Sunday, 14 August 2011

Quatermass 2

Year: 1957
Director: Val Guest
Screenplay: Nigel Kneale and Val Guest, from a story by Nigel Kneale
Starring: Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sydney James, Bryan Forbes, William Frankly, Vera Day
Running Time: 85 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction, horror

Summary: Professor Bernard Quatermass (Donlevy), head of the British Rocket Group, is frustrated that the Government are threatening to shut down his project to send manned spacecraft to the Moon in order to build a lunar colony. They believe that Quatermass' experimental rocket is too dangerous.
However, Quatermass is distracted by reports of large numbers strange, symmetrically shaped meteorites landing in a small remote area of the country. Heading off to investigate, Quatermass, and his assistant Marsh (Forbes), are shocked to find a mysterious refinery facility which seems to be designed exactly like Quatermass' lunar colony, they are also disturbed by the secretive and violent nature of the guards surrounding the plant.
Examining the meteorites, it turns out that they are hollow and filled with ammonia gas and an alien parasite which infects and controls the mind of the nearest human host.
Quatermass discovers that the plant is ostensibly making processed foodstuff, but he suspects a more sinister purpose and as he tries to uncover the truth, discovers a sinister alien conspiracy that reaches to the top levels of Government.

Opinions: Following the huge success of their film of The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), Hammer Films were keen to adapt the second of Nigel Kneale's highly popular and hugely influential Quatermass TV serials, and bought the rights before the series had even begun transmission.
Kneale was unhappy with The Quatermass Xperiment film, partly due to the changes made to his original television script. With this one he made sure that he had much greater input and wrote the first draft of the script himself, but director Val Guest, much to Kneale's displeasure, rewrote it to shorten it and make it more cinematic.
The finished film is pretty faithful to the Quatermass II TV serial, although heavily condensed (the original six part TV serial is about twice the length of the film). It tells an interesting and involving story of alien possession, and paranoid conspiracy. It utilises an almost documentary style feel and gets a lot of milage from the pipes, domes and canister's of it's refinery setting.
Hollywood actor Brian Donlevy, reprising his role from The Quatermass Xperiment film, makes an effective Quatermass, giving the role a hard-boiled film noir quality, although his perfomance was heavily criticised by Kneale, and future Carry On star Sydney James appears as an alcoholic reporter.
It is an effective and entertaining piece of work and, if not exactly a classic, is an above average slice of 1950s British science-fiction. It was released in the USA as Enemy From Space.

Sydney James, Brian Donlevy and John Longden in Quatermass 2

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