Time to start a new mini-series: It’s Hammer Time!.
For decades, one of the biggest names in British movie production was Hammer. Famous for horror movies, particularly ones starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the studios were an integral part of British movie production and starting today, for a limited run, I’m going to be giving you a chance to watch a glorious smattering of them in HD.
We’re going to start with The Quatermass Xperiment, based on the famous BBC serial by Nigel Kneale of the (almost) same name and starring Brian Donlevy as the eponymous Quatermass. In it, the British Rocket Group sends an experimental rocket into space, but when it comes down again, all but one of the astronauts is missing and the surviving astronaut is different somehow. What happened? BRG’s Professor Quatermass is determined to find out.
When first broadcast on the BBC in the early 1950s, the six-part The Quatermass Experiment emptied the streets and changed the face of British television forever. It spawned two BBC follow-up series the same decade – Quatermass II and the jewel in the series’ crown, Quatermass and The Pit – and an ITV series at the end of the 70s called simply Quatermass. BBC4 even remade The Quatermass Experiment as a live broadcast, just as the original had been, starring David Tennant, Adrian Dunbar, Jason Flemyng and Mark Gatiss among others, back in 2005.
Taking advantage of the original series’ notoriety and shocks, in 1955, Hammer took it, condensed it down to a single X-rated movie (hence the slight change of name), gave it an American lead and changed the ending slightly. It was popular enough that Hammer was able to film Quatermass II, again starring Donlevy, a couple of years later, and in 1967, Quatermass and the Pit, starring Andrew Keir.
But for your delight, here’s the first of those movies, direct from Hammer (yes, it’s still going). I’ve preceding it with Hammer’s own documentary, written by film historian Marcus Hearn. Enjoy!