Friday, October 22, 2010

Hammer verges toward sci-fi

TCM has been running horror movies from Britain's Hammer Studios every Friday night in prime time this Halloween month. This week continues with Hammer films, but the selections are closer to science fiction than horror, in that they're no more horrifying than, say, the classic version ov Village of the Damned (not a Hammer film, but you get the point, I hope). Two of them deserve particular attention:

Five Million Years to Earth, at 9:30 PM ET. While excavating a new tunnel for the London Underground, diggers discover a large, mysterious metallic object. The authorities try to convince everybody it's just Nazi ordnance left over from the last war, but scientists investigating discover that it appears to be a spacecraft of some kind, with insect-like larvae in it. Worse, the craft seems to have an odd and destructive psychic effect on people who have higher levels of the paranormal sixth sense. I won't give away what the final determination is of how this all happens, because that would give away the fun of the movie. Five Million Years to Earth is followed at 11:15 PM by

These Are the Damned. Not to be confused with Village of the Damned, this one actually has a cast of surprisingly recognizable names. Oliver Reed plays the leader of a gang of British bullies who harass Macdonald Carey, an American expat visiting the British coast. He escapes with the bully leader's sister, but the two discover a cave where a bunch of children are hiding... or are they actually prisoners? The two learn the truth with the help of artist Viveca Lindfors. She's a sculptress carrying on a relationship with Alexander Knox (Oscar nominated two decades earlier for Wilson). What are these children doing in the cave? Well, as with Five Million Years to Earth, I can't say, as it would give too much of the plot away. But where Five Million Years to Earth is campy fun, These Are the Damned is closer to serious social commentary and actually quite interesting.

1 comment:

Ian Bertram said...

Five Million Years to Earth sounded remarkably like the first Quatermass story. Checking IMDB I find that is because it is in fact the same thing under presumably an American title!

You are right I think about the SF rather than horror aspect, although as a small child I refused to watch it on TV and would only come into the room when Bilko started immediately afterwards.