|Andre Morell as Professor Quatermass.|
Meanwhile, Barbara Judd, Roney's assistant, learns that local residents consider Hobbs Lane to be haunted. She uncovers tales of "dwarfs that disappear into walls" that surface after any physical disturbance in the area. Barbara's findings, revealed only to Quatermass and Roney, become more terrifying when a soldier working inside the cylinder claims to have seen the "dwarfs."
Writer Nigel Kneale integrates a host of a fascinating ideas in his thematrically complex plot. Not only does he expand on his basic premise--that the human race may be a result of alien colonization--but he also offers scientifically-inspired explanations for the supernatural.
If this all sounds familiar to admirers of the 1967 film version, then I will confirm what you've probably guessed: the film was an extremely faithful adapation of the serial. Kneale wrote the film's screenplay and did a marvelous job in condensing his 210-minute serial into a crisp 97-minute movie. Indeed, the serial seems quite slow compared to the film and the serial's longer running time doesn't result in any additional insights.
|Quatermass helps a soldier who|
"saw" a Martian.
Unfortunately, although Morell is excellent in the Quatermass and the Pit serial, Anthony Bushell delivers a one-note performance as his adversary, Colonel Breen. Shouting dialogue in a stern voice, Bushnell's Breen comes across as a stereotype instead of an intelligent officer unwilling to accept the compelling evidence before him. Furthermore, Bushnell's portrayal dilutes Kneale's examination of the popular theme of military vs. science (explored, albeit briefly, in 1951's The Thing from Another World).
The 1958 Quatermass and the Pit was the third of four Quatermass television serials written by the prolific Nigel Kneale. After studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Kneale turned to writing full time after winning the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award in 1950 for Tomato Cain & Other Stories. After penning a radio play for the BBC, Kneale joined the television staff at the British network. He introduced TV audiences to Professor Bernard Quatermass with The Quatermass Experiment, a 1953 serial consisting of six 30-minute episodes. It was a landmark event in early British television. Film historian and critic Leslie Halliwell noted in his Halliwell's Television Companion that The Quatermass Experiment "became the first TV serial to have the whole country (or such parts as could receive television) agog."
In the four original TV serials: Reginald Tate played Quatermass in The Quatermass Experiment; John Robinson starred in Quatermass II (1955); Morell followed in Quatermass and the Pit; and finally John Mills in 1979's Quatermass (aka The Quatermass Conclusion). Although Morell's performance is widely praised, I'm also fond of Mills' interpretation of an older Quatermass. In 2005, the BBC mounted a live remake of The Quatermass Experiment starring Jason Flemyng as a much younger scientist than his predecessors. On the silver screen, Brian Donlevy was woefully miscast as the lead in adaptations of The Quatermass Experiement and Quatermass II.
As for my final summation of the Quatermass and the Pit serial: Had I never seen the film version, I suspect the 1958 original would have had a stronger impact. It's well-written, generally well-acted, and I'm excited that I finally had an opportunity to see it. However, it lacks the energy of the 1967 film, which grips the viewer tightly and never lets up for 97 enthralling minutes.