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The Quatermass Xperiment (a.k.a. The Creeping Unknown in the United States) is a 1955 British science fiction horror film from Hammer Film Productions, based on the 1953 BBC Television serial The Quatermass Experiment written by Nigel Kneale. The film was produced by Anthony Hinds, directed by Val Guest, and stars Brian Donlevy as the eponymous Professor Bernard Quatermass. Jack Warner, Richard Wordsworth, and Margia Dean appear in supporting roles. The film's US release in 1956 was on a double bill with The Black Sleep.

Three astronauts are launched into space aboard a rocket designed by Professor Quatermass, but the spacecraft returns to earth with only one occupant, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth). Something has infected him during the spaceflight, and he begins mutating into an alien organism which, if it spores, will engulf the Earth and destroy humanity. When the Carroon-creature escapes from custody, Quatermass and Scotland Yard's Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner), have just hours to track it down and prevent a catastrophe.


The British Rocket Group, headed by the taciturn Professor Bernard Quatermass, launches its first manned rocket into space. Shortly thereafter, all contact is lost with the rocket and its three crew: Carroon, Reichenheim, and Green. The large rocket later returns to earth, crashing into an English country field. Quatermass and his assistant Marsh arrive at the scene, along with the local emergency services, Carroon's wife Judith, Rocket Group physician Dr. Briscoe, and Blake, a Ministry official who chides him repeatedly for launching the rocket on impulse and without official permission. Finally opening the rocket's access hatch, the space-suited Carroon stumbles outside; inside, there is no sign of the other two crew members. Carroon is in shock, only able to say the words "Help me". Inside the rocket, Quatermass and Marsh can find no sign of the other two crewmen, only their completely-fastened spacesuits.

Carroon is taken to Briscoe's office for care, on the grounds that conventional hospitals and doctors would have no idea how to evaluate or treat the world's first returned astronaut suffering from some sort of adverse event while in space. But even with Briscoe's care, Carroon remains mute, generally immobile, but alert with his eyes which now have a feral and cunning aspect. Briscoe also discovers a strangely disfigured place on his shoulder, and notices changes in his face which suggest some sort of mutation of the underlying bone structure. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard Inspector Lomax has undertaken investigation of the other two men's disappearance and, having surreptitiously fingerprinted Carroon as a suspect, alerts Quatermass that the prints resemble those of nothing human.

At Judith's insistence that Briscoe is not helping her husband, Quatermass agrees to have Carroon transferred to a regular hospital, under guard. Meanwhile, Marsh has developed film from a camera that was aboard the rocket, and Quatermass, Lomax and Briscoe have a viewing. The crew is seen for a time pleasantly at their duties; then suddenly, something seems to jar the ship. After that, there is a nightmarish wavering in the air inside the rocket, and the men react as if something frightening, yet not manifestly visible, is there in the cabin with them. One by one they fall, Carroon the last to go.

Quatermass and Briscoe determine from the evidence at hand that something living in outer space has entered the ship, dissolved Reichenheim and Green in their sealed spacesuits, and evidently entered Carroon's body, which is now in the process of being changed by this unknown entity. Not knowing any of this, Carroon's wife, Judith, hires a private investigator, Christie, to break her husband out of the secured hospital. The escape is successful, but not before Carroon smashes a potted cactus in his hospital room, fuses it into his flesh, then kills the private investigator and absorbs all the forces of life in his body, leaving just a shrivelled husk. It does not take long for Judith to discover what is happening to her husband; Carroon flees and disappears into the London night, leaving her screaming outside the hospital, alive, unharmed, but entirely mad from fright.

Inspector Lomax then initiates a manhunt for the missing Carroon. After hiding out on a river barge, Carroon encounters a little girl, leaving her also unharmed through sheer force of willpower. Then, Carroon proceeds to a nearby pharmacy and kills the chemist, using his now-swollen, crusty, cactus-thorn-riddled hand and arm as a cudgel and leaving a twisted empty husk of the man to be found by police. Quatermass theorizes that Carroon has used select chemicals taken from the shelves to "speed up a change going on inside of him". That night finds Carroon at a zoo, barely visible amongst some shadowed bushes with far less of his human form remaining. In the morning, twisted corpses of zoo animals are found, their life forces having all been absorbed, and a trail of slime leading back out into the community. Among the bushes, Quatermass and Briscoe also find a small but living remnant of what was once Victor Carroon, and take it back to their laboratory. From his examination of this remnant, Quatermass concludes that some kind of alien life has completely taken over and will eventually release reproduction spores, endangering the entire planet

