Quatermass Xperiment, The (Blu-ray) (1955)

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Released 2-Oct-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction More…-Additional Film: X The Unknown (1956): 76:25
More…-Additional Film: Quatermass 2 (1957): 81:08
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 78:38
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Val Guest
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Brian Donlevy
Margia Dean
Jack Warner
Richard Wordsworth
David King-Wood
Gordon Jackson


Case ?
RPI ? Music James Bernard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Quatermass Xperiment starts with a large rocket crashing into a farmer’s field in southern England. We quickly learn that this was the rocket with three men on board that Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) and his team had sent far into space without the knowledge or approval of the British Ministry of Defence. They had then lost contact with the rocket until it crashed back to Earth and when they are able to access the interior they can find one man, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), who is disoriented and unable to speak. There is no sign of the other two crew members.

     Victor, along with his wife Judith (Margia Dean), is spirited away to Quatermass’ research facility where he is examined by Dr Briscoe (David King-Wood), who finds physical changes in Victor he cannot explain. Quatermass wants to keep Victor away from the Ministry of Defence and the police until he can discover what had happened in space but Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner) of the Metropolitan Police insists on investigating the disappearance of the two other astronauts. As Victor is not improving he is moved to a hospital from where Judith is able to engineer his escape. But it becomes clear that Victor has been exposed to a space organism which is taking over his body; Victor is now a carrier for the organism and is gradually transforming into a creature that, unless it can be found and destroyed, has the potential to destroy humanity.

     The original The Quatermass Experiment was a popular BBC serial in the early 1950s created by Nigel Kneale. The serial was so successful the BBC produced two further Quatermass serials. Hammer became involved and made The Quatermass Xperiment, which is basically a big screen version of the first BBC serial although with one eye on the US market (where the film was retitled The Creeping Unknown) two Americans, Brian Donlevy and Margia Dean, were cast in leading roles. Neither does particularly well: Donlevy makes his Quatermass a dour, self-centred and humourless man, focussed on knowledge and his scientific experiments whatever the human cost, while Dean looks uncomfortable. Better are Jack Warner, with a nice sense of humour, and Richard Wordsworth, who has no dialogue but is convincing as the human being gradually absorbed by an alien organism until he becomes a Frankenstein’s monster like creature, lurching through the darkness. Also of interest in the cast is Gordon Jackson, who later became a familiar face in TV series such as Upstairs, Downstairs and The Professionals, while, for curio value, the little girl playing with her doll who encounters the monster is Jane Asher, later fiancée of Paul McCartney.

     The Quatermass Xperiment was a success for Hammer and is said to be the film which launched Hammer horror. Sixty years after it was made the film is still a tense and taut horror / thriller, with nice touches of black humour, well directed by Val Guest and with an eerie score by James Bernard, who went on to score many of Hammer’s best horror films. Some of the effects are a bit indifferent, such as the rocket, but they are acceptable for 1955 and the creature is interesting while the climax, filmed in Westminster Abbey, is a lot of fun.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Quatermass Xperiment is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in 1080i using the MPEG-4 AVC code. The IMDb gives the original aspect ratio as 1.66:1, which is the ratio of the Region A release (see below). However, I have seen screen dumps of both releases and it does not look as if much is lost from this release.

     This is a black and white film that, generally, looks very good. Blacks are solid, grey scales and shadow detail excellent. Some exteriors / stock footage look a bit soft as might be expected, but otherwise detail is firm. For most of the picture marks and artefacts are absent but in about 3-4 scenes there are lots of small white artefacts. There are also a couple of vertical scratches, the most obvious at 52:07. But, as stated, the majority of the print is very good. Grain is nicely controlled.

     There are no subtitles available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English LPCM 2.0 mono at 1536 Kbps; the film was shown theatrically with mono sound.

     Dialogue is always easy to understand. While this is a mono audio, effects such as the fire engine bells were quite crisp. The eerie score by James Bernard was also clear.

     There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

     I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

     Lip synchronisation looked fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are no film relevant extras with this Australian release. However, included on the Blu-ray are two Quatermass sequels so we get three films in this one package. Both sequels have the same technical specifications as the The Quatermass Xperiment: aspect ratio 1.33:1, 1080i, LPCM 2.0 audio at 1536 Kbps, no subtitles. The two films are:

X The Unknown (1956): 76:25

    When a fissure opens in the earth during an army exercise in Scotland and a soldier is killed by radiation and another badly burned, Dr Adam Royston (Dean Jagger) from an atomic research facility is called in to investigate. Something which seems to be energy from the earth is feeding on radiation and people are dying. Can Dr. Royston find a way to stop it? Also staring a very young Leo McKern, William Lucas, Edward Chapman and singer / composer Anthony Newley. Director Leslie Norman, score James Bernard.

     There are some scratches, marks, reel change markers and flicker but this is a pretty good black and white print for its age. Audio is also good, with nice Geiger counter effects, although sometimes the score drowns out the dialogue.

     X The Unknown is a nice, if a bit melodramatic, story. It was going to be the sequel of The Quatermass Xperiment until the Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale objected to his characters being used by another writer. So Quatermass became Dr Royston.

Quatermass 2 (1957): 81:08

     The radar at the research facility of Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) picks up strange objects falling to earth about 90 miles away. When Quatermass and his assistant Marsh (Bryan Forbes) investigate they find meteorite like debris on the ground, one of which breaks open and burns Marsh. They also see an extensive industrial plant before armed guards take Marsh away and force Quatermass to leave. No-one is prepared to talk about the plant, so Quatermass turns to his old friend Inspector Lomax (this time played by John Longden) of the Metropolitan Police for help. Quatermass discovers that the meteorites are, in fact, spores for alien life that are arriving on Earth and infecting every human they come in contact with, turning humans into their slaves, and that the research facility is a plant used for the aliens’ feeding and propagation. Can Quatermass and Lomax destroy the plant before the aliens take over life on the Earth. Also staring William Franklyn and Sidney James, as a drunken reporter. Director Val Guest, score James Bernard.

     The blacks are OK but shadow detail is indistinct at times. There are also some scratches, marks and aliasing but this is an acceptable black and white print for its age. Audio is decent; the gunshots and explosions sound flat but the score comes over nicely.

     Quatermass 2 (also called Enemy From Space), written by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale and director Val Guest, is the first official Quatermass sequel. It is a decent sci-fi film.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray of The Quatermass Xperiment is in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, in 1080p, with DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio and the following extras:

     If you only want The Quatermass Xperiment itself the Region A is obviously the preferred option. However, the three complete films of our release represent a decent package.

Summary

     The Quatermass Xperiment is entertaining and fun and looking at 1955 science, fire engines and ambulances is fascinating. For a film that is 60 years old it holds up pretty well; as a starting point for Hammer Horror it is well worth a look.

     The film looks pretty good on Blu-ray, with only some scenes showing marks, the audio is the original mono. No extras as such, but the two additional films are certainly decent value.

     The Quatermass Xperiment is available as a stand-alone Blu-ray / DVD release from Shock Entertainment but it is also included in Shock’s 17 disc Hammer Horror Blu-ray Collection. The specifications and extras on both releases are the same, but no DVD of course.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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