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HISTORY

A written acknowledgment of the cooperation received from Great Britain’s War Office appears during the opening credits. At the end of the film, the creature seems to be destroyed by the explosion devised by “Dr. Adam Royston,” and his colleagues afterward claim that the plan “worked.” However, a second explosion occurs, which Adam did not expect, ending the story on a somewhat inconclusive note. Although copyright records list the running time as 86 minutes, contemporary reviews reported that the film ran 78 to 80 minutes.
       The “X” in the title, which was also used in a previous Hammer production, The Quatermass Xperiment (released in the United States in 1956 as The Creeping Unknown , See Entry) denoted that the film had been rated for "adults only" in Great Britain. Some of the scenes were particularly disturbing for the time. An example that was mentioned in a contemporary review, and in several modern sources, described one scene as one of the most shocking in horror films of that era: the gruesome death of the hospital intern, whose face and hands bubble and dissolve to bone. According to one source, the effect was achieved by placing heating elements into a wax replica of the actor’s face.
       Although the film was distributed in the United States by Warner Bros., a 4 Oct 1956 DV news item reported that RKO had earlier acquired the project, which was made in England as a joint venture between Exclusive Film Productions, the releasing company for Hammer Films, and Sol Lesser, who had produced many Tarzan films for RKO. Modern sources reported that portions of the film ... More Less

A written acknowledgment of the cooperation received from Great Britain’s War Office appears during the opening credits. At the end of the film, the creature seems to be destroyed by the explosion devised by “Dr. Adam Royston,” and his colleagues afterward claim that the plan “worked.” However, a second explosion occurs, which Adam did not expect, ending the story on a somewhat inconclusive note. Although copyright records list the running time as 86 minutes, contemporary reviews reported that the film ran 78 to 80 minutes.
       The “X” in the title, which was also used in a previous Hammer production, The Quatermass Xperiment (released in the United States in 1956 as The Creeping Unknown , See Entry) denoted that the film had been rated for "adults only" in Great Britain. Some of the scenes were particularly disturbing for the time. An example that was mentioned in a contemporary review, and in several modern sources, described one scene as one of the most shocking in horror films of that era: the gruesome death of the hospital intern, whose face and hands bubble and dissolve to bone. According to one source, the effect was achieved by placing heating elements into a wax replica of the actor’s face.
       Although the film was distributed in the United States by Warner Bros., a 4 Oct 1956 DV news item reported that RKO had earlier acquired the project, which was made in England as a joint venture between Exclusive Film Productions, the releasing company for Hammer Films, and Sol Lesser, who had produced many Tarzan films for RKO. Modern sources reported that portions of the film were shot on location in Buckinghamshire. According to a modern source, Joseph Walton directed the film during the first week of shooting and was replaced by Leslie Norman after he became ill. Only Norman is credited onscreen. A modern source stated that Jack Curtis and Les Bowie created the monster. Although some modern sources list Leo McKern’s character name as “Inspector McGill,” in the film he introduces himself as “Mr. McGill” and makes a point of claiming that he is not officially an inspector.
       Modern sources add the following actors to the cast: Robert Bruce, Brown Derby, Stella Kemball, Anthony Sagar, Max Brimmell, Stevenson Lang, John Stirling, Shaw Taylor, Brian Peck and Edward Judd. Although an HR production chart included William Russell in the cast, his appearance in the final film is unlikely. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Jul 1957.
---
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1956.
---
Daily Variety
21 Jun 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Jun 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1956
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1956
p. 51.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1957.
---
Monthly Film Bulletin
Oct 1956.
---
Motion Picture Daily
22 Jun 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Jul 57
p. 466.
Variety
10 Oct 56
p. 7.
Variety
21 Jun 1957.
---
Variety
3 Jul 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up and spec make up eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 July 1957
Premiere Information:
London opening: 2 October 1956
Production Date:
ended late March 1956 at Bray Studios, Windsor, England
Copyright Claimant:
Sol Lesser Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 July 1957
Copyright Number:
LP10741
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
78-80
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18255
SYNOPSIS

On a Scottish moor, soldiers learning to use the Geiger counter discover unexplainable radioactivity in the vicinity. Pvt. Lancing reports that he has seen liquid bubbling out of the ground, but suddenly, before the phenomenon can be checked out, a great explosion occurs, which kills Lancing and injures another soldier. The area is quarantined and an American, Dr. Adam Royston, who is the chief atomic scientist at a Scottish research laboratory at Lochmouth, is called in to advise. By the time Adam arrives, the radioactivity has mysteriously vanished and he is left to ponder a bottomless fissure that has formed on the moor. That night, Willie Harding and Ian Osborn, two mischievous boys acting out a dare, walk through the woods toward an ancient “haunted” tower ruin, where a hermit, Old Tom, resides. Willie is approached by a frightening creature and, later in the night, must be hospitalized for first degree radiation burns, from which he eventually dies without regaining consciousness. The next day, Adam checks out the tower and finds a sample container from his personal workshop. The container, which once held radioactive trinium, is now empty, and when Adam questions Tom about it, he has no idea about how it got there. After returning to work, Adam finds that his laboratory is in disarray and a large amount of trinium he has been working with is missing. Upon receiving the report of the stolen trinium container, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission sends “Mac” McGill from their Internal Security Division to investigate. The director of the research facility, John Elliot, is unhappy that Mac has come and at first ... +


