was directed by Roy Ward Baker and stars Andrew Keir in the title role as the eponymous professor, replacing Brian Donlevy who played the role in the two earlier films. James Donald, Barbara Shelley and Julian Glover appear in co-starring roles.

Plot:

A mysterious object is discovered buried in the ground at the site of an extension to the London Underground. Also uncovered nearby are the remains of early human ancestors more than five million years old.

Realising that the object is in fact an ancient Martian spacecraft, Quatermass deduces that the aliens have influenced human evolution and the development of human intelligence. The spacecraft has an intelligence of its own and once uncovered begins to exert a malign influence, resurrecting Martian memories and instincts buried deep within the human psyche. Mayhem breaks out on the streets of London as the alien force grows in strength…

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Nigel Kneale wrote the first draft of the screenplay in 1961 but difficulties in attracting interest from American co-financiers meant the film did not go into production until 1967. The director, Roy Ward Baker, was chosen on account of his experience with technically demanding productions such as A Night to Remember. This would be the first of many films he directed for Hammer.

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Andrew Keir, playing Quatermass, found making the film an unhappy experience, believing Baker had wanted Kenneth More to play the role.

Due to lack of production space, the film was shot at the MGM studios in Elstree, Borehamwood rather than Hammer’s usual home at the time which was the Associated British Studios, also in Elstree.

Choice dialogue:

“If we found our Earth was doomed – say, by climatic changes – what would we do about it?’ ‘Nothing – just go on squabbling as usual.”

quatermass and the pit kim newman BFI Film Classics book

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The film opened in November 1967 to favourable reviews and remains generally well regarded.

In 2014, the British Film Institute published a BFI Film Classics book about the film by critic and author Kim Newman.

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