QUATERMASS AND THE PIT
FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH
Quatermass and the Pit is often spoken of as the finest of the Quatermass films, even by people that may not rate the other three entries highly. The Quatermass Experiment was essentially a monster movie and Quatermass II a variation on the alien takeover theme, but here Nigel Kneale has expanded his ideas out with breathtaking regard. And this is what everyone loves about Quatermass and the Pit. Throughout Nigel Kneales films and teleplays is a fascination with myth and fringe science having rational, real-world explanations The Abominable Snowman (1957) reveals the Yeti as another intelligent species; The Stone Tape (1972) offers a science-fictional explanation for hauntings; and in Quatermass (1979) ancient megaliths are revealed as harvesting portals left by aliens.
Nigel Kneale is at his most ingenious in Quatermass and the Pit, which offers a dazzling array of ideas about horned Martians having seeded humanity and their insect-like form lying buried in the subconscious of racial memory, which people interpret as being The Devil. The unearthed rocket triggers off latent human psychic potential, thus offering a neat explanation for haunting and poltergeist phenomena. Kneale has borrowed more than a few ideas from Arthur C. Clarkes novel Childhoods End (1953) about a race of aliens who resemble the classic image of The Devil coming to visit humanity with enigmatic purpose. Both Kneale and Clarkes ideas were later rehashed by the Doctor Who episodes The Daemons (1972) and Image of the Fendahl (1977) and the animated Star Trek episode The Magicks of Megas-Tu (1973), while the Clarke novel was later very badly filmed as the tv mini-series Childhoods End (2015).
As serious anthropology, this verges on the preposterous, but in terms of Nigel Kneales play of ideas Quatermass and the Pit is positively ingenious. It is certainly the best of the Quatermass films. Kneale tightens his original teleplay well and the suspense is eerily well built by regular Hammer director Roy Ward Baker. Particularly good is the casting of Andrew Keir as Professor Quatermass. Andrew Keir makes for a much more dignified and academic-seeming Quatermass, a welcome change from Brian Donlevys brutish and unlikable playing in the previous two films.
Nigel Kneales other tv works are: 1984 (1954), a live adaptation of the George Orwell novel; The Creature (1955) about the search for The Yeti; The Road (1963) about a haunting that may be an example of time travel; The Year of the Sex Olympics (1970) about a future dulled into compliance by televised sexual competitions; Wine of India (1970) about future euthanasia; The Stone Tape (1972) about a scientific investigation into a haunting; the six-episode tv anthology series Beasts (1976), which all featured unseen monsters; the seven-episode comedy series Kinvig (1981) about two science-fiction fans who are transported into real encounters with UFOs; and the ghost story tv movie The Woman in Black (1989). Kneales film scripts were Quatermass 2/The Enemy from Space (1957), The Abominable Snowman (1957) adapted from The Creature, the adaptation of H.G. Wellss The First Men in the Moon (1964), the occult film The Witches/The Devils Own (1966) and uncredited work on Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). Quatermass was later revived by the BBC in the live-broadcast tv movie The Quatermass Experiment (2005).
Roy Ward Baker became one of the prominent directors to rise in the latter decade of the Anglo-horror industry. Elsewhere, Baker made Moon Zero Two (1969), The Vampire Lovers (1970), Scars of Dracula (1971), Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) at Hammer; Asylum (1972), ... And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) and The Vault of Horror (1973) at Amicus; and the post-Amicus The Monster Club (1980).