The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) is the first of several film adaptations of the BBC television series 'The Quatermass Experiment' written by Nigel Kneale. The series features Professor Bernard Quatermass and his adventures as he confronts sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity.

The plot of the film adaptation which is essentially a condensed version of the series, involves the return of the first manned flight into space with astronaut Victor Carroon, landing a rocket of Quatermass's design in the fields of England. However, it soon becomes clear that something is amiss with two crew members missing and with Carroon himself having been infected by a foreign entity, that begins to mutate his body into an alien organism. As the alien organism seeks to reproduce, Quatermass and his associates must race to track and stop the creature to prevent an invasion of global proportions.

Carroon naturally becomes more intriguing to watch as we witness his slow continual mutation. Sadly, he seems confused and tormented at the realisation of his inevitable fate, succumbing to the ill intentions of the alien organism as he devourers all in his wake in a seemingly uncontrolled rampage. Unfortunately, Quatermass and his associates are too late to discover and stop the mutation process, and are left with the only option to kill Carroon in his fully mutated form.

Interestingly, in the original ending of the TV series, Quatermass learns that the consciousness of the three astronauts still survived in some latent form inside the monster. When the professor confronts the creature in the final scene, he is able to appeal to these vestigial human personalities and convince them to will the monster to die, effectively committing suicide. I find the thought rather unsettling that perhaps the human side of Carroon was still concious and aware of his monstrous form and actions, and that the other two astronauts were 'apart' of him. Its probably best if he wasn't, and that he was simply killed as in the less convoluted ending of the film adaptation.

Remarkably, despite all that has happened, Quatermass turns to claim 'We're going to start again!' and ends by launching another rocket into space to send more unsuspecting astronauts to their doom.

The appeal of The Quatermass Experiment to sci-fi audiences is evident with the ever dormant threat from outer space. As critic Ali Catterall suggests, The Quatermass Xperiment is a 'thoughtful, hard-hitting, and bizarrely touching landmark of the sci-fi genre', which becomes particularly apparent with such iconic and striking scenes such as the rocket ship itself embedded in the fields of England.

Overall, the original film adaptation The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) is an intriguing classic and testament to the sci-fi genre, which still continues to influences us to this day with a recent 2005 adaptation as a television series.


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