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"This isn't a living organism as we know it."
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A 1956 Hammer Horror venture into Sci-Fi Horror, directed by Leslie Norman,note  perhaps best known for Dunkirk (1958), and written by prolific Hammer writer Jimmy Sangster.

On a quarry by the Scottish village of Lochside, soldiers undergo a radiation detection exercise. Latecomer Lancing (Kenneth Cope) finds an unexpectedly strong radiation emission. With a small explosion, the earth above it splits apart in an indeterminately deep fissure, giving Lancing radiation burns. From a nearby radiation lab, Dr. Adam Royston (Dean Jagger) is called to investigate.

That night, local boy Willie Harding (Michael Brook), on a dare, meets something in the woods which gives him similar burns to Lancing. Royston then finds his workshop to have been raided, with a trinium sample drained of radioactivity. Inspector McGill (Leo McKern) learns that several people have died in bizarre circumstances — in which their bodies appear to have melted. So begins the search for "X", an assailant which can cross barred windows, absorb radiation, and leaves traces of radioactive mud...

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This film provides examples of:

  • Agent Scully: Administrator John Elliot, impatient with Dr. Royston's ambitious experiments, staunchly doubts the emergence of a subterranean predator.
  • The Apprentice: Young Peter Elliot aims to follow the work of Dr. Royston. His note of a possible cause of test failure persuades Dr Royston to try field use of the radiation scanners.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: X grows big enough to cover fields and fill village streets.
  • Blob Monster: A living blob of amorphous earthen matter, X, descendant of a species which evolved on a radioactive Earth, emerges from miles beneath the ground in search of a recent abundance of radiation. It can slip through window bars and ventilation grills and grows to colossal size.
  • Body Horror: When an enlarged X seeps through a ventilation shaft into the hospital, contact with its radioactive body melts off the bone the flesh of Dr. Kelly.
  • The Brigadier:
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    • Major Cartwright is readily cooperative with Dr. Royston and co.
    • In a police variant, Inspector McGill supports Dr Royston's evaluation of the bizarre threat.
  • Captain Ersatz: After the success of The Quatermass Xperiment, Hammer immediately wanted to make a sequel. However, they couldn't get the rights however, so they made X the Unknown, giving it an extremely similar plot-structure and atmosphere to the first and a highly Quatermass-like hero in Dr. Royston.
  • Death of a Child: Willie eventually dies of radiation burns.
  • Death by Sex: In the hospital radiation room, a secret liaison with Nurse Zena leads Dr. Kelly to a graphically fatal encounter with X.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Young Ian Osbourne and Willie Harding, on a mutual dare in the local woods, encounter X.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Proximity to X boils away the facial flesh of Dr. Kelly, revealing the skull beneath.
  • Freud Was Right: In Hammer and Beyond: The British Horror Film, Peter Hutchings notes parallel of a monster released by a crack in the earth with, in the recent The Quatermass Xperiment, a mutation spread by a crashed rocket.
  • Friend to All Children: Dr. Royston gently coaxes information from traumatized young Ian Osborn.
  • Eagleland: Averted with Dr. Royston.
  • Good Shepherd: The village reverend conscientiously steers villagers to the relative safety of the church and pulls a small girl to safety when X approaches.
  • Kid Amid the Chaos: An infant girl, innocently oblivious to the danger, nears a crumbling churchyard wall, behind which approaches the colossal radioactive predator, and is narrowly pulled to safety by the reverend.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Little is seen of the mysterious attacks until later on.
  • Nuclear Nasty: Dr. Royston deduces X to be of a species which, as Earth grew less radioactive, withdrew to the core. Roused by a cyclical gravitational tilt, it emerges in search of the recent abundance of radiation.
  • Scenery Porn: Some lovely shots of the village and surrounding landscape.
  • Science Hero: Dr. Adam Royston, in an attempt to neutralize radioactivity via two rotating scanners, manages to direct the principal against X.
  • Screaming Woman: Played for Horror with Nurse Zena when Dr. Kelly is horrifically killed.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Exposure to the rapidly growing X causes human flesh to melt off the bones.

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