The remnant eventually dies of starvation, locked in a glass cage. On a tip to police from Rosie Wrigley, a vagrant tippler, Lomax and his men track the main mutation to Westminster Abbey, where it has crawled high up on a metal work scaffolding inside. It now is a gigantic shapeless mass of combined animal and plant tissue with eyes, distended nodules, and tentacle-like fronds filled with spores. Quatermass arrives, arranges for electric cables being used by a BBC company, filming in the Abbey, to be attached to the scaffolding. By having all the power in London diverted through the cables and into the scaffolding, Quatermass succeeds in cremating the Carroon-creature by electrocution, just as it has entered the final phase before release of its spores.

The threat eliminated, Quatermass quickly walks out of the Abbey, preoccupied by his thoughts. He ignores all who ask questions. Marsh, his assistant, approaches and asks "What are we going to do"? Never breaking stride, Quatermass offhandedly replies, "We're going to start again". He leaves Marsh behind, walking into the London night, and sometime later a second manned rocket roars into space.


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The screenplay, written by the American b-film scenarist, Richard Landau, and heavily revised by Val Guest, presents a heavily compressed version of the events of the original television serial. The most significant plot change occurs at the climax of the film. In the television version, Quatermass appeals to the last vestiges of the creature's humanity and convinces it to commit suicide to save the world. In the film, Quatermass kills the creature by electrocution. Nigel Kneale was critical of the changes made for the film adaptation and of the casting of Brian Donlevy, whose brusque interpretation of Quatermass was not to his liking. To make the film's plot convincing to audiences, Guest employed a high degree of realism, directing the film in a style akin to a newsreel. The film was shot on location in London, Windsor and Bray and at Hammer's Bray Studios. Carroon's transformation was effected by makeup artist Phil Leakey, who worked in conjunction with cinematographer Walter J. Harvey to accentuate Wordsworth's naturally gaunt features to give him an alien appearance. Special effects, including a model of the fully mutated creature seen at the climax, were provided by Les Bowie. The music was composed by James Bernard, the first of many scores he wrote for Hammer.Template:Citation needed

Hammer marketed the film in the United Kingdom by dropping the "E" from "Experiment" in the title to emphasise the adults-only 'X' Certificate given to the film by the British Board of Film Censors. Upon general release in 1955, the film formed one half of the highest grossing double bill in the UK. It was the first Hammer production to attract the attention of a major distributor in the US, in this case United Artists, who distributed the film under the title The Creeping Unknown. Its success led to Hammer producing an increasing number of horror films, including two sequels Quatermass 2 (1957) and Quatermass and the Pit (1967), making them synonymous with the genre. The Quatermass Xperiment is regarded as the first of these "Hammer Horrors".Template:Citation needed


The Quatermass Experiment was a six-part serial broadcast by BBC Television in 1953. Written by Nigel Kneale, it was an enormous success with critics and audiences alike, later described by film historian Robert Simpson as "event television, emptying the streets and pubs".Template:Sfn Among its viewers was Hammer Films producer Anthony Hinds, who was immediately keen to buy the rights for a film version.Template:Sfn Incorporated in 1934, Hammer had developed a niche for itself making second features, many of which were adaptations of successful BBC Radio productions.Template:Sfn Hammer contacted the BBC on 24 August 1953, two days after the transmission of the final episode, to enquire about the film rights.Template:Sfn Nigel Kneale also saw the potential for a film adaptation and, at his urging, the BBC touted the scripts around a number of producers, including the Boulting Brothers and Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat.Template:Sfn Kneale met with Sidney Gilliat to discuss the scripts but Gilliat was reluctant to buy the rights as he felt any film adaptation would inevitably receive an ‘X’ Certificate from the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC),Template:Sfn restricting admission to persons over the age of sixteen.Template:Sfn Hammer were not so reticent, deciding from the outset that they would deliberately pursue an ‘X’ Certificate.Template:Sfn Hammer's offer met some resistance within the BBC, with one executive expressing reservations that The Quatermass Experiment was not suitable material for the company, but the rights were nevertheless sold for an advance of £500.Template:Sfn

