Chills In The Chapel With Jamesons Cult Film Club

Last night I went to an incredible event, the first night of the Halloween edition of the Jameson Cult Film Club, at the Union Chapel in Islington (a venue I usually associate with live music). The film being shown tonight was the 1967 Hammer production of ‘Quatermass and the Pit‘, a reworking of the late 1950s TV series broadcast on the BBC.

They went to great lengths to make people feel uneasy before the film was shown. The first thing we saw on arriving at the Chapel was a lit tube station sign emblazoned with the words “Hobbs End” hanging on scaffolding outside (this fictitious tube station is the setting for most of the scenes). Inside, after being greeted by a rather strange gaunt creature lingering in the darkness just inside the doors, the interior of the tube station was revealed on the stage at the front of this rather strange octagonal auditorium, with Professor Quatermass and the barking (in more ways than one) Colonel Breen pacing up and down while they examined the strange alien craft. Heading up into the bar area (where copious volumes of Jamesons cocktails were being doled out) we came across weird brain-scanning experiments being conducted by white-coated scientists (again echoing another key plot point).

To a great extent the movie itself stands the test of time – while there are some unintentionally amusing moments, including some really ropey special effects (alien locusts bobbing up and down on sticks just out of shot) and lots of unintentional mysoginy (you have to remember that women were only just beginning to ‘burn their bras’ at this point in our history, so the female lead is cast as an intelligent but rather ‘fragile’ character, shall we say) it remains very suspenseful throughout. The climactic final scenes, where Quatermass and company try to escape the rampaging Londoners while being overlooked by a menacing alien presence accompanied by a deafening soundscape of weird hypnotic rhythms, are as good as anything that you’d see in the cinema today. Looking around, people were on the edge of their seats as the tension built. Given the period in which this was filmed you also have to applaud them for the ending, which is left completely open to interpretation – have they managed to save the earth or are we all doomed?

All in all I was really impressed with the evening – they pulled out all the stops to make it an amazing cinema-going experience for the audience. Although it’s too late to get tickets for the weekend’s other performances (Saturday and Sunday night sold out some time ago) Jameson Cult Film Club runs regular events throughout the year – sign up here for a chance to get tickets for their next event, and to be kept up to date on developments. You can also watch for tweets by following JamesonCultFilm on Twitter.

About Pete Stean

Pete Stean is a London-based writer and photographer. He can also be found on Twitter and on Google Plus.

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