Starring Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman and Leo McKern
A formless creature with radioactive tendencies is let loose from a fissure in the ground and terrorizes a nearby Scottish town.
It kills…but cannot be killed!
The film begins with a group of soldiers testing out a geiger counter — a device that detects radiation — in order to better avoid radioactive materials while fighting on the ground. One of the men discovers the counter reading numbers higher than they expected for just a simple test. The ground begins to shake and a fissure opens up exposing several soldiers to high doses of radiation, even killing a couple of them. A doctor (Jagger) from a nearby atomic energy lab, as well as an inspector (McKern) from the Atomic Energy Commission are called in to investigate the fissure; that same night a boy is dared by his friend to go near the scene who is then run off by something that frightens the boy. The boy later becomes very ill and dies of radiation poisoning.
As the unknown creature attacks again and again, the doctor is quick to find out that radioactive material near victims have lost their radioactive properties and are harmless. Whatever the creature is, it feeds on that particular energy and leads the doctor to ultimately hypothesize that what we’re dealing with is something that has dwelled under the surface ever since the Earth cooled after forming millions of years ago. Now that a crack in the Earth has opened, the creature has been able to get out and feed wherever it can find the energy it needs. Figuring out what this thing is is one half of the problem solved…now how do you kill it?
If I could make a quick comparison for you, I’d say X: The Unknown was very similar in nature to The Blob (X came out two years prior however.) I knew nothing going into the film and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. X is a product of its time, back when radiation could conjure up monsters from the ground and the sea; just look at Godzilla which came out two years before X. Radiation could do wonders for new monsters back in this age of filmmaking.
The creature itself is silly to see now (and probably was back then too) but it’s creatively hidden off screen until it’s needed to be seen ala Jaws. It’s probably for the best since in black & white the creature looks like a big, oily turd that moves on its own. I was a little surprised to see a couple of victim closeups with melting faces, I bet that was pushing the limit back in 1956. The movie is well made with a terrific cast who seemed on board to deliver this odd creature feature. Maybe it’s because they were British.
Story: 5 – Radioactive creature breaks through to the surface to eat and maybe murder a people or two.
Blood: 3 – A couple of melting faces!
Nudity: 0 – Hahaha, yeah right.
Overall: 5 – Nothing that will blow you away, but a surprisingly decent creature feature from an era that was bombarded with them.
-One of the first horror pictures put out by the famous Hammer Films studio, who were doing crime, film noir and murder mysteries beforehand. A few years later they would start their own gothic horror tales based on Dracula, the Mummy among many others for which they would become most famous for.