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X THE UNKNOWN ($30) is another superior Hammer science fiction outing that has found its way to DVD, thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment (the only company that seems to recognize the importance of the Hammer film library). Radioactive monsters were a theme that ran through many 1950ís science fiction movies, however X THE UNKNOWN takes that idea and runs with it in somewhat different direction. Instead of radiation creating the filmís monsters, X THE UNKNOWN tells the story of a creature whose natural habitat is deep below the Earthís crust. Somehow, said underground creature, bursts the surface, only to discover that the radioactive energy that it lives upon is in short supply. In order to live, the creature needs to ingest radioactive material, so it ventures out of the chasm that brought it to the surface and begins to forage.

Unfortunately, the creature is as radioactive as the energy that sustains it, which makes it deadly to any living thing that comes in contact with it. When the army tries to eliminate the creature, they find themselves ill prepared and conventional weapons completely ineffective. X THE UNKNOWN stars Dean Jagger as Dr. Adam Royston, a scientist who specializes in atomic energy. Royston is the first to recognize what the true nature of the creature, and may be the only man able to destroy it before it grows to an unstoppable size. Leo McKern is in top form as Inspector McGill, the government investigator who allies himself with Royston. The cast of X THE UNKNOWN also includes Edward Chapman, Anthony Newley, Jameson Clark, William Lucas, Marianne Brauns, Ian MacNaughton, Peter Hammond and Michael Ripper.

Anchor Bay Entertainment delivers the goods once again, by providing a superb DVD presentation for X THE UNKNOWN. X THE UNKNOWN is framed in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio and the black and white film element used for the transfer is in practically pristine shape. There is only a smattering of blemishes on the print, so it is easy to forget that this movie is nearly forty-five years old. The image on the DVD is crisp, clean and well defined. Blacks are faithfully rendered, as are the whites. Contrast is excellent and the picture displays subtle variety within the shades of gray, which maintains a very high level of detail in the image. Digital compression artifacts are virtually absent from this smartly authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has all of the frequency limitations that one normally associates with a film of this vintage. Without a bottom end, the sound is occasionally a tiny bit harsh. However, there are no sonic distortions, nor is there any annoying hiss on the track. Additionally, dialogue retains full intelligibility throughout the presentation.

The interactive menus have a smattering of animation and sound. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection feature as well as a couple of extras. Included on the DVD is a theatrical trailer, plus a World Of Hammer episode entitled SCI-FI.

X THE UNKNOWN is definitely a treat for Hammer fans. The movie is solid 50ís sci-fi entertainment and Anchor Bayís presentation is absolutely first rate. Recommended to Hammer fans and science fiction fans in general.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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