On a Scottish moor, soldiers learning to use the Geiger counter discover unexplainable radioactivity in the vicinity. Pvt. Lancing reports that he has seen liquid bubbling out of the ground, but suddenly, before the phenomenon can be checked out, a great explosion occurs, which kills Lancing and injures another soldier. The area is quarantined and an American, Dr. Adam Royston, who is the chief atomic scientist at a Scottish research laboratory at Lochmouth, is called in to advise. By the time Adam arrives, the radioactivity has mysteriously vanished and he is left to ponder a bottomless fissure that has formed on the moor. That night, Willie Harding and Ian Osborn, two mischievous boys acting out a dare, walk through the woods toward an ancient “haunted” tower ruin, where a hermit, Old Tom, resides. Willie is approached by a frightening creature and, later in the night, must be hospitalized for first degree radiation burns, from which he eventually dies without regaining consciousness. The next day, Adam checks out the tower and finds a sample container from his personal workshop. The container, which once held radioactive trinium, is now empty, and when Adam questions Tom about it, he has no idea about how it got there. After returning to work, Adam finds that his laboratory is in disarray and a large amount of trinium he has been working with is missing. Upon receiving the report of the stolen trinium container, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission sends “Mac” McGill from their Internal Security Division to investigate. The director of the research facility, John Elliot, is unhappy that Mac has come and at first tries to block his investigation, but Mac soon forms an easy alliance with Adam. Mac is supportive when Willie’s father accuses Adam and his fellow scientists of “letting off bombs you can’t control.” Adam, sorry for the man’s grief, tells Mac that “we only try to create, not destroy.” Oblivious to recent events, a nurse and an intern enter the hospital’s X-ray or “radiation” room for a tryst. Their lovemaking is interrupted when something seeps in through the vents and attacks the intern, who melts away from radiation burns, leaving the nurse injured and mentally unstable. Seeing the aftermath, Adam suggests to his colleagues that the creature can take different shapes to conform to its environment, like oil. After learning that two more soldiers were killed while guarding the moor, Adam and Mac investigate. Later, Adam theorizes that intelligent life that requires radiation to exist has developed under the earth’s crust, and over time its living space has been compressed. To survive, Adam suggests, the life-form surfaces, but only in the last few years, due to the development of nuclear power, has there been enough radiation above ground to sustain its life. Extrapolating his theory, Adam further suggests that the creature will grow and become more dangerous as it consumes more energy and that the research facility, which houses a cobalt bomb, will soon attract it. Elliot calls Adam’s theory “rubbish,” but Maj. Cartwright, who is the army liaison, Mac, and Elliot’s son Peter take Adam seriously. When Adam determines that the fissure will have to be investigated, Peter, who, against Elliot’s wishes, wants to be a researcher rather than an administrator, volunteers to be lowered into it. On his way down, he passes a human corpse, then abruptly signals to be raised and barely misses being attacked by the creature from down below. The major is ordered to have his men concrete over the fissure, but both Mac and Adam, who refers to the creature as “this X, this unknown quantity,” believe that the creature will break through and attack again. Later, their fears are confirmed when the creature is reported to have “melted” four people in a car and Adam, by looking at a map, determines that it is moving on a straight course toward the research facility. Although Adam attempts to move the cobalt bomb, the oozing, radioactive, mud-like creature soon attacks the guard at the front gate, forcing Adam to order an evacuation. To give the creature a clear path for its return, the inhabitants of the area take shelter in a chapel, while Adam and Peter work furiously to devise a way to destabilize the creature. Although their laboratory experiment is only partially successful, the urgency of the situation compels Adam to try it out in real life. From helicopters, soldiers see that the creature has changed course, but static in the atmosphere, due to the creature’s radioactivity, prevents them from reporting to the ground. Adam, Elliot, Mac and Peter return to the fissure, assisted by soldiers. Peter lures the creature forward with a jeep filled with radioactive bait. The jeep’s tires stick in the mud, but Peter breaks free and lures the creature into an area rigged with special electronic equipment devised by Adam. When Adam orders the switch turned on, an explosion occurs and afterward the creature seems to have been destroyed. A second, unexpected explosion occurs, which mystifies Adam, but Mac and Elliot agree that Adam’s plan has worked. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.