#294 Quatermass and the Pit

Watched: March 19 2021

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Andrew Keir, James Donald, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 37min

Hobbs End: a lone bobby is walking along the wet London street, making this the most British opening scene ever. Then: Ape men! Buried in the underground! This is gonna be goooood.

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Along with the five million year old ape man remains, there’s some sort of a device found buried in the mud. And, since this is the cold war, the military jumps right on that in case it’s some sort of a bomb or missile. Or even better – something they can use to put Britain on the nuclear superpower-map along with the USA and Soviet. But doctor Roney (Donald), Barbara Judd (Shelley) and professor Quatermass (Keir) have other ideas.

“Sure, it could be the skull of an unfortunate German pilot left here to rot since the war. But what if, and bear with me here, it’s the only earthly remains of a humanoid ape race who secretly ruled the world five million years ago and who were controlled by extraterrestrial insects..? I believe that theory has just as much merit. “

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Quatermass is right. Naturally. The device is a martian space ship, piloted by large bugs who kidnapped apes from earth, did some selctive breeding, then returned them to earth to repopulate our planet with these martian-earthling-combo-creatures who are probably our ancestors. Yup. That would have been our first guess too.

Oh. Well, I’ll be damned… They were right all along.

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Further research shows that the fictional Hobbs End has been plagued by evil spirits and scary supernatural phenomena for centuries, specifically deformed ghosts walking through walls and strange aural disturbances. Can the extraterrestrial find and the spooky apparitions be related somehow?

Aliens and demons and devils, oh my!

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We love us some Hammer horror! Sure, Quatermass is from the same tradition as the original Doctor Who – the era when the educated, privileged, white, middle aged man was the only possible voice of reason… But despite that, we really enjoy the Quatermass movies, even though this one also tends to perpetuate the stereotype of women feeling and men thinking.

“Thank Jesus we had this emotional lady hanging around. Our logical man brains were way too rational to pick up the hive memory of our collective past and solve the mystery.”

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Does Quatermass and the Pit make sense? Not quite. But it is a great ride. There are clearly fake insect monsters, very cool poltergeist activity, panic on the streets of London, and extreme Britishness. It had humanity pegged too. We quote: “‘If we found out the world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do?’ ‘Nothing. We’d just go on squabbling about it as usual.'” Yeah… Things haven’t changed much since 1967.

“You’re all doomed”

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What we learned: Satan’s just an oversized bug.

Next time: Robbery (1967)

#202 Village of the Damned

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Wolf Rilla

Starring: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith, Martin Stephens

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 17min

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In a small British town, all the residents (and animals) simultaneously pass out one day. They wake up a few hours later, unharmed, but later find that all the fertile women in the village are pregnant. Which obviously leads to some uncomfortable questions and suspicions.

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Questions such as who was the sexy alien adonis who managed to impregnante a dozen women within the space of an hour? And what sort of pills was he on to keep it up?

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The children are born 5 months later (which hospital show-fans everywhere know is waaay too early), and they all have white blond hair and intense eyes. Among the new parents are Anthea (Shelley) and Gordon Zellaby (Sanders). The latter is a professor who enjoys a good relationship with British Intelligence, and he takes on the task of observing and possibly educating the strange children.

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As you can tell from his body language, he florishes in his new role as teacher and mentor for a bunch of creepy kids.

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The children develop quickly, and are supersmart and polite, which in itself is a warning sign for anyone who’s ever encountered an actual child. In addition, they seem to have a hive mind and powers of telepathy. If anyone from the village poses any sort of threat to them, they soon become suicidal and the threat is eliminated. But what is their purpose? And will humanity survive their coming?

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Ain’t nothing a rope and a gas mask can’t fix!

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Village of the Damned is such a classic horror movie we will just go ahead and assume that everyone has seen it. We love the final scene in which the kids tear apart Gordon’s mental wall, the chilling, creepy children themselves, and the unsettling atmosphere. The kids, and especially David Zellaby (Stephens), are calm, rational and emotionless, and very disquieting. Their reactions to any threat are relentless and brutal which works great coming from adorable little kids.

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By “adorable” we mean “ominous-as-fuck!”

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With Halloween coming up, you could do a lot worse – and it’s short enough to fit neatly into any sort of marathon you may be planning. Also, perfect low budget costume idea for those of you with children of your own! Just prepare yourself to be terrified of them.

What we learned: We’re definitely never having children. Never.

Next time: Zazie dans le M├ętro (1960)