Quatermass and the Pit (Blu-ray) (1967)

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Released 6-Mar-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Audio Commentary-Director Roy Ward Baker and writer Nigel Kneale
Interviews-Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 97:52
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roy Ward Baker
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring James Donald
Andrew Keir
Julian Glover
Barbara Shelly
Bryan Marshall
Duncan Lamont


Case ?
RPI ? Music Tristram Cary


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (2304Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Workmen excavating for an extension of the London Underground discover prehistory human like remains in the clay so archaeologist Dr Mathew Roney (James Donald) and his team, including his assistant Barbara (Barbara Shelly), are called in to investigate. They find parts of the skulls and bones at least six humanoid, ape-men which, to their surprise, are dated to 5 million years ago, earlier than other humanoid finds. Digging further into the clay they find a large metal object which they suspect may be an unexploded bomb so the army is called in. When the team lead by bomb disposal expert Captain Potter (Bryan Marshall) realise that the object is made of an unknown metal that cannot be cut by any of their tools, higher authority is called in and Colonel Breen (Julian Glover) arrives with Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir) of the Space Research Centre.

     When the metal object is fully uncovered it is obvious it is some sort of capsule; inside is a sealed compartment they are unable to open. However, later the compartment opens by itself to reveal a number of huge, dead, locust type creatures. Quatermass becomes convinced that these are alien creatures, Martians, who came to Earth 5 million years ago when their own planet died and attempted to colonise Earth using the ape-men. Breen, however, scoffs at that explanation and manages to persuade the Government that the capsule was a German propaganda stunt from the war, that everything is now safe and that the press can be allowed into the site. Of course, he is proved horribly wrong when the capsule reactivates with disastrous consequences.

     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, including Quatermass and the Pit in 1958. Hammer acquired the rights, making The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and a sequel Quatermass 2 (1957) before, 10 years later, returning with this big screen version of Quatermass and the Pit (called Five Million Years to Earth in the US), with a screenplay by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale. The IMDb says that Hammer stalwart Andre Morell, who played Quatermass in the 1958 BBC serial, was offered the part in the film but declined but in the interviews included as extras on this Blu-ray two of the interviewers who should know are unable to explain why he did not get the part. Andrew Keir got the role; he is excellent, giving Quatermass a measure of humanity he lacked when played by American Brian Donlevy in the first two feature films; Kneale also thought Keir a far better Quatermass. Julian Glover is also good as the bumptious idiot army man, as is James Donald and Barbara Shelly, tackling a different era after appearing in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Rasputin: The Mad Monk the year before. Also of interest is Duncan Lamont who plays Sladden; Lamont was the doomed astronaut Victor Carroon in The Quatermass Xperiment and he at least in this film gets to say a few lines of dialogue.

     Quatermass and the Pit was directed by Roy Ward Baker, probably best remembered as the director of that other, more dramatically satisfying, Titanic picture A Night to Remember (1958). He did an effective and stylish job of Quatermass and the Pit, building the film to an exciting and explosive climax. Most of the film takes place in the Underground tube station but it seems clear that for Quatermass and the Pit Hammer provided a large effects budget by their standards as in the climax buildings are destroyed and crash to the ground, water from broken pipes cascades and fires burn. It is true that some of the Styrofoam debris bounces and the effects may not be to modern standards, especially the Martian memory sequence which has rightfully been heavily criticised, but in the days prior to CGI most of the effects are fine and add to, rather than detract from, the tension on screen.

     Quatermass and the Pit relies on human drama and a touch of scientific gobbledegook delivered absolutely straight rather than gore or excessive effects, and its themes of racial intolerance and ethnic cleansing remain all too relevant in today’s world. Thus it has aged well and, almost 50 years after being made, it is still an effective, intelligent and very enjoyable sci-fi thriller.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Quatermass and the Pit is presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     While some of the exterior London footage looks a bit soft and grainy, the interiors are sharp, with deep colours; the mud in the pit looks as if it could be squelching between your toes. Blacks are solid and shadow detail very good, skin tones natural. I saw no marks or artefacts, except the deliberate ones during the Mars memory sequence.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a clear white font.

