Thursday, August 1, 2019

QUATERMASS 2 (1957) Blu-ray Review

Quatermass II (aka Enemy from Space) (1957) d. Val Guest (UK) (85 min)

After plans for the launch of his new space rocket are scuppered by governmental higher-ups, Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) becomes fascinated by the strange prevalence of meteorites falling near the Winnerden Flats production plant. Upon investigating the area, Quatermass’ assistant Marsh (Bryan Forbes) is incapacitated by one of the shell-like projectiles when it cracks open and releases a mysterious gas; even more troubling, armed troops show up and spirit away the fallen man and force the professor to depart the premises. Quatermass enlists the help of Parliament member Broadhead (Tom Chatto) to inspect the Winnerden Flats facility, only to uncover a horrible secret: extraterrestrials have taken over the minds of townspeople and high-ranking officials alike in the interest of making the Earth their new domain.

Never trust persons with skin problems, as they are likely being controlled by an alien substance out for world conquest, or so acclaimed British writer Nigel Kneale would have us believe. Bolstered by the success of their previous installment, 1955’s The Quatermass Xperiment (aka The Creeping Unknown), Hammer Films struck a finance and distribution deal with United Artists for a direct sequel, once again based on the critically acclaimed 1955 BBC television miniseries.

Working from a script by Kneale and director Guest (who had also directed and co-adapted the first film), the resulting tale mines a similar vein to Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) in that intergalactic interlopers have taken over the minds and bodies of our fellow Earthlings, only here they have already managed to insinuate themselves into the highest order of government, authority, and commerce.

Guest and cinematographer Gerald Gibbs create a terrific sense of totalitarian, Orwellian paranoia through the use of stark black-and-white imagery, aided by production designer Bernard Robinson’s resourceful use of the newly built township of Hemel Hempstead and the Shell Haven oil refinery on the coast of Essex. James Bernard’s quivery soundtrack matches beats with James Needs fast-paced editing, while makeup man Phil Leakey kicks into overdrive, serving up everything from patchwork scars to a full body melt.

Though Kneale publicly raged (to the end of his days) against the casting of American tough guy Donlevy, the film benefits immeasurably from the Hollywood veteran’s non-nonsense, man-of-action energy constantly driving the narrative forward. His impatience with those who stymie his efforts, fail to mentally keep up, or simply take his much-more-informed-than-you word as law seems perfectly in keeping with a rebellious genius constantly pushing the boundaries of what polite society would deem appropriate.

The rest of the cast – which includes John Longden as a sympathetic lawman, Sidney James as a hard-boiled news reporter, Vera Day as a fetching young waitress at the local tavern, and Hammer veteran Michael Ripper as Hammer veteran Michael Ripper – is excellent across the board.

Released as Enemy from Space in the U.S., the film found itself awash in a flood of often inferior sci-fi outings flooding the drive-in market in 1957. As such, it remains one of the more underrated apocalyptic triumphs of the era and is well worth seeking out.

Trivia: This was the first UK sequel ever to incorporate the number 2 in its title.


NEW 2K Scan of a pristine archival film print

NEW Audio commentary with filmmaker/film historian Ted Newsom

NEW Audio commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr

Audio commentary with director Val Guest and writer Nigel Kneale

NEW Interview with Academy Award-winning special effects artist Brian Johnson (3 min)

NEW Interview with assistant director Hugh Harlow (2 min)

Quatermass and the Hammer Experience: vintage interview with director Val Guest (21 min)

World Of Hammer – “Sci-Fi” (25 min)

U.S. Theatrical Trailer – Enemy from Space

Still Gallery

Quatermass II is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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