Nigel Kneale was a BBC employee at the time, which meant that his scripts were owned entirely by the BBC and he received no extra payment for the sale of the film rights.Template:Sfn This became a matter of some resentment on Kneale's part, and when his BBC contract came up for renewal he demanded and secured control over any future film rights for his work.Template:Sfn Despite this Kneale remained bitter over the affair until the BBC made an ex-gratia payment of £3,000 to him in 1967, in recognition of his creation of Quatermass.Template:Sfn

The film was co-produced by Robert L. Lippert, an American movie producer and distributor.Template:Sfn Hammer had entered into an arrangement with Lippert in 1951 under which Lippert provided finance and supplied American stars for Hammer's films and distributed them in the United States.Template:Sfn In return, Hammer's distribution arm, Exclusive Films, distributed Lippert's films in the United Kingdom.Template:Sfn Lippert's company was, in fact, a front for 20th Century Fox, whose president, Spyros Skouras, was a close friend of Lippert's.Template:Sfn Quota laws in the UK meant that US films had to have a British supporting feature, so it was in the American studios' interests to fund these features to recover a greater proportion of the box office receipts.Template:Sfn


The first draft of the screenplay was written by Richard Landau, an American who had worked on six previous Hammer productions, including Spaceways (1953), one of the company's first forays into science fiction.Template:Sfn Landau made significant changes in condensing the action to less than half the length of the original teleplay.Template:Sfn For instance, the opening thirty minutes of the television version are covered in just two minutes in the film.Template:Sfn In the process, Landau played up the horror elements of Kneale's original teleplay.Template:Sfn Aware that the film would be co-funded by American backers, Landau added a transatlantic dimension to the script: Quatermass's "British Rocket Group" became the "British-American Rocket Group" and the character of his assistant, Briscoe, was rewritten as a US Air Force flight surgeon.Template:Sfn Quatermass himself was demoted to a doctor and written much more as an action hero than the thoughtful scientist created by Nigel Kneale.Template:Sfn Some characters from the television version, such as the journalist James Fullalove, are omitted altogether.Template:Sfn Judith Carroon's role in the film version is reduced to little more than that of the stricken astronaut's anxious wife whereas in the television version she is also a prominent member of Quatermass's Rocket Group.Template:Sfn A subplot involving an extramarital affair between her and Briscoe is also left out of the film version.Template:Sfn Kneale was particularly aggravated by the dropping of the notion from his original teleplay that Carroon has absorbed not only the bodies but also the memories and the personalities of his two fellow astronauts.Template:Sfn This change leads to the most significant difference between the two versions: in the television version, Quatermass makes an appeal to the last vestiges that remain of the three astronauts absorbed by the creature and convinces it to commit suicide before it can spore whereas in the film version Quatermass kills the creature by electrocution.Template:Sfn Director Val Guest defended this change believing it was "filmically a better end to the story".Template:Sfn He also felt it unlikely that Brian Donlevy's gruff interpretation of Quatermass would lend itself to talking the creature into submission.Template:Sfn

Having fallen foul of the censors with some of their earlier films, Hammer had an informal agreement to submit scripts in advance of shooting to the BBFC for comment.Template:Sfn When the draft script for The Quatermass Xperiment was submitted, Board Secretary Arthur Watkins replied, "I must warn you at this stage that, while we accept this story in principle for the ‘X’ category, we could not certificate, even in that category, a film treatment in which the horrific element was so exaggerated as to be nauseating and revolting to adult audiences”.Template:Sfn The BBFC were particularly concerned with the violence in the scenes where Carroon escapes from hospital and with how graphic the depiction of Caroon's transformation into the alien creature would be.Template:Sfn

The script was refined further by director Val Guest, who cut 30 pages from Landau's script.Template:Sfn One of Guest's key contributions to the script was to tailor the dialogue to suit the brusque style of star Brian Donlevy.Template:Sfn With an American actor cast as Quatermass, Guest reverted Briscoe to a British character and reinstated Quatermass's title of professor.Template:Sfn Guest also adapted some sections of the script in response to the concerns of the BBFC.Template:Sfn Further stylistic changes were sought by the BBC who retained a script approval option after the sale of the rights and asked Nigel Kneale to work on their suggested changes, much to his indignation.Template:Sfn Kneale was tasked with rewriting any scenes featuring BBC announcers to match the BBC's news reporting style.Template:Sfn


