Sunday, 30 October 2011

Five Million Years To Earth

'Quatermass & The Pit' starts as it means to go on, with a shock discovery which becomes ever more shocking upon further investigation. Yet nothing about this film is sensational for sensation's sake, although many of its ideas are startling.

It begins in the underground station at Hobbes End, where a gang of builders are working on an extension to the Central Line. Work halts when they discover an anthropoidal skull and other remains buried in the mud. Archaeologists are called in, and the bones are dated as five million years old. Further excavations uncover another embedded object of a similar vintage - a Martian spaceship, complete with a long dead crew of locust like aliens...

'QATP' is a real slow burner of a film, imbued with Kneale's sharp intelligence and subtle but strong direction from Roy Ward Baker. The narrative unfolds carefully, logically, priming the viewer for the next twist, the next amazing revelation. Kneale's excellent screenplay (adapted from his 1958 TV version) includes several of his favourite themes: a scientific explanation for the seemingly supernatural; the distant past (or in 'The Road', the future) haunting the present, and the awesome power of the unknown. It's a fantastic piece of work - in fact, it's probably my favourite film, and I've seen quite a few, believe me. 

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