X the Unknown (1956)

Ah, the joys of Hammer films!

Even before their Quatermass Xperiment hit the theaters, Hammer decided they wanted to make a sequel and hired Jimmy Sangster to write the first of his many scripts.  Unfortunately, Quatermass’ creator, Nigel Kneale wasn’t about to give them the rights to his character (and would in fact bring his second adventure to the small screen as Hammer’s “Xperiment” reached the theaters).

Rather than waste a good script, they changed a few names and hired Dean Jagger as the inevitable American actor.  He brings a very welcome soberness and rationality to the part.  And a warm, but not particularly stylish knit cap.  It’s hard to imagine anyone choosing a balding, middle-aged man as the star of a major picture these days (well, Bruce Willis, but he hardly counts), but it is one of the details that emphasizes the film’s quiet realism.

They wisely keep their monster out of sight for most of the film, although a scene in which it melts the face off the scientist who gets too close to it is as gory a shock as Hammer would put in one of their films for years.

As usual, it is a superbly professional job, with a surprisingly young, but still bulldogish Leo McKern as a nice plus (seriously, did he ever really look young?).

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