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X the Unknown

X the Unknown DVD cover
Directed by Leslie Norman
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Written by Jimmy Sangster
Starring Dean Jagger
Music by James Bernard
Release date(s) November 5, 1956 (UK release)
Running time 81 minutes
Language English

X the Unknown is a British science-fiction / horror film made by the famous Hammer Films company and released in 1956.



The film was originally intended by Hammer to be a sequel to the previous year's successful The Quatermass Xperiment, but writer Nigel Kneale refused permission for the character of Bernard Quatermass to be used[1] .

The film starred Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman and Leo McKern. It was written by Jimmy Sangster, and was originally to have been directed by Joseph Losey (working under the name Joseph Walton). Losey was an American director who had moved to the UK after being placed on the Hollywood blacklist. Although Losey did begin shooting the film and some of his footage is included in the final cut, when star Dean Jagger arrived on set he refused to work with a suspected Communist sympathiser. Losey was replaced by Leslie Norman, officially for health reasons.


The film takes place in the Lochmouth area of Scotland, a town near Glasgow. A group of soldiers are taking turns using a Geiger counter to find a small and harmless hidden source of radioactivity in a wide pit area. Private Lansing finds another mysterious source of radiation where ground water starts to boil. As the other soldiers begin to run, there is an explosion. Shortly afterwards, Lansing who was closest to the explosion dies of radiation burns while another soldier (Richfield), who was running away, has bad radiation burns to his back. At the site of the explosion, here is a deep Y-shaped crack in the ground with seemingly no bottom. Dr. Royston from a nearby Atomic Energy establishment at Lochmouth is called in to investigate, along with Inspector McGill who runs security at the UK Atomic Energy Commission.

That night, a local boy named Willy, on a dare from his friend, goes to a tower on the marshes. He sees a horrific off-camera sight. He refused not tell friend Ian what has happened but continues running. Ian follows. Royston investigates the tower and finds an old man inside who had a canister of a formerly radioactive material. The boy dies next day from radiation burns and shortly afterwards, a young doctor named Hallett is having an intimate encounter with a nurse in a radiation lab at the hospital when something burns him to a charred corpse and leaves the nurse out of her mind and screaming.

Royston theorises that a form of life from the early days of a hot Earth had been trapped by the crust of the Earth as it cooled, and that every 50 years there is a planetary pull that these energy things below ground feel, which causes them to try to reach the surface in order to find food from radioactive sources.

Two soldiers have been left to guard the pit that night and one goes to investigate a mysterious glow. "Spider" hears his screams and goes to investigate. He shoots at something but is killed. The next day, Peter has volunteered to be lowered into the crack and on his way down sees a skull. After a time, he sees the monster, still off camera, and there is a race to get him back to the surface again.

The army uses flame throwers and explosions in an attempt to kill whatever is down there, then it seals the crack with concrete. But as Royston later points out, the monster broke through miles of Earth to get to the surface, so a few feet of concrete would be unable to stop it. Meanwhile he continues with his pet experiment, discovering a way to neutralize radiation using radio waves tuned to a certain frequency. The monster comes out again that night; it is shown to be an amorphous mass (similar to The Blob or Caltiki). Some distance away, a car with 4 people in is badly burned and all 4 people are melted.

The thing travels to Lochmouth Atomic Energy establishment to get the cobalt used there and reminiscent of the film Island of Terror, the people of the village of Lochmouth hide in a chapel as the monster is due to approach close to them. It raids the nuclear establishment before they can remove the radioactive cobalt to a safe distance and grows even larger and returns through the village of Lochmouth on its way back to the crack in the ground where it hides each day, narrowly missing the chapel and a little girl who has gone out to play.

Charting possibilities, they have found another source of radioactivity which the monster will go after, which will lead it straight through the centre of Inverness, a nearby town. Royston has some success with his anti-radiation device which neutralises a small container containing a radioactive source before causing it to explode, so with no other choice, they set up two large "scanners" on lorries, and Peter uses a canister of cobalt to lure the monster from where it is hidden. The idea works, with Peter barely escaping it as his jeep is stuck in soft earth, and the monster is neutralized and exploded.



See also


  1. ^ Pixley, Andrew (2005). The Quatermass Collection — Viewing Notes. London: BBC Worldwide. pp. 18. BBCDVD1478. 

External links

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