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The Quatermass Xperiment aka "The Creeping Unknown" [Blu-ray]
(Val Guest, 1955)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Hammer Film Productions
Video:Shock (Australia) / Kino Lorber
Region: 'B' (Shock)'A' (Kino Lorber) (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:18:38.880 (4% PAL Speedup) / 1:22:05.003
Disc Size: 46,814,706,669 bytes / 23,297,474,400 bytes
Feature Size: 19,532,746,752 bytes / 18,344,454,144 bytes
Video Bitrate: 29.88 Mbps / 24.84 Mbps
Chapters: 8 / 9
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: February 10th, 2013/ December 2nd, 2014
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1/ 1.66:1
Resolution:1080i / 25 fps / 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1555 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1555
kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
•X The Unknown (1956) (12,984,053,760 bytes / 1080i - 1:16:25.800)
•Quatermass 2 (1957) (13,802,330,112 bytes / 1080i - 1:21:08.040)
DVD of The Quatermass Xperiment included
Commentary by director Val Guest and Marcus Hearn
The Quatermass Xperiment
X The Unknown (only on the Shock edition)
Quatermass 2 (only on the Shock edition)
Description: The Quatermass Xperiment (US title: The Creeping Unknown) is a 1955 British Hammer science fiction horror film on Blu-ray, based on the 1953 BBC Television serial The Quatermass Experiment written by Nigel Kneale. It is regarded as the first of the "Hammer Horrors". Britain's first rocket has been successfully launched and returns to Earth but communication has been severed. Only one of the three spacemen (Wordsworth) remains on board whose physical and mental health has been severely damaged. He is put under strict observation but his wife smuggles him out of the hospital only to unleash the biggest threat ever to civilisation. For the survivor is being consumed by an alien force, who gains strength from human flesh to multiple and grow, threatening to engulf and kill all living organisms. Professor Quatermass (Donlevy) must find a way to overcome the thing before it becomes impossible. Features the two extraordinary additions of 'Quatermass II' and 'X The Unknown'! Blu-ray + DVD formats, 2 disc set. Special Features Quatermass 2 X The Unknown (Sequel)
Val Guest (THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE) directed this chilling film about a spacecraft returning to earth with a frightening surprise on board. Two of the ship's three astronauts have mysteriously vanished, while the third is sick with an unidentifiable illness. While doctors try to help the third man recover, an investigation takes place to figure out just what happened to his comrades. As it turns out, the survivor's body has been taken over by an alien fungus that needs blood to survive. After the astronaut escapes from the hospital, he transforms into a monster, attacking everyone who gets in its way. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard detective Lomax (Jack Warner, THE BLUE LAMP) and Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy, THE GLASS KEY), a determined scientist, attempt to track down the creature before it finds new victims. Also known as THE CREEPING UNKNOWN. Special Features: On-camera interview with legendary director John Carpenter | The Quatermass Xperiment: From Reality to Fiction Featurette | The Quatermass Xperiment: Comparing the Versions Film Critic Glenn Erickson comparing the 2 versions | On-camera Val Guest interview by Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn | Audio Commentary by director Val Guest and Marcus Hearn | "Trailers From Hell" with Ernest Dickerson | Alternate Main Title | Original Theatrical Trailer.
