This intelligent sci-fi feature produced by Hammer Studios and based on a hit BBC TV serial was also marketed as The Creeping Unknown in the U.S. in 1956. Brian Donlevy stars as Dr. Bernard Quatermass – an American scientist who launches a space rocket experiment that goes terribly wrong.
Three astronauts are sent into space. Their rocket crashes in England near where it was launched. Only one astronaut survives the crash. The other two are not to be found inside the rocket. Their space suits are still strapped to the safety seats inside the rocket. Quatermass is determined to figure out what happened to the two men and why the rocket crashed.
The surviving astronaut, played by Richard Wordsworth, is in a catatonic state, unable to communicate with anyone. A bizarre growth begins to cover his body. He is isolated in a hospital ward so doctors can monitor his condition. The growth consumes his right arm.
A film thought to be damaged from the crash is discovered inside the rocket. Quatermass and other scientists viewing the film determine that an unseen force somehow destroyed the two astronauts.
The surviving astronaut’s wife manages to sneak him out of the hospital. He kills a man trying to help him leave the hospital in an elevator. His wife carries him away in a car, but he flees on foot.
In a scene that may intentionally pay tribute to Frankenstein (1931), the astronaut encounters a little girl playing with a doll near a river. Luckily, the girl is not harmed, but her doll is destroyed by the astronaut.
A chemist is later killed by the astronaut at a pharmacy, and animals are found dead at the local zoo.
Meanwhile, scientists find a strange plant like growth in the hospital room of the astronaut. A strange growth of giant proportions is also discovered at Westminster Abbey on top of a scaffold. The squid looking growth with tentacles is electrocuted and killed. The film never explains what happens to the astronaut, but we assume he has become the giant squid creature found at Westminster Abbey.
The film gives the suggestion that perhaps space travel is not worth the risk of the dangers that could happen to mankind. Dr. Quatermass is an emotionless, stubborn character who will not allow anything to get in the way of science and experimentation, even if it means risking the lives of astronauts. The film ends with Quatermass launching another rocket into space.
Don’t miss the excellent sequel – Quatermass II : Enemy From Space. In 1967, Hammer Studios also made another great Quatermass film – Quatermass & The Pit, which also had its title changed for American audiences to - Five Million Years To Earth. An American film with a very similar plot to The Quatermass Xperiment was made in 1958 entitled First Man Into Space. Happy viewing!