QUATERMASS II - 1957
Hammer Films / United Artists / Exclusive Films Ltd.
Rating: USA - Unrated
know there was a QUATERMASS II, did you? Me neither, until I went looking for one of my
favorite Hammer sci-fi movies, QUATERMASS AND THE
PIT (1967), and discovered that there were two prequels: THE
QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955) and QUATERMASS II (1957). All center around Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian
Donlevy: NIGHTMARE, THE CURSE OF THE FLY), and all are based on the British TV series, "QUATERMASS."
I said in my review of THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT that
Donlevy was a poor choice for the part*. He's a little better in this
movie, but still doesn't hold a candle to Andrew Keir's (FLESH
AND BLOOD, THE NIGHT VISITOR) portrayal in QUATERMASS
AND THE PIT. Donlevy has toned down the character (he
was a serious jerk in the first movie), but not enough. He's
slightly more humble but still constantly interrupts everyone.
The movie opens with Quatermass returning from a meeting with the British Parliament,
where his request for more funding for his Rocket Group's plan to
build a lunar colony was denied. In the distance, we see the lone atomic
rocket sitting on the launch pad, not quite ready for launch.
|Actor Brian Donlevey was QUATERMASS creator, Nigel Kneale's least favorite actor in the role.
Nigel felt that Donlevy's interpretation of the Professor Quatermass character, as well as his physicality, was all wrong.
During his absence some of his colleagues were experimenting with a radar unit meant
for tracking their rockets. They notice what seems like the trails of
meteors coming down like rain about 90 miles away. Quatermass, upset about
his loss of funding, is angered about the unauthorized use of the equipment,
but other events quickly make the meteor fall worth investigating.
He and a friend drive the 90 miles and discover a fenced off, top secret facility.
They make it onto the grounds and there, much to their surprise, is a
huge installation that appears almost identical to the model moonbase
Quatermass has back at his lab. Odd meteorites litter the area. They all
seem to be empty shells but Quatermass' friend finds one still whole.
As soon as he picks it up it pops open and something leaps out onto the
man's face, leaving behind an ugly, "V" shaped scar. Alarms
go off and guards appear from everywhere. These zombie-like men all have
similar V-marks somewhere on their skin. They roughly escort Quatermass
off the base but keep his friend in custody.
This idea is as old as science fiction. From INVASION
OF THE BODY SNATCHERS to THE FACULTY,
aliens taking over people's minds and turning them into robots is
a universal fear. Scholarly-types are fond of pointing out the link between
that and 50's fear of communism, but that comparison is taken way
too far. I'm sure the concept struck a chord in the 50's, but
the idea is just good story-telling (You know how much writers and movie-makers love being told what they meant).
Quatermass goes to the authorities to report what is clearly an alien conspiracy,
only to discover that, as always, the people in charge are no longer human.
The science in the sci-fi isn't too bad, except when they discover an asteroid
in a "special" orbit such that it stays over the Earth's
darkside. I presume they mean the asteroid stays in Earth's shadow,
which wouldn't be an orbit at all, and would only be possible with
the expense of a great deal of energy. This is the only truly bad science
in the movie; the last one was much worse. It's just a theory, but
I think it was better this time because Nigel Kneale (THE
CREATURE, THE WITCHES) wrote alone. Last time he wrote with Richard
H. Landau, who went on to write the unforgivably bad Disney flick, THE
BLACK HOLE. When will people learn that liberal arts majors can't
write science fiction?
The movie moves quickly, and although the portly Quatermass makes some pretty miraculous
escapes, by this point in the story your suspension of disbelief should
be stretched enough to allow for them.
Judged with it's 50s sci-fi peers, this isn't a bad movie. I give QUATERMASS II a 3 on the shriek girl scale.
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
Return to Movies