Quatermass and the Pit

(USA title "Five Million Years to Earth")
(aka "The Mind Benders")

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Nigel Kneale
UK/science fiction/color/1967/98 min

James McDonald as Dr. Mathew Roney
Andrew Keir as Professor Bernard Quatermass
Babara Shelly as Barbara Judd
Grant Taylor as Police Sergeant Ellis

Plot Summary & Comments

This is a brilliant film. In my opinion, it's one of the most memorable and pioneering English sci-fi thrillers of the modern era. I can see similarities in subsequent productions such as 'Dr. Who' and even 'The X Files', e.g. pompous/slippery establishment officials, white-washes/cover-ups, suppression of the facts in the interests of 'public safety/hysteria' - and the irresistible proclamation that 'we are not alone!' I would endorse any sci-fi enthusiast who hasn't seen 'Quatermass' to track down a copy -- and try to think of the movie in the context of the period in which it was made. I really don't think the movie has dated. The acting is superb throughout and all characters give solid performances.

The film concerns a station on the London Underground which is undergoing extension work. During the course of the work, what appears to be human remains (skulls, etc.) are found. The work is halted and archaeologists are called due to the unusual appearance of the bones. Upon further investigative digging, a strange object of some size is discovered buried in the earth. The military are convinced the object is an unexploded German bomb of the second world war which has lain undiscovered for decades. However, as the story unfolds, we learn that this particular region of London was always troubled down the centuries by unearthly happenings and sightings of strange phenomena.

Grant Taylor plays Police Sergeant Ellis. He appears in one scene only. This is where he joins Quatermass and a colleague in a derelict terraced house just across from the Underground Station. Grant escalates the tension in this scene magnificently. He explains that he was a 'nipper' (small child) who grew up in the area. From talking calmly to Quatermass, his manner gradually changes and he breaks into a sweat; demonstrating his overwhelming unease at being in the derelict and spooky house.



Words & images by Keith McLaren.