WYSW: The Quatermass Xperiment/The Creeping Unknown (1955)
This is my entry for the Monster Mash Blogathon, hosted by Nathanael from FCoY.
Based on a 1953 BBC TV series of the same name, this is a science fiction film, about an obsessive professor and an alien-possessed astronaut, and the resulting conclusion when the two mixes together. I'm not really into horror or sci-fi, but this is anyway a classic and it has certain quality that is mention-worthy here. Some points about the film I love, but some I just plain dislike (like the fact that it's a horror movie). And so, the reasons why you should at least consider to watch The Quatermass Xperiment (in my opinion) are...
1. This is a quintessential early British horror/sci-fi movie.
There's quite a history behind the making of this film. The production house, Hammer Film Productions, was famous for other similar genre-ed horrors (e.g. The Mummy, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula), but it was The Quatermass Xperiment that had its significant booming success; The Quatermass Xperiment was the first to ignite the horror/sci-fi genre craze in England. Before this, horror/sci-fi wasn't that popular for the Brits. In fact, it's not popular at all. It's like the geeky nerds club in high school stereotypes as there were many other more mainstream genres. So the fact that Quatermass was an unexpected box office hit opens the door for Hammer, who actually had already existed long ago before they even though of producing the film! The slight misspelling from 'experiment' to 'xperiment' was intentional, as Hammer wanted the movie to be rated X (for films regarded as having themes too intense or graphic for anyone under 16) and the production house removed the E from the word to emphasize this.
2. Professor Quatermass
I never actually watched the original TV series, so I didn't know how they portray Prof. Quatermass in the BBC shows. But then with a little bit of research, I found out that Prof. Quatermass is an introvert and quite philosophical in the TV series. In this film though, he's portrayed as someone cold-hearted, obsessive, insensitive ("There is no room for personal feelings in science, Judith!") and is almost similar to a mad scientist. Quatermass, played by Brian Donlevy, at first is more interested in knowing that his space project is successful than taking concern over the two missing astronauts and one weirdly acting astronaut, Victor Carroon, that hold control over the spaceship. But then he finally becomes aware of the spacemen, and begins another scientific experiment to investigate about Victor Carroon's strange behaviour and symptoms. Then he realizes that Carroon has become a monster, and decides its best to just kill him. In my eyes Bernard Quatermass pretty much has anti-hero characteristics and is unsympathetic, real and almost true to life. He's the no-nonsense kind of man, and I find him necessary to be like that, especially as a main character in the movie. I think that this film is similar to Frankenstein, only more twisted, in the context that Quatermass' space experiment is the trigger of all these events, and he ultimately is the one who released a threatening alien monster, but if it weren't for him, then there would be no one to slay the monster in the ending. The ending is awesome, I should say, with all the killing and the parting shots. Both Quatermass and Carroon are the gems of this film for me.
3. the zoo scene (not to mention the ending)
It's creepy even though there is basically no scary scenes at all. Knowing that the monster has come to attack is just... chilling! And the ending gave me goosebumps. I love how Prof. Quatermass just walk away from the scene and then conclude the film with the line, "We're going to start again." it's as if he's not done yet with this business.
4. great script, nice directing, enticing atmosphere, amazing makeup
I'm not kidding. The script is brilliant and perfectly fits the thrilling film atmosphere (you won't feel much comfortable watching this alone and especially in the dark. If you do feel comfortable, fine), and the makeup of the corpses and especially the alien monster is original, vivid and graphic. It's also amazing how they don't show the true form of the monster until the end of the film. It's like they're saving the best for last!
5. Proof that good acting doesn't need much talking.
I'm talking about Richard Wordsworth as Victor Caroon.
To me he's the star of the film. Wordsworth doesn't only serve an outstanding performance as an astronaut who got infected with an alien parasite, but he also manages to be true to his character without really overdoing it, showing that Victor Carroon strongly objects his pitiful, tragic fate; the entire time Carroon is fighting to maintain himself from being completely possessed by the alien parasite and trying to stay human. And you know what? He never talks in this movie. Wordsworth's portrayal of Carroon is through his expressions and body language; his eyes, his grimaces, the sighs and groans he make and especially his quivering hands. How does he feel, what does he think the entire time? It all shows in his painful, passionate acting. I applaud Wordsworth for bringing me a solid and memorable performance. He very much makes this film work for me.
6. The plot might be stereotypical nowadays, but this was something new back in the 50s
A spaceship that crash-landed on a small site that contains a man who is being infected with something sinister and out of this world, and the plot that develops from there, with bizarre changes from the pitiable man and resulting killings (complete with the graphic pictures and annoyingly thrilling background music) and the ensuing investigation that leads to a horrific sci-fi ending. You've been there and you've done that. But remember, this is a classic, and you can never go wrong with a classic, not to mention that this film is quintessential for the sci-fi genre; back then this was something new and rather shocking, so the impact it made lasted. Simple as it seems, I think The Quatermass Xperiment is so much better than current alien movies.
7. Of course, you should watch this if you like alien movies. Especially the horror-y, thrilling ones. With deformed corpses and mutating right arm. Thick science-fiction theme. If you don't like that kind of movie, then just read my other posts.