Considered by many critics to be the finest in the series, Hammer's second Quatermass feature (adapted from the television serial by Nigel Kneale) is a subversive alien invasion story. Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy)... more » stumbles onto a top-secret government base near a rural location that has been inundated by a steady stream of meteors. His investigations, which are met with distrust by suspicious townspeople and outright hostility by the base guards, uncover a conspiracy originating in the highest reaches of government. With few he can trust and fewer he can convince of his suspicions, Quatermass decides to meet the menace head-on. Director Val Guest, who cowrote the screenplay with Kneale, loads his film with fascinating detail (the whiz of the falling meteors--actually space pods--recalls the buzz bombs of the London blitz, and the antipathy of the high-strung locals adds a curious element of class conflict), but really brings the picture to life with its stark black-and-white look and overpowering mood of paranoia. The base, the very picture of industrial modernity in the midst of rural nothingness, is given a creepy emptiness as Quatermass wanders through, dwarfed in the giant maze of pipes and towers centered by enormous spherical containers and huge domes. You'll likely never forget the image of a government investigator covered in a smoking black substance, stumbling down the steps of the stark white container. --Sean Axmaker« less
Jon Thompson | Van Nuys, CA United States | 02/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this classic Hammer film (1957) when it premiered on US television in the early '60's on New York channel 9's (WOR-TV) "Million Dollar Movie". The idea was that the station would play the same film twice an evening (7 and 9 PM) and several times in a row on the week-ends. I happened to catch it early in the week and recall spending the rest of the week watching it over and over again (this was the age of "you miss the broadcast, you missed it entirely" television).
Of course, compared to the current age of CGI graphics and action sequences designed specifically to be as spectacular as possible, this 1957 low budget black and white British "pulp sci fi" film seems rather tame. But in terms of content, story, tightness in pace and execution it is a stunning example of how a brilliant director (Val Guest) can wring great things out of very limited raw materials.
Personally I would place this as one of my top 10 all time favorite sci fi films. I revisit it at least twice a year (I have the VHS release from long ago), and it never fails to impress and unnerve.
Even the strident performance by Brian Donlevy (best known as a B-Picture villian from the '30's and '40's) adds a sense of urgency to the tone of the picture. The action takes place over three days between the first hint of something not quite right in the little (and currently missing) village of Winerdon Flats, to the explosive conclusion when the alien infestation is defeated. In between the film presents an unrelenting atmosphere that is dark, creepy and rife with paranoia. It gets it's power not from what it shows but from what it implies. Like the American classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" there are contemporary political overtones rooted in the "Red Scare" of the 1950's, but "Quatermass II" does them better and crisper.
Also worth noting is how skillfully director Val Guest is able to infuse a sense of realism through overlapping dialogue and a hint of "happening right now" urgency in various scenes.
In general the performances are sharp, real and impelling. If it has a flaw it is that it must bow to its budget limitations for the final reveal of the monster in the final five minutes. You sense that director Guest had to suck it up and muddle through something he knew would never come off the way he might have hoped but was necessary to completing the film.
Even the musical score is startling, consisting of strings and timpani in a combination of "fingernails on a blackboard" screech and thunderous, ominous rumbling that gets the viewer in the proper (highly disturbed) mood before the action even begins.
On the whole it is an example of just how brilliant, insightful and disturbing a thing can be created with extremely limited resources and any sci-fi fan will be utterly delighted by this unique experience. Well worth the investment and likely to become a favorite."
Beware, this is NOT an Original Anchor Bay!
love_to_shop | 05/15/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The movie itself is great, but please be aware that this is NOT the original Anchor Bay edition of this dvd. I ordered this dvd, thinking that this rare dvd had finally been re-released by Anchor Bay, only to find out it's only a DVD-R copy of the original. Amazon needs to be much clearer in their description of this dvd & let buyers know that it is not a factory pressed DVD. I'm not sure how the licensing for such a DVD-R was worked out with Amazon & Anchor Bay (presumably it was or it would not be for sale on Amazon) but Amazon should not list it like the original Anchor Bay edition which is obviously still out of print and rare. I sent mine back for a refund since as a collector I want the real thing."
