... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Quartermass Question

I've been focusing on American atomic-age horror films (with an occasional Japanese reference) because that's what I grew up on. However, I can think of at least one British example of the genre: the Quartermass films and serials.

Professor Bernard Quatermass is a scientist-hero, not as rugged as the typical American equivalent, but that's just because British sci-fi is usually more cerebral. He's the main character of several television serials I've only seen stills of; these were adapted into Hammer Horror films, of which I've only seen one* (Quartermass and the Pit, which I saw under the title Five Million Years to Earth.) From what little I've seen, it meets all the same criteria as America atomic-age horror: mixed feelings about science, hints of paranoia, anxiety about the future. It's perhaps more pessimistic and less forgiving of military force than American films, but maybe that's just Hammer's take.

* I may have seen The Quartermass Xperiment/The Creeping Unknown, but I may be thinking of a Christopher Lee movie instead.

I'd love to see the original TV versions, but don't know if they're available, or if they are better, worse, or about the same in comparison to the Hammer film versions. Has anyone seen both versions of one of the stories? What's your opinion?


  1. Except for the first series, of which only the first two episodes survive, all of Quatermass has been reissued many times, so it's all available. For my money, the TV series are actually better than the films, despite the disparity in budgets, probably because they have much more time to work with when it comes to creating and maintaining the atmosphere of the stories. The downside is that the picture quality is what you'd expect from 1950s telerecordings, though it does get better as you go along. I'd say it's definitely worth a look.

  2. Quartermass is an intriguing character, and the various series and films are worth tracking down, especially if you can get the local library to help out. Like Prince Herb said, the picture quality of the collections isn't so hot, but it does get better.

    I am hoping that someone like Moonstone or Dynamite pick-up the Quartermass character and start doing new adventures. That'd be very cool...and way over-due.

  3. The TV version of Quatermass and the Pit /is/ a classic IMHO and quality ain't that bad.

    There's at least two "repackagings" available so try to obtain the one which retains the episodic format rather than stringing those together: perhaps a bit long as a one-er and there's at least one somewhat jarring transition due to the requirements of live television.

    (Oh, and it's worthwhile digging out the TV version of 1984, too, IMHO...).

  4. The BBC did a new -- live -- version of the first Quatermass a couple of years ago. It wasn't too bad, but the original is better.

  5. wow. I've never heard of this show. It sounds like something I'd enjoy, though. I wonder if its on the internet somewhere. thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks, everyone. It's good to know that Quartermass and the Pit is available pretty much in its s original presentation format, because as I said that's the one I saw as a Hammer film, and I'd like to compare. Plus, that one had some pretty enjoyably weird ideas.