The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

UK,
78m (USA), 82m (Canada, UK), 7372 ft
35mm film, black and white, 1.37:1
mono, English

A British science fiction film directed by Val Guest. It was the first of Hammer Films' three adaptations of the popular BBC television serials by Nigel Kneale. The title incorporates the British Board of Film Censorship's “X” certificate, Hammer making great play of the fact that the film had been awarded the certificate barring the film from those under 16 years of age.

Plot Summary

A space mission overseen by Professor Bernard ends when the rocket crash lands in the English countryside. Two of the crew have mysteriously disappeared and the third, Victor Carroon, has been infected by an alien organism and is undergoing a painful metamorphosis. Driven by the need to consume lifeforce from other living creatures, Carroon escapes and goes on the rampage before, finally evolving into a giant, plant-like creature, he is cornered in .

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
Directed by: Val Guest
Copyright MCMLV [1955] Exclusive Films Ltd.
National Registration Number: Br/E 20593
Exclusive Films present. Hammer Film Productions *
Produced by: Anthony Hinds; Robert L. Lippert *
Production Manager: T.S. Lyndon-Haynes
Screenplay by: Richard Landau, Val Guest
Based on the B.B.C. television play by Nigel Kneale
Assistant Director: Bill Shore
2nd Unit Director: Jimmy Sangster *
2nd Assistant Director: Aida Young *
3rd Assistant Director: John Pitcher *
Continuity: Renee Glynne
Director of Photography: Walter Harvey
2nd Camera Operator: Richard Leatherbarrow *
Camera Operator: Len Harris
Focus: Harry Oakes *
Clapper Loader: Tom Friswell *
Stills: John Jay *
Editor: James Needs
Assistant Editor: Henry Richardson *
Music Composed by: James Bernard
Conducted by: John Hollingsworth
Recordist: H.C. Pearson; John Woodiwiss *
Sound Camera Operator: Don Alton *
Sound Maintenance: John Woodiwiss *
Boom Operator: Percy Britten *
Dubbing: Ken Cameron *
Wardrobe: Molly Arbuthnot
Make-Up: Phil Leakey
Hairdresser: Monica Hustler
Special Effects: Les Bowie; Bowie Margutti *, Roy Field *, Ray Caple *
Special Effects Studio: Stoke Court *
Art Director: J. Elder Wills
Production Secretary: Dora Thomas *
Locations: Bray Studios, Berkshire, England, UK; , England, UK *
The Producers wish to thank the following for their co-operation: B.B.C. Television Service; The Air Ministry; Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company; The British Interplanetary Society; The Port of London Authority; General Radiological Limited

Cast
Brian Donlevy (Quatermass)
Jack Warner by arrangement with J. Arthur Rank Organisation (Lomax)
Margia Dean (Judith Carroon)
Thora Hird (Rosie)
Gordon Jackson (TV producer)
David King-Wood (Dr Gordon Briscoe)
Harold Lang (Christie)
Lionel Jeffries (Blake)
Sam Kydd (station sergeant)
Richard Wordsworth (Victor Carroon)
Maurice Kaufmann [Marsh] *
Gron Davies [Green] *
Stanley Van Beers [Reichenheim] *
Frank Phillips [BBC announcer] *
Arthur Lovegrove [Sgt Bromley] *
John Stirling [Major] *
Eric Corrie [young man] *
Margaret Anderson [Maggie] *
Henry B. Longhurst [George, Maggie's father] *
Michael Godfrey [fireman] *
Fred Johnson [inspector] *
George Roderick [local policeman] *
Ernest Hare [fire chief] *
John Kerr [laboratory assistant] *
John Wynn [Best] *
Toke Townley [chemist] *
Bartlett Mullins [zoo keeper] *
Molly Glessing [mother at zoo] *
Mayne Lynton [zoo official] *
Harry Brunning [Alf the night porter] *
Barry Lowe [Tucker] *
Jane Aird [Mrs Lomax] *
Arthur Gross [floor boy] *
James Drake [sound engineer] *
Edward Dane [station policeman] *
Basil Dignam [Sir Lionel Dean] *
Betty Impey [first nurse] *
Marianne Stone [second nurse] *
Jane Asher [girl] *
Charlie Price [policeman] *
Donald Gray [TV announcer] *

Locations







Alternative Titles

Astronave atomica del dottor Quatermass – Italian title
The Creeping Unknown – US title
El experimento del Dr Quatermass – Spanish title
Le monstre – French/French Belgian title
O Monstro do Espaço – Portuguese title
Quatermass – Finnish title
Schock – West German title
Xperiment Q – Danish/Swedish title

Remake of
The Quatermass Experiment (1953)

Remakes
The Quatermass Experiment (1967)
The Quatermass Experiment (2005)

Sequels
Quatermass 2 (1957)
Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Extracts Included In
The World of Hammer: Sci-Fi (1994)

Includes Extracts From
Seven Days to Noon (1950)

See Also
Quatermass (1979)

Press

1955
Today's Cinema vol.85 no.7335 (22 August 1955) p.8
Compellingly gruesome and exciting filmisation of the successful television serial of the same name […] Experienced direction gets the maximum eerie effects and tension from by-now well-known subject. Vigorous, convincing performances, notably from Brian Donlevy as a determined space scientist, and Richard Wordsworth as the man who became a monster. Brilliant technical effects do a great deal to sustain the illusion. – D.R.

