Quatermass and the Pit (titled Five Million Years to Earth in the United States) is a 1967 British science fiction horror film from Hammer Film Productions, a sequel to the earlier Hammer films The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2 written by Nigel Kneale. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker and stars Andrew Keir in the title role as Professor Bernard Quatermass, replacing Brian Donlevy who played the role in the two earlier films. James Donald, Barbara Shelley and Julian Glover appear in co-starring roles.
The storyline, which is largely faithful to the original television production, centers on the discovery of a mysterious object buried at the site of an extension to the London Underground. Also uncovered nearby are the remains of early human ancestors more than five million years old. Realising that the object is in fact an ancient Martian spacecraft, Quatermass deduces that the aliens have influenced human evolution and the intelligence. The spacecraft has an intelligence of its own, and once uncovered begins to exert a malign influence, resurrecting Martian memories and instincts buried deep within the human psyche.
Nigel Kneale wrote the first draft of the screenplay in 1961, but difficulties in attracting interest from American co-financiers meant the film did not go into production until 1967. The director Roy Ward Baker, was chosen because of his experience with technically demanding productions such as A Night to Remember; this was the first of six films that he directed for Hammer. Andrew Keir, playing Quatermass, found making the film an unhappy experience, believing Baker had wanted Kenneth More to play the role. Owing to a lack of space, the film was shot at the MGM studios in Elstree, Borehamwood rather than Hammer's usual home at the time, which was the Associated British Studios, also in Elstree.
The film opened in November 1967 to favourable reviews and generally well regarded.
Workers building an extension to the London Underground at Hobbs End dig up skeletal remains. Palaeontologist Dr. Matthew Roney (James Donald) is called in and deduces that they are the remnants of a group of five-million-year-old apemen, more ancient than any previous finds. One of Roney's assistants uncovers part of a metallic object nearby. Believing it to be an unexploded bomb, they call in an army bomb dispoasal team.
Meanwhile, Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is dismayed to learn that his plans for the colonisation of the Moon are to be taken over by the military. He gives a cold reception to Colonel Breen (Julian Glover), who has been assigned to join Quatermass's British Experimental Rocket Group. When the bomb disposal team call for Breen's assistance, Quatermass accompanies him to the site. Breen quickly concludes the buried object is a V-weapons, but Quatermass disagrees. When another skeleton is found within a chamber of the "bomb", Quatermass and Roney realise that the object must also be five million years old. Noting the object's imperviousness to heat, Quatermass suspects it is of alien origin, but Roney is certain the apemen are terrestrial.
Roney's assistant Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley) becomes intrigued by the name of the area, recalling that "Hob" is an old name for the Devil. Though Quatermass at first dismisses her curiosity of local superstition, he becomes more intrigued after a member of the bomb disposal team witnesses a spectral apparition of Roney's apeman appearing through the wall of the buried object. Working with Barbara, Quatermass finds historical accounts of hauntings and other spectral appearances going back many centuries. They deduce that these events coincided with disturbances of the ground around Hobbs End.
An attempt to open a sealed chamber using a Borazon drill fails to make progress. However, a few moments after the drill is stopped a small hole is seen, though the drill operator, Sladden (Duncan Lamont), is certain it was not created by his machine. The hole widens to reveal the corpses of three-legged, insectoid creatures with horned heads. Roney and Judd work to preserve the bodies before they decay. An examination of the creatures' physiology suggests they came from the plant Mars. Quatermass and Roney note the similarity between the appearance of the creatures and images of the Devil, while Quatermass speculates on the ship itself, believing it to be the source of the spectral images and disturbances.
Quatermass and Roney reveal their findings to the press, attracting the ire of a government minister (Edwin Richfield). Quatermass theorizes the occupants of the spacecraft came from a dying Mars. Unable to survive on Earth, they chose instead to preserve some part of the race through creating a colony by proxy, by significantly enhancing the intelligence and imparting Martian faculties on the indigenous primitive hominids. The descendants of these apemen evolved into modern humans, retaining the vestiges of Martian influence buried in their subconscious. A disbelieving Breen offers an alternative: the 'alien craft' is a Nazi propaganda exercise designed to sow fear of an alien invasion among the London populace. The minister rejects Quatermass's theory in favour of Breen's and decides to unveil the missile at a public press conference in order to put Quatermass's controversial ideas to rest.
While dismantling his drill, Sladden is overcome by a powerful telekinetic force emanating from the alien craft and flees the sanctuary of a church. Sladden tells Quatermass he saw a vision of hordes of the insect creatures under an alien sky. Quatermass believes this is a race memory. Seeking proof, he returns to Hobbs End, bringing a machine Roney has been working on which taps into the primeval psyche. While trying to replicate the circumstances under which Sladden was affected, he notices that Judd has fallen under the craft's influence. Using Roney's machine, he is able to record her thoughts. Quatermass presents the recording to the minister and other assembled officials as evidence of this theory: it shows hordes of Martians engaged in what he interprets as a racial purge, cleansing Martian hives of genetic mutations within their race. The minister and Breen dismiss the recording as a fantasy and move forward with planned press event, ignoring Quatermass's adomonishments that the ship and its influence are dangerous.
Disaster strikes the event when a power line is dropped within in the craft. The charge to the hull increases the effect and range of the craft's influence on those Londoners affected by it. The streets of London erupt into violence as they go on a rampage reminiscent of the Martian purge, destroying those who are different. Breen becomes drawn towards the craft and is killed by the intense energy emanating from it. Quatermass falls under the alien control as well, but is snapped out of it by Roney, who is unaffected. The two men realise that a small portion of the population are immune. The psychic energy becomes stronger ans begins to manifest into psychokinesis, ripping up streets and buildings and bringing down overflying aircraft, while the alien ship itself morphs into a spectral image of a Martian towering above the city, centered on Hobbs End. Recalling stories about how the Devil could be defeated with iron and water, Roney theorises the Martian energy could be discharged into the earth. Roney climbs to the top of a building crane and swings it into the spectre. The crane bursts into flames as it discharges the energy, killing Roney. The image and its effect on London disappear, leaving Quatermass and Barbara grieving in the ruins.
Professor Bernard Quatermass was first introduced to audiences in two BBC television serials, The Quatermass Experiment (1953) and Quatermass II (1957), written by Nigel Kneale. The rights to both these serials were acquired by Hammer Film Productions, and the film adaptations – The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2, both directed by Val Guest and starring Brian Donlevy as Quatermass – were released in 1955 and 1957 respectively.