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QUATERMASS AND THE PIT

In my humble opinion QUATERMASS AND THE PIT ($30) stands as one of the very best British science fiction films ever produced. This third installment in Hammer’s Quatermass series was released in the United States under the title as FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH. Of course, both the film’s writer Nigel Kneale and director Roy Ward Baker hated the American title. Thankfully, Anchor Bay Entertainment has released the film on DVD under its original British title, just as Elite Entertainment did with their Laserdisc edition.

The plot concerns the excavation of an extension to the London subway system. During the digging, some unusual bones are found, prompting an archeological inspection of the site. Further digging uncovers a Martian spacecraft that has been buried for millions of years. QUATERMASS AND THE PIT stars Andrew Keir Professor Quatermass, the noted scientist who uncovers the truth about the origins and meaning of the alien spaceship. James Donald is Dr. Roney the anthropologist who assists Quatermass uncover how the Martians had tampered with human evolution. Barbara Shelley plays Barbara Judd; the woman provides the crucial link between humanity and the Martians who may have been our ancestors. Finally there is Julian Glover as Colonel Breen, the pigheaded military man who refuses to believe the evidence staring him directly in the face.

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s DVD edition of QUATERMASS AND THE PIT has been taken from the same transfer as the Elite Entertainment Laserdisc. The wide screen transfer offers the film at approximately 1.66:1, however the presentation lacks the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. QUATERMASS AND THE PIT looks simply fantastic on DVD, the image is razor sharp and finely detailed. Flesh tones are natural while the rest of the colors reproduce superior fidelity and solid saturation. Chroma noise was virtually absent from this DVD, as were digital compression artifacts.

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT is offered on DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix that was created for the Elite Laserdisc. The Dolby Digital mix is incredible considering the age of the film. Directional effects envelop the viewer during key moments of the film, while bass reproduction is surprisingly strong and dialogue reproduction remains natural sounding. A matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been encoded into the DVD.

The interactive menus are very simple, but allow the required navigation features. Through the menus one can access an audio commentary featuring the film’s director Roy Ward Baker and writer Nigel Kneale. The commentary is informative, however it is somewhat reserved for American tastes. Still, Hammer fans will want to hear the film’s creators talk about QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. Other supplements are contained on the second side of the DVD and include a World of Hammer entitled SCI-FI that looks at Hammer science fiction films, plus U.S. and U.K. theatrical trailers and television spots. My only complaint about the DVD is the lack of the time code feature.

As I stated above, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT is one of the best British science fiction films of all time. It is certainly amongst Hammer’s finest achievements. Recommended to Hammer film fans and science fiction films in general.

 
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT 



 

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DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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