Quatermass And The Pit: BFI Film Classics by Kim Newman (book review).

‘Quatermass And The Pit’ was the third of the original ‘Quatermass’ TV series/films and, to my mind, one of the best. It gives an interesting take on the origin of mankind in not being from another planet but manipulated from beings from the red planet, providing the origin of the devil amongst other things. It’s also pretty much a type of time bomb that goes off and encompasses the humans around it. The fact that it was also made originally for TV in 1953 and then as a Hammer film in 1967, losing nothing in the fourteen year gap shows the story’s own strength.


Kim Newman’s book on the subject, although in depth, tends to spend too much looking at the other ‘Quatermass’ films in the introductory chapter and in the second jumping between the TV and film versions and even comparisons to other films that certainly wouldn’t have influenced the latter version. When you consider scriptwriter Nigel Kneale wrote them both, he undoubtedly kept the latter version on track. I can’t see him being influenced by Kubrick’s ‘2001’ considering it was another year before it came out or vice versa.

For those of you who want to know what actress Christine Finn, who did voices in ‘Thunderbirds’ including TinTin Kyrano, looked like and who was in the supporting cast of the TV version then look to page 47.

Newman also points out that actor John Rae, who played one of the yeti in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ (1957) was also a foreman in the TV ‘Quatermass And The Pit’, although looking at the photos of both actors, don’t confuse him with actor Fred Johnson.

Giving the plot of the film, Newman frequently gives asides to cast and production which if you’re looking to this book for a plot resume tends to undercut it quite a lot. Considering the book is divided into only three chapters, it might have made more sense to have divided it into more chapters and split it up more evenly. Even so, you do get a lot of information, even if it is often divided into footnotes. I know this is a bugbear of mine but I really wish that if footnote information is that important then it should be included in the main text or even on the same page as needed. As these BFI books are the size designed to be read when travelling, the last thing you need is to be going back and forth in the book because it breaks things up far too much.

As I’ve said, you will learn a great deal about ‘Quatermass And The Pit’ from this book, it’s just a shame that it couldn’t be displayed better.

GF Willmetts

November 2014

(pub: BFI/Palgrave MacMillan. 112 page illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84457-791-0)

check out websites: www.bfi.org.uk and www.palgrave.com

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