Quatermass 2

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Quatermass 2
Quatermass2.jpg
Directed by Val Guest
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Written by Nigel Kneale
Val Guest
Starring Brian Donlevy
John Longden
Sid James
Bryan Forbes
William Franklyn
Vera Day
Music by James Bernard
Cinematography Gerald Gibbs
Editing by James Needs
Studio Hammer Film Productions
Distributed by Exclusive Films (UK), United Artists (USA)
Release dates
  • 24 May 1957 (1957-05-24)
Running time 85 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £92,000

Quatermass 2 (US title: Enemy From Space) is a 1957 British science fiction horror film. Made by Hammer Film Productions, it is a sequel to an earlier Hammer film The Quatermass Xperiment. Like its predecessor, it is based on a BBC Television serial – Quatermass II – written by Nigel Kneale. It was directed by Val Guest and stars Brian Donlevy reprising his role as the eponymous Professor Bernard Quatermass, making him the only actor to play the character on screen twice. John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn and Vera Day appear in supporting roles.

The plot concerns Quatermass' investigation of reports of strange meteorite showers in England. His inquires lead him to a huge industrial plant, strikingly similar to his own plans for a Moon colony. This top-secret plant is in fact the centre of a conspiracy involving alien infiltration of the highest echelons of the British Government. Quatermass struggles to convince a sceptical public of the threat before it is too late.

The first Quatermass film had been a major success for Hammer and, eager for a sequel, they purchased the rights to Nigel Kneale's follow up before the BBC had even begun transmission of the new serial. For this adaptation, Nigel Kneale himself was allowed to write the first draft of the screenplay, although subsequent drafts were worked on by director Val Guest. The plot is a condensed but largely faithful retelling of the original television serial. The main difference between the two versions is at the climax: in the television version Quatermass blasts off in a rocket to confront the aliens in outer space whereas in the film the rocket is fired, unmanned, to destroy the aliens' asteroid base. Returning director Val Guest once again employed many cinema vérité techniques to present the fantastic elements of the plot with the greatest degree of realism. Nigel Kneale was critical of the final film, mainly on account of the return of Brian Donlevy in the lead role. Kneale was unhappy with Donlevy's interpretation of the character and also claimed the actor's performance was marred by his alcoholism, a claim repudiated by Val Guest.

Although Quatermass 2 was financially successful, its box office performance was eclipsed by the massive success of another Hammer film, The Curse of Frankenstein, which was to be the first of their many Gothic horror films. As a result, it would be ten years before Hammer adapted the next Quatermass serial for the cinema with Quatermass and the Pit in 1967. Quatermass 2 was, however, the first film Hammer pre-sold the distribution rights in the United States, a financial model that would quickly become the norm for subsequent Hammer productions.

Plot[edit]

As Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) struggles to gain Government support for his plans for the colonisation of the Moon, he becomes interested in reports of meteorites landing in an area known as Winnerden Flats. Travelling to the area with his colleague, Marsh (Bryan Forbes), Quatermass is astounded to find a huge complex under construction, apparently based on his plans for a Moon colony. Marsh finds one of the meteorites, which cracks open leaving him injured with a V-shaped mark on his face. Armed guards from the plant, who are sporting similar V-shaped marks, arrive and take Marsh away. Quatermass is knocked down and ordered away by men with machine guns.

Trying to discover what is going on at the plant and what has happened to Marsh, Quatermass contacts Inspector Lomax (John Longden), the police officer who assisted him in The Quatermass Xperiment. Lomax puts him in touch with Vincent Broadhead (Tom Chatto), a member of parliament who has been trying to uncover the veil of secrecy surrounding Winnerden Flats. Quatermass joins Broadhead on an official tour of the complex, which, he is told, has been built to manufacture artificial food. Slipping away from the visiting party, Broadhead attempts to get inside one of the large domes that dominate the plant's skyline. Quatermass finds him dying, covered in a poisonous black slime.

