The Scoop: 1955 NR, directed by Val Guest and starring Brian Donlevy, Jack Warner, and Richard Wordsworth
Tagline: It’s coming for YOU from Space to wipe all living things from the face of the Earth! CAN IT BE STOPPED?
Summary Capsule: Three men went into space. One came back. But… did he come back a man or a MONSTER? *dun dun duuun*
Eunice’s Rating: “By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open.”
Eunice’s Review: I love old black and white science fiction tales, both on their own and as time capsules. With the Cold War beginning in 1947 and building up to the Space Race that would start in 1957, the movie interest in space travel would change from the adventure stories of (generally speaking) the ‘30s to the science fiction/horror of the ‘50s.
The Creeping Unknown (The Quatermass Xperiment) begins with the first successful return of a space rocket. Three brave men were sent off by rogue scientist Prof. Bernard Quatermass, but when the rocket is opened only one of the men, Victor, comes stumbling out. While there are two complete and still sealed space suits, the other two men are nowhere to be found. The onboard film camera has been damaged and Victor is in a complete, and completely silent, state of shock. While Quatermass is trying to figure out the scientific implications of what happened, he’s also hindering the investigation of Inspector Lomax of Scotland Yard that the two missing men might be a case of murder. But there’s… something happening to Victor. He’s… changing…
Creeping stays away from the paranoia fueled “They are among us!” mentality of movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or I Married a Monster from Outer Space, instead falling into more of a Frankenstein-type scientists playing at God story. See Quatermass cares far more about a successful experiment than the lives of those involved or the danger presented to the rest of the population.
Richard Wordsworth who plays Victor doesn’t have any dialogue, but the ill-fated spaceman is a pretty sympathetic character as his body is eaten away at and changed by an amorphous space parasite that he’s brought back to Earth. He manages to convey pain, fear, and regret without going too over the top with the facial contortions. Also, the makeup and prosthetics are kept to a minimum, so the human element is still there to keep up the horror, as opposed to the guy in a rubber suit effect.
Victor’s wife is just annoying, but I think that has a lot more to do with weak writing (meh, she’s just the token worried dame) and Margia Dean’s voice than anything else (love her hair though!).
Your mileage may vary, but I really think that The Creeping Unknown (The Quatermass Xperiment) is worth a watch if you like old scifi or Hammer movies. It has its cheesy elements (a space cactus/octopus, really?), but, with the whole ‘who is the true monster here?’ approach, it also has plenty of nifty going on too.
- The Quatermass Xperiment (the original, British title), is based on BBC Television’s 1953 six episode serial The Quatermass Experiment. Would be followed by Quatermass II in 1957 and Quatermass and the Pit (AKA Five Million Years to Earth) in 1967.
- Hammer specifically aimed to get the ‘X’ Certificate from the BBFC (“This film has been passed for exhibition to persons over the age of sixteen.”), and took the ‘E’ from experiment to capitalize on it.
- There is something both unintentionally hilarious and kinda dirty about the way Judith says “Oh, Victor.” while he has his hand in his pocket.
- If the little girl (who is played by Jane Asher by the way) isn’t a Frankenstein reference, I dunno what is.
Insp. Lomax: Nobody ever wins a cold war.
Prof. Quatermass: But these prints aren’t even… human.
Prof. Quatermass: Something happened in here. Something beyond our understanding. So far.
PR guy: Not telling them won’t stop a panic.
Prof Quatermass: What they don’t know won’t start a panic.
Private Investigator: Relax, lady, you’re shaking the building.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Thing from Another World
- Frankenstein (1931)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)