Hammer Studios' attempt to replicate the success of the superior Quatermass films gives us a kinder, gentler hero, the polite and soft-spoken Dr. Royston (played with almost paternal kindness by American Dean Jagger). When... more » the populace of the area surrounding a bottomless fissure in an abandoned quarry is devastated by a rash of lethal radiation burns, Royston tries to convince authorities of the possibility of a life from deep within Earth that has surfaced to feed to a rather skeptical reception. Sure enough, the sludge from 20,000 fathoms is spotted pouring down the road like a self-contained lava flow, headed for the military's own nuclear reactor. Director Leslie Norman can't quite match that taut, wound up quality of his inspirations, The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2, but he creates an inky-black atmosphere with moody night shooting and heaps on the horror with blistery, blotchy burns that culminate in the gooey remains of a man whose flesh is found melting off his skeleton--one of the most startling moments of any Hammer picture. A young Leo McKern can be spotted as a reporter and Anthony Newley is a whining soldier. --Sean Axmaker« less
Sovereign | Commack, NY United States | 12/14/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It has been over 30 years that I first saw X-The Unknown. When it became available on DVD I jumped at the chance to buy it.The story while very 50ish (atomic terrors reaching out for us) holds up very well today.The acting is first rate, and even through the scientific explanations you feel that the story line is quite plausible. I am especially impressed with the clarity of the picture. I expected a very grainy film but was surprised to see a clear sharp picture. Add to this an exciting musical score and the atmosphere is set.X THE UNKNOWN is a fine example of a talented cast, crisp direction, and errie musical score. I recommend this highly."
"How do you kill mud?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"X - The Unknown (1957) is a superior science fiction/horror film from Hammer Studios. The film stars Dean Jagger, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the film 12 O'Clock High, as Dr. Adam Royston, Leo Mckern as Inspector McGill, and Edward Chapman as John Elliot, director of the atomic plant where Royston works.
The movie takes place in Scotland, and starts off showing a group of army men in training on locating radioactive material using a Geiger counter. Soon a fissure cracks open in the Earth, and a couple of the men suffer radiation burns. Royston is called in to try and determine the source of the radiation, but he has no answers. Soon, others begin to suffer from such burns, and radioactive materials go missing from various locations like the local hospital and Royston's secluded lab. Royston develops a theory, one too fantastic to be believed, but one that's soon proved correct to everyone's horror. Seems a creature of energy has risen from deep within the Earth, one that can kill instantly, and needs radioactive materials to feed on to survive. Essentially, it's a giant ball of mud, one that continues to grow the more it feeds. How do you kill a ball of mud? Royston has an idea, but the cure may prove to be worse than the disease as destroying the creature may cause an explosion of atomic proportions.
Dean Jagger is the star, no doubt about that, as he shows it throughout. The rest of the actors, while very good, are pretty much along for the ride. One of the best elements about this film is the intelligent story line. The creature isn't even show until about an hour into the proceedings, but the viewer's attention is kept tightly focused as the suspense builds and the story unfolds. And I have to say, the effects were quite good and even a bit more graphic than I would have expected, especially the scenes where some poor unfortunate comes into contact with the creature. Think of what happened to Toht, the character played by Ron Lacey, at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and you'll understand what I mean.
The picture provided on this disc looks very good, with minimal signs of deterioration in a few scenes. Special features include an original trailer for the film, and a World of Hammer episode entitled Sci-Fi. Also included in the case is a reproduction of a promotional poster for the film. All in all, an excellent example of early British sci-fi that's intelligent, suspenseful, and extremely well made.
Vivid Sci Fi Thriller That Still Packs A Punch
Simon Davis | 01/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In this present day we as movie audiences have become largely used to huge big budget sci fi extravaganza's filled with mind blowing special effects and not much character development aimed almost solely at the youth market. In the light of this type of entertainment you would think that a viewing of an effort such as Hammer Studios "X - The Unknown", from the mid fifties relying as it does on minimal special effects and a low budget to tell its story would be somewhat of a let down. However after recently viewing this effort again after many years that belief could not be more wrong if it tried. Here we have one of the earliest efforts from Britian's famed Hammer Studios who became more famous for later reviving the Dracula and Frankenstein characters but who in actual fact did superb earlier work with this effort and the famed Quatermass films. "X- The Unknown", is a classic example of where an original and intriguing story combined with realistic characters are put ahead of letting special effects lead the story. What we have here then is an arresting little thriller that slowly builds its tension and provides most of its thrills from its eerie atmosphere and from what is implied or left off screen. It proves what the earlier filmmakers at studios like Hammer were capable of achieving often on shoe string budgets and tight production schedules.
