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IMDb Rating
Starblank
6.9
Quatermass 2
Directed By
Val Guest
Produced By
Anthony Hinds
Starring
Brian Donlevy
John Longden
Sid James
Bryan Forbes
William Franklyn
Vera Day
Music By
James Bernard
Cinematography
Gerald Gibbs
Editing By
James Needs

Produced By
Hammer Film Productions
Distributed By
Exclusive Films (UK),
United Artists (USA)
Release Date(s)
24 May 1957
Runtime
85 mintues
Country
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
Language
English
Budget
£92,000
Preceded By
Followed by

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Quatermass 2 (a.k.a. Enemy From Space in the United States) is a 1957 black-and-white British science fiction horror film drama from Hammer Film Productions, produced by Anthony Hinds, directed by Val Guest, that stars Brian Donlevy, and co-stars John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day and William Franklyn. Qautermass 2 is a sequel to Hammer's earlier film The Quatermass Xperiment (1955). Like its predecessor, it is based on the BBC Television serial Quatermass II written by Nigel Kneale. Brian Donlevy reprises his role as the eponymous Professor Bernard Quatermass, making him the only actor to play the character on screen twice.

The storyline concerns Quatermass's investigation of reports of hundreds of meteorites landing only in the Winnerden Flats area of the UK.

Plot Edit

As Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) struggles to gain government support for his moon colonisation project, his interest becomes focused on reports of hundreds of meteorites landing in Winnerden Flats. Travelling there with Marsh, his colleague (Bryan Forbes), Quatermass finds a huge complex under construction, based on his lunar colony plans. Marsh finds an undamaged meteorite is shaped like a small stone rocket. It then cracks open, releasing a gas, leaving him with an odd V-shaped mark on his face. Black-clad guards from complex arrive, armed with machine guns and sporting similay V-shapped marks, and take Marsh away, knocking down Quatermass and ordering him to leave.

Trying to discover what happened to Marsh, Quatermass contacts Inspector Lomax (John Longden), who had previously assisted him (see 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 offical tour of the complex, which he is told has been built to manufacture artifical food. Slipping away from the visiting party, Broadhead attempts to get inside one of the large domes that dominate the skyline. Quatermass later finds him dying, covered in a poisonous black slime.

Shot at by guards as he exits, Quatermass rushes to Inspector Lomax, explaining that he believes that the complex in indeed making food but not for human consumption. Its purpose is to provide a sultable living environment for small alien creatures being housed inside the huge domes. Lomax attempts to alert his superiors, but when he meets the Commissioner of Police, he notices that he, too, is sporting the V-shapped mark; the aliens have taken control of the government.

Quatermass and Lomax then turn to journalist, Jimmy Hall (Sid James), who is skeptical of their story but asks to visit Winnerden Flats. At the local community centre, they receive a hostile reception from locals employed to do harvey construction and other work at the complex. The mood changes, however, when one of the meteorite-missiles crashes through the building roof, injuring barmaid Sheila (Vera Day). Armed guards arrive and gun down Hall after the telephones the press. The villagers form a mob that marches on the complex. Rushingthe gates, Quatermass, Lomax, and the villagers barricade themselves on the pressure control room.

Realing that earth's atmosphere must be poisonous to the alien, Quatermass sabotages their life support system, pumping oxygen into the large domes. Simultaneously, Quatermass' assistant, Brand (William Franklyn), sacrifices his life by launching a Quatermass rocket at an asteroid believed to be invasion's staging point. The individual creatures combine their small bodies to create huge 50-foot tall creatures that soon burst from the domes. The rocket destroys the asteroid with a nuclear explosion. Their base gone and now fully exposed to earth's atmosphere, the giant masses of combined creatures collapse and die. 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 wonders aloud how he'll make a believable report on all that's happened. More pointedly, Quatermass questions just how final will that report be ...

Production Edit

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 retelling of the original television serial. The main difference between the two versions is 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 clamied the actor's performance was marred by his alcoholism, a claim denied by Val Guest.

Although Quatermass 2 was financially successful, its box office performance was eclipsed by the massive sucess 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 for which Hammer pre-sold the distribution rights in the United States, a financial model that would quickly become the norm for subsequent Hammer productions.

Origins Edit

See also: The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass II

Writing Edit

Nigel Kneale had been unhappy with Hammer's adaptation of The Quatermas Experiment, partly because he received on extra remuneration from the sale of the film rights and partly because of the changes made in the film to his original television script.[1][2] 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.[3] Despite being in the final months of his BBC contract, Kneale was allowed to collaborate with Hammer on the adaptation of Quatermass II. The first draft of the screenplay was written by Kneale with input from producer Anthony Hinds.[4] Subsequent drafts were worked on by director Val Guest, as he had done before on The Quatermass Xperiment.[5] Guest recalled of Kneale's script that three 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 hopefully not ruin it”.[6] The script was submitted to the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) in April 1956.[7] BBFC reader Audrey Field commented, “There should be the customary general caution that the sky is not the limit, either in sights or sounds”.[8] The BBFC's main objection was to a scene in which a guard from the Winnerden Flats complex murders a family having a picnic.[9] This scene was omitted from the final film, although it a present in the original television presentation.[10]

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's rocket t 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.[11] Several characters from the television version do not appear in the film, most notably Quatermass's daughter, Paula, and his assistant, Leo Pugh.[12] 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. The character of Shelia the barmaid also appears only in thr film version.

Casting Edit

  • 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.[13] 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.”[14] Val Guest has denied Kneale's claims, saying “So many stories have been concocted since, about how he was a paralytic. 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”.[15] 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”.[16]
  • 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 film and had also appeared in several early Alfred Hitchcock films including Blackmail (1929), Elstree Calling (1930) and The Skin Game (1931).[17] Nigel Kneale greatly preferred Longden's authoritative take on the character to Jack Warner's more comedic "breezy sergeant" in the first film.
  • Sid James (credited as "Sydney James") as Jimmy Hall: At time, James was known as a character actor, specialising mainly in "tough guy" roles, with credits in films such as No Orchids for Miss Blandish (uncredited, 1948), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and Hell Drivers (1957). James plays the character of Jimmy Hall in a much more comedic manner than Roger Delgado's interpretation of the equivalent journalist character Hugh Conrad in the television; Guest cast James in order to "lighten the story a bit". He later went on to enjoy widespread fame in many comedy roles including Hancock's Half Hour (1956–60), the Carry On series of films, and sitcoms such as George and the Dragon (1966), Two in Clover (1969–70) and Bless This House (1971–76).[18]
  • 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 Golditz Story (1955). However he later became better known as a director, with films such as Whistle Down the Wind (1961), The L-Shaped Room (1962) and The Steford Wives (1975) among his best-known credits.[19] 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.”[20]
  • William Franklyn as Brand: Franklyn later became well known for his voiceovers for for a series of advertisements for Schweppes tonic water. In 2004 he took over from the late Peter Jones as the Voice of the Book in the radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He died in 2006.[21]
  • Vera Day as Shelia: Vera Day was first spotted by Val Guest in the musical Wish You Were Here at the London Hippodrome. He subsequently cast her in Dance, Little Lady (1955) and then Quatermass 2.[22] She later appeared in Guest's Up the Creek (1958).

Other actors appearing in the film include Charles Lloyd-Pack, Tom Chatto, John Van Eyssen, Percy Herbert and Michael Ripper.[23]

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. He was assisted in this respect by the moody, overcast of director of photography Gerald Gibbs, who also made extensive use of day for night photography for the film's climactic scenes. Guest planned each day’s shooting carefully, creating meticulous storyboards detailing all the shots he wanted to make that day.[24]

Filming took place between 28 May and 13 July 1956. The film's budget, at £92,000, was much larger than of The Quatermass Xperiment. The bigger budget was achieved by the advance sale of the distribution rights in the United States to United Artists. United Artists contributed some £92,000 towards the production of the film, as well as Brian Donlevy's $25,000 fee and his airfare to London from the US. The largar budget allowed for greater use of location filming in the making of the film than had been possible for its predecessor. The key location used was the oil refinery at Shell Haven in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, on the Thames Estuary, which represented the secret Winnerden Flats complex.[25] This was exactly the same location as used in the BBC television production of the story. Despite its size, the plant was run by a relatively small number of personnel, which made Guest's job of making the planet appear eerily deserted easier. 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. Focus puller Harry Oakes recalled, however, that a Newman-Sinclair clockwork camera had to used for some scenes because of the danger posed by sparks from electrical equipment.[26] 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. 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". 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.

Other locations used included the real-life new town of Hemel Hempstead, Heartordshire, which was under construction at the time and doubled for the fictional new town of Winnerden Flats. Other scenes were shot in London including Trafalgar Square, where the police agreed to hold traffic for just two minutes to allow Guest to 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. The climactic scenes of the hurricane caused by the explosion of the Winnerden Flats, complex were shot on the South Downs near Brighton. A mior mishap occurred during the filming of this scene when the wind machines blew Brian Donlevy's toupée off his head and the crew had to chase after it. 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. 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.

Reception Edit

Quatermass 2 received its first public screening at a trade show on 22 March 1957; its official première was held two days later at the London Pavilion on 24 May 1957.[27][28]It went on general release, with supporting feature And God Created Woman, on 17 June 1957. The film received an ‘X’ Certificate from the BBFC. It was released in the US under the title Enemy From Space.

Quatermass 2 received mixed reviews. Campbell Dixon in The Daily Telegraph found the film “all good grisly fun, if this is the sort of thing you enjoy”. The reviewer in The Times remarked that “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 has an air of respect for the issues touched on, and his impression is confirmed by the acting generally”.[29] On the other hand, Jympson Harman of the London Evening News wrote: “Science-fiction hokum can be convincing, exiting or just plain laughable. Quatermass II fails on all these score, I am afraid”.[30] 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 l going to make a report on all this?” I felt the same way”.

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.[31]

References Edit

  1. Murray, p. 37.
  2. Kinsey, p. 32.
  3. Murray, p. 55.
  4. Hearn & Rigby, p. 7.
  5. Hearn & Barnes, p. 19.
  6. Guest & Kneale, DVD Commentary
  7. Hearn & Rigby, p. 11.
  8. Kinsey, p. 48.
  9. Kinsey, p. 50.
  10. Murray, p. 57.
  11. Hearn & Rigby, p. 6.
  12. Warren, p. 342.
  13. Kinsey, p. 7.
  14. Murray, p. 56.
  15. Weaver, p. 110/
  16. Brosnan, p. 77.
  17. Hearn & Rigby, p. 10.
  18. McFarlane, Brian. "James, Sidney (1913–1976)". screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  19. Sinyard, Neil. "Forbes, Bryan (1926– )". screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  20. McKay, p. 15.
  21. Barker, Dennis (2006-11-01). "Obituary: William Franklyn". The Guardian. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  22. Vera Day at the Internet Movie Database.
  23. Kinsey, p. 49.
  24. Kinsey, p. 54.
  25. Hearn & Rigby, p. 14.
  26. Kinsey, p. 53.
  27. Kinsey, p. 85.
  28. Hearn & Barnes, p. 20.
  29. Hearn & Rigby, p. 15.
  30. Hearn & Rigby, p. 14-15.
  31. Hearn & Rogby, p. 19.

External links Edit

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