Monday, October 31, 2011

My Ultimate Halloween Movie: Quatermass and the Pit


The lights are finally back on at Secret Sun Central after the recent Nor'Easter. I've seen some wild storms in my day, but nothing that left the trail of destruction this storm did. 

It was a quite a crash course in the absolute helplessness of the human animal in the face of Nature's wrath, as trees and branches exploded at such a rate that it sounded like a fireworks display. It could have been- and almost was- much, much worse, since my backyard is all woods. But the hearty oaks withstood the onslaught, bless them. 

Can't imagine there'll be much trick-or-treating tomorrow since it's bitterly cold out there, but tradition is tradition. And tradition dictates that the movie I most associate with Halloween gets an airing on The Secret Sun. So for longtime readers, here's an encore performance. For those of you who've never seen Quatermass and the Pit, you're in for quite a treat.

And everyone should take time to reflect on the precarious nature of human existence, and ponder the utter improbability of animals that do what we do and hold Nature at bay to the extent that we can. Be sure to take a few moments to appreciate the people in your life. 

The first time I remember seeing this subversive blast of 200-proof AstroGnosticism was on Halloween, so the connection between the two has been scorched into my consciousness forever.

Before Chariots of the Gods, before The 12th Planet, before Gods of Eden, before The X-Files, before Stargate, before Battlestar Galactica, before Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, before Transformers 2 there was Quatermass and the Pit. 
Although popularized in the US with the Hammer version (see video above, retitled Five Million Years to Earth), Quatermass originally aired on the BBC in the late 50s as a serial. Though the Hammer version is certainly worthy, the BBC version (which can be seen in its entirety here) is nothing short of a sci-fi revelation. Brilliantly written and produced, the series would become a monster smash in the UK and a profound influence on a generation of sci-fi fans and writers. 
From the Independent:
Kneale's greatest achievement as a melder of science fiction and horror was undoubtedly Quatermass and the Pit, which kept people out of the pubs while it was running. He cheerfully threw aliens from Mars, pagan rituals, the "Horned God" and race memory into the mix and scored a huge popular success.
If you looking for evidence of culture's reverse-evolution with the rise of television, Quatermass is your motherlode. Kneale's script puts nearly everything on TV today to shame. In 1958, mind you, he was warning of the militarization of space, racial tensions, government cover-ups of alien contact and pseudo-skeptical denialism
And if you're a regular reader of this blog, the fourth episode of BBC series especially will send chills down your spine. In excruciating detail, Kneale paints a scenario where aliens from a dying planet (Mars, in this case) come to earth and manipulate the genetic structure of proto-hominids in order to act as receptacles for alien consciousness.
Kneale's attention to detail is impeccable: the aliens keep themselves isolated in a sealed compartment on their ship to avoid contamination from Earth microbes. Their primary concern is the expansion of the proto-human neural capacity, as they were attempting to download their own consciousness into these new hybrid creatures. Did I mention this was written in 1958? 
As in The X-Files, communion with the residual alien consciousness manifests itself in psychic phenomena- telepathy and telekinesis, to be exact. Kneale also presents a scenario in which the racial memory of these beings and our ancestral contact with them is encoded in our DNA. Ghosts, demons and the occult are all the byproducts of periodic subconscious eruptions, particularly when humans are exposed to the radiation from the buried spacecraft in Hobb's Lane, Knightsbridge.
Then there's this episode of The Outer Limits called 'Double Helix'.' 

I'll let this one speak for itself, but I will mention that it stars a very young Ryan Reynolds. In one of those synchronicities that suggest you pay close attention, his father's name in this episode is Martin Nodell, which is also the name of the original creator of the Green Lantern. Bonus factoid: Nodell also co-created the Pillsbury Doughboy.