blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955, Val Guest)

Brian Donlevy and Richard Wordsworth star in THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, directed by Val Guest for Exclusive Films.

“No character development, please, we’re British.”

There’s nothing to recommend The Quatermass Xperiment. Walter J. Harvey’s black and white photography is fantastic, but it can’t recommend the film. Xperiment is so stupid, it appears screenwriters Richard H. Landau and director Guest don’t even know the definition of experiment.

The titular Quatermass is Brian Donlevy, who’s one of the dumbest scientists in film history. More than being a dumb scientist, he’s an incompetent one. Donlevy just stands around and spouts exposition; there’s no indication he actually knows anything. His lackeys, David King-Wood and some other guy who doesn’t even get a credit, do all the work.

Donlevy’s awful. But he’s not worse than Margia Dean, whose incompetence infects the first half of the picture.

About the only good regular performance is Jack Warner. He brings some humor to his role of police inspector.

The second half of Xperiment is a monster on the loose picture, which means less sustained Donlevy (and no Dean). It helps somewhat, but Guest’s direction is pretty lame and the script’s still inept so the film isn’t better… just less annoyingly bad.

As the monster in question, Richard Wordsworth does all right. Guest gives him some Karloff (from Frankenstein most obviously) moments and Wordsworth, silently and in what must have been oozy makeup, is good.

James Needs’s editing deserves a special callout. Needs is an atrocious editor; every cut seems to jump. He actually makes Guest worse.

I can’t resist… the Xperiment is an abject failure.



Directed by Val Guest; screenplay by Richard H. Landau and Guest, based on a teleplay by Nigel Kneale; director of photography, Walter J. Harvey; edited by James Needs; music by James Bernard; produced by Anthony Hinds and Robert L. Lippert; released by Exclusive Films.

Starring Brian Donlevy (Prof. Bernard Quatermass), Jack Warner (Insp. Lomax), Margia Dean (Mrs. Judith Carroon), Thora Hird (Rosemary ‘Rosie’ Elizabeth Wrigley), Gordon Jackson (BBC TV producer), David King-Wood (Dr. Gordon Briscoe), Harold Lang (Christie), Lionel Jeffries (Blake), Sam Kydd (Police sergeant questioning Rosie) and Richard Wordsworth (Victor Carroon).


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