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X The Unknown (1956)

Actors gotta work, actors gotta eat.

Even Academy Award Winners gotta put food on the table.

I assume this is what Dean Jagger (Best Supporting Actor, 1949, “Twelve O’Clock High”) was thinking when he signed on the dotted line for “X The Unknown” and ended up battling radioactive Jello pudding.

There’s a Bill Cosby joke in there somewhere, but I am afraid to make it.

The movie itself was a blatant attempt to sidestep Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale’s cease and desist from using his character; undeterred, they basically filed the serial numbers off the script (renamed the character) and filmed it anyway.

That’s how we get a Best Supporting Actor waving around a Geiger counter and battling a giant blob that crawls up out of the earth and melts people’s faces off.

The Episode

Words From Warren

I like to quote from one of my favorite reference books, the late Bill Warren’s “Keep Watching The Skies: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties”.  Mr. Warren does not suffer fools gladly, and does not mince his words when it comes to either praising a film or flaying it alive.

“This unpretentious thriller is one of the best second rate science fiction films of the 1950’s. Though the idea on which it’s based is moderately preposterous, the film is made in such a strong, realistic style, featuring understated naturalistic performances, that it remains convincing throughout. As with most British SF films of the period, it introduces one major idea and sticks with it to the end.”

This is a hard agree with Warren, and it’s nice to find a film that he really speaks strongly about and seems to like.
The only thing that disappoints is that it’s not really part of the Quatermass canon, as it was supposed to be.

Nigel Kneale got some dollar signs in his eyes, and the BBC wouldn’t play nice, so he took his toys and went home, leaving Hammer holding the bag and having to basically file the serial numbers off the script, call the dude Royston, and keep on rocking with the giant chocolate pudding monster.

It’s a good movie, it’s worth checking out the Blu-Ray, for sure.

Links

Dean Jagger – Wikipedia, IMDB, Fandango, Wikipedia

Dean Jagger Obituary – LA Times, Variety

C. Scott Rollins’ TV and Film Trivia Blog

“The Conversion of Hollywood’s Brigham Young” – Church of Latter Day Saints

Google Books – “Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series”

Google Books – “The Lyceum Magazine”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Kubla Khan” poem (Poets.org)

Lakeside, Ohio – “The Chautauqua Movement”

“X The Unknown” – Theatrical Trailer

“X The Unknown” – Complete Film on DailyMotion

Credits

I am very grateful to be able to use the music and sound effects of so many wonderful creators.
You can find a list of all music used, and all sound effects used, and links, here, on our Credits page.

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