by Mel Valentin
Professor Bernard Quatermass. Most American genre fans will be unfamiliar with the name of this fictional character, unless they've come across "The Creeping Unknown," "Enemy From Space" or "Five Million Years to Earth" (as they were retitled for release in the United States). Professor Quatermass, the head of the fictional British Experimental Rocket Group, originated in a BBC serial written by Nigel Kneale in the early 1950s. The success of the low budget, quickly produced serials made crossovers into other media more than likely.In 1955, Hammer Studios produced the first theatrical feature, The Quatermass Xperiment, directed by Val Guest from Nigel Kneale's BBC serial of the same name. The Quatermass Xperiment centered on a resourceful, forceful scientist, Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy), the head of the British Experimental Research Group, and his attempts to understand and control an alien organism run amuck. Only two years later, Hammer Studios released Quatermass 2 (known in the United States as Enemy From Space). Quatermass 2 reunited director Val Guest and Brian Donlevy. Along with a theatrical sequel produced ten years later, Quatermass and the Pit (the only sequel filmed in color), the Quatermass films are considered as benchmarks for serious-minded, British science fiction. Only Quatermass and the Pit, however, is likely to hold any interest for contemporary science fiction/horror fans.
"The weakest film in the Quatermass series. Only for completists."
Quatermass 2 finds Professor Quatermass struggling to find financing for his rocket program. Even more ambitiously, Quatermass has planned a moon base. The British government seems unimpressed with Quatermassí project (or its rationale, which seems to be missing). Given the high cost of the moon base project, Quatermass is forced to refocus his attentions to his experimental rocket program, which has problems of its own. Almost simultaneously, meteors fall in the area. On his way to obtain research assistance, Quatermass and one of his colleagues, Marsh (Bryan Forbes), pass through a small village, Winnerden Flats thatís been all but replaced by a top-secret government facility. Hereís the rub: the secret facility is a complete replica of Quatermassí moon base project (complete with massive domes). Marsh finds a meteorite, which temporarily incapacitates him. Armed guards in gas masks arrive and take Marsh away to the secret facility.
Quatermass understandably wants to locate his colleague, but just as importantly, discover the purpose behind the secret facility. To that end, he tries to get help from the locals. They, in turn, refuse, sworn to secrecy (neo-fascist posters at the local meeting hall suggest something sinister is also at play). Quatermass eventually gets the help of an old acquaintance, Inspector Lomax (John Longden) and brings his concerns to an MP (Member of Parliament), Vincent Broadhead (Tom Chatto). Broadhead has obtained a day pass to the secret facility and brings Quatermass along. Quatermass hopes to rescue his fallen colleague, uncover the true purpose behind the research facility, and, if necessary, bring down whatever seemingly controls the guards and scientists at the facility.
Like its predecessor, the special effects in Quatermass 2 are nothing short of laughable. Two or three mattes are at least passable, but once Quatermass discovers the extraterrestrial organism (or organisms), the audience is treated to giant sludge monsters (or a reasonable facsimile) that apparently served as inspiration for the titular monster in 1971ís Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (no, not Godzilla, the other one). Quatermass 2 also has its share of narrative lapses, and in one egregious case, Quatermass miraculous escape from heavily armed guards is kept offscreen (with the hope that the audience wonít notice). The extraterrestrial organism isnít particular original in conception (hint: hive mind) nor is its ability to infect and control human subjects (cf. Invaders From Mars). Quatermass 2 could have used more humor, more camp, and less seriousness (but thatís par for the series).Directing wise, Val Guest continues his undistinguished work, proving himself a competent director and nothing more. Although "Quatermass 2" suffers from dialogue-heavy scenes (as did its predecessor), Guest finally ups the action quotient in the last thirty minutes, as angry villagers march on the research facility. As in "The Quatermass Xperiment," Brian Donlevy in the lead role delivers his lines over emphatically, making his characterization unsympathetic (unlike Andrew Keir's interpretation twelve years later in "Quatermass and the Pit"). Ultimately, "Quatermass 2" (a/k/a/ "Enemy From Space") is the least watchable entry in the Quatermass series. At least the best was yet to come.
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originally posted: 11/03/05 12:08:21