Irish-American actor Brian Donlevy was brought in by Robert L. Lippert to play the title role of Quatermass to provide an interest for American audiences.Template:Sfn Donlevy, in his own words, specialised in "he-men roles – rough, tough and realistic".Template:Sfn Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Beau Geste (1939),Template:Sfn he was also known for his appearances in The Great McGinty (1940) and The Glass Key (1942).Template:Sfn At the time he appeared as Quatermass his career was in decline, however.Template:Sfn Donlevy's no-nonsense portrayal of Quatermass is very different from that of Reginald Tate in the television version and was not to Nigel Kneale's liking, who said, "I may have picked Quatermass's surname out of a phone book, but his first name was carefully chosen: Bernard, after Bernard Lovell, the creator of Jodrell Bank. Pioneer, ultimate questing man. Donlevy played him as a mechanic, a creature with a completely closed mind”.Template:Sfn Responding to Kneale's criticisms, Val Guest said, "Nigel Kneale was expecting to find Quatermass like he was on television, a sensitive British scientist, not some American stomping around, but to me Donlevy gave it absolute reality".Template:Sfn By this stage in his career, Donlevy was suffering from alcoholism; it was some weeks into the shoot before Guest became aware that the flask of coffee he always carried on set was laced with brandy.Template:Sfn Guest found, however, that "Brian was all right, no problem at all once you kept him sober".Template:Sfn He reprised the role of Quatermass in Quatermass 2 (1957) but was replaced by Andrew Keir in the third film, Quatermass and the Pit (1967).Template:Sfn

Inspector Lomax was played by Jack Warner, who appeared by arrangement with the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, with whom he was contracted.Template:Sfn At the time he was best known as the star of Here Come the Huggetts (1948) and its sequels.Template:Sfn Shortly after finishing The Quatermass Xperiment, he made his first appearance on television in the role he is most associated with, as the title character in Dixon of Dock Green (1955–76).Template:Sfn Warner plays Lomax in a lighthearted fashion and there is a running joke in the film involving Lomax's futile attempts to find the time to have a shave with his electric razor.Template:Sfn

Richard Wordsworth was cast by Val Guest as the hapless Victor Carroon because "he had the right sort of face for the part".Template:Sfn He was best known at the time for his work in the theatre.Template:Sfn His performance in The Quatermass Xperiment is frequently compared with that of Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931).[1] Guest, aware of the risk of an actor going over the top with the part, directed Wordsworth to "hold back just a mite of what you're feeling".Template:Sfn Summing up Wordsworth's performance, film critic Bill Warren said, "All Carroon's anguish and torment are conveyed in one of the best mime performances in horror and science fiction films... A sequence in which he is riding in a car with his wife is uncanny: only the alien is visible for a long moment".Template:Sfn Wordsworth went on to appear in three more Hammer films: The Camp on Blood Island (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) and The Curse of the Werewolf (1961).Template:Sfn He remained known predominantly as a stage actor, among other things devising and starring in a one-person show dedicated to his great-great grandfather, the poet William Wordsworth.Template:Sfn

Another American star provided by Robert L. Lippert was Margia Dean, who played Judith Carroon. A former beauty queen,Template:Sfn Dean was allegedly cast on account of her association with the 20th Century Fox president, Spyros Skouras.Template:Sfn According to executive producer Michael Carreras, "Skouras had a girlfriend who was an actress and he wanted her in pictures, but he didn't want her in pictures in America, because of the tittle-tattle or whatever, so he set it up though his friend Bob Lippert".Template:Sfn Val Guest recalled of her, "She was a sweet girl, but she couldn't act".Template:Sfn Her American accent was considered out of place in the film and so her lines were dubbed in post production.Template:Sfn

Among the other actors that appear in the film are Thora Hird, Gordon Jackson, David King-Wood, Harold Lang, Lionel Jeffries and Sam Kydd, many of whom appeared regularly in films directed by Val Guest.Template:Sfn The Quatermass Xperiment also saw an early role for Jane Asher, who plays the little girl whom Carroon encounters when he is on the run.Template:Sfn


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Val Guest was hired to direct the film. He began his career co-writing comedies such as Oh, Mr Porter! (1937) and Ask a Policeman (1939) before moving into directing with Miss London Ltd. (1943).Template:Sfn His first directing job for Hammer was on Life with the Lyons (1954) and he went on to direct their first two colour features: The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) and Break in the Circle (1954).Template:Sfn Guest had little interest in science fiction and was unenthusiastic about directing the film; he reluctantly took copies of Nigel Kneale's television scripts with him on holiday in Tangiers and only began reading them after being teased for his "ethereal" attitude by his wife, Yolande Donlan.Template:Sfn Impressed by what he read and pleased to be offered the opportunity to break away from directing comedy films, he took the job.Template:Sfn In his approach to directing the film, Guest sought to make "a slightly wild story more believable"Template:Sfn by creating a "science fact" film, shot "as though shooting a special programme for the BBC or something".Template:Sfn Influenced by Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets (1950),Template:Sfn Guest employed a cinéma vérité style, making extensive use of hand-held camera, even on set, an unusual technique for the time which horrified several of the technicians employed on the film.Template:Sfn To inject pace and add further realism into the story, Guest directed his actors to deliver their lines rapid-fire and to overlap the dialogue.Template:Sfn A meticulous planner, he created storyboards for every shot and mounted them on a blackboard so as to brief the crew for each day's scenes.Template:Sfn As a consequence, some members of the crew found Guest's approach to be too mechanical.Template:Sfn

Principal photography began on 12 October 1954 with a night shoot at Chessington ZooTemplate:Sfn and continued from 18 October 1954 into December.Template:Sfn The budget was £42,000, low even by the standards of Hammer at the time.Template:Sfn Special effects technician Les Bowie recalled, "We did Quatermass on a budget so low it wasn't a real budget. I did it for wages not as a proper effects man who gets allocated a certain budget for a movie".Template:Sfn The shots of the emergency services rushing to the rocket crash site at the beginning of the movie were filmed in the village of Bray, Berkshire, where Hammer's studios were located.Template:Sfn The scenes with the crashed rocket were shot in a corn field at Water Oakley, near Bray.Template:Sfn It was originally intended to make the crash site look more spectacular by setting fire to the field but bad weather put paid to this idea.Template:Sfn Guest used a wide-angle lens for these shots to convey a feeling of vastness to the scene.Template:Sfn Carroon's encounter with the little girl was filmed at the East India Docks in London.Template:Sfn A second unit, under cameraman Len Harris, conducted additional location shooting around London for the montage scenes of the police search for Carroon.Template:Sfn For the shot of the lights of London going out when the electricity is diverted to Westminster Abbey, an agreement was made with one of the engineers at Battersea Power Station to turn off the lights illuminating the outside of the station; however the engineer misunderstood and briefly cut all the power along the River Thames.Template:Sfn Most of the remaining location shooting was done in the Windsor area.Template:Sfn The rest of the film was shot at Hammer's Bray Studios, with the New Stage there housing the sets for the hospital and the interior of Westminster Abbey.Template:Sfn Michael Carreras had written to the Abbey seeking permission to film there but was refused.Template:Sfn The rooms of Down Place, the former country house Bray Studios were built around, were used for other scenes such as Inspector Lomax's office.Template:Sfn Art director James Elder Wills, in his final film for Hammer, made great use of the existing architecture of Down Place to enhance the effectiveness of his sets.Template:Sfn

Makeup and special effectsEdit


The work of makeup artist Phil Leakey in transforming Richard Wordsworth's Carroon into the mutating creature was a key contribution to the effectiveness of the film. Val Guest, Anthony Hinds and Leakey all agreed that the makeup should make Carroon appear pitiful rather than ugly.Template:Sfn Leakey placed a light above the actor in the makeup chair and then worked on accentuating the shadows cast by his eyebrows, nose, chin and cheekbones.Template:Sfn The makeup was a liquid rubber solution mixed with glycerine to give the impression of sweat.Template:Sfn Leakey's job was made easier by Wordsworth's natural high cheekbones and hollow temples and he also worked closely with cinematographer Walter J. Harvey to ensure the lighting in each shot emphasised Wordsworth's features.Template:Sfn Leakey also created Carroon's mutating arm. The hand was created from a cast of the hand of an arthritis victim, enlarged and exaggerated by Leakey.Template:Sfn The rest of the arm was built up using latex and rubber and, inside, had a series of plastic tubes through which fluid was pumped to give the effect of the arm swelling.Template:Sfn A large sponge-rubber prosthetic was used for a brief scene in the zoo showing Carroon's mutation had advanced further.Template:Sfn The shrivelled corpses of Carroon's victims, glimpsed from time to time in the film, were also made by Leakey.Template:Sfn

