Quatermass and the Pit DVD 1967 Color Hammer Film

Quatermass and the Pit is a 1967 British science-fiction / horror film, produced by Hammer Film Productions and based on the 1958 BBC Television serial of the same name. It was adapted by the writer Nigel Kneale from his own original television script, and directed by Roy Ward Baker. The film was designed by Bernard Robinson and scored by Tristram Cary. In the United States, it was released under the title Five Million Years to Earth.

The film was a sequel to two previous Hammer adaptations of Kneale's BBC serials: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957). It was the first Quatermass production to be made in colour, and starred Scottish actor Andrew Keir as Professor Bernard Quatermass, replacing the American Brian Donlevy, who had starred in the previous two films.

In contrast to Donlevy, Keir's performance as Quatermass has been very well-received down the years, and the film is generally felt to be the most faithful of the three cinematic adaptations, although it was not as commercially successful as its predecessors. Nigel Kneale's script is in particular extremely close to his original television version, with whole scenes and chunks of dialogue remaining essentially untouched.

Other actors included Julian Glover as the army officer Colonel Breen, James Donald as the archeologist Roney, and Barbara Shelley as Roney's assistant Miss Judd. Also appearing in a small role as the drill operator Sladden was actor Duncan Lamont, who in 1953 had played the major part of astronaut Victor Caroon in the original Quatermass television serial, The Quatermass Experiment. Gareth Thomas, later to appear in popular 1970s television series Children of the Stones and Blake's 7, makes a brief, non-speaking appearance in the opening scenes as a workman on the London Underground.

Quatermass and the Pit was the last Quatermass movie to be produced by Hammer, although after its release Kneale did pitch a storyline to the company for a further film written directly for the cinema. While it was not produced by Hammer, the storyline eventually formed the basis of the character's 1979 swansong television serial Quatermass, screened on the ITV network.

Andrew Keir returned to play the character of Quatermass again in the 1996 radio serial The Quatermass Memoirs for BBC Radio 3, becoming one of only two actors – Brian Donlevy being the other – to play the role for a second time.

The plot of the film follows that of the original serial in most detail. Workmen constructing the new London Underground station at Hobb's End uncover the skeletal remains of simians. Doctor Roney, an anthropologist who examines the bones theorizes that they may belong to a race of primates who existed farther back in time than acknowledged by known science. Work is halted by the discovery of what appears to be unexploded bomb buried not far away from where the skeletons were found. Military bomb disposal experts arriving on the scene discover that their bomb is not magnetic.

Meanwhile, Bernard Quatermass of the British Experimental Rocket Group must contend with a major shift in government policy that has transferred control of the group's research to the military. Originally formed by civilians, the group will now develop projects including the placement of nuclear weapons in space. Both Breen and Quatermass become involved with the unfolding drama at Hobb's End. While Breen is soon convinced that the discovered object is an unexploded bomb, perhaps a German V-weapon, Quatermass remains skeptical. As the object is excavated, it is revealed to be very large and does not resemble any weapon of the last war. Quatermass, Breen and Roney enter a chamber within the object through an existing door, but the interior walls prove impenetrable to even diamond-tipped drills, and they are unable to proceed. Quatermass notices a small inscription on one of the interior walls, a pattern of circles connected in a larger circle which — as a horrified Quatermass observes — suggests a pentagram. Though impervious to drills, one of the walls soon collapses, revealing another chamber containing the preserved bodies of several insectlike creatures — three-legged beings with ominous horns on their heads. Quatermass, knowing that "Hob" is an archaic term for the devil, and learning that the history of Hobb's End contains numerous reports of apparent poltergeist activity going back centuries, theorizes a link between the presence of the object and the human conception of evil. Rather than an Earthly artifact, Quatermass believes the object in Hobb's End to be an ancient spacecraft built by explorers from Mars.

When Sladden, the drill operator, notices a mysterious force moving objects in the excavation site surrounding Quatermass's spaceship, he flees in terror to a nearby church. Following him, Quatermass realizes that the force from which Sladden fled has followed him to the church. Delirious, Sladden tells Quatermass that he had seen the beings found inside the ship, only that these were alive, and that there were hordes of them — leaping into the sky. When the force manifests itself again in the church, Quatermass realizes that it is Sladden that is the source of the energy, and that his vision is a form of race memory of the ship's occupants.

Quatermass returns to the excavation site with Roney and his assistant Barbara — this time bringing a revolutionary machine that can observe a person's thoughts of visual memory. He plans to trigger the same mysterious force that beset Sladden, hoping it will also trigger revelation of the race memory. The plan is successful, but not as Quatermass had planned. Rather than manifesting through him, it seizes on Barbara. Quickly hooking her to the machine, Quatermass records a scene of the aliens' distant past. When shown to British officials, the scene depicts countless thousands of the insect tripeds marching against each other in battle. Quatermass describes the scene as a ritualistic purging of mutations, with the Martians annihilating any other beings who do not fit their larger hive. Using the images, Quatermass claims that Martians, now extinct, had explored Earth millions of years ago. Their planet dying, the Martians experimented on primitive apes, hoping to create a race of beings suited for Earth but otherwise subservient to the will of the Martians. Quatermass further claims that at least some of modern mankind has descended from the subjects of the Martian experiment. The officials are skeptical of Quatermass's claims, unwilling to believe that mankind owes its existence to a race of insects. Believing the recorded images reflect Barbara's subconcious rather than a discrete and pristine memory, the officials shrug off Quatermass's warnings that the object at Hobb's End is really a spaceship, or that it poses any danger.

Hobb's End is opened to the media, with Colonel Breen on hand to reveal the mysterious object as a long lost V-weapon. The same force observed by Sladden and Quatermass is again triggered, but now more powerful. Imposing its power and will over a growing group of surrounding human beings — descendants of the Martians' ape subjects — the ancient spacecraft causes them to engage in a race war against other people, presumably those unconnected to the Martians. A huge image of a horned Martian, suggesting the devil, appears over London. As more people fall under the ship's control, the city begins to buckle and shatter. Quatermass, one of the affected humans, tries to kill Roney. Regaining his senses, he tells Roney that some instinct within him was driving him to murder. "I had to kill you because you were different".

Having theorized the ancient Martians as the source of man's ideal of evil, Quatermass wonders whether other legends of the devil are also connected — including its weakness to iron and water. Roney uses a building crane against the Martian image, guessing that it is a form of electromagnetic energy. The plan works, the ship's power is grounded and the image destroyed, but not before the crane and Roney are destroyed.

A final scene, repeated several times during the closing credits, shows the principal remaining characters walking or sitting, individually, in silence among the ruins, surrounded by small fires, showing their profound emotional and physical exhaustion.

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