X-THE UNKNOWN released November 5, 1956 in the U.K.
I first saw "X-the Unknown", one year after its release in the United Kingdom in June 1957, when it came to the United States, at the long gone and forgotten Van Nuys Theater in Van Nuys, California. It was on an American double bill, That had been distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures, with the "Curse of Frankenstein". I have to admit that ten years old Lloyd preferred the black and white Science Fiction to the Eastman Color Horror film.
Both motion pictures came from "The House of Hammer".
British Hammer films had planned the picture to be a sequel to their 1955, "The Quatermass X-periment" (Known in the United States as "The Creeping Unknown" in 1956). That still excellent feature film was based upon the BBC's 1953 six-part mini-series, "The Quatermass Experiment" written by Nigel Kneale. However, Kneale would not give Hammer permission to use his character of "Bernard Quatermass", the Head of the Rocket Group", for this entry.
The screenplay for "X-the Unknown" was the first from the great Jimmy Sangster. In it he asked the audience and leading characters the question:
How Do You Kill Mud?
Sangster's other screenplays for Hammer Films, include the aforementioned 1957, "Curse of Frankenstein", both 1958's "Revenge of Frankenstein" and "Dracula (Horror of Dracula)", 1959's "The Mummy" and 1960's "Brides of Dracula".
The Director was originally "Blacklisted" American Joseph Losey, Losey Directed the classic World War 2 movie about war orphans, 1948's, "The Boy With the Green Hair" starring Robert Ryan and Dean Stockwell. He also Directed the 1951 American remake of Fritz Lang's "M".
During production for this picture, Losey became "Sick", had to leave, and was replaced by Leslie Norman. Among Norman's other work was the Sir John Mills, Sir Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee's, 1958, "Dunkirk". During the 1930's, Leslie Norman was a film editor and returned to the British film industry, after World War 2, as a Director.
Without Kneale's support, Jimmy Sangster had to create a new lead character.
American actor Dean Jagger, 1936's "Revolt of the Zombies", Director Henry Hathaway's 1940 "Brigham Young", Fritz Lang's 1941 "Western Union" and 1949's "Twelve O'Clock High" starring Gregory Peck, now became Atomic Scientist "Dr. Adam Royston".
Edward Chapman portrayed "John Elliot". Chapman had appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's 1930, "Murder". He portrayed "Pippa Passworthy" and "Raymond Passworthy" in 1936's, "Things to Come". The classic Science Fiction was Directed by William Cameron Menzies from a screenplay actually written by H.G. Wells.
Leo McKern portrayed "Security Chief 'Mac' McGill". McKern had third billing behind Sir Michael Redgrave and Ann Todd in Director Joseph Losey's 1957, "Time Without Pity". In 1959, the actor was in the cast of "The Mouse That Roared", starring Peter Sellers three roles and the First "Dr. Who", William Hartnell,
Above Leo McKern to the left of Dean Jagger
Michael Ripper portrayed "Army Sergeant Harry Grimsdyke". Among Ripper's films for Hammer are, 1957's "Quatermass 2 (Enemy from Space)", 1958's "Revenge of Frankenstein" and 1959's "The Mummy".
Michael Ripper is one story of four, in my article, "HAMMER FILMS: A Look at "The House of Hammer" By An American Fan", available at:
Edward Judd portrayed the "2nd Soldier". Judd's other roles include the 1961 Science Fiction film, "The Day the Earth Caught Fire". Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen's 1964 version of H.G. Wells' "First Men in the Men" and the Michael Caine, 1988 mini-series, "Jack the Ripper".
The story opens in a field in Lochmouth, Scotland, as a group of Army soldiers are engaged in an exercise to learn how to read a Geiger counter. By locating a very small amount of planted radioactive material. "Major Cartwright", played by John Harvey, tells the group to go back onto the trucks to return to their base, but apparently, one soldier, "Private Lansing", played by Kenneth Cope, hasn't had his turn. "Major Cartwright" tells "Sergeant Grimsdyke" to place the test material in a spot that he can be very quickly located.
However, "Lansing" starts to move in a completely different direction and has discovered a source of radioactivity that wasn't there before.
There is no more radioactivity coming from the giant "Y" shaped crack in the Earth that was left after the explosion and a guard is placed on the site.
