Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Quatermass And The Brits!


I finally got to see Quatermass II, or as it's know in these United States -- Enemy from Space. This is the Hammer Films feature version of the vintage British TV Quatermass series which tells a tale which evokes classic yarns like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other subtle alien invasion movies. Brian Donlevy is the cantankerous Professor Quatermass, a rocket scientist who is struggling to keep his rocket project up and running as his team gets wind of another secret project which seems to be getting all of the government's funds. They are led to it by mysterious objects which have fallen from space and when handled break open release a gas and and agent which dominates the mind and spirit of a human host.


The story is a complicated story in which against all odds Quatermass is able to penetrate the secret base operated by the hidden aliens and attempts to frustrate their efforts to transform Earth's atmosphere to suit their own needs. There's lots of mayhem and typical of a British sci-fi effort, a lot of death before it's all said and done. I don't love the plot of this story, especially at the end since so much of the solution is happenstance, but there's no denying the bravery of a few souls who give all to save this island Earth.


Quatermass II was preceded of course by The Quatermass Xperiment otherwise called The Creeping Unknown. This earlier tale has a rocket return to Earth which brings back one living astronaut who has been infected by alien spores which are slowly transforming him from a human into something else, something which poses a threat to all mankind. The story is for most of its telling a taught story in which the authorities are chasing after the escaped astronaut who slowly changes and murders as he does so.


I have the first movie in its original TV format and I like that one quite well, but finally getting to see the feature version is dandy. The original TV version of the first Quatermass story is apparently only partially extant, so I guess we can only speculate how good it was. But in all versions and in the later Quatermass and the Pit (still need a good copy of Five Million Years to Earth by the way) I am always attracted by the British settings and characters. The equanimity which is a core aspect of so many characters in these stories is always interesting. They have a charm apart from the surreal aspects of the story which helps to ground the proceedings. The Earth might be invaded and all of life as we know might end before dawn, but there's no need to panic! Love that.

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9 comments:

  1. And what's more, we Brits never let anything interrupt our tea breaks - not even an alien invasion. Toodle-pip, old chap.

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    1. Yet more evidence of that cool British equanimity!

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  2. TCM runs Quatermass and the Pit several times a year.
    Keep an eye on the listings.
    Plus, Anchor Bay did a first-rate DVD release with commentary.
    https://amzn.to/2rrqVIE
    (There are copies as inexpensive as $12.95, but make sure it's the Anchor Bay version, not the other releases, which have no extras)

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    1. Oh I know it. I catch it and DVR it as often as I can. I've had on DVR for years at a time, but I still want my own physical copy. Actually I probably watch it more often that way. I'll check out that Anchor Bay copy. Thanks.

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  3. What on Earth is going on on that Creeping Unknown poster? It looks like the planet is being menaced by a giant, four-armed teddy bear. I've seen that film on several occasions and I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the version I saw.

    As for the first two Quatermass movies, they're OK but Brian Donlevy ruins them for me. He's so charmless in comparison to Andrew Keir and André Morell's performances in the same role.

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    1. The monster in the movie doesn't look anything like that, that's for sure. I know what you say about Donley, but there's something about his always surly presentation I warm to. He's such a grouch, even when he's winning an argument it's odd. But Keir and especially Morell are better. Both offer Quatermass with a deep interior.

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