A lost treasure rediscovered
Jon Thompson | Van Nuys, CA United States | 02/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw "Quatermas II" (it's original Hammer release title) almost 40 years ago and even today it maintains much of its original power and impact. The combination of talents (Nigel Kneale's script, Val Guest directing, even the high, tense string musical score blend together to make this a true classic, regardless of the fact that it was done on a pittance of a budget.Val Guest's direction is almost flawless, blending overlapping dialogue and camerawork designed to draw the viewer into the moment by allowing them to observe from a "non-God" viewpoint, rather than throw the action into the face (as is common in most films today.) One example of this would be a scene, early on, when Quatermass and his assistant travel to a remote English village to investigate a report of strange goings-on at a secret plant of some kind. They drive down a clean, modern road that ends abruptly in the middle of nowhere. Confused and a bit unnerved we stand beside them on the road, watching them climb back into their car and pull away. A few moments later, distant, shadowy figures step out of the forest, stopping to watch them depart. It is the fact that we do not know who or even what these individuals are and are not drawn into a close-up of them that makes the moment especially unnerving and creepy. The entire film is rife with such suggestive, effective touches.The dialogue, while witty and crisp, is still to the point and drives the story along in a sudden rush. The entire tale takes place over the space of only a few days, but the distance travelled is lightyears in terms of mood and power.Even the musical score, a combination of rolling, threatening timpini and screeching violins, merely heightens the already anxious mood of the story.The performances are competent, in come cases journeyman in caliber, but the real power of the piece is the barely suppressed hint of menace that flows through it, like a half formed nightmare.If there is a flaw in the film it is one of budgetary constraints, particularly in the eventual appearance of "the monster" at the very end of the film. Even with modern special effects it is difficult to imagine that moment carried out with complete success, though it is clearly expected by the viewer to be presented eventually. But the scenes leading up to it drive ahead into a chasm of disturbing images that are difficult to ignore. (The scenes of the heros trapped in the control room at the plant alone are a tidal wave of paranoia, claustrophobia and horror without ever having to resort to trickery or special effects.)By all means every student of film or science fiction fan should at least see this picture. And it is well worth adding to a collection. I view it at least annually."
British sci-fi: Brainy and Low-Budget
Timothy Hulsey | Charlottesville, VA United States | 03/11/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, if you've never seen a Quatermass film before, the name is pronounced KWAY-ter-mass. The three Quatermass films by Hammer are all adapted from British television serials in the 1950s; a fourth Quatermass series was televised in 1979. The general consensus is that of the Hammer films, _Quatermass 2_ is the best, and I have to agree. (As the British television versions go, I've heard several different opinions as to which Quatermass is the best, from the 1958 _Quatermass and the Pit_ to 1979's _Quatermass_. The stories of these television serials are much too complicated for an average 90-minute B picture.)The screenplay for _Quatermass 2_ is a marvel of efficiency, setting up characters and situations with remarkable ease and confidence. Unlike other films in the series, this one doesn't seem burdened with too much exposition. Perhaps this is because most of us have already seen this story in a different form, as _Invasion of the Body Snatchers_. (The televised version of _Quatermass 2_ actually preceded _Invasion_ by a year or two.) But _Q2_ has a very different focus, articulating Britain's paranoia over a military-industrial complex that seems out of control. Sound familiar?Although the script is quite good, it's the superb direction of Val Guest that really makes the film work. He makes it easy for viewers to keep track of a complex chains of events, often pulling suspenseful moments seemingly from thin air. Brian Donleavy's square-jawed, straight-arrow performance as Professor Quatermass is perhaps a little too much like Joe Friday for my taste. Still, I frequently enjoyed Donleavy's overbearing manner, even though it's the only aspect of the film that feels dated now.One of the best and brainiest sci-fi films from the '50s ... well worth owning if you're a sci-fi fan, and well worth viewing if you're not. (By the way, the central ideas of John Carpenter's recent _Ghosts of Mars_ seem somewhat indebted to _Q2_, although _Q2_ is by far the better film.)"
This is a DVD-R
Anonymous | 03/26/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is not so much a review, but rather some information about this DVD. The movie itself is a great black & white British Sci-Fi thriller and I recommend it. I used to own the Anchor Bay release of this movie that went Out-Of-Production several years ago and started fetching big bucks on Amazon Marketplace and "that other auction site". As much as I liked the film, I sold original copy for a tidy profit and was hoping this film had been Re-released on DVD when I ordered this. After receiving it, I found out this was a DVD-R copy of the original. What that means is it is "burned" onto a writable DVD rather than being "pressed" or manufactured in a factory. DVD-Rs are pretty much the same as DVDs, but they don't play in some very old dvd players (1998 and earlier) there is some question as to their longevity. I sent it back for a refund, so I am not sure if it has the exact same features as the original Anchor Bay disc. If you are dying to see this movie, this is the only way to legally do it right now, but I think the asking price is too high for a DVD-R."