X the Unknown (1956 UK)

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X the Unknown (1956 UK)

Post  BoG on Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:29 pm


An unofficial Hammer Quatermass thriller (the writer refused to let them use the Quatermass character) about a moving radioactive mud monster that comes up from beneath the earth. This follows The Quatermass Xperiment (a.k.a. The Creeping Unknown) from the previous year in terms of style and themes. Dean Jagger plays the hero scientist of the piece, under pressure to find some way to destroy the monster. He is regarded with suspicion by some of the populace, and some accusations are thrown his way, but the irony is that this was not the fault of man this time - as in science gone wrong - but a fluke of nature. Leo McKern plays the smart police detective. Many of the victims are military personnel. This film contains one of the most horrific images from my movie-watching childhood - a man melted by the creature. I wasn't able to watch this scene again until in my late teens. Later similar films were Japan's The H-Man and The Blob (1958), as well as Caltiki (1959). However, in those, the monster actually has to touch a person to do its damage; in this one, you get within 10 feet of it and you burn. This one has atmosphere to spare and a grim reality to all the sci-fi horror; the location is Scotland.

So, is this film sending an alternate message from the usual science amok theme - that there are no dangers from science, that science is our best hope? Is this a message about anti-superstition, anti-fear? Maybe - Quatermass, it could be argued, was part of the same message, even as those films also struggled with the unknown and the dangerous. Generally, it's suggested that alien threats, whether from beneath us or above us, may well be best combated against by dem dam scientists - it's the brains that will save us; pure military might is a secondary consideration and subject to the direction of the brains. This ends on an ambiguous note: there's a final explosion which the scientist did not expect and which he states should not have happened; it suggests that some things will remain unknown. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10.
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