Les Bowie provided the special effects: he had made his name perfecting an improved technique for matte painting, called the delineating matte, and formed a company with Vic Margutti that specialised in matte effects.Template:Sfn Bowie provided a number of matte paintings to enhance the scale of certain key shots in the film, including the crashed rocket, the Westminster Abbey set and the shot of Quatermass walking away from the Abbey at the climax of the movie.Template:Sfn Partly because of the concerns raised by the BBFC and partly on account of the low budget, Val Guest kept the creature largely off-screen for much of the film, feeling that audiences' imaginations would fill in the blanks more effectively than he and the special effects team could deliver on-screen.Template:Sfn For the climactic scenes at Westminster Abbey, however, Bowie created a monster from tripe and rubber and photographed it against a model of the Abbey.Template:Sfn Sparks and fireworks were used for the shots of the creature being electrocuted.Template:Sfn Michael Carreras felt something was missing when he viewed the first cut of this scene: he said, "There was this great glob of something hanging about on the scaffolding. And they had put in the best music they could and put the best effects on it, but it meant nothing as far as I was concerned… absolutely nothing at all".Template:Sfn An eye was added to the model of the monster and a human scream added to the soundtrack to give the creature some semblance of humanity in its final moments.Template:Sfn Models were also used for the rocket blasting off in the final shot of the film.Template:Sfn


Template:Listen John Hotchkis was originally hired to compose the music but, when he fell ill, Anthony Hinds asked conductor John Hollingsworth to recommend a replacement.Template:Sfn Hollingsworth suggested James Bernard, with whom he had worked on a number of BBC radio productions.Template:Sfn Bernard sent Hinds a tape of the score of one of these productions, an adaptation of The Duchess of Malfi, and was duly hired.Template:Sfn Bernard watched the film a number of times, stopping after each reel to make notes and discuss where the music would be needed.Template:Sfn Val Guest was not involved in any of the music sessions; Anthony Hinds supervised Bernard and made the final decisions as to where the music should occur.Template:Sfn Bernard composed the music at his piano and then worked out the orchestration, which was performed by the Royal Opera House Orchestra.Template:Sfn Hollingsworth restricted the arrangement of the score to just the string and percussion sections: Bernard recalled, "I had not written for film before and had only used strings for the BBC scores, so I think that John thought it would be better to see how I got on with these two sections before letting me loose with a full orchestra".Template:Sfn The score runs to 20 minutes and uses a rising and falling three-note semitone throughout.Template:Sfn Bernard's biographer, David Huckvale, argues that Bernard's use of atonal strings to create a sense of menace predates Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho (1960), which is usually cited as the first film to employ the technique.Template:Sfn Remarking on the effectiveness of the score, the film critic John Brosnan said, "Of prime importance, is the contribution of the soundtrack, in this case supplied by James Bernard who never wrote a more unnerving, jangly score".Template:Sfn Bernard went on to become Hammer's most prolific composer, scoring 23 Hammer films between 1955 and 1974.Template:Sfn Several cues from The Quatermass Xperiment were released on CD in 1999 by GDI Records on a compilation titled The Quatermass Film Music Collection.Template:Sfn


Cinema releaseEdit


As expected, The Quatermass Xperiment received an ‘X’ Certificate from the BBFC,Template:Sfn restricting admission to persons over the age of sixteen.Template:Sfn It was only the twelfth film to receive the certificate since its introduction in 1951.Template:Sfn Whereas most other studios were nervous of this new certificate, Hammer, who had noticed the success of the similarly ‘X’-rated Les Diaboliques (1954),Template:Sfn chose to exploit it by dropping the "E" from "Experiment" in the title of the film.Template:Sfn "X is not an unknown quantity" was the tagline Exclusive Films used to sell the picture to cinema managers, urging them to "Xploit the Xcitement" of the film.Template:Sfn On subsequent re-releases, the film reverted to the title The Quatermass Experiment.Template:Sfn

The Quatermass Xperiment premièred on 26 August 1955 at the London Pavilion on Piccadilly Circus.Template:Sfn The supporting feature was The Eric Winstone Band Show.Template:Sfn It performed extremely well during its West End run, taking £3,500 a week at the box office.Template:Sfn Timed to coincide with the broadcast of the television sequel, Quatermass II,Template:Sfn the film went on general release in the United Kingdom on 20 November 1955 in a double bill with the French film Rififi.[2]

Template:Sfn This became the most successful double bill release of 1955 in the UK.Template:Sfn In some parts of the UK, the Watch Committees of local councils demanded certain scenes, mainly close-up shots of Carroon's victims, be removed before allowing the film to be exhibited in their jurisdictions.Template:Sfn

