When I was young, in the sixties/seventies, I saw a movie on TV that intrigued me then and even more so now. It showed in B&W here in Australia, we did not have colour yet.

The movie might have been "mainstream" at the time (but probably dated by the time it got to TV here!).

The prophecy aspect sustains my interest — planetologists currently suggest that methane and ammonia would be typical of a primordial atmosphere conducive to the creation of life.


2 Answers 2


This sounds like the 1957 film Quatermass 2, a remake by Hammer films of the classic BBC TV series from 1955.

From a summary on IMDB:

Professor Quatermass, trying to gather support for his project to colonize the Moon, is intrigued by the mysterious objects that have been showing up on his radar - meteorites crashing down to Earth? Following them to the place where they should be landing he finds a destroyed village, a mysterious factory too close to his designs for the Moon colony for comfort, and some strange objects containing a mysterious, ammonia-based gas that infects one of his assistants. Officially, the factory is producing synthetic food; but despite the veil of secrecy surrounding it Quatermass succeeds in finding out it harbours aliens with deadly designs on the Earth.

The aliens are held within large pressure domes. In particular, Quatermass finds that the gas mixture used for the domes matches that recalled by the OP:

"In the pressure control room I began to examine the controls and noticed that the gases being used were, ammonia, methane, hydrogen and oxygen. I also theorized that the oxygen was being used to acclimatize the aliens to our planet’s atmosphere. I therefore closed off all gases to the domes except of course, the oxygen."

This ended up poisoning the aliens, who are forced to exit from the domes but soon die in the Earth's atmosphere.

  • 2
    I can't help thinking it would have been easier to just strike a match inside one of the domes, since unless the oxygen is only there in trace amounts, such a mixture would be explosive.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jun 24 at 6:13
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    @N.Virgo: You're thinking like a solider, not a scientist. Imagine all the scientific wonders waiting for you in the dome, why would you want to burn that down!?!? Commented Jun 24 at 7:40
  • @N.Virgo How would you get into the dome, and survive long enough to strike the match? Commented Jun 24 at 8:51
  • In practice the idea of an early methane/ammonia/hydrogen atmosphere was receiving attention well before the 1960s. In particular see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment#Experiment Commented Jun 24 at 8:52
  • @MarkMorganLloyd I suppose surviving after striking the match would be the hardest part, now that I think about it. I've never performed the Miller-Urey experiment, but I'm lucky enough to have colleagues who have.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jun 24 at 9:22

This sounds like the "Tripods" books by John Christopher, published in the late 60's.The BBC produced a television series, but not until the 80's, and I don't know of a film.

  • 2
    IIRC after the 5-hour war, the aliens set up domes with chlorine gas (which makes sense, as oxidizer), holding human slaves who can only work there with protective gear. The plan was to alienoform the whole of Earth eventually, but sabotage prevents this. Commented Jun 23 at 20:27

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