Quatermass 2 Reviews
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).
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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.
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.
Brain Donlevy plays Quatermass as a bit of a grump and the rumour was that writer Nigel Kneale wasnt best pleased with Donlevy in the lead role.
Im inclined to agree with Kneale on this score ,i much prefer the Andrew Keir and Andre Morrell versions of Quatermass.
The plot is a kind of Invasion of the body snatchers in middle England,where mysterious objects from space leak a gas which takes over the minds of those exposed to it.
It falls to Quatermass and his police inspector friend to destroy the monsters before they can take over the world.
Guest keeps the plot on a nice even keel ,with plenty of paranoia and a few scares along the way.
The final showdown with the aliens is a touch clunky compared to medern effects work but the film has enough going for it to cover the problem.
My fave is still Quatermass and the Pit but this runs it a close second.