Shot at by guards as he exits the plant, Quatermass returns to Lomax, explaining that he believes that plant is indeed making food, but not for human consumption. Instead its purpose is to provide a suitable environment for alien creatures that are inside the great domes. Lomax attempts to alert his superiors but when he meets the Commissioner of Police, he notices he too is sporting the V-shaped mark. The aliens have taken control of the government.

Quatermass and Lomax turn instead to the press, in the form of journalist Jimmy Hall (Sid James). Hall is sceptical of their story and asks to visit Winnerden Flats himself. They visit the local community centre where they receive a hostile reception from the locals employed to do the building work at the plant. However, the mood changes when one of the meteorites crashes through the roof of the building and injures barmaid Sheila (Vera Day). Armed guards from the plant arrive and gun down Hall when he telephones the press about what is going on. The villagers form a mob and march on the plant. Rushing the gates, Quatermass, Lomax and the villagers barricade themselves into the pressure control room.

Realising that the Earth's atmosphere must be poisonous to the creatures, Quatermass sabotages their life support system, pumping oxygen into the domes. Simultaneously, Quatermass' assistant, Brand (William Franklyn) sacrifices his life to launch the Quatermass 2 rocket at an asteroid in Earth's shadow that they believe the aliens are using to stage their invasion. The creatures can combine to create 150-foot tall monsters that burst from the domes and run amok. The rocket strikes the asteroid, destroying it in a nuclear explosion. Their base gone, the giant creatures die and the V-shaped marks disappear from those affected, leaving them with no memory of having been under alien control. As they head back to the village, Lomax comments how he'll do his final report on the entire affair. Quatermass questions how final will it be...

Production[edit]

Origins[edit]

The Quatermass Xperiment had been a major success for Hammer Films upon its release in 1955, becoming the company's biggest grossing film up to that time.[1] Hammer quickly moved to capitalise on this success with a sequel. They approached Quatermass' creator, Nigel Kneale, with a proposal for a new Quatermass story to be titled X the Unknown.[2] Kneale refused permission to use Quatermass, however, but the film went ahead nonetheless with a newly created scientist character, very much in the Quatermass mould, played by Dean Jagger, and was released in 1956.[3] In the meantime, Kneale had written a new Quatermass serial for the BBC, titled Quatermass II, which was broadcast on BBC Television in October and November 1955. Hammer secured the rights to make a film adaptation of Quatermass II in September 1955, before the television version had even been transmitted.[1]

Writing[edit]

Nigel Kneale had been unhappy with Hammer's adaptation of The Quatermass Experiment, partly because he received no extra remuneration from the sale of the film rights and partly because of the changes made in the film to his original television script.[4][5] In the wake of his dissatisfaction, Kneale exerted pressure on the BBC to allow him to be more involved in the sale of the rights to his work.[6] Despite being in the final months of his BBC contract, Kneale was allowed to collaborate with Hammer on the adaptation of Quatermass II.[6] The first draft of the screenplay was written by Kneale with input from producer Anthony Hinds.[7] Subsequent drafts were worked on by director Val Guest, as he had done before on The Quatermass Xperiment.[8] Guest recalled of Kneale's script that there was “lots of philosophising and very down-to-earth thinking but it was too long, it would not have held screenwise. So, again, I had to tailor it and sharpen it and hopefully not ruin it”.[9] The script was submitted to the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) in April 1956.[10] BBFC reader Audrey Field commented, “There should be the customary general caution that the sky is not the limit, either in sights or sounds”.[11] The BBFC's main objection was to a scene in which a guard from the Winnerden Flats complex murders a family having a picnic.[12] This scene was omitted from the final film, although it is present in the original television presentation.[13]

As with The Quatermass Xperiment, the screenplay for Quatermass 2 condenses many of the events of the original. The most significant change is at the climax: in the television version Quatermass and his assistant, Pugh, use Quatermass' rocket to travel to the asteroid to take on the aliens on their home turf whereas in the film the rocket is fired, unmanned, at the asteroid to destroy it.[1] Several characters from the television version do not appear in the film, most notably Quatermass' daughter, Paula, and his assistant, Leo Pugh.[14] Conversely, the character of Inspector Lomax reappears in the film version, having previously been in The Quatermass Xperiment, but does not appear in the television version.[14] The character of Sheila the barmaid also appears only in the film version.[14]

