Hammer Films bear fond and nostalgic connotations for the British film fan. Founded in the 1930’s by William Hinds, the production company was best known for the plethora of colourful and camp horror films it released between the 50’s and 70’s. Filled with stiff acting, vacant-eyed damsels in distress and trashy special effects, these films have have cemented their place in British film history. Best of all, as their kitsch quality becomes increasingly apparent over time, their charm seems to improve.
This is very much the case with Quatermass and the Pit, the final film in the Quatermass trilogy. Starring Andrew Keir in the role of the titular scientist, the film is about a mysterious and dangerous alien craft that has been found in the fictional Hobbs End London Underground station. Of course, the spaceship looks like it’s made of plastic, and the evil locust-like aliens are about as realistic as hand-puppets, but this is exactly what you expect and want from a Hammer film.
Even within its self-consciously trashy style, Quatermass and the Pit is not the perfect film. The film takes its time in picking up the pace, as, for the first 45 minutes, the camera mostly focuses on Quatermass’s ‘pondering’ face as he’s presented with increasing amounts of evidence that the alien machine found underground is indeed an alien machine. While the stiff upper-lipped acting style of the cast is amusing in itself, the early part of the film is over-reliant on dialogue that goes around in circles and unnecessarily slows the film down.
Thankfully, once the aliens begin to exert their mind-control powers, the limited abilities of the actors get pushed to the limit as they are forced to express such intricate states as being ‘afraid,’ ‘in pain’ or ‘possessed.’ The absurd acting style leads to many moments of probably unintended hilarity, none better than when a scientist gets possessed and dragged along by an invisible alien force across half the town. As the government begins to excavate the site of the craft despite Quatermass’s words of wisdom, and more such ridiculous events begin to occur, it becomes clear that we’ll be treated to an absurdly apocalyptic climax to this endearing film trilogy.
This Blu Ray version of the film has clearly received some heavy DNR treatment, giving the characters a slightly rubbery appearance. In a strange way, this seems fitting given that the film’s appeal lies in its own artificiality; from the acting, to the special effects, and now to the very texture of the film, Quatermass and the Pit revels in its own fakeness. There are a couple of extras on the disc too, including a short documentary narrated by Oliver Reed, but Hammer fans might find the content a little lacking.
People will be split over whether this crispy-clean Blu Ray release fits with the low-budget charm of Hammer films, but it’s still a worthy acknowledgement of the lasting legacy of the legendary production company and one of their most iconic and perplexingly-named characters.