Kine Weekly 25 August 1955 p.19
Its mumbo-jumbo, skilfully portrayed and realistically staged, has, oddly enough, strong human interest, and this gives essential contrast to its eerie highlights. […] The picture lacks clarity and leaves a little too much to the imagination, but by and large it's a workmanlike creepie. Brian Donlevy acts with quiet determination and authority as the seemingly callous Quatermass, Jack Warner makes a breezy Inspector Lomax, Richard Wordsworth, cleverly made up, wins sympathy and creates horror at the same time as Carroon alias the Monster, Margia Dean has her moments as Judith. […] The early scenes effectively establish plot and atmosphere, and thrills rapidly pile up once the Monster goes on the rampage. The night street and river shots are impressive and subtly ease the tension, and James Bernard's musical score admirably fits the sensational action. – from an uncredited review

Daily Telegraph 27 August 1955
The Quatermass Xperiment […] gives the impression that it originated in the strip of some horror comic. It remains very horrid, and not quite coherent. Who, for instance, is this man called Quatermass? Despite an American accent, he behaves in this country with the authority of a Minister. Why or how we never know. A scientist, apparently, though he lacks all scientific detachment, he has impetuously sent a rocket off into space. There were three men in it on departure only one on return. But in he only one? The question may sound absurd, but so is the film. – from a review by Patrick Gibbs

The Manchester Guardian 27 August 1955
The Quatermass Experiment [sic], adapted from a television serial, is a lively piece of science fiction: man-into-monster story chases around London, until the Thing is finally cornered in Westminster Abbey, and a narrative style that quite neatly combines the horrid and the factual.

The Times 29 August 1955
If “H” certificates were still handed out The Quatermass Xperiment would qualify for the largest of the lot. […] Films like The Quatermass Xperiment fall naturally into two halves. The second half concentrates on the round-up and destruction of The Thing; the first, which is much to be preferred, sets the scene and gives glimpses of the various authorities consulting on the steps that must be taken to cope with the unprecedented situation. 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, and Mr Jack Warner is indeed a comfort to have at hand when Things are on the rampage.

Variety 7 September 1955 p.6
[A]n extravagant piece of science fiction […] Despite its obvious horror angles, production is crammed with incident and suspense […] Production qualities are better than average for this type of picture […] This is unrelieved melodrama without any femme interest. It draws its entertainment from a series of wildly improbable happenings. There is an occasional over-plus if (sic) horror close-ups of the victims […] Donlevy plays the scientist with a grim and ruthless conviction. Jack Warner gives a realistic interpretation of a Scotland Yard detective. Richard Wordsworth, with only one word of dialog, makes a valuable contribution as the survivor. Margie [sic] Dean is completely colorless as his wife. Val Guest's vigorous direction is matched by other competent technical credits. – Myro

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.22 no.261 (October 1955) p.150
The monster proves […] more acceptably alarming than most of the Things in science fiction and in his more human stages Richard Wordsworth's tortured grimace and menacing make up suggests a pathetic as well as a horrific figure. The film moves at the pace of a smart thriller […] and it follows the line of American pictures such as Them! in combining outlandish incident with a brisk and prosaic narrative manner. The final scene of in the abbey is gruesomely but unconvincingly managed; otherwise The Quatermass Experiment [sic] firmly maintains its chilling grip. – author not credited

1997
Filmfax no.61 (June/July 1997) pp.54, 55
Richard Wordsworth […] gave a brilliant performance. His gaunt, tortured appearance added immeasurably to his role. – Richard A. Ekstedt

2003
Starburst no.299 (May 2003) p.64
Opinions are divided as to Brian Donlevy's portrayal of Quatermass, and it does seem unlikely that an American would head the British Rocket Group, but the drama is solid and the story gripping. – Jan-Michael Rudzki

Sight & Sound vol.13 no.8 (August 2003) p.69
There's a hint of Ed Wood about this cult Hammer Horror pic […] From the rocket that plunges into a field in the opening sequence to the electrocution of a creepy crawly in the final scene, the special effects aren't impressive. What does register more strongly is Richard Wordsworth's anguished performance as a gaunt astronaut with a withered arm who is being eaten away by a parasitic organism. – Geoffrey Macnab

References

Periodicals

  • Cineforum vol.47 no.468 (October 2007) pp.74-75 – review (Storie di ordinaria follia: il ciclo Quatermass by Emanuela Martini)
  • Dark Terrors no.3 p.15 – illustrated production notes
  • Dark Terrors no.8 (April 1994) pp.20-33 – illustrated production notes
  • Dark Terrors no.12 (June 1996) p.30 – illustrated article
  • Dirigido por… no.333 (April 2004) pp.62-63 – review (El experimento del Dr. Quatermass by Jordi Batlle Caminal)
  • Film Review Special no.53 (Alien vs Predator) pp.64-68 – illustrated interview with Val Guest, James Bernard and Nigel Kneale (Retrospective: The Quatermass Experiment by Howard Maxford)
  • Filmfax no.37 (February-March 1993) pp.18-19 – video review (The Quatermass Experiment by David J. Hogan)
  • Filmfax no.61 (June/July 1997) pp.54, 55 – illustrated credits, review (The Creeping Unknown by Richard A. Ekstedt)
  • Hammer Horror no.7 p.21 – credits
  • Infinity no.37 (2021) pp.18-23 – illustrated interview with Val Guest (Guest appearance by Richard Hollis)
  • Interzone no.190 (July/August 2003) p.54 – review (by Evelyn Lewes)
  • The House That Hammer Built no.1 (February 1997) pp.26-31 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Journal of Popular Film and Television vol.30 no.3 (Autumn 2002) pp.158-165 – illustrated bibliography, article (“Bring something back” – The strange career of Professor Quatermass by Dave Robinson and Nick Cooper)
  • Kine Weekly 25 August 1955 p.19 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.22 no.261 (October 1955) p.150 – credits, synopsis, review (author uncredited)
  • Sight & Sound vol.13 no.8 (August 2003) p.69 – DVD review (by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Skrien vol.37 no.8 (October 2005) p.52 – review
  • Starburst no.15 (1979) pp.5-7 – illustrated article (Quatermass by John Brosnan)
  • Starburst no.16 (1979) pp.14-19 – illustrated article (The Starburst Interview: Nigel Kneale by John Fleming)
  • Starburst no.265 (September 2000) pp.48-57 – illustrated article (Ancient Fears The Film and Television Nightmares of Nigel Kneale by Jonathan Rigby)
  • Starburst no.299 (May 2003) p.64 – illustrated DVD review (by Jan-Michael Rudzki)
  • Starlog no.162 (January 1991) pp.19-23, 36 – illustrated article (The Quatermass conductor by Steve Swires)
  • Today's Cinema vol.85 no.7335 (22 August 1955) p.8 – note (An xploitable thing comes from space)
  • Today's Cinema vol.85 no.7336 (23 August 1955) p.8 – credits, review (by D.R.)
  • Variety 7 September 1955 p.6 – credits, review (by Myro)
  • Video Watchdog No. 12 (July-August 1992) pp.32-46 – illustrated article (The Quatermass Conception: Nigel Kneale and the Birth of Television Terror by Stephen R. Bissette)
  • Video Watchdog no.38 (1997) pp.14-15 – video review (The Quatermass Experiment by John Charles)
  • Video Watchdog no.42 (1997) pp.63-68 – video review (United Artists sci-fi matinee volume 2 by Stephen R. Bissette)
  • Video Watchdog no.47 (1998) pp.32-43 – illustrated interview with Nigel Kneale (Quatermass and the pen: Nigel Kneale interviewed by Kim Newman and Julian Petley)
  • We Belong Dead no.29 (Autumn 2021) pp.18-29 – illustrated article (Killer plants: A potted history by Jules Boyle)

Books

  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.153
  • British Science Fiction Cinema by I. Q. Hunter (ed.) pp.33-47 – illustrated article (We're the Martians now: British SF invasion fantasies of the 1950s and 1960s by Peter Hutchings)
  • British Sound Films: The Studio Years 1928-1959 by David Quinlan p.363 – credits, synopsis
  • English Gothic by Jonathan Rigby pp.36-38, 39, 40, 41, 56, 105, 114, 142, 228 – illustrated notes, review
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.25, 75, 81
  • Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company by Howard Maxford pp.658-664 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • The Hammer Story pp.16-17 – credits, illustrated article
  • A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (Revised Edition) by Denis Meikle pp.1-2, 16-24, 21, 23, 162, 187, 217, 230-231, 278 – notes, review
  • Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.79 – credits
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester p.398-400
  • The Vampire in Science Fiction Film and Literature by Paul Meehan pp.5, 103-104, 194
  • Variety Science-Fiction Movies by Julian Brown (ed.) p.86-87 – credits, review
  • Video Source Book (13th edition) 1992 p.2102 – US video data

Other Sources

  • Wyrd TV: Folklore, Folk Horror and Hauntology in British 1970s Television by Diane Rodgers pp.210, 304, 323 (Ph.D. Dissertation, Sheffield Hallam University (UK), 2022)