In the United States, Robert L. Lippert attempted to interest Columbia Pictures in distributing the film but they felt it would be competition for their own production, It Came From Beneath The Sea, which was on release at the time.Template:Sfn Because Quatermass was unknown in the US, Lippert had renamed the film Shock!. Template:Sfn Unable to secure a sale, he retitled it again, this time to The Creeping Unknown.Template:Sfn United Artists eventually acquired the distribution rights in March 1956 for a fee of $125,000.Template:Sfn The Creeping Unknown was packaged in a double bill with a Gothic horror movie called The Black Sleep, starring Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi.Template:Sfn Four minutes, mainly of expository material, were cut from the runtime of the film.Template:Sfn It opened in US theatres in June 1956 and was so successful that United Artists offered to part-fund a sequel.Template:Sfn According to a report in Variety, published on 6 November 1956, a nine-year-old boy died of a ruptured artery at a cinema in Oak Park, Illinois during a showing of this double bill.Template:Sfn The Guinness Book of Records subsequently recorded the incident as the only known case of an audience member dying of fright while watching a horror film.Template:Sfn

Critical responseEdit

The Times newspaper gave the film a generally favourable assessment: its critic wrote, "Mr. Val Guest, the director, certainly knows his business when it comes to providing the more horrid brand of thrills... The first part of this particular film is well up to standard. Mr. Brian Donlevy, as the American scientist responsible for the experiment, is a little brusque in his treatment of British institutions but he is clearly a man who knows what he is doing. Mr. Jack Warner, representing Scotland Yard, is indeed a comfort to have at hand when Things are on the rampage."Template:Sfn Positive reviews also came from Peter Burnup in the News of the World, who found that "with the added benefit of bluff, boisterous Brian Donlevy… all earnest addicts of science fiction will undoubtedly love every minute of it"Template:Sfn while the reviewer in The Manchester Guardian praised "a narrative style that quite neatly combines the horrific and the factual"Template:Sfn and Today's Cinema called it "one of the best essays in science fiction to date"Template:Sfn Film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck notes a degree of national pride in some of the positive reviews.Template:Sfn For instance, Paul Dehn in the News Chronicle said, "This is the best and nastiest horror film I have seen since the War. How jolly that it is also British!".Template:Sfn Similarly, William Whitebait in the New Statesman, who found the film to be "better than either War of the Worlds or Them!",Template:Sfn also called for "a couple of cheers for the reassurance that British films can still, once in a while, come quick".Template:Sfn

On a less positive note, Frank Jackson of Reynolds News quipped "That TV pseudo-science shocker The Quatermass Xperiment has been filmed and quitermess they've made of it too",Template:Sfn before slating the film as "82 minutes of sick-making twaddle".Template:Sfn The horror content of the film was mentioned in several reviews: Patrick Gibbs of the Daily Telegraph said the film "gives the impression that it originated in the strip of some horror comic. It remains very horrid and not quite coherent"Template:Sfn while the reviewer in the Daily Mirror found the film to be "a real chiller thriller but not for the kids"Template:Sfn and Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times found the film "exciting but distinctly nauseating".Template:Sfn Another unimpressed critic was François Truffaut, who wrote in Cahiers du cinéma that "This one is very, very bad, far from the small pleasure we get, for example, from the innocent science fiction films signed by the American Jack Arnold... The subject could have been turned into a good film, not lacking in spice; with a bit of imagination... None of this is in this sadly English film”.Template:Sfn

Upon its release in the United States Variety praised the film as an "extravagant piece of science fiction. Despite its obvious horror angles, production is crammed with incident and suspense".Template:Sfn According to Hallenbeck, many US critics found Brian Donlevy's gruff Quatermass a breath of fresh air from the earnest hero scientists of American science fiction films, such as Gene Barry's character in War of the Worlds.Template:Sfn

Other US trade reviews were mixed. Harrison's Reports felt, "the story is, of course, quite fantastic but it has enough horrific ingredients to go over with those who enjoy scary doings."[3] Film Bulletin was not impressed. "Its strong point is an eerie atmosphere . . . but fails to build the suspense essential in this kind of film . . . Val Guest's direction is heavy with cliches."[4]

