Sunday, June 16, 2019

Quatermass 2 (Enemy from Space)

While returning to his observatory in rural England, physicist Bernard Quatermass narrowly avoids a car accident. The other vehicle stops and a delirious man emerges...with an unusual wound on his face. His wife claims he was burned by a falling piece of stone. After assisting the couple, Quatermass arrives at his science complex.

His staff is anxious to tell him about weird meteor-like objects falling throughout the countryside. Quatermass is in no mood to listen to anyone. He's deeply bitter after learning that his moon colony project has been unfunded. The next day, Quatermass connects the two incidents involving the falling rocks and decides to investigate with a colleague.

Discovering the dome city.
The duo discover that a nearby village has disappeared. In its place, they find a city of metallic domes that looks mighty similar to Quatermass's moon colony model. The landscape is also littered with the unusual rocks. When Quatermass's colleague picks one up, he suffers a facial burn. Within seconds, security personnel in gas masks appear and take away the injured man amid Quatermass's feeble protests.

It's difficult to describe the plot to Quatermass 2 (aka Enemy from Space), the superior 1957 sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment (1955). As Quatermass probes deeper into mysterious activities at the dome city, he uncovers a tangled conspiracy that involves members of the British government. (I love that government officials explain that the facility will end world hunger by manufacturing synthetic food--when its real mission threatens to end mankind's existence.)

Like the first Quatermass film and the later Quatermass and the Pit (1967), Quatermass 2 was based on a TV serial written by the brilliant Nigel Kneale. The TV version consisted of six 30-minute episodes, which provided more time to explore Kneale's central theme of an "invisible" enemy indistinguishable from the human race. (Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Quatermass 2 is considered by some critics to be a Cold War metaphor.)

A lingering image....
If the screenplay, penned by Kneale and director Val Guest, rushes the plot, Guest compensates by including some marvelous visuals. The Shell Haven Refinery in Essex was used as the setting for the mysterious plant. With its cold metallic structures, it provides a chilling, bleak backdrop to the action. And one scene, in which a dying man staggers down a metal staircase covered in a burning, black goo...let's just say it's a genuinely disturbing image that lingers long after the movie is over.

The miscast Donlevy.
The only thing preventing Quatermass 2 from taking its place among the best sci fi films of the 1950s is its star. Brian Donlevy, who played the lead in The Quatermass Xperiment reprises the role--and he reminded me of one of those emotionless pod people in Body Snatchers. He recites dialogue like a robot and never convinces the audience--not for a nanosecond--that he is a rocket scientist. In contrast, Quatermass and the Pit is the best Quatermass movie largely because of Andrew Keir's performance in the lead role (well, it also features a highly imaginative plot that mixes sci fi and horror).

Hammer horror fans will instantly recognize the music in the opening scene. It's a variation of James Bernard's Horror of Dracula score (which was reused in several other Hammer pictures).


This post is part of the 2nd Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon hosted by Cinema Catharsis and and Reelweegiemidget Reviews. Please check out the full blogathon schedule by searching for #HammerAmicusBlogathon on Twitter.

7 comments:

  1. Like Donlevy as Q. Rather than the cliched scientist, he's a pro-active Ugly American. Focused on his goal. Equally callous in the first, he's considered the prototype of Peter Cushing's Doc Frankenstein....

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  2. Nice review! It's been a long time since I've seen this, so I'm overdue for a re-watch. I agree with your comments about Donlevy (I understand Nigel Kneale detested the casting), but the story is compelling. Thank you so much for joining our little blogathon!

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    1. Kneale would've hated any American in the role....But Donlevy sells these two across the ocean.

      It was a shame, but inevitable, that Kneale's attempt at a US career would crash and burn.

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  3. As a Donlevy fan I hate to agree with you about Prof. Quatermass, but not his finest hour. Or perhaps it just doesn't meet expectations for the character. Nonetheless, the first movie is a dandy, and now I have to see this one.

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  4. Thanks, not seen any of these films but now intrigued after your post. thanks for joning thie blogathon from Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews

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  5. I have, shamefully, never experienced Quartermass.
    Your great review makes me determined to remedy my sci-fi neglect.

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  6. I'm another one who's never seen the Quartermass films, despite all the great things I've read about them. This one, though, sounds especially interesting in view of the political events of the day.

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