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

Audio

     Audio is an English LPCM 2.0 at 2304 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 hiss of an oxyacetylene torch, the spurting water, explosions and the crash of buildings had pleasing depth. The score by Tristram Cary (who scored 27 Dr Who episodes in 1964-66) is fine although not used a lot.

     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

Audio Commentary

     Recorded in the late 1990s, director Roy Ward Baker and writer Nigel Kneale sit together and talk about the film. Neither are sparkling communicators and there are a number of gaps and silences although they do warm up as they go along (and there is another unidentified voice asking questions). They do comment on how the movie was condensed from the three hour TV series, the casting, actors and the sets, the genesis of the Quatermass character, the BBC serials, actors who had played Quatermass, Baker’s previous career and subsequent Hammer films, Hammer itself, the special effects and Quatermass 4. Interesting in parts.

Interviews

     Extensive interviews, approximately 2 hours in total, filmed in 2012. The subjects answer questions posed by a text screen, although there are errors in the text: for example we get Colonel Green instead Colonel Breen and Neal for Kneale. The interviews are fascinating and well worth watching. Strangely, at the end of each there is about 30 seconds of blank screen, after which most interviews loop back to the start of the same interview so you need to use the Popup menu to navigate to the next interview. The interviews are:

     Judith Kerr (17:41): Kerr was the wife of screenwriter Nigel Kneale. She talks about how they first met, the writing and live filming of the first Quatermass, the special effects, why the films are still appealing today and why The Pit was Kneale’s favourite.

     Julian Glover (29:57): Glover is very amusing as he remembers how he got and played the role of Colonel Breen, recalls stories about the director and other cast members of Quatermass and the Pit, the stunts and special effects on set. He also talks about the themes of the film, good v evil, the social context and working on Hammer films as opposed to other films he has been cast in.

     Mark Gatiss (19:44): Author and actor Gatiss talks about discovering Hammer films and Quatermass, Quatermass and the Pit, the Quatermass franchise and possible remakes. However, in the majority of the interview he talks about the ideas, skills and the reputation of Nigel Kneale, including Kneale’s dissatisfaction with Hammer and the BBC.

     Joe Dante (11:35): Film director Dante talks about discovering Hammer and Quatermass, the impact and legacy of the Quatermass films, Kneale and the special effects.

     Kim Newman (30:00): Novelist and film critic Newman talks about his first exposure to the Quatermass franchise, the inspirations for and power of Quatermass and the Pit, the social context, director Roy Ward Baker, Nigel Kneale, the cast and the lasting influence of the film.

     Marcus Hearn (12:54): Hammer film historian Hearn (misspelt Hern in the menu) talks about the importance of the Quatermass films to Hammer, the reason for the nine year delay between Quatermass 2 and Quatermass and the Pit, the director and casting, the shooting of the film in the MGM British sound stage and the score.

Restored Original Trailer (2:36)

     The US trailer, thus the title is Five Million Years to Earth.

R4 vs R1

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

     There is no Region A US Blu-ray of Quatermass and the Pit. Our release is the same as the Region B UK although that adds the alternative US credit sequence and a World of Hammer short “Sci-fi”. A slight win to the UK.

Summary

     Quatermass and the Pit is another satisfying Hammer sci-fi thriller. Hammer splurged on the effects budget for this one resulting in a good looking, destructive and explosive climax but the effects are used to augment the human drama not overwhelm it. Andrew Keir is an excellent Quatermass and he receives good support from James Donald, Barbara Shelly and Julian Glover. The film is still an effective and very enjoyable sci-fi thriller fifty years after it was made.

     The film looks very good on Blu-ray, the audio is the original mono. The extras are excellent.

     Quatermass and the Pit 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, which also adds two DVDs of Hammer shorts, including the one on “Sci-Fi” included in the UK Blu-ray of Quatermass and the Pit. The specifications and extras on both Australian releases are the same, though without the DVD of course.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, February 07, 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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