Sunday, July 11, 2010

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (Roy Thomas Baker, 1967)

The Devil stalks Hob’s Lane, its horned and gruesome visage buried for millions of years but awakened to breed its violent purge upon its progeny: homo sapiens. Bernard Quatermass and Professor Roney must fight military incompetence and militant authority and avoid a cover-up to reveal a magnificent archeological find: five million year old hominid fossils discovered within a buried alien spacecraft, a Martian splinter whose genetic infection has usurped the Earth: their locust-like race conquering the cosmos by proxy.

Director Roy Ward Baker films in mostly medium shot and close-up, with urgent dialogue and few (if any) establishing shots which create a made-for-television style narrative: most likely because this is an adaptation from a BBC series. Utilizing narrative economy, the plot itself is interesting and intelligent; detailing the possibility that homo sapiens was genetically altered millions of years ago by a dying Martian colony, passing on their telekinetic abilities and racial expungement to a blossoming human species. As science and the military clash over the facts, the spacecraft pulses with life, an actual living organism shocked into consciousness, and possess the surrounding humans to revert back to their primitive Darwinian impulses: a purge has begun once again, the murder of the weak and non-conformists echoes through the violent fiery night.

Quatermass is hypnotized, even his keen intellect is no cure for this malicious impulse, and he is pulled to safety by Professor Roney. As a giant demon whose mass has transformed into Hellish energy rises above the destruction, Roney reasons that cold iron is the weapon, harkening back to the legends and myths inspired centuries ago by this aberration: as his final sacrifice he guides a crane into the glowing demented face of Satan itself, grounding the energy and saving the world. Quatermass sifts through emotional debris, his mind tormented and burdened with guilt. As the credits roll, we wonder if more of these infernal devices will be uncovered someday: possibly in some dark corner of the Earth…or in the very center of civilization?

Final Grade: (B+)

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