Casting[edit]

Sid James (Jimmy Hall), Brian Donlevy (Quatermass) and John Longden (Lomax) in a scene from Quatermass 2.
  • Brian Donlevy as Professor Bernard Quatermass: Donlevy reprised his role as the eponymous professor, much to the despair of Nigel Kneale, who had heavily criticised his interpretation of the role in The Quatermass Xperiment.[15] As had been the case on The Quatermass Xperiment, Donlevy's alcoholism presented challenges for the production. Nigel Kneale recalled visiting the set one day: “He [Donlevy] was so full of whiskey he could hardly stand up. He staggered over to the set and looked dazedly around. They held up an idiot board with his lines on and he said, “What's this movie called?” and they said, “Well, it's called Quatermass 2”. He said, “I've got to say all that? There's too much talk. Cut down some of the talk”. He tried to read it and he had to have go after go after go, so crippled with drink he hardly knew who he was”.[16] Val Guest has denied Kneale's claims saying, “So many stories have been concocted since, about how he was paralytic [drunk]. It's absolute balls, because he was not paralytic. He wasn't stone cold sober either, but he was a pro and he knew his lines”.[17] Guest also recalled, “By after lunch he would come to me and say “Give me a breakdown of the story so far. Where have I just been before this scene?” We used to feed him black coffee all morning but then we discovered he was lacing it. But he was a very professional actor and very easy to work with”.[18]
  • John Longden as Inspector Lomax: The role of Lomax had originally been played by Jack Warner in The Quatermass Xperiment. When Warner proved unavailable for the sequel, the role was recast and the part given to John Longden. Longden had been a major star of British silent films and had also appeared in several early Alfred Hitchcock films including Blackmail (1929), Elstree Calling (1930) and The Skin Game (1931).[9][19] Nigel Kneale greatly preferred Longden's authoritative take on the character to Jack Warner's more comedic "breezy sergeant" in the first film.[9]
  • Bryan Forbes as Marsh: Forbes had appeared in a number of supporting roles in films, including The Small Back Room (1949), An Inspector Calls (1954) and The Colditz Story (1955). However, he later became best known as a director with films such as Whistle Down the Wind (1961), The L-Shaped Room (1962) and The Stepford Wives (1975) among his best known credits.[21] Forbes later recalled of the film: “I was one of the people attacked by the alien pods. This pod exploded and I ended up with what was supposed to be a terrible alien growth on my face. Come lunchtime and we all went off to the pub. Of course, I couldn't take this stuff off, the makeup was too complex; the landlord refused to serve me.”[22]

Other actors appearing in the film include Charles Lloyd Pack, Tom Chatto, John Van Eyssen, Percy Herbert, Michael Ripper and John Rae.[25]

Filming[edit]

Val Guest, who had directed The Quatermass Xperiment, returned for Quatermass 2. Guest once again sought to create a film that felt as real as possible, using many cinema vérité techniques such as hand-held cameras.[9] He was assisted in this respect by the moody, overcast cinematography of director of photography Gerald Gibbs; Gibbs also made extensive use of day for night photography for the film's climactic scenes.[9] Guest planned each days’ shooting carefully, creating meticulous storyboards detailing all the shots he wanted to make that day.[26]

