- "How do you kill mud?"
- ―Doctor Adam Royston
|X the Unknown|
|Title:||X the Unknown|
|Directed by:||Leslie Norman|
|Written by:||Jimmy Sangster|
|Produced by:||Michael Carreras|
|Music by:||James Bernard|
|Edited by:||James Needs|
|Distributed by:||Warner Bros.; Hammer Film Productions; RKO Radio Pictures; Anchor Bay Entertainment (DVD)|
|Released:||November 5th, 1956|
|Running time:||81 min.|
X the Unknown is a British science ficion/horror film directed by Leslie Norman and released in 1956. The plot revolves around an ever-growing mound of radioactive slime that crawls out of a fissure in the Scottish countryside. Filmed at Bray Studios in England, X the Unknown capitalized on the growing trend in cinema to produce creatures born of atomic mutation and science gone wrong. X the Unknown is a precursor to the campy 1958 sci-fi/horror comedy The Blob. The film was originally intended as a sequel to the popular 1955 film The Quatermass Xperiment, but screenwriter Nigel Kneale did not allow Hammer the rights to use his protagonist Bernard Quatermass.
The British army are conducting training maneuvers in radiation detection in a barren patch of land in Lochmouth, Scotland. Using a Geiger counter, they locate volumes of radioactive matter buried throughout the region. A lieutenant named Lansing is insure of himself and insists upon repeating the maneuvers . Major Cartwright arrives to analyze the squad's progress. While Cartwright consults with Lance Corporal Webb and Sergeant Bannerman, Lansing discovers a disturbing pocket of earth with high levels of atomic radiation. He alerts his superiors, but before anyone can move, the ground cracks open before Lansing's feet, sending up a deadly wave of fire. Lansing falls over.
At the nearby Atomic Energy Establishment, Doctor Adam Royston continues with his own personal projects in the study of radiation. He is summoned to the office of his superior, Doctor John Elliott, who admonishes Royston for engaging in his own personal pursuits, leaving his work in the hands of Elliott's son, Peter. Elliott tells Royston about the military testing site and has him go out to investigate it.
When Royston arrives, he measures the ambient radioactivity, but detects nothing. Bannerman brings him to the injured Lt. Lansing and shows him the severe radiation burns upon his back. After conducting some tests, Royston and Major Cartwright agree to seal off the area, however, Royston has no idea what could have caused the fissure.
Late in the evening, two young boys named Ian Osborn and Willie Harding explore the woods near an old tower. They want to see of a town vagrant named "Old Tom" actually lives within the tower or not. Ian dares Willie to check it out, but as the boy draws closer, something attacks him. Willie races back to Ian, and the two boys run off.
The following morning, Doctor Royston and Peter Elliott are called in to the hospital. Willie has been admitted suffering from third degree radiation burns. Royston takes it upon himself to find his friend Ian to learn where the boys were the previous evening. Ian tells him that Willie and he were playing near the old tower in the marshes. Royston takes his Geiger counter to the tower and finds a small room where Old Tom is sleeping. He also finds a container that had been stolen from his private workshop. He takes the container back and returns to his workshop where he meets with Peter Elliott. He tells Peter that within the container is a supply of trinium.
Meanwhile, Inspector McGill of Scotland Yard is assigned the task of investigating the events surrounding the injured child, as well as the trinium theft from Doctor Royston's laboratory. McGill speaks with Royston and they learn that Willie Harding never came close enough to the tower to have been exposed to any harmful radiation. They go to the hospital to see Willie, but the boy unfortunately dies. Willie's father blames Doctor Royston and all scientists like him for the death of his son.
Elsewhere in the hospital, a doctor named Harry Grimsdyke and a nurse named Zena steal away to the radiology lab for a private moment. Neither of them are yet aware of the threat waiting inside. Fatal radioactivity floods the room, and while the nurse is safely behind a wall of shielded glass, Grimsdyke is completely exposed to the mysterious menace. He tries to back away from the threat, but his skin blisters and mutates until he falls over dead. Adam Royston and Inspector McGill are soon called in to investigate the incident. Adam theorizes that whatever killed the doctor came in through a ventilation grate. He begins to realize that whatever this threat truly is, it must have originated from the fissure. He is concerned that there might still be soldiers guarding the site.
At the fissure, Lance Corporals "Spider" Webb and Haggis guard the perimeter. The radioactive creature emerges and kills Haggis. Lance Corporal Webb tries to shoot at it, but is killed soon after. Royston and McGill arrive at the scene, but they are too late.
