“You realize what you’re implying? That we owe our human condition here to the intervention of insects?”
When a team of anthropologists led by Dr. Mathew Roney (James Donald) and his assistant (Barbara Shelley) discover a cylindrical object and primate bones in an underground construction site, rocket scientist Dr. Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is brought to the scene. He eventually determines the object is a spaceship rather than a bomb, and that the bones are evidence of an ancient Martian race that landed on Earth five million years ago.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “exceptional, extremely intelligent, thematically controversial science-fiction film” — the third of screenwriter Nigel Kneale’s “BBC-TV serials to be filmed” — “still hasn’t received due recognition in America”. He notes that while the “film is complicated”, it’s “always fascinating and exciting”, and is “skillfully directed by Roy Ward Baker”. While I agree with Peary that Five Million Years… is provocative and well-made, I disagree with his assertion that it’s “Hammer Studios’ best film”, and will actually admit to preferring its less colorful and less flashy predecessor, The Quatermass Experiment (1956). Five Million Years… is often compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968), given that both explore “the intriguing theme of ‘race memory'”, with the distinction that “whereas Kubrick’s humans retain memories of ‘God’ from their ape ancestors who had contact with extra-terrestrials”, the “Martian insect-creatures” in this film apparently had contact “with the devil” — thus lending it a different type of horror vibe than Dave’s interactions with H.A.L. This finely produced cult flick is certainly worth a look by all film fanatics, but I’m going to go against the grain in not considering it must-see.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
No, though it’s certainly worth a look as a cult favorite. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies 3 book.