Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


TV: Mind-controlled soldier and Professor Quatermass
FILM: Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy)  runs for his life
QUATERMASS II (1955 TV mini-series). Director: Rudolph Cartier.
QUATERMASS II/ENEMY FROM SPACE (1957 film). Director: Val Guest.

"Not for children or people with a nervous disposition." -- British TV announcement regarding Quatermass II.

After the success of both the British TV mini-series The Quatermass Xperiment and the subsequent film, also known as The Creeping Unknown, it was inevitable that there would be a sequel for television and then another movie. In both versions Quatermass comes up against an alien invasion of highly unique lifeforms, heralded by the falling of "meteorites" containing a mind-controlling gas that hypnotizes the population of a town near a military base. There hostile soldiers are guarding an installation that supposedly makes synthetic food. This installation bears a striking resemblance to a moon project that Quatermass was working on. Quatermass determines to get inside the installation and find out if its really food stuffs inside those giant silos -- or something else, something horrible ...

Both versions of the story are suspenseful and exciting -- with the film, retitled Enemy From Space in the U.S. -- having the edge. The film version eliminates Quatermass' daughter, Paula, as well as a disturbing scene when some picnickers are clearly murdered by the soldiers. People who are possessed have strange marks or burns on their faces in the serial, but the less obvious marks are on their hands in the film. At the end of the TV version Quatermass actually flies his rocket into space, but stays on earth for the film adaptation. Instead of a trip in a space rocket, an experimental missile aimed at the alien's orbiting base figures in the action, and there's much more made of the monstrous aliens who break out of containment in the climax of the film.

In both versions the performances are good, with John Robinson and Brian Donlevy delivering different but equally effective approaches to the characters -- Donlevy's Quatermass is just as brisk and brusque as he was in Creeping Unknown, and the American actor offers a commanding and emotional portrayal. Captain John Dillon, well-played by John Stone, is given more screen time in the mini-series. Both versions are quite creepy, with an especially gross business dealing with a pipe stuffed with "human pulp." Enemy from Space is very well-directed by Val Guest [Stop Me Before I Kill!] , and boasts a good score by James Bernard and excellent photography, courtesy of Gerald Gibbs. John Longden [Black Widow] is notable as Inspector Lomax, and another star is the Shell Haven Refinery in Essex where much of the movie was filmed. Enemy from Space could perhaps have used another ten minutes of character development.

Verdict:Both  Quatermass 2 and Enemy from Space: ***.


Gary R. said...

I remember, as a kid in the '60s, first seeing ENEMY FROM SPACE on TV, and getting a strong chill from that "human pulp" line.

William said...

Yeah, that line and the images it inspires sort of stay with you!