Five Million Years to Earth (1967)

Five Million Years to Earth (1967)
Original Title: Quatermass and The Pit


Andrew Keir as Prof. Bernard Quatermass

James Donald as Dr. Mathew Roney

Barbara Shelley as Barbara Judd

Julian Glover as Colonel Breen

Directed by
Roy Ward Baker

Running Time:

Review and Summary

There are sci-fi movies that are great sci-fi, and then there are horror movies that are great scare-fests, but then there are sci-fi movies that not only hit Sci-Fi and horror, but also do it in a manner that is more cerebral than shock based. Five Million Years to Earth is one of those, from the masters of horror, Hammer Films. The UK based film factory dates back to 1934. Their history is one that you can walk through and recognize the names easily as being some of the best in the genre.

So you wanna create a great Sci-Fi horror movie? Think that Alien, Predator, Event Horizon, Species, The Thing (1982) are all great Sci-Fi Horror? Well before all of them there was Hammer’s brand of doing it. The key difference between Hammer and the above mentioned is that Hammer didn’t do it using gore and shock value. They used intelligent storytelling, mood, music, and atmosphere to create the tension and scare the bejezus outta of you. So here lies my case in point……

The year is 1966, 21 years after the most horrific war of man. Life is normal, and as London grows, a new subway tunnel is being excavated at Hobb’s End. If you don’t realize what the name Hobb’s is associated with, you need to look it up, remember intelligent horror. The workers come across a fossilized skull and skeleton. Since this is now a historical or archeological find, Dr Mathew Roney and his lovely assistant Barbara Judd are called in to assess and preserve the findings.

To do this properly, a dig site is setup, and work begins to excavate the fossils and the surrounding area. All is going well until such time as a shiny dark blue metal is discovered among the fossils, time to call in the army. Now you may ask why them? Remember it is 21 years after World War Two, and for years after the war, unexploded bombs from the Germans have been discovered regularly.  Therefore the normal process was to have the Army come in and investigate.

Enter Colonel Breen and Professor Bernard Quatermass to the situation. Before they join in on the dig, Quatermass and Breen are arguing with the ministry over the change in direction for the UK space program. They intend to militarize it more vs continuing on in a public non-military manner. It’s an interesting conversation that takes in the hopes and dreams that were common in that time period as man raced for the moon.

Breen and a tagalong Quatermass go to the dig site. Breen’s previous experience in rocketry and the war makes him the natural choice to help assist. Up to this time, the discovery is baffling everyone. Its metal, but it’s not magnetic, it’s not impacted by heat or tools.  At this point is where Breen’s experience comes into play as they worry that it is an unknown German super weapon. Once they expose the whole thing, it seems like even more of an enigma.

As they start to clean out the interior area of the “missile”, more skulls and bones are discovered. This is where one of those “Ah ha” moments occurs.  The skulls are over 5 million years old and are in perfect condition, untouched..  and were discovered inside of the “missile” that up to this time they have believed to be only 25 years old… Yeah that doesn’t make sense. If it were a missile that had hit in the 1940’s it should have destroyed or shattered the skulls.

This is where that intelligent storytelling comes ringing in. Of course the military and others can not subscribe to this.  Quatermass, Roney, and Judd are all alone in pursuing it. But is this really a dead issue or is it just awakening.

While Judd investigates the local history in news and literature, she finds references to the Hobbs Lane devils, apparitions, and hauntings. Sightings of beings described as “horribly deformed dwarfs” are common in most of the events. She and Quatermass, along with one of the police men who is from the area, take a short tour of one of the nearby houses.  The home is ripped apart inside and lies in ruins. But on the various walls still intact they find what can only be described as claw marks. All three also feel some kind of growing fear and discomfort being there and beat a hasty retreat.

Back at the dig, they find that several of the workers have experienced frost bite while in contact with the metal, even though it isn’t cold. There is an electrical accident, and one of the men is killed. His co-worker is badly shaken up, and babbling about seeing something. Its when Barbara takes what he is saying and repeats the description about the horribly disfigured dwarfs that he snaps out of it and confirms that’s what he saw. The mystery deepens.

So the military, still operating under the construct that the ship is a missile and from WW2, now brings in someone to try to drill in thru the compartment. Earlier, Quatermass and a solider discovered an emblem carved into the bulkhead inside. An emblem of a pentagram usually associated with the evil. The man sets up a diamond tipped drill for the attempt.  With Quatermass and Breen at his side, he attempts to drill into the bulkhead.  No matter what he tries, the drill just doesn’t bite in, and finally an ear piercing harmonic is unleashed, literally shaking those inside the ship and outside. Those in the ship experience weightlessness as well as the tools and other items in there with them.  It ends as suddenly as it begins. However, they all notice a few minutes later that where the pentagram had been, a hole has now appeared.

They quickly get the drill operator out of there, and in front of Breen, Roney, and Quatermass’ eyes the bulk head dematerializes and cell of glass shelves in a hexagon is now there. In the hexagon cells, are what appear to be Giant Grasshoppers. Just as fast as they have appeared, they begin to decompose. It’s a race for Roney and crew to get them out of there and prepare them with fixative to preserve them for study. It’s about the only part of the movie in which any kind of gore is used or shown, and it’s done in a very tasteful manner.

