Quatermass and the Pit (1958)

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Released 7-Jul-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 207:04
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rudolph Cartier
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring André Morell
Cec Linder
Anthony Bushell
John Stratton
Christine Finn
Van Boolen
Holly Bane
Lionel Ngakane
George Dudley
John Rae
Malcolm Watson
Stanley Vine
Mark Eden
Case ?
RPI Box Music Trevor Duncan
Eric Coates


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The third and last of Nigel Kneale's BBC Quatermass serials was made in 1958. John Robinson, having proved unsuitable, was not retained to repeat the lead role from Quatermass II and was replaced by Andre Morell, who had appeared in the television version of 1984, also produced by Rudolph Cartier and adapted by Kneale.

    While excavating a building site in Hobbs Lane, a group of workers uncover a skull. Dr Matthew Roney (Cec Linder) believes the skull is over 5 million years old and belongs to a previously unknown form of hominid. Roney and his team proceed to dig in the site, uncovering more bones and fragments. Under the dirt they discover what appears to be an unexploded bomb left over from the war. An army disposal team is called into to defuse the device, but it appears to be some unknown sort of device.

    Frustrated by the delays caused by the bomb disposal unit, Roney seeks the help of his old friend Bernard Quatermass (Morell), who is having problems of his own. Head of the Experimental Rocket Group, Quatermass is fighting the Government and military who are seeking to use the group for military purposes. He is assigned a second in command in the form of Colonel Breen (Anthony Bushell), who is a typical military blusterer. When Roney arrives, Quatermass sees his chance to keep Breen busy by getting him to help with speeding up the bomb disposal unit.

    Quatermass soon realises that the bomb is in fact some sort of alien spacecraft that has lain in the pit for five million years, but Breen continues to insist that it is some sort of German missile. Meanwhile Roney's assistant Barbara Judd (Christine Finn) learns of some supernatural happenings in a nearby house...

    This is by far the best of the Quatermass stories. Playing on the fears of nuclear war of the era, concern over the destructive use of science and the rise in interest in the occult, Kneale delivers a storyline that is not just exciting but also fascinating and resonant on several levels. Production values are very high: the first episode seems to have had a budget higher than the entire six episodes of Quatermass II combined. In fact it was the most expensive British television production to that date. There are some excellent visual effects, the sets are impressive and there is much more use of pre-filmed material inserted within the live material.

    The cast is also excellent. Morell is the definitive Quatermass, convincing as a scientist and also as the voice of moral conscience. Bushell is very good as the blustering Breen. The supporting cast has a raft of familiar faces. Michael Ripper, having also appeared in Hammer's film version of Quatermass II, is the army sergeant and Harold Goodwin is one of the sappers. Brian Worth resurrects the role of James Fullalove from the first series. And Noel Howlett, who almost invariably played clergymen throughout his film career, plays a vicar here. Other familiar faces include Bill Shine, Ian Wilson and perennial old fogey Sydney Bromley.

    An excellent and thought-provoking piece of television, it was adapted for the screen in 1968 again by Hammer, with Andrew Keir as Quatermass. That film is very good but not as good as the original, now available in a three-disc collection containing all of the surviving BBC Quatermass material. This series is shown complete with all of the opening and closing credit sequences.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The programme is transferred in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1.

    Like the two previous series, the programme was a mix of live action and pre-recorded material. The proportion of pre-recorded material seems to be much higher in this series. This material was shot using a film camera and then telecined into the live broadcast. The entire show was captured for replay using the telerecording technique of the day.

    For this transfer the BBC appear to have found most or all of the original material of the black and white film inserts that were used in the initial broadcast. So while the live parts of the programme still have that poor quality look, the filmed inserts are clear and detailed. In fact they are in excellent condition, with almost no film artefacts whatsoever.

    The live portions lack contrast and detail. The filmed portions have a nice range of greys and look just like feature film material of the era, as if they were shot on 35mm.

    The live portions also have some aliasing and some visible scan lines, possibly due to being on the old 405 line standard.

    Optional subtitles are provided in the usual small BBC white font. They match the dialogue well and are easy to read.

    The disc is dual-layered but there is no layer change during any of the chapters.

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

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The audio seems somewhat constricted but is noticeably better than that afforded the two previous series. Dialogue is clear and the sound effects come over well, especially the eerie sounds created by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

    The Holst music was dumped for this series and replaced with some stock music and newly composed material by Trevor Duncan. It is all quite effective and helps build the tension nicely.

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

Extras

    The extras are included on disc one in this set. This programme is on disc three and contains only a minor extra.

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    Some footage from the film is seen on the main menu together with some of the music.

R4 vs R1

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

    The new release from the BBC in Region 2 is identical to the Region 4. There was an earlier release from a different company which contained a version of the story edited into a single unit, as though it were a feature film. There was a slight cut in this version which has been restored in the new edition.

Summary

    A fine piece of science fiction from the archives of the BBC, worth seeing if you have an interest in the genre.

    The video quality is as good as could be expected.

    The audio quality is good.

    No significant extras on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The American release by Hammer - penguin (there is no bio)
John... the US disc is not the same thing... - Anonymous
Corrections... - ChickenEater