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The Monster Movie Maniac covers all the creature classics that you loved growing up, as well as all the newer releases that are bound to slip your radar. This includes the higher budgeted releases, as well as those scraped together with only the minimalist of budgets. From giant sea creatures, to cryptids, to alien invaders, to just whatever the Hell The Milpitas Monster is supposed to be, his page covers them all! Seriously though, I have no clue what the Milpitas Monster is. I just know it’s awful.
For his Halloween Horrors debut, the Maniac earns a few “kudos points” for covering one of yours truly’s favorite science fiction classics, Hammer Films’ 1955 tale of extraterrestrial terror, The Quatermass Experiment. He does a fine job of not only detailing the film’s plot, but also why more sci-fi and horror fans should check out this regularly over-looked gem of the genre.
It’s almost enough to make me forgive him for recommending that movie about the were-frog, but not enough to make me forgive him for that film about the alien bunnies.
What do you get when you cross Hammer Films, horror, science fiction and monsters? One of the best examples of science fiction creature thrillers to come out of the 1950’s, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) from director Val Guest, who adapted the film from a popular BBC television series created by Nigel Kneale. Long considered a classic among science fictions fans, The Quatermass Xperiment delivers mystery, intrigue, thrills, and includes some of the best creative monster effects of the era. If you love creature features, you will love this film.
Also known as The Creeping Unknown for the US release, we follow Professor Quatermass, played by classic Hollywood star Brian Donlevy, who is the head of a space exploration program which successfully launches the first rocket ship into space. Shortly after launching, the mission suffers a disaster when the space agency loses all contact with the rocket and its three-man crew. The rocket has experienced some mysterious event in space which causes it to crash land back on Earth. Soon, emergency services are rushed to a field in the English countryside where the craft is found buried nose first into the ground.
Attempts to get near the ship are thwarted by intense heat radiating from the ship’s hull, but Quatermass finally arrives on the scene and rushes to take charge of the rescue operation. Racing against time, and concerned for the safety of the men trapped inside the ship, Quatermass devises a plan to lower the temperature of the ship by ordering the fire department to blast the ship with water. The plan works and soon a hatchway opens. One of the astronauts, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), suddenly crawls out of the craft and falls unconscious to the ground.
Quatermass runs into the ship to rescue the remaining crew but there is no sign of the men. They have disappeared completely, save for their empty uniforms lying on the ground. Confused by their disappearance, Quatermass questions Carroon about the missing men, but he is in a state of shock and unresponsive and is finally taken away by ambulance.
And so the mystery of the missing astronauts takes center stage and to this end, Professor Quatermass is visited by Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner), who is called upon by Scotland Yard to investigate the ill–fated mission and the disappearance of the astronauts. The inspector’s appearance causes Quatermass great consternation as he only sees the detective’s presence as an impedance to his own scientific investigation. The two men frequently find themselves at odds with each other, but soon realize they must join forces if they are to prevent a disaster that threatens all of mankind.
As one mystery begins, another more deadly and sinister event threatens to take shape. Victor Carroon, the lone surviving astronaut, is being monitored at a medical research facility, while also being watched over by his wife (Margia Dean), who is always at his side. Little does she know that Victor is slowly undergoing a physical metamorphosis that scientists cannot explain. Desperate to find treatment for her ailing husband, she arranges to have him secretly taken from the research facility and into a waiting car outside. The joy of rejoining her husband turns to terror when she discovers that Victor may no longer be the man she once knew. Already showing signs of physical mutations, Victor escapes from the vehicle while his wife screams out into the night.
Quatermass and Inspector Lomax are now faced with the enormous task of locating the dangerous Carroon, who now wanders the city in perpetual rage and in constant pain from the mutations affecting his body. No man or beast is safe while he remains at large.
I have to point out that one of the highlights and real treats of the film for me are the extraordinary special effects that are used to showcase Carroon’s physical deformities during various stages of his metamorphosis. From skin discolorations to large tumor-like appendages, great expertise is given to bring these grotesque effects to life so that when they are combined with Wordsworth’s performance, they add a sense of realism and terror that allows the viewer to empathize with Carroon’s agony.
In the end, it is the special effects that add the final coup de grace to the film’s climax as Quatermass and Inspector Lomax finally locate Carroon. They find him inside an old church in the middle of a live television program, but Victor is no longer human. Instead he is now completely transformed into a part beast/part plant, slithering Lovecraftian nightmare. Quatermass realizes that the creature is growing exponentially before their very eyes and must be destroyed immediately before it gets too large. He does so in a manner which is reminiscent of another classic 50’s science fiction movie, The Thing from Another World, using electricity to destroy the monster.
Quatermass may have saved the world from an uncertain doom, but the setback from this latest mission does not hinder his quest to reach the stars and to explore what other secrets lie beyond the known cosmos.
The Quatermass Xperiment is accompanied by a heart-pounding frenetic musical score which raises the level of anxiety, tension and horror and doesn’t let up until the final conclusion. If you are a fan of classic science fiction cinema, you will enjoy this film which illustrates the consequences of pitting mankind’s desires against the dangers of the unknown.