In the same year that Universal release This Island Earth, Hammer Films were about to enter a brave new world of their own, and it would all begin with their release of The Quatermass Xperiment. Spearheaded by James Carreras knack for networking and the ability for Hammer to produce the familiar in the eyes of the backers but with their own spin. In this instance, the appeal would come from an adaptation of BBC serial The Quatermass Experiment.
The tale takes place when a three-manned rocket ship owned by Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) loses radio contact and crash lands with two of its occupants vanished without a trace. Its sole survivor, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth) has been clearly affected by a parasitic alien organism that slowly engulfs his body and is also transfused with a cactus plant that he came into contact with.
Part of the attraction to TQX is that Quatermass himself leads questionable character choices. From the get-go, we learn that the rocket ship in question was launched without being sanctioned to do so. This recklessness is still evident too by the films’ end when he is still insistent in going ahead with his scientific plans despite the flaws and drawbacks that were brought about due to his decisions. Was there no lesson learned for him at all? Or is it purely that he is driven to succeed in his experimentations? At what point is it too far to cross? Or does the line simply not exist for the likes of Quatermass?
Richard Wordsworth’s performance is equally compelling, providing heart to the troubled Carroon. His deterioration both physically and mentally on screen keeps the audience gripped and able to connect with his plight.
It should also be noted how integral Director Val Guest’s vision had on defining the style of Hammer’s more sci-fi horror leaning productions, (the more recogniseable Gothic features would very much fall to Terence Fisher) and would have him return for Quatermass 2. There would also be the notable push for adult classification in Hammer’s production releases hence the deliberate X placement in the title to define their approach and the audience they wanted for their movies.
The success of TQX for Britain and across the seas in the States would project them further towards success and unite them in a deal with Columbia Pictures. Hammer Films were a heartbeat away from The Curse of Frankenstein, the movie that would cement their footing in the horror scene, but TQX would provide them with the first footsteps to celluloid history. It’s incredibly riveting and watchable still and highly recommended.
- Saul Muerte