Quatermass 2 (1957)

Quatermass 2 (1957), directed by Val Guest.

First review

Aka Enemy from Space and Quatermass II: Enemy from Space, but not to be confused with Quatermass II, the 1955 TV series not on DVD. (Later: all of the Quatermass TV series are now on home video).

Bernard Quatermass was created in the 1950s and established a small UK-based science fiction sub-genre: the boffin attached to a military command who encounters aliens, strange forces, prehistoric survivals and all sorts of weird X-files stuff. Doctor Who always had a strong Quatermass influence.

In this installment the Prof discovers that his canceled moon-base design has actually been built at the site of a destroyed town where meteorites have been showering down for months. Who would want a sealed base on Earth, and why are people changing? Looks like a monstrous conspiracy. Yes, we have a blob monster, for some reason very popular in these stories.

It's kind of half-baked and kind of exciting. Brian Donlevy really doesn't suit as the lead but Hammer Films needed an American actor to get US distribution. He is grumpy and more of an office-manager-man-of-action than a brain.

The disc is from Anchor Bay, but is manufactured on demand on DVD-R (media id: TYG03), available for rent from ClassicFlix. Commentary track by the writer.

Second review

Isn't turnabout fair play? If Quatermass expects to colonize other worlds can he complain when aliens establish their own beachhead on Earth? And if they are not paying royalties on his moonbase design: tough luck, Prof.

It is a clever concept: the invaders arrive microscopically on meteorites, infect and zombify human hosts and eventually grow large enough to reassemble into their natural giant and hideous form. The local residents have gotten used to rocks falling from the sky: something to do with work at the local secret base.

This is not part of the story, but does Quatermass ever consider that his own efforts have drawn the attention of the aliens?

I'm still not buying Brian Donlevy in the role. His temper ranges from short to bad, he is easily distracted and doesn't listen to his people when he should. It helps a bit that they accept him and are loyal to him.

His unfortunate head assistant is played by Bryan Forbes, later an important director and head of EMI Films.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory with two commentary tracks by film scholars and another edited together with thoughts by the writer and director.

The fans tend to defend Brian Donlevy's performance. The writer says he was staggering drunk on the set but the director says his drinking did not affect his performance. The writer found it outrageous that an actor would ask that a scene be explained to him, but the director found it completely natural.