Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
Nigel Kneale was one of the finest writers of filmed and televised sci-fi in British history, and his crowning achievement was no doubt the BBC serials, later adapted as films, starring Professor Bernard Quatermass. Coming a decade-plus after The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957), Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Million Years to Earth) was the most satisfying and expansive of the three, blending science fiction, horror, folklore, and religion into a stunning thriller that stretched back to the origins of humanity while threatening its future.
When an unidentified object is discovered underneath a London subway station, Quatermass (an excellent Andrew Keir) and his associates establish that it’s a long-buried Martian spacecraft, which crashed millions of years ago during an attempt to colonize Earth. When the device is inadvertently reactivated by the military, it resumes its mission by reawakening long dormant Martian genes planted in then-primitive humans, turning them into killing machines intent on wiping out humans lacking the Martian DNA. Eerie from the outset, full of jaw-dropping ideas, and creepy imagery, Quatermass and the Pit is not just one of the best of its decade, but one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.
Let’s be clear: director Roger Vadim’s Barbarella is not a particularly good movie, especially when it comes to the script, the direction, and some of the acting. But it’s noteworthy for attempting to bring a classic French comic book character to the screen, its often amazing production design, and for the sheer, unbridled sexual firepower that Jane Fonda brings to the title role.
Fonda smolders her way through the movie with a combination of naiveté and intense carnality, bolstered by her skimpy yet eye-catching costumes. While the film’s sexual politics may be dated, one never gets the feeling that either Fonda or the sweet-natured Barbarella are being exploited. That and the movie’s psychedelic visuals are just enough to keep one intrigued despite the picture’s many other shortcomings. Campy and cheesy, Barbarella is a chore to sit through, an acquired taste, and a basket of pleasure—often all at the same time.
The Power (1968)
The final collaboration of producer George Pal and director Byron Haskin (and the latter’s last film), The Power is a sometimes confusing but also gripping adaptation of a novel by Frank M. Robinson, in which a team of scientists learn that one of their number is secretly a super-being who is using immense telepathic powers to mow them down one by one and preserve his anonymity.
George Hamilton (Dracula in Love at First Bite) stars as Jim Tanner, one of the scientists who finds his own personal and public background eerily erased as he gets closer to discovering the true identity of the mutant, known only as Adam Hart. The script can be hard to follow and the pace slow, but the excellent score by Miklos Rozsa, the creepy ways in which the mutant uses everyday objects to torment people (like pedestrian signs, toys, and even a door that vanishes into a wall), and the concept of a frightening new turn in human evolution make The Power an under-seen little gem.