The three Quatermass movies from Hammer, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), Quatermass 2 (1957) and Quatermass and the Pit (1967), are all based on BBC TV-serials about Professor Quatermass, a physicist and pioneer of the British space program. Seeing all three movies one after another, one can get a very confused message out of them.
On the one hand, all of them are about malign influence from outer space: an energy life form merges with a cosmonaut in the first one and threatens all life on Earth (this is the most boring of the three, with the infected cosmonaut walking around aimlessly until he transforms for the big boss fight). The second movie is about alien parasites that take over a human city and build a command center from where to take over the rest of the world (the best of the three, parasites taking over human as pawns to stage an all-out invasion is always a winner) and the third is about an artifact from a long-dead Mars civilization that had its own racial purges and tries to reenact its deadly philosophy in the heart of London.
Yet, while the message on the surface seems clear, outer space equals evil (there are places where men is not meant to go), there’s also Quatermass. Perfectly played in the first two movies by Brian Donlevy, he was a driven man, believing in man’s future in outer space and willing to sacrifice anyone to get that future. He was unlikable and cold, yet on the other hand without him humanity probably would have been killed all along. And the tools of our salvation in all movies where his analytical, cold mind weighting the possibilities of what happened and thinking up ways how to solve any threats.
In the second movie his rocket ship is even essential to saving the human race. Without someone like Quatermass driving us to our limits and beyond them, thinking in ways nobody did before, we might not have survived the threats from outer space at all. So, there’s also a clear theme of science as our savior. This gives a confused, perplexing message about the dangers and possibilities of human exploring outer space. But exactly that ambiguity, a scientist who is gung-ho for space exploration has to save the world again and again from threats from outer space, is what makes these three movies so fascinating.
Salvation and destruction come from the same source. While outer space seems like a minefield of dangers and threats, not engaging the bigger universe outside our little world is even more dangerous, as the malign influences aren’t just content to wait for our arrival. Without someone like Quatermass asking the big question and willing to make the hard decision, we wouldn’t survive.