The screenplay now switches to two boys daring each other to go into an old, supposedly haunted, watch tower at midnight.
The two are shown to the hospital room with the first boy in it. They are able to speak to him, before he dies from radiation exposure.
Investigating "Dr. Unwin's" death, "Dr, Royston", claims the whatever killed "Unwin" was able to enter through the floor heating vent and then exit the same way.
Later, he comes up with a theory, that something is rising from the Earth's core, to the surafce, seeking out radioactive material to feed upon and returning beneath the ground . "Dr. Royston" hypothesizes that this has been occurring, unnoticed in modern times, every 50 years. When there is a documented Earth surge and he goes on to add that they're dealing with a living organism possibly made up of multiple individual creatures. No one wants to believe him, but the evidence is before their eyes.
A glow has suddenly appeared in the "Y" shaped fissure and "Dr. Royston's" colleague, "John's" son, "Peter Elliott", played by William Lucas, volunteers to enter the crack and find out what's down there.
Later that night, the creature breaks the concrete and escapes. It's a large mass resembling mud in consistency. It moves away from the field and four people in a car are killed. Meanwhile, "Dr. Royston" finally has success with an anti-radiation device was in the process of creating. The device actually removed the radioactivity of any substance.
"Peter Elliott", again volunteers to drive a jeep with radioactive material on it. The purpose is to get the creature to follow into the trap set by "Dr. Royston". This is working as "Elliott" leads the creature toward "Royston's" device, but then his jeep stalls out. In just the nick-of-time, "Peter" gets his stalled jeep moving and escapes. "Dr. Royston's" devices start up and the creature, or creatures that make it up, are killed.
I first saw "Space Master X-7", the week the movie was first released, at the El Portal Theater, in North Hollywood, California. The motion picture was on a double bill with another Twentieth Century Fox release, the original "The Fly", starring Vincent Price and Al "David" Hedison.
"Space Master X-7" was Directed by Edward Bernds. Bernds started Directing short subjects in 1944 and his first feature film wasn't until 1949. He was known for the "Bowery Boys" movie series, but in 1956 Edward Bernds Directed the classic Science Fiction picture "World Without End" and in 1958 the Cult Science Fiction entry, "Queen of Outer Space". In 1959 it was "The Return of the Fly"
The screenplay was co-written by George Worthing Yates. Among Yates other screenplays are, 1954's "THEM!", Ray Harryhausen's 1955 "It Came from Beneath the Sea", Harryhausen's 1956 "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" and Boris Karloff 's 1958, "Frankenstein 1970".
Daniel Mainwaring was the other co-writer of the screenplay. Which seemed a strange choice as among his screenplays are mostly "B" Film-Noirs and the occasional "B" Westerns. The one exception, prior to this picture, was the 1956 Science Fiction classic, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".
Bill Williams portrayed "John Hand". Two months after this picture was released, William's wife, actress Barbara Hale, appeared as "Della Street", for the first time on television's "Perry Mason". Williams had starred in television's "The Adventures of Kit Carson" for 105 episodes between 1951 and 1955. He had also appeared in five episodes of the television anthology, "Science Fiction Theater"
Paul Frees portrayed "Dr. Charles T. Pommer". Frees started out providing a voice for the 1939 television program "Barney the Bear". Although he appeared in several movies, Frees is best known for providing voices during "The Golden Ages of Animation" for both Jay Ward and Rankin and Bass. His best known voice was as "Boris Badenov" on "Rocky and Bullwinkle". Frees is also the voice heard in the Disney attraction "The Haunted Mansion". For my readers who are fans of "Boris", "Rocky" and "Bullwinkle". My article, "JAY WARD and ALEX ANDERSON: Crusader Rabbit into Rocket J. Squirrel" can be read at:
Robert Ellis portrayed "Army Private Joe Rattigan (Radigan)". Ellis started his movie career portraying "Babe Ruth", as a boy, in the 1948 fictional biography starring William Bendix. In 1950 he moved to television with the occasional movie appearance.
Moe Howard of "The Three Stooges" was "Retlinger the Cab Driver".