Among the critics and film historians who have reviewed The Quatermass Xperiment in the years since it release have been John Baxter who said, in Science Fiction in the Cinema (1970), "In its time, The Quatermass Experiment was a pioneering sf film... Brian Donlevy was stiff but convincing... Much of the film is saved, however, by Richard Wordsworth... one of the finest such performances since Karloff's triumphs of the Thirties.”Template:Sfn This view was echoed by John Brosnan in The Primal Screen (1991): "One of the best of all alien possession movies",Template:Sfn he wrote, "Not since Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster has an actor managed to create such a memorable, and sympathetic, monster out of mime alone".Template:Sfn Bill Warren in Keep Watching The Skies! (1982) found that "the buildup is slightly too long and too careful"Template:Sfn but also said, "It's an intelligent, taut and well-directed thriller; it showcases Nigel Kneale's ideas well; it's scary and exciting. It was made by people who cared about what they were doing, who were making entertainment for adults. It is still one of the best alien invasion films".Template:Sfn Steve Chibnall, writing for the British Film Institute's Screenonline, describes The Quatermass Xperiment as "one of the high points of British SF/horror cinema."Template:Sfn The horror fiction writer Stephen King praised the film as one of his favourite horror movies from between 1950 and 1980 in his non-fiction book Danse Macabre (1991).Template:Sfn The film director John Carpenter, who later collaborated with Nigel Kneale on the film Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), has claimed that The Quatermass Xperiment "had an enormous, enormous impact on me – and it continues to be one of my all-time favourite science-fiction movies."Template:Sfn


The success of The Quatermass Xperiment came at an opportune time for Hammer. By 1955 the deal with Robert L. Lippert had expired and the company produced just one feature film that year, Women Without Men.Template:Sfn Many of the independent cinemas that provided the market for Hammer's films in the UK were struggling in the face of competition from television and faced closure.Template:Sfn The Quatermass Xperiment gave Hammer a much needed box office hit and was also the first film to bring the company to the attention of a major film distributor, in this case United Artists.Template:Sfn From this point onward, Hammer was increasingly able to deal directly with the major distributors and no longer needed intermediaries like Lippert.Template:Sfn This ultimately spelt the end for Exclusive Films, Hammer's own distribution company, which was wound down in the late 1950s.Template:Sfn

Hammer quickly sought to capitalise on its good fortune with a sequel. Staff member Jimmy Sangster pitched a story about a monster emerging from the Earth's core.Template:Sfn However, when the company asked Nigel Kneale for permission to use the character of Quatermass, he refused, not wanting to lose control of his creation.Template:Sfn Nevertheless, the film went ahead, as X the Unknown (1956), again capitalising on the 'X' Certificate in its title and featuring a newly created scientist character, very much in the Quatermass mould, played by Dean Jagger.Template:Sfn Quatermass did eventually return to cinema screens in Quatermass 2 (1957) and Quatermass and the Pit (1967), both of which had screenplays written by Nigel Kneale and based on serials originally written by him and presented by BBC Television.Template:Sfn Rival British film companies also tried to cash in with science fiction films of their own, including Satellite in the Sky, The Gamma People and Fire Maidens from Outer Space (all 1956).Template:Sfn

The Quatermass Xperiment was Hammer's first film to be adapted from a television drama.Template:Sfn Market research carried out by the company showed that it was the horror aspect of the film, rather than the science fiction, that most appealed to audiences.Template:Sfn Three of the four films Hammer made in 1956 were horror films: X the Unknown, Quatermass 2 and The Curse of Frankenstein.Template:Sfn The enormous success of the latter of these cemented Hammer's reputation for horror and the company became synonymous with the genre.Template:Sfn Michael Carreras later said, "The film that must take all the credit for the whole Hammer series of horror films was really The Quatermass Xperiment".Template:Sfn

Video releasesEdit

The Quatermass Xperiment was released in 2003 by DD Video on Region 2 DVD. It contained a number of extra features including a commentary by director Val Guest and Hammer historian Marcus Hearn, as well as an interview with Val Guest, an original trailer, and a production booklet written by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby.Template:Sfn A Region 1 made-on-demand DVD-R, sourced from a high-definition master, was released in 2011Template:Sfn by MGM. The film had been previously released on VHS cassette and LaserDisc.

In other mediaEdit

The film was adapted into a 16-page comic strip published in two parts in the March–April 1977 and June 1977 issues of the magazine The House of Hammer (volume 1, issue #'s 8 and 9, published by General Book Distribution). It was drawn by Brian Lewis from a script by Les Lilley and Ben Aldrich. The cover of issue 9 featured a painting by Lewis of Professor Quatermass.Template:Citation needed








CD and DVD liner notes and bookletsEdit



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