Filming took place between 28 May and 13 July 1956.[8] The film's budget, at £92,000, was much larger than that of The Quatermass Xperiment.[10] The bigger budget was achieved by the advance sale of the distribution rights in the United States to United Artists.[10] United Artists contributed some £64,000 towards the production of the film as well as Brian Donlevy's $25,000 fee and his airfare to London from the US.[12] The larger budget allowed for greater use of location filming in the making of the film than had been possible for its predecessor.[9] The key location used was the oil refinery at Shell Haven in Stanford-le-Hope which doubled as the secret Winnerden Flats complex.[27] This was the exact same location used in the BBC television production of the story.[27] Despite its size, the plant was run by a relatively small number of personnel; this made Guest's job of making the plant appear eerily deserted easier.[9] Guest was also surprised at how relaxed the plant's management were about allowing him to stage the climactic gun battle at such a potentially flammable location.[9] Focus puller Harry Oakes recalled, however, that a Newman-Sinclair clockwork camera had to be used for some scenes because of the danger posed by sparks from electrical equipment.[28] The scenes of Vincent Broadhead emerging from one of the domes covered in the noxious black slime were particularly difficult to realise, necessitating many retakes.[28] Tom Chatto, playing Broadhead, whose wife was a leading casting director, joked after the scene was finally completed, "Remind me to talk to my wife about casting me in this".[9] The Shell Haven location was further enhanced by the use of matte paintings created by special effects designer Les Bowie to add the giant domes within which the aliens were incubated.[28]

Other locations used included the real-life new town of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, which was under construction at the time and doubled for the fictional new town of Winnerden Flats.[27] Other scenes were shot in London including Trafalgar Square, where the police agreed to hold up the traffic for just two minutes to allow Guest take shots of trucks ferrying equipment through London to Winnerden Flats, and in the foyer of the House of Lords for the scene where Quatermass first meets Vincent Broadhead.[9] The climactic scenes of the hurricane caused by the explosion of the Winnerden Flats complex was shot on the South Downs near Brighton.[28] A minor mishap occurred during the filming of this scene when the wind machines blew Brian Donlevy's toupee off his head and the crew had to chase after it.[9] As well as shooting on location, Guest and his crew made use of Stages 2 and 5 of the New Elstree Studios, the first Hammer production to shoot there.[28] This was production designer Bernard Robinson's first film for Hammer; he went on to become their regular set designer, working on many Hammer films.[29]

Reception[edit]

Quatermass 2 received its first public airing at a trade show on 22 March 1957 with its première, at the London Pavilion, following on 24 May 1957.[30][31] It went on general release, with supporting feature And God Created Woman on 17 June 1957.[30] The film received an ‘X’ Certificate from the BBFC.[8] It was released in the United States under the title Enemy From Space.[27]

Quatermass 2 received mixed reviews on release. Campbell Dixon, in The Daily Telegraph found the film “all good grisly fun, if this is the sort of thing you enjoy”.[31] The reviewer in The Times remarked, “the writer of the original story, Mr Nigel Kneale, and the director, Mr Val Guest, between them keep things moving at the right speed, without digressions. The film has an air of respect for the issues touched on, and this impression is confirmed by the acting generally”.[32] On the other hand, Jympson Harman of the Evening News wrote, “Science-fiction hokum can be convincing, exciting or just plain laughable. Quatermass II [sic] fails on all these scores, I am afraid”.[33] Similarly, the reviewer in the Daily Herald felt, “The whole thing is daft and full of stilted dialogue. [...] At the end a detective says: “How am I going to make a report on all this?” I felt the same way”.[32]

Legacy[edit]

Although commercially successful, Quatermass 2’s release was largely overshadowed by the box-office record breaking performance of Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein, which was also released in May 1957.[34] For this reason, although Nigel Kneale had written a new Quatermass serial for the BBC, Quatermass and the Pit (broadcast December 1958 to January 1959), Hammer did not acquire the rights until 1961 and the film version did not appear until 1967.[35] Quatermass 2 is notable, however, for being the first film Hammer pre-sold to a major US distributor, in this case United Artists.[10] This new finance and distribution deal would become the norm for subsequent Hammer films and led to them eventually winding down their own distribution arm, Exclusive Films, in the mid-1960s.[8]

