Without a doubt, this is true science-fiction at its best. Kneale’s brilliant script (based on his acclaimed 50’s BBC serial) proposes a truly staggering premise. The human race was actually genetically altered by martians about five million years ago, the martian race hence perished, and mankind was left alone, stranded on this remote outpost. Bizarre? Seemingly, but is it anymore fantastic than any others theories (religious, scientific and philosophical) on man’s existence?
Could this explain why we’ve been such a troubled and confused race, uncertain of our true purpose because we’ve been actually left in the dark regarding our true heritage? Hence we’ve been groping with theories and speculations for centuries, never really seeing the whole picture, just bits and pieces that we’re not really intelligent enough to make total sense out of. Is religion just an ignorant, mythic misinterpretation of scientific truth? Are the storybook devils and supernatural demons distorted visions of our true forefathers; a superior alien race who bred us by playing a prime role in our evolutionary development? Are we nothing more than an experiment; helpless specimens under a vast microscope? Ponder that next time you’re confused, frustrated, disillusioned and frightened.
This excellent film is not short of disturbing, but thought-provoking ideas; the essence of genuine science-fiction. Kneale is able to propose his speculations in a very believable manner that could possibly be feasible. I’m surprised this picture was not condemned by the church for its original interpretations of our old traditions.
Out of all the QUATERMASS films, this is the one that’s most strongly remembered. Its special-effects are minimal but not bad; they exist to propel the story and not dominate the movie. The tension builds through-out, building up to a smashing and unforgettable climax as the uncovered martian spaceship becomes reactivated and humanity receives some terrifying clues as to the source of its actual creation. If this doesn’t shatter one’s complacency, I don’t know what will. Kneale makes suspension-of-disbelief so easy, it’s unsettling.
It would have been interesting to see what Kubrick would have done with this unique script, for it bears thematic similarities to 2001. Baker’s direction is good, but lacks any true striking qualities. He nevertheless gets impressive results with a modest budget. The Hammer staff were quite proficient at that, and struggling independents should take note.
If you’re tired of mindless action, neverending cliches and demo rolls of F/X, then give this your serious attention.