The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) – Friday Night At The Home Drive-In

Poster for The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) by #ValGuest
#BrianDonlevy #JackWarner

After an experimental space flight, two astronauts are missing, and the third has an unidentifiable illness.


“There’s no room for personal feelings in science, Judith!”

#Horror #SciFi

A giggling couple in a farmer’s field – they hear a sound like an airplane approaching – and suddenly realize that something might be about to crash down on top of them, so they run into the house. The noise gets worse and something does crash, causing earthquake like effects inside the house. Then all goes quiet…

The girl’s father goes outside to investigate and discovers that a spacecraft has crashed in his field.

And so goes the opening to The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) by Val Guest, and it’s certainly an intriguing one. This was enough to confirm for me that I had never seen this movie before. I’d certainly heard of it, and perhaps others with the name Quatermass attached. I’m not sure why I never watched it. Perhaps because it didn’t have an obvious monster in the title, and I wasn’t sure if it would deliver the kind of 1950s sci-fi goodness that I like. Or maybe it was just random chance that kept it off my home drive-in screen. Who knows? Needless to say, I was long overdue to take a look…

So what is The Quatermass Xperiment?

Well… it has something to do with the spacecraft that crash-landed in the farmer’s field. There were apparently three astronauts on it when it took off, but when they open up the door, they discover that only one astronaut remains on the ship – and he is acting very strangely. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t react, and his skin appears to be somehow different. Dr. Quatermass takes charge of the investigation, telling the police to let him handle things.

This is a very familiar story, isn’t it?

Yes, and no. I’ve seen several old sci-fi movies which involve astronauts returning to earth somehow altered, sick, or dead. The Quatermass Xperiment may well pre-date the others I’ve seen, and perhaps it was even a huge influence on them. It started as a BBC television serial called The Quatermass Experiment in 1953. It was adapted into this feature film by Hammer Film Productions two years later. I haven’t seen the original television version (some say it’s better), but I think this adaptation is extremely well done.

So it is any good?

Like some other Friday night movies I’ve watched recently, The Quatermass Xperiment is a more serious minded science fiction film. In fact, it’s probably better than some of the others I’ve watched recently. It’s actually very good.

Having said that, it somehow isn’t quite thrilling. Not in that giant monster runs amuck kind of way. I feel conflicted even saying that, because I DO think it’s a very well done movie. It’s just that… I’m looking for something a little more… not quite classic when I’m at the home drive-in. As my friend Ian might say, “It’s a little TOO good.”

Did you say something about other movies that are similar?

The Quatermass Xperiment has a lot in common with some of the other astronaut-returns-to-earth-as-a-monster movies that I’ve seen. For example, The Incredible Melting Man (1977) – a much, much worse movie that I enjoy immensely.  There’s also a Bill Rebane movie called Monster a Go-Go (1965), which I’ve talked about on this blog before. It bears some resemblance to The Quatermass Xperiment, but it’s also much, much worse. It may make The Incredible Melting Man look like a work of genius, in fact. 

So what’s the verdict for The Quatermass Xperiment?

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) is a good movie, and it has a fairly strong following. People like Steven King and John Carpenter have championed it, and rightly so. As such, it’s not really a true example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. It does seem like it could be, when simply reading the publicity materials – and it certainly was a major influence on some prime examples of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. So, I suppose it was fair of me to give it a slot on my playlist last week.

But in all honesty, you should feel free to check this film out during prime time, in the fanciest home theatre you’ve got. And while it would be fine to include it, as I did, it does not need to be relegated to a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

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