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The Quartermass Xperiment

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The Quartermass Xperiment (1955) starring Brian Donlevy, Richard Wordsworth
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The Quartermass Xperiment (1955) starring Brian Donlevy, Richard Wordsworth

In The Quartermass Xperiment, the only surviving astronaut of Britain’s first manned rocket returns to Earth. But he’s changed, possibly infected, by … something. And it may doom all life on earth.

Review of The Quartermass Xperiment

The Quartermass Xperiment (aka. The Creeping Unknown) is an excellent science fiction movie from 1955. It takes a hypothetical look at what could go wrong with a manned space flight. In this case, it appears that … something … has infected the three astronaut’s on Britain’s first manned space flight. Two of them die. The survivor is soon struck mute, and starts changing.

The Quartermass Xperiment (1955) starring Brian Donlevy, Richard Wordsworth

Several thoughts:

  • The early part of the film is excellent. It depicts how the ordinary populace would react to a rocket crashing near their village.
  • Professor Quartermass is oddly unemotional. Even when the space launch nearly led to the end of life on Earth, he’s undeterred. He takes the concept of the cold scientist to the extreme. Brian Donlevy does an excellent job in this role.
  • Richard Wordsworth is absolutely marvelous in his role. His character starts changing, and losing his humanity. And fighting every inch of the way. The actor does a wonderful job. He makes this character pitiable, and sympathetic. Even after having committed a murder.


  • Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy, Hangmen Also Die, A Southern Yankee). The man in charge of the British space program. A dedicated scientist. A man who seems to be either scientifically detached … or unfeeling.
  • Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth, The Curse of the Werewolf). The only surviving astronaut from the crash of the rocket. He is rendered mute by his affliction. He slowly changes over the course of the movie. At first he simply becomes more gaunt. The actor does a wonderful acting job, making the mute monster sympathetic. He’s reminiscent of Boris Karloff in the original Frankenstein. He acts with his entire body, showing sadness, remorse, and a flicker of humanity. It’s a truly great performance.
  • Mrs. Judith Carroon (Margia Dean, The Return of Jesse James). Carroon’s loving wife. She makes the mistake of bribing someone to sneak her husband out of the hospital. But Carroon strikes a cactus, absorbing it’s properties into his hand, and murders the man. Soon Judith realizes how little of her husband is left.
  • Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner, A Christmas Carol 1951). The police inspector whose investigation takes him to Carroon … And Quartermass. An ordinary, dedicated, police officer. Well acted.
  • Blake (Lionel Jeffries, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Call Me Bwana). A Ministry official who chides Quatermass repeatedly for launching the rocket without official permission.
  • Dr. Gordon Briscoe (David King-Wood, Jamboree). The physician in charge of the rocket project. He tries to determine what happened to the other two astronauts. As well as trying to help Carroon.

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