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The Quatermass Xperiment (Special Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Multiple investigations ensue when Professor Bernard Quatermass' manned spaceship returns to earth with two of its three crew members missing and the surviving crew member in a catatonic state.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The 1955 sci-fi horror The Quatermass Xperiment (known in a slightly edited form as The Creeping Unknown in the United States, is based on a 1953 six-episode TV series by the BBC. The classic British studio Hammer, now known mostly for their gothic horror films, acquired the rights and put Val Guest on to direct it.

Shot in an almost film noir style for many of the scenes, draped in shadows and off-kilter camera angles, the film follows the fallout when a manned spaceship by the British-American Rocket Group headed by Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy), returns to earth with all but one of its three-man crew likely dead. The oddness begins to overtake the situation as they discover two crewmen missing, but their spacesuits still gripping each other as if they died inside the suits and vanished. The sole survivor, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), is in a catatonic state and cannot give any testimony to what occurred. Carroon’s wife, who blames Quatermass for her husband’s condition, decides to investigate on her own and ‘rescue’ her husband from the hospital where they have him under strict watch. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner), launches an investigation, believing a murder has taken place. But there is something strange going on, as shown by some film footage of the ship showing the crew being attacked by a strange energy.

The film is hyper-paranoid, like many of the sci-fi films from the era that asserted themselves as allegories commenting on the Cold War and the Red Scare. The intimation that Carroon and crew were attacked by a malevolent entity and changed or disappeared is in many ways like the underlying plot of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which would be released the following year. The fear and paranoia over the unknown or a dark enemy is crucial to these films. The story is compelling for The Quatermass Xperiment and the themes and tropes are blending together in a believable, compelling way.

  • Richard Wordsworth in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
  • Brian Donlevy, Maurice Kaufmann, and Jack Warner in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
  • 
Brian Donlevy, David King-Wood, and Jack Warner in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
  • Brian Donlevy, David King-Wood, and Richard Wordsworth in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
  • Margia Dean in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
  • The Quatermass Xperiment (Special Edition)
  • The Quatermass Xperiment (Special Edition)
  • The Quatermass Xperiment (Special Edition)

The Video

The Quatermass Xperiment arrives on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics in an AVC 1080p encodement. There is no indication from KLSC that this is a new restoration and it does not look to be one. It is likely from the 2011 20th Century Fox master. I do not have the original DVD or another Blu-ray release to compare. The grain structure is not as refined as it may be in a more recent restoration depending on the source, but it looks natural and does provide a good amount of detail. This source does have some scratches and tramlines still apparent in the transfer, but they are very tolerable. The stark black and white imagery has excellent contrast. Check out the scene in Chapter 6 at mark 00:39:24 where Margia Dean is exiting the hospital at night in the rain to approach the car. There is a deep depth to the blacks yet detail can still be spotted in the shadows on the wall to the right. The black car looks inky and shiny while the detail still comes through in the droplets of rain on the car and falling from the sky.

The Audio

The original monaural audio mix is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The sound is clear enough and has no serious issues with hiss or pops.

The Supplements

There is only one new feature included on this disc and fortunately it is the audio commentary with the director moderated by the Hammer historian Marcus Hearn. Definitely watch with this commentary engaged for a great listen. There is a second audio commentary and more, including a John Carpenter interview speaking on the film.

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Val Guest, Moderated by Hammer Historian Marcus Hearn (NEW)
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian/Screenwriter Gary Gerani
  • Carpenter on Quatermass: On-Camera Interview with Legendary Filmmaker John Carpenter (1080p; 00:09:18)
  • The Quatermass Xperiment: From Reality to Science Fiction (SD; 00:11:31)
  • The Quartermass Xperiment: Comparing the Versions (SD; 00:06:57)
  • Interview with Val Guest by Marcus Hearn (SD; 00:08:12)
  • Trailers from Hell with Ernest Dickerson (1080p; 00:02:26)
  • Alternate Main Title (1080p; 00:01:12)
  • The Quatermass Xperiment (The Creeping Unknown) – Trailer (1080p; 00:02:14)

The Final Assessment

A distant ancestor of productions like The X-Files, this moody mixture of government distrust, xenophobia, and science fiction still holds up today and looks satisfying on this Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.


The Quatermass Xperiment (Special Edition) is out on Blu-ray December 12, 2023 from KL Studio Classics


  • Rating Certificate: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Hammer Films | MGM | KL Studio Classics
  • Director: Val Guest
  • Written By: Richard H. Landau | Val Guest | Nigel Kneale
  • Run Time: 82 Mins.
  • Street Date: 12 December 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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Multiple investigations ensue when Professor Bernard Quatermass' manned spaceship returns to earth with two of its three crew members missing and the surviving crew member in a catatonic state. The Quatermass Xperiment (Special Edition) (Blu-ray Review)