Judd Holden was the passenger plane's "First Officer Jared". Holden was a major "Cliff Hanger" star in 1951's "Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere", 1952's "Zombies of the Stratosphere", and 1953's "The Lost Planet: Conqueror of the Earth". Holden also starred on the television series "Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe".
Eleven years after the release of this motion picture, Harvard Medical School graduate, Dr. Michael Crichton, wrote his novel "The Andromeda Strain". It was about a returning satellite, sent into space to obtain samples of meteors, bringing back to Earth a microorganism that starts to multiply and mutate.
In this screenplay, the United States sent into outer space the satellite of the film's title. Its purpose was to obtain samples of that environment. However, "Space Master X-7", has returned to Earth covered in a red fungus. Over the objection of the project's security chief, "John Hand". "Dr. Pommer" is permitted to take a sample of the material to his home laboratory for further study.
"Dr. Pommer" discovers the fungus is really a microorganism. The organism multiplies fast within Earth's atmosphere and can attached itself to any living organism, including humans, and absorb them. "Dr. Pommer" names it, "Blood Rust", because of its red color.
"Pommer's" ex-wife, having returned to her maiden name of "Laura Greeling", comes to ask him to relinquish custody of their son to her. After a heated argument, he signs the papers and she leaves. Her interaction with her ex-husband will, unwittingly, cause "Laura" to become a carrier of "Blood Rust".
"Laura" calls for a cab and tells the driver to take her to the train station.
Later that night, a frantic "Dr. Pommer" calls "John Hand" and incoherently asks for help. "Hand" and his assistant, "Joe Rattigan", drive to "Pommer's" home.
There, "Blood Rust" has absorbed the doctor, but the two are able to recover the "Pommer's" tape recordings.
"John Hand" and "Joe Rattigan" return to the space project and go through decontamination. From the tapes they learn about "Blood Rust", but also hear a woman's voice. Who is she? Where is she now? The fear is now that due to her exposure to the alien fungus, the women is a carrier. "Hand" and "Rattigan's" search discovers a women took a cab from "Pommer's" house. They are told she was taken to the train station.
Meanwhile, "Laura's" train arrives at Union Station in Los Angeles, seeing newspaper headlines of her husband's death, presumes she's wanted for murder, and flees by another cab without getting her luggage. "Hand" and "Rattigan's" arrive in Los Angeles and trace the women to a cab driven by a driver named "Retlinger". He gives them a description of his passenger and that is passed to all news outlets.
While this is going on, "Blood Rust", is found in the baggage compartment of "Laura's" train.
A piece of luggage matching a description given by the first cab driver is found and determined to be the source of the "Blood Rust".
Inside is a plane ticket to Hawaii, but by now, "Laura Greeing" has gotten a hotel room as "Alice Thompson", changed her hair color, and ordered a new ticket to Hawaii.
The hotel clerk sees a sketch of "Laura" in newspaper and calls about a women resembling the it. When "John" and "Joe" arrive, the woman is gone, but in the room they deduce that she is now a brunette wearing a tweed coat. The two men go to the airport and determine there are three women matching the new description of "Laura Greeling". "Joe Rattigan" is able to get on the airplane as it takes off, locates the three women and starts interviewing each one.
"Joe" finally locates "Laura", assures her she's not wanted for murder, assures her that her personal life is safe, but just then "Blood Rust" starts spreading out from the plane's baggage compartment. The plane makes a belly landing at the airport and the passengers are taken to decontamination areas and the last of the alien fungus is destroyed.
FIRST MAN INTO SPACE released February 27, 1959
This was a co-production of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Above the American, no age restriction poster, and below the U.K. "Cert X" 16 years or older poster for the same cut of the movie.
I saw "First Man Into Space" at the long gone Pickwood Theater, in West Los Angeles, California, when it first came out. It was the lower half of a double bill with the English language version of Japan's Toho Studio's, "Chikyu Boeigun (Earth Defense Force)", retitled as "The Mysterians".
I want to draw a distinction between this pictures title and a television series that started to run seven months later. This motion picture is "First MAN Into Space" and the William Lundigan and Joyce Taylor television series is "MEN Into Space". Many websites and articles mix the two up and the movie's title is morphed into "First Men Into Space", or is that the television shows title?
