Monday, October 18, 2010

Five Million Years to Earth

It was a long and pleasant night last Friday. I hope those of you who are interested in old horror movies, not the slasher films of today but the classic monster movies, were able to catch the entire collection of Hammer Films mummy movies.

This Friday, Turner Classic Movies is showing a different breed of Hammer films. They have more of a science fiction edge to them than the traditional Hammer films of this period. The 8:30 PM (CT) movie is an adaption of the third BBC serial in the Quatermass series; Quatermass and the Pit. It is the first of the Quatermass adaptions that was filmed in color and released in America in 1967 as Five Million Years to Earth. The film was directed by Roy Ward Baker from a script by Nigel Kneale (the man who created Professor Bernard Quatermass for the BBC) and finally replaced the American actor Brian Donlevy in the title role with Scottish actor Andrew Keir. Watch for a very young Julian Glover (General Veers from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and Walter Donovan from Indy 3) as Col. Breen.

Professor Bernard Quatermass is the head of the British Experimental Rocket Group in the 1950's and 60's. So while digging a new subway line under London an object suspected to be an unexploded bomb from World War 2 is discovered to have very unusual properties, Professor Quatermass is called in for consultation. Of course he believes it is a rocket though not a German one. So where did it come from and why?

The movie version of this story had a much larger special effects budget than the serial and it sets out to show us the answer to this question with disastrous results until Quatermass and his colleagues combine science and superstition to save London. Click here for the trailer.

There were four serials made, three for the BBC and one with Thames Television. THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT and QUATERMASS II have both been lost and the only versions of them available are the Hammer Films versions; THE QUATERMASS XPERMENT and QUATERMASS 2. Both were filmed in black and white ATARRING American actor Brian Donlevy. They are both characteristic genre films of that period. QUARTERMASS AND THE PIT still exists as a serial and movie, FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH. The final entry in the Quatermass collection was a television serial simply named QUARTERMASS starring John Mills that was later released as a film by Euston Films as THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION. If you follow Doctor Who really close, this is the character referred to in Remembrance of the Daleks (Sylvester McCoy) and Planet of the Dead (David Tennant).

As a kid, this movie gave me a great scare. Today it still holds its own as a well crafted tale. If you have the time on Friday night I believe you will enjoy a voyage that was Five Million Miles to Earth.

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