On Wednesday, December 13th, we continue our science fiction cinema series at Mother’s Velvet Lounge when we present the seminal British occult/science fiction thriller, Quatermass and the Pit (US title: Five Million Years To Earth), adapted by Nigel Kneale from his original BBC mini-series, and directed by Roy Ward Baker. The film stars Andrew Keir, James Donald, Barbara Shelly and Julian Glover.
While excavating a new underground tunnel in London, a group of workers discover the fossilized skulls of a primitive humanoid. Paleontologist, Dr Mathew Roney (James Donald) and his associate Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley) examine the find and date the fossils at five million years, challenging everything previously theorized regarding human evolution. But when a mysterious metal object is discovered buried in the site, fears emerge that an unexploded German V weapon has been unearthed. The officious Colonel Breen of the RAF (Julian Glover) is called in to assess the situation accompanied by Professor Bernard Quatermass, the brilliant astrophysicist (Andrew Keir). Despite Breen’s insistence that the object is a relic of a war fought little more than 25 years earlier, it is apparent to the scientists that it isn’t even of Earthly origin. The implications of the discovery could upend our ideas of what it means to be human and when efforts are made to penetrate the object, a force is unleashed that could signal the end of humanity.
Originally produced by the BBC as a six episode teleplay in 1958, Quatermass and the Pit was the third installment of Nigel Kneale’s series which found his protagonist, Professor Quatermass uncovering a terrifying mystery from space. All three series were adapted into theatrical features by Hammer Films, a studio best known for reviving gothic horror in the 60s and 70’s, and making stars of the likes of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Though this film is largely pure science fiction, it does manage to work in occult themes and offers a sampling of cobwebs and creaky doors, not to mention a tip of the hat to H.P. Lovecraft. But the ideas behind the narrative are powerful, thought provoking and have withstood the test of time. Particularly impressive is the fact that the film’s minuscule budget of £275,000 didn’t hinder Baker and Kneale’s efforts to tackle some grandiose ideas. And while most of the photographic effects are pretty primitive by contemporary standards, the visual ideas are rich, thanks to production design from Hammer stalwarts Bernard Robinson and Ken Ryan, and have served as inspiration for countless film makers since.
The excitement begins at 6:30 when you will enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:00. Hope to see you there!
Mother’s is located at 212 SW Stark.