Critical opinion of Quatermass 2 in the years since its release remains divided. Writing in Science Fiction in the Cinema, John Baxter found the film “a faithful but ponderous adaptation of Kneale's TV sequel. There are effective sequences, director Guest and cameraman Gerald Gibbs shooting with light lancing up through the shadows in a manner reminiscent of Jacques Tourneur's Night (or Curse) of the Demon. Otherwise the film is indifferent”.[36] Similarly, John Brosnan, in his book The Primal Screen wrote, “Quatermass 2 isn't as good as the first one, despite a bigger budget. Again the theme is possession (all four Quatermass stories are variations on the same theme) with Kneale again cleverly mixing sf with the supernatural. The alien invasion may be sf but it is presented with the trappings of traditional horror, such as the V-shaped "mark of the devil" that all possessed people display”.[37] On the other hand, Bill Warren, in Keep Watching The Skies! found Quatermass 2 to be “one of the best science fiction films of the 1950s. It is not notably better than [The Quatermass Xperiment], but the story idea is more involving, the production is livelier and there are more events in the unfolding of the story”.[38] Kim Newman in 1986 praised the film as "extraordinary" and, comparing it to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Newman notes that while Don Siegel’s film is "a general allegory" about dehumanisation and conformity, Quatermass 2 is “a specific attack on the Conservative Government of the time, down to the inclusion of several characters obviously based on real political figures”.[39]

The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, mentions on the DVD commentary for the First Series, that during the scene where Benjamin phones Barbara to arrange an exit from Royston Vasey, two workmen who have been abducted by Tubs and Edward escape, covered in tar, was inspired by a scene during which Vincent Broadhead is covered in "Synthetic Food" from one of the storage tanks.

DVD release[edit]

Quatermass 2 was released on region 2 DVD by DD Video in 2003. It contained a number of extra features including a commentary by director Val Guest and writer Nigel Kneale as well as an interview with Val Guest and a trailer from the United States for Enemy From Space, as the film was known there.[40]

In other media[edit]

The film was adapted into a 15-page comic strip for the August 1978 issue of the magazine Hammer's Halls of Horror (volume 2, # 23, published by Top Sellers Limited). It was drawn by David Lloyd from a script by Steve Parkhouse. The strip was titled Enemy from Space (Quatermass II).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hearn & Rigby, p. 6.
  2. ^ Kinsey, p. 41.
  3. ^ Hearn & Barnes, p. 18-19.
  4. ^ Murray, p. 37.
  5. ^ Kinsey, p. 32.
  6. ^ a b Murray, p. 55.
  7. ^ Hearn & Rigby, p. 7.
  8. ^ a b c d Hearn & Barnes, p. 19.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Guest & Kneale, DVD Commentary
  10. ^ a b c d Hearn & Rigby, p. 11.
  11. ^ Kinsey, p. 48.
  12. ^ a b Kinsey, p. 50.
  13. ^ Murray, p. 57.
  14. ^ a b c Warren, p. 342.
  15. ^ Kinsey, p. 7.
  16. ^ Murray, p. 56.
  17. ^ Weaver, p. 110/
  18. ^ Brosnan, p. 77.
  19. ^ a b Hearn & Rigby, p. 10.
  20. ^ McFarlane, Brian. "James, Sidney (1913–1976)". screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  21. ^ Sinyard, Neil. "Forbes, Bryan (1926– )". screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  22. ^ McKay, p. 15.
  23. ^ Barker, Dennis (2006-11-01). "Obituary: William Franklyn". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  24. ^ a b Vera Day at the Internet Movie Database
  25. ^ Kinsey, p. 49.
  26. ^ Kinsey, p. 54.
  27. ^ a b c d Hearn & Rigby, p. 14.
  28. ^ a b c d e Kinsey, p. 53.
  29. ^ Hearn & Barnes, p. 44.
  30. ^ a b Kinsey, p. 85.
  31. ^ a b Hearn & Barnes, p. 20.
  32. ^ a b Hearn & Rigby, p. 15.
  33. ^ Hearn & Rigby, p. 14-15.
  34. ^ Hearn & Rogby, p. 19.
  35. ^ Hearn & Barnes, p. 116.
  36. ^ Baxter, p. 96.
  37. ^ Brosnan, p. 75.
  38. ^ Warren, p. 339.
  39. ^ Jack Sullivan (ed.) The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, 1986, Viking, p341-42, 341
  40. ^ Quatermass 2 DVD. DD Video. DD06155.

References and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]