The motion picture was Directed by Robert Day. British Director Day started out on ITV's 1956 series "The Buccaneers". That starred a then unknown Robert Shaw as "Captain Dan Tempest". Among Day's movies, prior to this feature, were, 1958's "Grip of the Strangler (The Haunted Strangler)", starring Boris Karloff and 1958's "Corridors of Blood", starring Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee.
The story idea came from Wyott Ordung. Ordung was born in China and among his five writing credits are 1953's 3-D "Robot Monster", and 1954's "Target Earth", starring Richard Denning. In 1954 Wyott Ordun Directed, Producer Roger Corman's, "Monster from the Ocean Floor". in which he also acted.
The screenplay was co-written by John Croydon. Among his nine writing credits are 1958's "The Haunted Strangler" and 1966's "The Projected Man".
Charles F. Vetter was the other co-writer and followed this screenplay with 1964's "Devil Doll" and 1967's "Battle Beneath the Earth".
Marshall Thompson portrayed "United States Navy Commander Charles Earnest Prescott". Among American Thompson's previous films, is the excellent and overlooked Horror movie, 1955's "Cult of the Cobra". Among the other Universal International contract actors in that feature are Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Jack Kelly, David Janssen and William Reynolds. Thompson was also seen in seven episodes of televisions "Science Fiction Theatre", both 1958 Science Fiction movies, "Fiend Without A Face" and "It, the Terror from Beyond Space". Of course there was Ivan Tors' television series "Daktari".
Marla Landi portrayed "Tia Francesca". Italian actress Landi would be associated with two of Hammer Films motion pictures. The Peter Cushing, Andre Morell and Christopher Lee, 1959 version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles", and 1962's "Pirates of Blood River". Co-starring Christopher Lee and Kerwin Mathews, Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen's 1958. "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad".
Bill Edwards portrayed "Navy Lieutenant Dan Milton Prescott". Canadian actor Edwards appeared 30 times on-screen, between movies and television. Among his more notable appearances were as an "American Army Captain" in the classic multi-rolled Peter Sellers Comedy, 1959's "The Mouse That Roared" and as an "American Astronaut", in the 1963 sequel, without Sellers, "The Mouse On The Moon".
Robert Ayres portrayed "Air Force Space Command Captain Ben Richards". American actor Ayres worked mainly in the United Kingdom in movies, television and on the legitimate stage. Among his work is the outstanding real-life story of the sinking of the "RMS Titanic", 1958's "A Night to Remember", Producer Samuel Bronston's 1959 "John Paul Jones" portraying "John Adams", and 1965's "Heroes of Telemark", starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris.
Above Carl Jaffe as "Dr. Paul von Essen", Marshall Thompson and Robert Ayres.
"Air Space Command" plans on testing the new "Y-13" rocket powered plane. However, "Commander Prescott" expresses his concerns to "Captain Richards" that, in his view, his brother "Lieutenant Prescott" may not be the right choice for the test. Reminding "Richards" that his brother "Dan" had physical difficulties piloting the "Y-12". Also, the disciplinary problems his brother has caused "Air Space Command". For example, after he returnrf from a test flight of the "Y-12". Instead of going to make his report, "Dan Prescott" went straight to his girl friend's, "Tia Francesca", house. The Commander's objections, while noted, are over ruled, because "Lieutenant Dan Prescott" is the best pilot they have to fly the new "Y-13".
Above, "Commander Prescott" tracks down his brother, "Lieutenant Prescott", after he went to his girl friend, "Tia Francesca's" house, before making out his flight report.
Back at the test site, "Lieutenant Prescott" is checked out by "Dr. von Essen". For the first flight of the Y-13" to an altitude of 113 miles. The "Y-13" is dropped from a converted World War 2 bomber and "Prescott's" flight begins. His orders are to level-off upon reaching 113 miles and then return to base. However, "Commander Prescott's" concerns about his brother are proven out. As "Dan Prescott", disobeying his orders and, captivated by what he sees above him, now fires the aircraft's rocket boosters once more and starts to climb even higher.
He reaches 250 miles above the Earth and enters a strange cloud. The cloud causes system failures. loss of control of the "Y-13", and "Lieutenant Prescott" is forced to eject.