The two men return to the research center where they consult with project leads and military commanders. Doctor Royston provides a wild theory, suggesting that whatever killed Willie Harding and Doctor Grimsdyke may have been a living mass of energy born from the Earth's core which slowly rose to the surface over the course of many centuries. He believes this mass requires massive amounts of radioactive energy to sustain itself and is attracted to areas with strong radioactive signatures. John Elliott completely dismisses Royston's speculation and considers it "absolute rubbish". McGill however, believes that Royston's theory might have some merit.
Royston decides that his team must inspect the fissure again, but this time by actually entering it. His assistant, Peter Elliott, volunteers to go down into the fissure. As he is lowered into the cavern, Elliott discovers a human skull and some black, radioactive residue. Peter is brought back up to the surface and Major Cartwright decides to use explosives to kill whatever might be down there and cement the entire fissure shut. Royston knows that this tactic will prove ineffective. He tells McGill that a couple feet of concrete is not going to stop an entity that has spent thousands of years pushing upwards through the Earth's crust.
Royston hopes that by setting up a cobalt weapon set between a scanner, he might be able to devise a means of destroying the entity with minimal collateral damage. Royston begins work on the cobalt piles in the facility.
That night, the entity - a mass of radioactive mud breaks through the concrete seal of the fissure and begins expanding. It goes into the nearby town and claims four more victims, completely melting them into slag. Inspector McGill is called to the scene and finds trace elements of black residue.
Back at the Atomic Energy Establishment, Royston convinces John Elliott that his initial theory is sound and that he requires the stores of cobalt as a means of destroying the creature. Peter Elliott learns that the monster is just outside the research center and is heading towards the reactor building. The scientists finally make visual contact with the giant blob as it pours over the chain-link fence. Royston believes that they must lure it back to the fissure if they have any chance of stopping it. As the team gathers their materials together, the creature heads towards the residential areas of Lochmouth. It pushes its mass through a stone wall into a churchyard. A vicar runs out and scoops up a young girl before the monster can reach her.
At the lab, Doctor Royston sets up his Cobalt containers, but he is not comfortable with the element's instability. John Elliott thinks that the scanners may have been out of synch, but both men realize that they don't have time to argue about the science. They take their samples and scanners and drive back to the fissure. The creature senses the presence of the Cobalt and instinctively returns to the fissure. Peter Elliot drives a jeep to the lip of the fissure and deposits the cobalt bomb. His vehicle gets stuck in the mud and he barely gets away in time. As the monster enters the cracks of the fissure, Royston activates his scanners, which he hopes will keep the explosion contained. The weapon is detonated and the monster is killed. A secondary explosion goes off unexpectedly, but Royston and the others are satisfied that the danger has now passed.
|Dean Jagger||Adam Royston|
|Edward Chapman||John Elliott|
|Leo McKern||Inspector McGill|
|Anthony Newley||Lance Corporal "Spider" Webb|
|Jameson Clark||Jack Harding|
|William Lucas||Peter Elliott|
|Peter Hammond||Lt. Bannerman|
|Michael Ripper||Harry Grimsdyke|
|John Harvey||Major Cartwright|
|Jane Aird||Vi Harding|
|Norman Macowan||Old Tom|
|Kenneth Cope||Sapper Lansing|
|Michael Brooke||Willie Harding|
|Frazer Hines||Ian Osborn|
|Max Brimmell||Hospital director|
|Robert Bruce||Doctor Kelly|
|Archie Duncan||Sgt. Yeardye|
Notes & Trivia Edit
- Filmed at Bray Studios in England.
- Was included in the DVD Hammer Collection with Four Sided Triangle, distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment.
- Originally, X the Unknown was to be directed by Joseph Walton (real name Joseph Losey). However, actor Dean Jagger refused to work with Walton, believing him to be a communist sympathizer. Walton was eventually replaced with Leslie Norman. Illness was cited as Walton's official reason for leaving the production. 
- X the Unknown is one of the few Hammer Film Productions science fiction films that is not part of the Quatermass franchise.
- First genre film for screenwriter Jimmy Sangster.
He runs as though the Devil himself were in pursuit... and well he might, for he saw what no man has ever seen before.
The menace that can kill, but cannot be killed!
This is the rim of Hell... where no one living can stay alive.. here lies the fiendish secret of.. X the Unknown
It rises from 2000 miles below the earth to melt everything in it's path!