Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Movie review - "Five Million Years to Earth" (1968) (re-viewing) ***

I've previously reviewed this under its British title Quatermass and the Pit. I confess to having mixed feelings about the movie - it's one of the best known titles from that late 60s period of Hammer where they still tried (eg The Devil Rides Out, Frankenstein Created Woman); it is intelligent, there are so many good things about the movie. And yet... it never quite works.

The more often I see it, the more its flaws bother me - and I can't help wishing it was given the Val Guest treatment. Guest's Quatermass movies would move - they had tremendous pace and energy. Roy Ward Baker could be a very poor director and he doesn't cover himself in glory here. He muffs opportunities to make thing exciting, particularly at the end when the martians unleash their powers and humans go berserk. Andrew Keir is a fine Quatermass but isn't the driven obsessive he is in the first two movies; he has to share the hero role with James Donald, whose characterisation is undercooked - and the final sacrifice at the end is a damp squib. (This part needed star power - I wish Christopher Lee had been available).

It gets off to a flying start with the discovery of mysterious objects at an underground station - archeologist Donald gets excited, as do the military who think it's an unexploded Nazi bomb, and Quatermass is brought in. There's talk of the creepiness of the area, with Aussie Grant Taylor looking fat and on the verge of a heart attack as a constable.

Around half way through things go wonky for me. There's an awful lot of theorising and Quatermass simply guessing accurate what it's all about - most irritatingly in the finale when he figures out how to beat the alien force just with a bit of brain storming. It feels like a cheat.

This movie has so many fantastic ideas and concepts but I don't feel Nigel Kneale could adapt them to cinema to the great effect - I kind of wish this was remade. It doesn't help that the special effects are so variable - the space ship is great but the aliens silly, especially the flashbacks to masses of aliens.

But it is a smart movie, it tries to be something superior - it demands respect. I just wish it was better.

No comments: