|Star:||Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Tom Chatto|
|Cert / Year:||18 - R / 1957|
The Quatermass stories are one of the great milestones in British science fiction. This is the Hammer films production of the second story.
Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) of the British Rocket group (Those were the days when we still thought that Britain could be the first into space, ha) cannot get funding for his moon colony project. To take his mind of this he decides to investigate a series of meteors that appear to be "landing" near a small village of Winaton Flats. When he arrives he finds that the village has disappeared and has been replaced by a copy of his moon base! Finding a small meteor his friend appears to be attacked by something from inside it, no sooner has this happened but some heavily armed guards appear and brutally expel Quatermass from the area. Quatermass enlists the help of police chief inspector Lomax (John Longdon) , minister Vincent Broadhead (Tom Chatto), and an dodgy reporter Jimmy Hall (Sid James) They return to the area to obtain the truth. However there is a cover up stretching right upto the highest levels, and what is more there are sinister alien forces are stacked against them.
We really don't make them like we used to. Nigel Kneale's (a fellow Manx man) Quatermass stories were some of the first televised science fiction when the BBC adapted them for serialisation. Based upon the success of these serialisations Hammer films made the film the Quatermass Xperiment (the e dropped from the word experiment to emphasise the X rating which it received). This did so well a second film was made, this film, Quatermass 2. Quatermass 2 shared characters with the fist film (Brian Donlevy reprised the Quatermass role), but it was not a sequel and the stories were completely separate.
Quatermass 2 compares very well with other contemporary 50's sci-fi for example This Island Earth or The Day the Earth Stood Still. It is well directed and well acted. Brian Donlevy does a fine job as Quatermass, but why the hell is he American (look I know the answer, I was just making a point). The Quatermass character is essentially British, like James Bond or Doctor Who, and being played by an American just doesn't sit properly. To see the role played properly watch Andrew Keir in the superior sequel Quatermass and the Pit. The other actors are fine if not a little two dimensional, with the notable exception of Sid James who is great as usual.
By far the best apple in the pie, as it were, is the story and script. The Quatermass's character is a great choice for a reluctant hero being neither macho nor brave, he has to rely on his brains rather than brawn. He is placed into a situation which is almost hopeless, and the script nicely builds up the tension as it stacks the odds against him. The story does share some similarities to the Invasion of the body snatchers, but as they both came out at nearly the same time you could give it the benefit of the doubt (actually it is closer to the Abel Ferras Body Snatchers). Despite some occasionally dated sexism , it all leads to the battle at the end which is top stuff.
OK so the effects no longer look that special, more Doctor Who than Independence day (Interestingly the Doctor Who story Spearhead from space is very much a copy of this film, and Jon Pertwee's Doctor was played rather like Quatermass). The music is occasionally brilliant but at other times grates intrusively This added to my earlier criticisms leads to the question why watch it? Well like so much British sci-fi, it manages to overcome these defects to become so much more than the some of its parts. The direction and script contribute to this immensely. The Quatermass films are often over looked classics, this one may not be the best but is still well worth it.
|4:3||Beautifully restored picture, apart from the first two minutes|
|Mono||Original mono soundtrack, but clear and good|
|Slightly vacuous "World of Hammer" episode entitled "Sci-fi"|
|Audio Commentary by Director Val Guest and Writer Nigel Kneale|
|U.S. "Enemy from Space" Trailer|
|Overall this is much more than was hoped for, and it is good to see at least some older movies being treated with the proper reverence.|