It was the enormous success of this Hammer version of Nigel Kneale's TV series which began the whole horror boom in Britain. As a result of its popularity, the company decided to tackle the Frankenstein monster, and subsequently discovered that the public's appetite for myth and fantasy was practically insatiable. The theme of the film (man returns from space as a kind of monster) is by now fairly stereotyped, but it's amazing how impressive Richard Wordsworth's performance remains. Phil Leakey's make-up manages to convey the idea of a whole body in the process of decomposition; and staggering over bombsites, his deformed arm wrapped pathetically in an old overcoat, Wordsworth's Victor remains one of the most sympathetic monsters in movie history. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the film, in retrospect, is the way in which its opening sequence mirrors so precisely the intrusion of Hammer into the cosy middle class domesticity of British cinema in the late '50s. Two insipid lovers are sent screaming from their haystack bower as a huge tubular rocket ship (looking less like a spacecraft than an enormous phallus) plunges into the ground where they have been lying...Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE
X The Unknown: 1956 - the year of the Suez crisis, a sharp increase in the crime rate, and uneasy preparation for WWIII - spawned a series of gloomy thrillers (both in Britain and in America) in which the weight of the military is mobilised against various alien organisms from the bowels of the earth or outer space. This Hammer entry is photographed in shadowy monochrome by Gerald Gibbs, with a sense of muted hysteria and despair underlying the stalwart attempts to defeat a radioactive thing which erupts in the Scottish highlands. Trash to people who don't like sci-fi or horror movies, but in a lot of ways it communicates the atmosphere of Britain in the late '50s more effectively than the most earnest social document. As one example, note the film's obsession with radioactivity (the monster feeds on it), which even becomes the background to an assignation between a doctor and a nurse in a nearby hospital. (The film was started by Joseph Losey, who left the production after a few days, due to illness - officially at least).Excerpt from Timeout located HERE
Quatermass 2: An eerie political fable on the lines of Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and despite some clumsy moments that have not worn well, it remains one of the more bizarre and impressive of the early British horror pictures. Photographed by Gerald Gibbs in a sombre monochrome that nicely evokes an aura of muted hysteria and despair, it describes Quatermass' discovery that virtually the whole of Britain has been taken over by things from another world, and that the government has already begun laying waste the countryside. Provided you steel yourself against the familiar faces (like Bryan Forbes and Sidney James), the chill is still there.Excerpt from Timeout located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Firstly, the disc should be advertised as a triple feature (The Quatermass Xperiment, X the Unknown, and Quatermass 2) because they are all transferred in HD and at 1080i with LPCM audio. The 50i Blu-ray seems fine to me - dual-layered supporting the three features with modest bitrates. There is a bit of damage on The Quatermass Xperiment in the form of some speckles and a few lengthy vertical scratches but I'd say they are quite minimal. Contrast is reasonable an superior to SD and you can see some healthy grain. X The Unknown probably looks the best but I had no strong issues with any of the visuals. The 1080i supports the film adequately showing a shade of depth here and there. They are all in the 1.33:1 frame although Xperiment and Unknown were filmed widescreen. There are no sings of manipulation but suggest any weaknesses are more the sources used. This Blu-ray gave me a pleasurable presentation - one I will be revisiting many times.
Kino have gone with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio - essentially we lose information from the top and bottom of the frame. They also update with a progressive image in theatrical running time. Otherwise the image quality is a notch superior (especially in-motion) with a similar robustness, grain and a few visible scratches. The progressive transfer benefits the contrast layering to some degree.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
X The Unknown (only on Shock)
Quatermass 2 (only on Shock)
Shock utilize a linear PCM mono track at 1536 kbps for all 3 films. It is clear, flat but has a bit of depth. Hammer regular, India-born, James Bernard (Plague of the Zombies, Dracula Prince of Darkness, These Are the Damned, Across the Bridge, The Curse of Frankenstein) does the score which seethes with suspense occasionally violins exploding with intensity . There are no optional subtitles on any of the three films and my Oppo has identified the Shock disc as being a region 'B'-locked.
Audio hasa DTS-HD Master transfer without the higher pitch of the PAL sped-up Shock release. It sounds acceptable supporting Bernard's score and it, also, offers no subtitles. The Kino Blu-ray is region 'A'-locked.
Nothing (aside from the two additional films) and the package also contains a PAL DVD of the feature "The Quatermass Experiment".
Kino advance handily here (although I am a fan of the addition of the two other films despite their being interlaced.) What we get are an enjoyable audio commentary by director Val Guest and Marcus Hearn. Also interesting are a 10-minute on-camera interview with legendary director John Carpenter talking about Quatermass, an 11-minute featurette The Quatermass Xperiment: From Reality to Fiction and Glenn Erickson comparing the 2 different version of The Quatermass Xperiment altered scenes and the title change. Great work Glenn! There is also an 8-minute Val Guest interview by Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn, 2.5 minutes of Ernest Dickerson's "Trailers From Hell", the Alternate Main Title' and an original theatrical trailer.
Shock - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Great release by Kino Lorber with the super supplements (including the commentary) and with a progressive transfer it is the easy choice here. Absolutely recommended!
May 8th, 2014
December 4th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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