Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Genres - Drama, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Alien Film, Sci-Fi Horror  |   Release Date - Feb 16, 1968 (USA)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mark Deming

One of the most startling and ambitious science fiction films of the 1960s, Quatermass and the Pit starts like any number of other sci-fi cheapies, as an alien space craft is found during the excavation of a new subway line. The movie ends up somewhere else altogether, after calling into question the historical, philosophical, and theological basis of the history of mankind and suggesting a troubling alternate history of human intelligence. If Quatermass and the Pit isn't 100% successful in what it sets out to do (which outstrips the ambitions of most sci-fi movies), it comes close enough to have left a strong impression on those who saw it in its short theatrical release and long but fitful life on television. While director Roy Ward Baker's filmography is hardly distinguished, a look at his better films (A Night To Remember, The Anniversary, Don't Bother To Knock) suggests that he knew what to do when he got a good script, and that's certainly what Nigel Kneale brought to the table with his literate and intelligent screenplay. While the occasionally lackluster special effects betray the film's low budget, Arthur Grant's camerawork and Kenneth Ryan's art direction give Quatermass and the Pit a remarkably strong look and lend it a clean, well-structured visual style that's the right match for the performances and script.