The New Mexico State Police contact "Air Space Command" that an farmer observed a parachute coming down. "Police Chief Wilson", played by Bill Nagy, meets "Commander Prescott" and they go to the crash site. The wreckage of the "Y-13" is there and the ejection seat, but "Lieutenant Prescott" isn't.
The "Y-13" is covered with some form of rock-like material. Back at "Air Force Space Command", "Dr. von Essen" runs some tests on the material.
The material is found to be impervious to X-Rays, Infrared and Ultraviolet light, Begging more questions than answers and still leaving open.where's "Dan Prescott"?
Later, the same night, a creature breaks into the Alameda New Mexico State Blood Bank, murders the nurse in charge, and drinks vast quantities of blood.
The following day a local newspaper has the headline:
Terror Roams State
Cattle on a ranch near the "Y-13's" crash site have been brutally slaughtered and have the same type of wounds as the nurse murdered at the blood bank, "Commander Prescott" and "Police Chief Wilson" now examine the wounds on the nurse's body. "Prescott" notices shiny specks around her wound and when they return to the cattle, the same specks are on the cattle wounds. Also, a piece of breathing equipment, from the "Y-13", is now discovered near the slaughtered animals. "Prescott" suggests that "Wilson" send samples of the specks on the cattle's necks to "von Essen".
The test results confirm that the neck wounds contain meteor dust and lead to two other findings. Wherever the rocklike substance is covering the "Y-13", the metal remains intact. Wherever the substance is missing, the metal has become a carbon-like substance, when touched, turns to powder. "Commander Prescott" theorizes that the rocklike substance is some form of cosmic protection.
Three more murders are now reported and they appear to have sometime to do with the crashed "Y-13". "Commander Prescott" theorizes that the aircraft's canopy was covered with this cosmic protection, but when the canopy was released by the ejection of the "Dan". That his blood stream must have absorbed a high concentration of nitrogen as "Dan's" body became coated with the cosmic protective. The killer, therefore, must be his brother. Further, that the substance changed "Dan's" metabolism, returning to Earth, his brain became oxygen starved and needs oxygen-enriched blood to survive.
For her protection, "Tia Francesca" is informed of what's happened to "Dan Prescott".
"Dan" murders a couple to steal their car, but a New Mexico Police Officer shows up.
Near the above scene, "Commander Prescott" finds his brother's helmet coated with the cosmic protective, confirming all his theories. "Captain Richards" and "Police Chief Wilson" now call Washington, D.C. to update them. Suddenly, there is the crashing sound of a window breaking and "Lieutenant Dan Prescott" is in the building. "Dan" is heard and it is obvious that he is having trouble breathing.
"Commander Prescott" now tells "Dr. von Essen" to open the high-altitude test chamber, gets on the loudspeaker and warns everyone to stay out of the facilities corridors and to lock their doors. He now takes the chance that his brother can understand him and gives "Dan" instructions on how to reach the chamber over the loudspeaker system. "Dan Prescott" passes his brother in a corridor, the other follows, and observes his brother enter, but "Dan's" hands are two deformed to work the needed controls to fill it with oxygen. To help his brother, "Commander Prescott" enters and starts the controls. A technician raises the chambers pressure to 7 miles altitude permitting "Dan" to breather easier.
"Tia Francesca" arrives and "Dr. von Essen" shows her into the high-altitude chambers control room.
"Lieutenant Dan Milton Prescott's" regains control of his mind and tells his brother that he has no recollection of what happened after he ejected from the "Y-13". Just before dying, "Dan" tells his brother:
I just had to be the first man in space.
MARS WAS A POPULAR SUBJECT FOR 1950'S SCIENCE FICTION MOTION PICTURES.
The following link is to an article I wrote on the subject entitled:
"Invaders from Mars, Except When They Came from Venus, or Planet "X"
Motion pictures were not the only source of Science Fiction in the 1950's. My article, "Boldly Going Before Kirk and Spock 1950's TV Science Fiction" can be found at:
Because of the Atomic Bomb, there was an interest in giant people and bugs resulting from radioactive materials. My article, "THEM!", "TARANTULA", "THE MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL", "THE DEADLY MANTIS", "THE BEGINNING OF THE END", "THE BLACK SCORPION", and "THE EARTH VS THE SPIDER": In the 1950's Insects Bugged America", is found for you entomologists at: