Quatermass 2 Reviews
December 17, 2014
Nigel Kneale followed up his hugely influential Quatermass BBC series with a second science fiction tale that terrified the nation in the 1950s and like the first serial, Hammer quickly bought out a big screen version. This is a very effective tale of aliens attempting to establish a colony on Earth by arriving in meteorites, taking over human victims and massing inside gigantic vats in a chemical plant. Obviously, much of the original TV series was cut to fit with the new format but this doesn't adversely affect the action and the sense of paranoia. Granted, the production values and acting are a bit dated but the way in which the aliens manifest is effective and creepy. My only real irritation with this film is again the casting of Brian Donlevy as Quatermass. He really doesn't suit the role at all and plays the role of the slightly uptight, academic character more like a Chicago gumshoe. He is just miscast in this role which is a shame as the character should be quintessentially English. Despite this, thanks to Nigel Kneale's groundbreaking story this film still holds up and is definitely a cut above many science fiction movies of the 1950s.
December 3, 2014
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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 cinematography of director of photography Gerald Gibbs; Gibbs also made extensive use of day for night photography for the film's climactic scenes. Guest planned each days' shooting carefully, creating meticulous storyboards detailing all the shots he wanted to make that day.
Filming took place between 28 May and 13 July 1956. The film's budget, at £92,000, was much larger than that 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 £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. The larger 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. 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 plant 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 be used for some scenes because of the danger posed by sparks from electrical equipment. 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, Hertfordshire, 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 up the 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 minor 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.
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. 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, "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". 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". 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".
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. 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. Quatermass 2 is notable, however, for being the first film Hammer pre-sold to a major US distributor, in this case United Artists. 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.
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". 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". 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". 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".
The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss mentions on the DVD commentary for the First Series that a scene where two workmen who have been abducted by Tubs and Edward escape, covered in tar, was inspired by the scene in which Vincent Broadhead is covered in "Synthetic Food" from one of the storage tanks.
Quatermass 2 was released in 2003 by DD Video on Region 2 DVD. It contained a number of extra features including commentary by director Val Guest and writer Nigel Kneale, as well as an interview with Val Guest and a trailer for Enemy From Space, as the film was known in the US. The film was first released on Region 1 DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment and is mastered from an archival print that shows every image with razor-sharp clarity and richness; it contains the same extra features as on the Region 2 release. A Region 1 made-on-demand DVD-R, sourced from a high-definition master, was released in 2011 by MGM. The film had been previously released on both VHS cassette and LaserDisc.
In other media
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).
man this is such a thrilling enjoyable classics movie 2 watch......I think that this is such a really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch......its got a good soundtrack throughout this movie......I think that this is such a fantastic movie 2 watch, it is such a brilliant classics movie 2 watch, it is such a great classics movie 2 watch with a great cast throughout this movie.......
October 12, 2014
One of the best 50s sci fi/horror movies. Dark, menacing, mysterious and brilliantly written.
March 1, 2014
A jewel amongst 50's sci-fi with an intriguing plot, good cast, a surprising amount of action, and a great gross alien monster. For fans of these movies this is a must watch, whilst everyone else will probably wonder what all the fuss is about. The guards that look like Nazi Ghostbusters, and Sid James are a highlight.
January 8, 2014
A solid Quatermass story about alien invasion. The monsters were a bit of a disappointment tho, looked like melted Christmas trees lol.
January 2, 2014
Despite some clumsy moments that have not worn well, it remains one of the more bizarre and impressive of the early British horror pictures.
April 7, 2013
Better than the original with a quick plot and better direction. A better cast and action also lends to a better film.
February 7, 2013
This is what sprung Hammer to prominence, they bought the rights to do this big screen adaptation of the 1953 serial broadcast on the BBC. It shocked viewers, but when Hammer got the rights they wanted to show more than what the BBC version would allow. It's still effective all these years later, and it was the template for the Hammer Horrors that were to come. A manned rocket, which was developed by Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy), crashes in the English countryside, the only survivor is Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), who is shellshocked and battered. He's taken to hospital, but it's not long before he undergoes a horrific transformation, murdering some of the hospital staff and escaping into London. Quatermass and Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner) go on a hunt to find Carroon before he does more damage. But not before they discover what happened on the rocket, where the other two crew members seemingly vanished. But, Carroon's transformation doesn't stop and he transforms into something hideous. It's a brilliantly suspenseful chiller, and a forerunner of what was to come with The Fly (1986). Director Val Guest does well with the material, and he seemed able to turn his hand to anything, and he gets good performances from his cast here. Hammer wanted more, and they got it.
December 14, 2011
it was an ok film, I don't think I'll see it again, it was a good film and it starred Sidney James (The Carry On Films) it was an ok film, I would love this movie on DVD, Good movie
October 14, 2012
Brian Donlevy as Dr. Quatermass, trying to stop an alien invasion. It's a Hammer production, so definitely worth checking out. The moral of the story: Don't pick up strange rocks from outer space.
June 10, 2012
Even though this film was made back in the 1950s, it has very sinister feel to it.
Its a very original and imaginative script, I like the concept of an entire village being demolished and then being replaced with a giant factory, guarded by zombie like people with a giant growing alien inside and it is all up to Quatermass to sort out.
I found this movie much better than Hammers first Quatermass movie, what is still the same though is the guy playing Quatermass is Brian Donlevy who is absolutely bloody terrible, I cant believe they brought him back again for this movie, I have honestly never known anyone so badly cast in a role, he looks pissed up in most of his scenes, they should of got the John Robinson who played Quatermass in the BBC Version, he is hundred times better.
Carry On Star Sid James stars in this movie in the only straight role I have ever seen him in and it is a horrible scene where he gets machined gun down by a load of zombie like guards, not to sound ott but it really is a disturbing scene.
Despite the poor casting of the main role, this is still very good film with a cracking script and in some place is quite irrie. Look to the skies folks.
September 6, 2011
Decent drive-in style flick.
August 11, 2011
A very intence film that builds the suspense throughout as Quatermass tries to convince various figures about the impending doom. He works well with the police chief and actually an all round top notch acting by all.
December 1, 2010
Honestly, I hadn't heard a thing about this series until I read the Flixster summary, but I don't think that should influence this review. I enjoyed this movie in all it's 1950's style effects. In a lot of ways, it's like most alien invasion stories, but the story lacks many of the stereotypical elements of the 50's sci-fi movies - or some modern alien invasion movies for that matter. Thus, I found it almost refreshing.
November 24, 2010
Slightly better than The Quatermass Xperiment, Quatermass 2 is an almost completely different animal than its predecessor. Brian Donlevy is a less dickish Quatermass this time around as he tries to warn the town about an alien invasion instead of playing science and politics. The top secret base, the soldiers and all the imagery they bring are pretty damn frightening. The buildup to the 2 minutes of the monster(s) you eventually see is worth it. Unlike its predecessor, Quatermass 2 is entirely worth the trouble.
October 22, 2010
excellent paranoid thriller aka enemy from space. professor quatermass discovers a mysterious 'area 51' in the english countryside. donlevy seems more committed to his role this time out; he's even learned to pronounce his name. pretty decent effects and great location. one more smart 50's sci fi from hammer, maybe the best of the quatermass series
April 5, 2010
"Quatermass 2" is classsic British horror. Brian Donlevy (reprising his role from "The Quatermass Xperiment") is Professor Bernard Quatermass, who discovers his shelved Moonbase project erected outside London and masquerading as a secret "food processing" complex. Meanwhile missile-shaped metorites are falling nearby, containing aliens bent on subjugating mankind to their control.
Donlevy plays Quatermass with an agressive panache, and is ably assisted by the "Carry On" team's Sid James (credited as Sydney James), William Franklyn, Bryan Forbes and Michael Ripper. "Quatermass 2" has aged over the decades, but it still retains a quiet unnerving menace throughout the film.
October 9, 2008
Dr. Quatermass is the director of an important scientific base, where he builds nuclear rockets for the colonization of the Moon. A strange fall of meteorites in a nearby village leads to the discovery of a huge base under a strict military control, officially a factory of artificial food. The shrewdness of Quatermass reveals that the factory is the place chosen by the aliens to conquer the Earth:
I'm not familiar with 'Quatermass' in any way whatsoever and thanks to a friend for recommending this to me coz I find myself enjoying while watching this movie .. I can honestly say that it is an excellent fifties science fiction and is certainly a must for 50's sci fi fanatics...
The black and white photography is excellent , has a strong story and convincing acting of the characters though special effects often fall short by standards, but for sure were pretty good for that time...Another classic movie ...
October 3, 2008
One of the best early sci-fil efforts I have seen, this movie about an alien invasion was likely the blueprint for such films as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" among others. Crackerjack acting, paranoia, suspense, thrills, chills and a healthy dose of gunplay action..this film has it all and is to be applauded for its originality. Ahead of its time and a compelling watch.
March 24, 2008
This was one of the first of its kind; a subtlety scary vision of a secret alien takeover. X-FILES may owe a debt to this low-budget, but nevertheless effective film of the powers-that-be who are conspiring with the invaders, and one lone, determined scientist who accidentally uncovers the sinister plot.
QUATERMASS II (U.S. title: ENEMY FROM SPACE) was produced before INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the film it is often compared to, due to their thematic similarities (loss of identity, social oppression, dangers of conformity, and blind allegiance to a greatly questionable, authoritarian power). However, it was released in the U.S. shortly after BODY SNATCHERS, probably making it look like a copycat to some.
Superb writer Nigel Kneale (excellent script, highly original for its time, derived from the earlier BBC serial) was known to strongly despise Brian Donleavy's gruff performance as the lead character. Kneale did not like the fact that Donleavy presented the character as a cold, methodical misanthrope who treats his colleagues like expendable underlings. He will probably want to boil me in oil for saying this, but I felt that presenting the lead character as morally ambivalent and ethically questionable jettisoned the standard 50's scientist/hero sterotype (for once he is not nice and charming). It also added a further degree of tension to the well-plotted story. In many ways, his alienated character is somewhat alien; perhaps that's the only true way to resist social pressures and conditioning. The allegory here is strong.
As the story opens, Quatermass is driving one night on a remote country road. He is furious that the stodgy Whitehall bureaucrats rejected his funding request for a proposed moon colonization project. A speeding car nearly hits him head-on as it runs off the road. The shaken passengers are a frightened woman and her boyfriend, who is in a crazed state, and has a strange black mark on his face.
Quatermass returns to his isolated lab, where radar reveals to his assistants that many small meteor particles (at least that's what they assume they are) have descended over a rural village known as Wynerton Flats.
Going out there with his colleague, Marsh, they first discover his moon project, fully constructed, and some small, mysterious rocks. As Marsh examines one, it emits an eerie gas and pops in his face, leaving the weird black mark. Strange soldiers arrive, behaving like aloof zombies, abduct Marsh, strong-arm Quatermass in the typical fascist tradition, and order him to leave. (There may be one flaw here: Why didn't the "soldiers" either abduct or kill Quatermass, instead of letting him go, so he can inform?)
Naturally the authorities all have tight lips about the secret activities at Wynerton Flats, but Quatermass manages to convince a few officials to go out there with him. A government aid (with that strange black mark on his wrist) conducts a formal tour of the plant, where everything seems to be normal. Not so. The small group is indoctrinated by the zombies (who resemble Nazis), but Quatermass manages to escape.
(This scene truly exposes Donleavy's ruthless side: He and a woman are taken into a large dome, but Quatermass flees, leaving the woman behind, without any concern for her fate. Hell, he doesn't even abide by the old fifties hero tradition by risking his life to save the distressed damsel. In many ways Quatermass was an ahead-of-his-time anti-hero. I always felt that this added a disquieting strength to the drama and the severity of the dire situation, but I guess that Kneale will still vehemently disagree).
I'll stop here, but don't worry, the worse is still to come. The sense of growing unease and mounting terror (strong qualities of your finer British Science Fiction at that time) escalates. Be patient, for it does carefully build into a total state of alarm, as Quatermass and the local angered citizens challenge the invaders (who have taken over most of the government and military officials) to a brutal showdown. There is something highly menacing in those domes.
This impressive film is true Science Fiction at its best. It thrills without pandering and is thoughtful to the point of disturbing. You can't trust anyone. Its social and political implications are definitely troubling. This is not for your Lucas and Spielberg crowd, for we're not talking about commercial catering to eight-year-olds. Val Guest directs in a cold, cynical Kubrickian manner, accentuating the high degree of paranoia, and the picture's black & white photography conveys a bleak, creepy mood. (Sorry, no pretty pictures here). The intriguing story takes on true nightmarish proportions.
The few effects won't win any CGI awards (don't forget, computers weren't around then) but the briefly glimpsed monster (in the gothic Lovecraft tradition) is quite sickening. After all, it can manipulate man's dirty politics, you can't get more reprehensible than that.
From the late sixties to the late eighties this film was unavailable to the public, and it was feared to be permanently lost, but it later was released on video and shown occasionally on the Science Fiction Channel. Many notable Science Fiction and Horror authors (I believe that Harlan Ellison and Stephen King were among them) have championed this small, but remarkable early Hammer production. This is the film that many others have "borrowed from." Just a polite way of saying RIPPED-OFF!