The story of "X - The Unknown", begins innocently enough with a routine army exercise in a marshy field where the soldiers are locating planted radioactive heads with geigar counters. However something strange begins to happen and very quickly a fissure opens up that unleashes horrific radio active waves that cause severe burning when in contact with humans. Dr. Royston (Dean Jagger), a scientist from the local research station is brought in to investigate however he is baffled by what has caused this disturbance. When other incidents are reported of people experiencing severe radiaction burns Dr. Royston, despite the opposition of his supervisor John Elliot (Edward Chapman),begins to develop a theory that what is causing these attacks is an ancient entity from the centre of the earth that has been released by the opening in the fissure and is now on the move trying to find food from other radioactive sources. When the hospital is raided by the force and an orderly is killed by being literally melted away Dr. Royston backed up by Inspector McGill (Leo McKern) who believes totally what the doctor is trying to do, decides that action must be taken to destroy this prehistoric mass before it grows any bigger from feeding on any available radioactive substances. As time runs short and panic among the local population rises alarmingly Dr. Royston continues his experiments to try and find a way to destroy the mass and eventually discovers a means of possibly doing it with the use of high frequency waves. Duplicating the experiment in a larger form on the edge of the fissure with the help of assistant Peter Elliot (William Lucas),he manages to lures the mass out of the fissure with some radioactive material upon which he manages to disintergrate the mass.
The real strength in "X - The Unknown", lies in the total conviction that the main characters bring to their playing when faced with a potentially exciting story that because of the budget had to rely on minimal special effects to get the terror across to the audience. Full marks must go to lead cast members; veteran Hollywood actor Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, William Lucas and especially a young Leo McKern for playing their parts seriously and never for one moment losing their conviction in the parts they are playing. Dean Jagger at first glance may have seemed an odd choice to take on the lead role in this all British Hammer thriller however he is the calm rational centre of the story and teams especially well with Leo McKern as his loyal support in his efforts to destroy the radioactive mass threatening the country. Of interest in the cast also are later Hammer regular Michael Ripper in the role of Sgt. Grimsdyke and a very young Anthony Newley as one of the two young soldiers placed on guard duty at the fissure who become the victims of the radioactive mass. "X- The Unknown", despite its small budget does boast some splendid photography and the plentiful nighttime shooting really enhances the eerie quality of much of the story. With much of the story taking place in mist shrouded marsh lands at night the natural landscape plays an important role in bringing this story to life and the sound effects employed to accompany the radioactive mud on its rampages through the countryside also were first rate. Despite the small budget the special effects however sparse in "X - The Unknown", are first rate for the time. The scenes of civilians seemingly melting before the viewers eyes when in contact with the radioactive mass are unforgettable and really were the forerunners to Hammer's justly famous decomposition scene at the end of their classic "Horror of Dracula", a couple of years later. The horrid mass itself when it finally does show itself is similiar in appearance to that from the legendary "The Blob", and despite the technical advancements since this time in computer imagery it still is very effective.
Films like "X _The Unknown", certainly come from an earlier and in many ways simpler era of movie making however I feel efforts such as this are just as effective as entertainment as the splashy blockbusters we see nowadays in the cinemas. The real power in an effective sci fi or horror effort should always be in what is implied or only shown sparingly. Whether that was the original intention or not of the filmmakers in "X - The Unknown", is impossible to say but what we are left with is a highly effective and quite chilling little horror tale that keeps the interest up to the final frame. Radioactive mud terrorising the countryside at first thought might not seem too frightening but it is an original idea where the mass almost has a brain of it's own and is a great twist that helps build the suspense. To see one of Hammer Studios earliest efforts in the field of horror where later they became one of the leaders make sure you catch "X -The Unknown", soon. "
Bruce Rux | Aurora, CO | 05/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Something nasty comes out of a recent rent in the earth's crust, devastating isolated parts of England. It appears to be at least semi-intelligent. It moves around a bit, getting here and there and leaving some very unpleasant human wreckage in its wake. Whatever the thing is, it burns - horribly. It's intensely radioactive, literally able to melt a man down to the bone in seconds upon close contact.American scientist Professor Royston (Dean Jagger) has a theory about it that no one is willing to endorse. He thinks the thing is an animate pile of radioactive sludge from deep toward the centre of the Earth, come up to feed on more energy - and grow.The only flaw with this otherwise stellar horror film is the premise of intelligent mud as a menacing monster, which is frankly pretty ridiculous. But it's to the movie's credit that you cheerfully suspend your disbelief, to wallow in the sheer nasty thrill of it all. This is one of Hammer Studio's best low-budget black-and-white shockers, which works more due to the remarkable conviction of its cast - including small roles played by Anthony Newley and Leo McKern - than anything else.Anything else but the effects, that is, which are...gruesome. Really, really gruesome.Not as slick, smooth, or intelligently scripted as Nigel Kneale's Quatermass series, which it seeks to imitate (and for the most part does, quite well), but damned close. Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster is another old hand in the business, and it shows."
One of the better classic horror movies I've seen.
email@example.com | Fairborn OH | 09/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this movie in Charleston SC about 1957. I was about 9 years old. It really scared me to think that mud could move the way it did, eating everything in it's path, and nothing could stop it. The radioactive sound of the monster was enough to give shivers down my spine. This motion picture, in my opinion, is Dean Jagger's best!!"