Monday, October 31, 2011

My Ultimate Halloween Movie

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.

Here's a link for other Quatermass-themed posts on The Secret Sun, which might come in handy if this film gets under your skin, too. And everyone can 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. More:
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.


  1. Small factoid:
    During my brief tenure as a art director for TV commercials in NYC, I got to handle the actual Pillsbury Dough Boy models. This was before computer generated animation (pay attention kids) and the little dough boy was actually a series of multiple models, all slightly different so they could be replaced, one frame at a time (as apposed to clay or wire armiture)

    So there.

  2. There's definitely something deeply resonant and creepy about that movie. Plus, undrground tube stations are just COOL.

    When the 7/7 bombings happened here in London 5 years ago it was all the more affecting to me because I use the tube all the time and because it occupys such a prominent part of my own personal mythology (underworld and all that, you understand).

    And obviously, as a total geek-boy and die-hard x-phile, I'd always suspected some monstrosity or other was hidden away in those tunnels somewhere. And Hobbes End just has a cool ring to it, ya know?


  3. Love the Quatermas poster.

    I watched that a few nights back and I don't really recall that buxom woman bouncing around the screen at any point.

  4. Agreed, it's a film I just about never tire of. The side development with Hobb's End was ultra cool. I'm sort of dreading the Inevitable remake, you know, where they muck it up and cast Keanu Reeves in the lead.

  5. Mike it's funny you said that because I keep thinking about Morph. The little clay man that used to be on an art program for kids with a man called Tony. I think it was called Take Heart.

  6. Even the cross lorraine shows up in the climatic scene where Quartermass rips the boards off of a window to see the crane. I posted a screen shot here,

  7. The triangle on the guys hand is upside down from the ship's making a star of david?

  8. This is the kind of thing I try to teach people. Can we count on a sequel?

  9. C!- Like I said- you're the Synchronistic Zelig.

    Raj- It's interesting- the original QatP took place outside. The remake took place in the tunnel. I'm not sure why but there's something interesting about the change in setting.

    37- Well, men become artists so that they can draw buxom women. I'm pretty sure even gay men do as well. It's something in the genome.

    Matt- Well, considering how Hollywood is totally falling apart to shit you may not have to wait long for it. Maybe they'll cast Zac Efron or Seth Rogen.

    Gad- You mean the window? Not feeling that one, GS. Wondering about that hexagram thing myself.

    1211- The OL ep did have a sequel, whose name escapes me at the moment. But speaking of buxom women, all those Canadian girls are naked in it.

  10. I have a very distinct memory of this movie, aired under the name of "5 Million Years To Earth". I remember a 6th Grade Teacher of mine named Micky McClure, who in the weekend before we departed for Christmas Vacation break required us to watch this movie, which was to be aired on ABC-TV on a Saturday night. This teacher would take us students to a part of the Willamette River where lots of paranormal activity occured on walking science field trips. This was a floodplain construction dump owned by the Oregon Highway Department. Strange, a teacher REQUIRING elementary age students to watch this film! Later I would find out that Mr. McClure was a Lt. Colonial in the Active Marine Corp Reserves assigned to the Office Of Naval Intelligence!

  11. I also retain a very powerful memory of "5 Million Years to Earth" on Television (so I was very grateful Chris when you posted the links to the original BBC show last year; I ate that up!)Because of that movie I spent my childhood inspecting every cutbank, washout, and hole in the ground for traces of ancient starcraft. HA! Even now I don't feel that one second of those searches was wasted time- it makes me smile to think of it.
    Your seeing the Nodell connection is brilliant Chris; Man I love it when the universe yells "Hey look at this" but doesn't tell us why . . . .
    And the sequel to this episode appeared the following season and was called "The Origin of Species".
    In a personal sync for me, I know this episode because my friend Claire performed in it.

  12. Agreed on that front. Interesting change there.

    Raj (as Sarah)

  13. To celebrate All Hallow's Eve I watched both versions of 'Quatermass and the Pit.'

    It was glorious!

  14. I got a 'deal' on firewood one time. It was from a senior citizen center that had to remove a tree that was getting too old. So they cut it down and sectioned it, and sold it to me, leaving me to do only the splitting. Seemed like a bargain. So I thought, "Oak, eh?" I'm not a 'woodsman', and didn't know what I was getting into, but I had bought a load of Maple the previous year, which is a hardwood, and it had split up quite easily. So I thought, "I'll just be needing a good wood maul", which I then proceeded to procure.

    So armed with my new 8 lb. wood maul, I set up my first oak round to split. I squared up to the oak, and gave that maul a good hard roundhouse swing, figuring I'd show that oak round who was boss. The maul came down striking the oak right where I wanted. I thought at the least, it would sink in. Nope. The 8lb. wood maul, with a new edge, driven by a good hard swing simply bounced off the oak, leaving barely a dent. Leaving me blinking in wonderment at how any wood could be so strong. I thought, "man, this ain't natural." But I learned that year that one does not split oak wood without a good deal of determination and persistence. With the use of splitting wedges, and with hours and hours of workout, I finally made it through that load of oak that year. But never, not ever again.

    While working my way through the oak that year, I often studied the oak pieces after finally splitting one. Oak is just not your typical wood. I'm not at all surprised your oaks held up, while lesser trees were exploding all around. 'Hardy' ain't hardly the word.

  15. Nice article as usual, Chris. By the way: where is Steve Willner, I love his videos, I would support him 100 percent if he returns? ONLY him I support and appreciate. Once again, thanks for your insightful articles, nicely done as always.

  16. Chris,

    I have had the series, his stone tape show and his other quatermass and the experiment on my macs for years now. When ever I need a quick fix of well written and performed tv, I watch these. The stone tape show is another head of its time thing.

    Could you just imagine going down to the bbc studios and watching this unfold just years after the end of ww 2?

    Along with this I keep watch the movie "Them" over and over again.

    Not to spoil any of this, watch the original. Version of " The Haunting" from the early 60s. Along with this I usually watch the original " Journey to the Center of the Earth".

    And just a lighter vampire film. Polanski's " The Fearless Vampire Killers"...

    Love reading your blog ,Chris, I tend to send folks over here just to get there head shaking a bit.

    Be well


  17. Cartography: I, too, remember seeing it as an ABC "Movie of the Week", as 5 Million Years to Earth. I must have been about the same age, too, give or take. It stuck in my memory, and around the turn of the century I found a VHS of it on eBay, I think. It lost nothing of its resonance, seeing it again after nearly twenty-five years.

    I haven't had a chance to watch the BBC version, but I will soon. It should be fascinating. Meanwhile, this post brings back memories!

  18. One thing about Quatermass today -- you sorta have to wonder if we'd be any worse off if an alien intelligence downloaded itself into our minds.

    At least in the original film, they made the point that Martians, true to the Greek God the planet was named after, were a vicious warrior race of destroyers.

    That, I think, was used by Emmerich when he made Independence Day - treating the aliens as a storm of intergalactic locusts.

    John H