Quatermass and The Pit Blu-ray Review
A titan of the genre
Quatermass and the Pit Film review
Do you know what you're implying? That we owe our human condition to the intervention of insects!Quatermass and the Pit was made and shown on television in 1958, and to tremendous acclaim. Nigel Kneale, already a well-established writer, penned the series and built on his intelligent brand of genre-writing; the typical sci-fi tropes and concepts – that of aliens, yetis, the occult and influences from pre-history – all had to be based in scientific truth, or, at least, a convincing extension of scientific truth. Terrifying monsters and the destruction they bring were not the driving force behind the writings, merely a by-product; it is the unravelling of a cosmic, or supernatural mystery where the heart of the story unfolds. And if such concepts could be tied into (the then) current social ideology, there was the possibility of even more plausible sounding explanations.
The discovery of an unexploded bomb in 1958 was commonplace (amazingly it still happens!) so basing the initial episodes on such exploits would have drawn people right into the plot; that the ‘bomb’ turned out to be something all the more sinister and that it’s been influencing the immediate area around it, then, by extension, the whole of human history, is such a deliciously devilish idea that it still influences today.
Told over six episodes the story gradually unfolds, all the while keeping the characters real; the battle between science and the military, the stand-offs of authority, the sheer audacity of the idea and the repercussions it reveals – and all told in a time where effects were in their infancy and recorded TV was impossible; this was live folks!
There are plenty of TV shows that are landmarks – shows that are influential beyond their years; The Wire, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, to name but a few, and Quatermass and the Pit can rightly stand alongside as a titan of the genre.
Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray PictureThe disc presents a broadcast correct 1.33:1 1080i/50 image using the MPEG-4 codec, and is a “brand new high-definition remaster from the original film elements”. Whilst the show was not made on film, its recording was (by setting up a film camera to record a studio monitor) and was the subject of extensive restoration in 2005 by the miracle workers at the Doctor Who restoration team (their work can be viewed on their website). The 2005 DVD was an amazing upgrade compared to the VHS, so how does this new HD remaster fair?
Well worth the upgrade!
Basically, this new transfer trounces the DVD at every turn. Great care has been given to this restoration with new scans and further cleanup, revealing far more detail than ever before; the picture is far more stable, the brightness fluctuations are much reduced, meaning the image is, considering the source, quite stunning. The greater resolution has resolved pretty much all issues that were inherent in the DVD, aliasing has all but been eliminated, softness has been radically sharpened (without enhancement tools) so that detail has resolved dramatically; skin now has texture, the mud and grime of the pit is now sharp and in focus, clothing have weaves, indeed any of the inserted filmed elements are stunning.
The studio material, also, fairs much better, where the increased resolution has tightened the image, giving far sharper edges, so that text is easier to read, props are better resolved and there is a greater sense of depth to the frame.
Brightness and, especially, contrast have been re-managed to give actual blacks (something the DVD failed to do), this enhances the depth of frame and adds to the mood of the piece. The grey scale is, therefore, vastly improved, giving a much more pleasing image, as the dynamic range brings out the intensity of the picture.
Digitally there are no compression issues, and the original source is amazingly clean; ok, there are still the off brightness fluctuations, and some areas of the frame show their age, but honestly this is a remarkable picture and certainly the best it has ever been. Well worth the upgrade!
Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray SoundThe same diligent work by the restoration team given to the picture was afforded to the sound, (how this was achieved is also on their website) and it is replicated here, i.e. the same track. You can’t expect much from a 2 channel mono track from 1958 TV, no matter how good the clean-up, there simply isn’t much there to begin with. The track, though, is clean and bright; dialogue, the mainstay, is well realised, sounds natural enough and is always audible.
Effects are well layered, as is the score, to give a decent sense of depth, this is especially true of when the Martian effect sounds. Bass is practically non-existent, but the low middle is good, so the track never sounds tinny. It is also free from hiss, crackle, pops and dropouts. The packaging boasts less compression, meaning the sound is better than previous editions …. that may be, but it doesn’t sound any different to me. It manages to get its information across efficiently and well, and is the most you can expect from it.
Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray ExtrasAudio Commentary – Each episode is given a newly recorded commentary, moderated by Toby Hadoke and featuring members of the original cast and crew, including actor Mark Eden, author Keith Banks, visual effects technician Peter Day and Dick Mills from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. All recorded separately and edited together, Toby keeps the various conversations going and probes into some decent enough titbits about the production of the serial.
Photo Gallery - Includes a number of previously unreleased images from the show’s original production, pays as a slide show to the score.
Alternate titles - Compilation of opening and closing titles from the rebroadcast and VHS release; from the BBC Archives.
Making Demons - Visual effects featurette recorded in 1991 with Jack Kine and Bernard Wilkie, who talk about the effects they produced for various early BBC serials and the budgets they had to do it.
Archive Material – CD-Rom based material covering the 1958 production.
8-page collector’s booklet
Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray VerdictNigel Kneale is a titan amongst writers; his taking of fantastical ideas and grounding them in scientific reality and then tying them into current aspects was, and still is, ground-breaking. Whilst the first two Quatermass series were tremendously popular, it is with The Pit where the real acclaim was given. The delicious idea of an ancient Martian capsule that has influenced human evolution proved to be incredibly influential and gives this series a longevity and gravitas that allows it to sit along-side television greats; simply put, one of the greatest TV shows ever shown.
The set from the BBC is pretty good; the picture is a fantastic upgrade from the previous DVD, with the greater resolution and clean up giving a far more detailed image, with better dynamic range, actual black and an altogether cleaner and brighter image that belies its age. The sound is as basic as it gets, 2.0 mono, but maintains a decent sense of depth, is clean and clear without any distortion or hiss, with good layering and defined dialogue. Extras are ok, the highlights are the audio commentaries which talk about many aspects of the original production, while the features look at some of the other production elements.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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