Later on, after all the grasshoppers and evidence is cleaned up and removed, the drill operator comes back to remove his equipment. While he is in process the same ear piercing harmonic starts again, only this time it’s not just there, but the entire underground location is caught up in it. Wind is blowing, debris is kicking around, and the drill operator is being tossed about as he tries to run for his life. Quatermass and Barbara both witness this and follow him. They catch up to him where the wind and harmonic have chased him off to a local rectory where the priest there is trying to calm him down. As they work to calm him down and talk about what happened, he describes what all he was seeing. Thousands upon thousands of insects, the size of men, jumping around and fighting. The sky was red as well.

Taking this seriously Quatermass orders some equipment from his lab to be brought down to the site. The equipment is able to take the impulses stimulating the brains vision center, and turn them into moving pictures. Quatermass volunteers to go into the ship wearing the harness, to try to replicate the event. They go through all the motions, but are only able to elicit the harmonic, he still doesn’t see anything. However, Barbara does, they quickly trade places, and she sees the same things the drill operator did, and now they have it on video.

They assemble the ministry officials, Breen and others and review the video. On it they see thousands upon thousands of the creatures marching against one another and battling. The sky is red in color, and the landscape is barren. They surmise that this must be Mars and the creatures in the craft and in the video are Martians. However, Breen has other ideas. He brings forward information that was classified that the Germans had been experimenting with propaganda and bio warfare, and that the ship is linked to this. Therefore his conclusion thru the evidence he has provided is that this is of terrestrial origin.

With Breen capturing the moment, he and the ministry decide to hold a press conference at the site to put this all to rest for once. Yeah, sure sounds like a bad idea to me, and it is.

As they all gather and the conference starts someone causes an electrical feed to come into contact with the ship and that’s all it needs to carry out its original mission, activation of the deep seeded behavior and initiation of the population management. Widespread panic and the over powering harmonics start. While most escape from the site, Breen is drawn like a proverbial moth to the ship where he is burned to death.

Roney and others are not impacted by the harmonic, this makes them the undesirable’s, and they must be eliminated. As the masses of those under the control of the Martian’s carry out this elimination, we see numerous episodes, where they do so using their minds only. It’s like a zombie-fest without the gore and the brain feast. Roney is able to break Quatermass of this and the two then come across the power emanation coming from the ship in the shape of the Aliens head sprouting from the site of the ship underground up into the air over several hundred feet.

Their plan is to ground the electrical apparition and hope that terminates it. As they make their way to a nearby crane, Quatermass comes across Barbara who is still caught up in the trance. He decides to save her, and knocks her unconscious. Roney, in the meantime climbs the tower, and is working to swing it towards the alien power apparition. As the violence continues and builds up to a crescendo, things start to explode. The crane suddenly careens towards the alien and makes contact, causing a tremendous explosion and destroys the crane, the ship, and the alien.

With the ship and the alien apparition destroyed, all of those fighting stop and collapse. Quatermass and Barbara are left there contemplating what has happened. Suddenly the world they knew before is not the same world they know now.

Hammer does a wonderful job in giving the audience excitement and a scare. All and all it’s an intelligent story, and it makes you think. None of the story takes you outside of the common bounds of daily life. There are no great leaps of technology to try to understand, nor does anyone need to explain it. That’s what makes this a great formula, you don’t have to count on the audience stretching out in believing a lot of extra stuff, you build it off of common knowledge and let the story do the work.

I can’t say it enough, but this is great British Sci-Fi, and it keeps up with the tradition of what has made shows like Doctor Who, The Avengers, and others are so popular.

Just to show you how popular this film was, the following films and shows contain references to it...

Referenced in 

    Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
    Ghosts of Mars (2001)
    Reign of Fire (2002)
    'Halloween': A Cut Above the Rest (2003) (TV Movie)
    Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006) (Video)
        Poster is shown.
    Torchwood: End of Days (2007) (TV Episode)
        Devil like figure being summoned up and terrorising London/Cardiff
    Luther: Episode #1.1 (2010) (TV Episode)
        John Luther's Police Station is shown as the Hobb's Lane Station

Courtesy IMDB

If you like Five Million Years to Earth, you may also be interested in these other Sci Fi films:

     The Tommyknockers (1993)

     Island of Terror (1966)

The DVD is available at           

Willys Vaults Ratings
"Bug Eyed Monster"
10 out of 10

    These are the epitome of Bug Eyed Monsters. And they are even more so when
    they start the autopsies. Great job overall!

I See The Wires"
10 out of 10

    While no space travel was involved, the ship design was quite remarkable..

"Man In Rubber Suit"
5 out of 10

     No rubber suits, but overall good design..

"Oozing Mess"
10 out of 10

     Oozing mess?! Oozing mess?!?! Are you kidding me!! The whole scene where
     they are pulling the bugs out of the ship and doing the prep work was freaking

"Cheesy Acting"
9 out of 10

     This is British Sci-Fi and there is no such thing as Cheesy Acting. But I will give
     them credit as they carry it all off well.

Total Summary
44 out of 50

     Overall Five Million Years to Earth gets a 44. It’s an swesome flick and its
     entertaining. I love the whole concept and think that is is fair game for a
     rebooting if someone really thinks about it. In fact I challenge Mark Gatiss
     to do it as I feel he would be the only one up to the challenge that could equal
     or far surpass this one.

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