Quatermass 2 (1957)

A grim, X-rated sci-fi conspiracy picture from Hammer Films, strongly directed by Val Guest. DD-Video R2 DVD.

The Film

The BBC's 1953 Quatermass Experiment serial had proven extremely influencial - Hammer pictures quickly picked up the rights and made it into a film - The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), the first X-rated British picture. The BBC and Hammer both worked on sequels. Unable to use the Quatermass name, Hammer shot X the Unknown (1956) another X-rated picture that proved just as popular. The BBC shot an official sequel Quatermass II (1956) and Hammer quickly brought the rights to film this as well.

Scientists at the Quatermass space mission detect a number of curious objects crashing into the countryside. Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) sets out to find out what the objects are and discovers a massive, secret government complex. His colleague picks up one of the 'meteors' as it cracks open, and something jumps into his face - Quatermass is hustled away by guards and his friend taken into the base. Finding the local townsfolk uncooperative, Quatermass goes to speak to his friend, a Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard and Vincent Broadhead MP. Broadhead manages to get himself and Quatermass on an official tour of the plant where they discovers that something is very wrong, and that it could endanger the world...

As with The Quatermass Experiment, this film was based on public fears of scientific advancements - in that case of the space race, in this case of the intense government secrecy that people began to notice at the dawn of the Cold War - the script was co-written by director Val Guest, and the original BBC writer Nigel Kneale. For the first 50 minutes it is a good mystery-film as Quatermass slowly uncovers what is going on before a rather action packed final half hour. While The Quatermass Xperiment and X the Unknown were relatively simple monster pictures with the scientists tracking them down by 'following the screams', Quatermass 2 was a much bigger production with Quatermass uncovering a large scale conspiracy and running around, being frequently shot at by mysterious guards. While X had a vein of humour, Quatermass 2 is a much darker, grimmer film with a lot of death, that sets it above the standard sci-fi B-pictures. The climax is very strong and exciting, with a decent, although predictable ending.

Guest's direction is strong, aiming for an almost newsreel verité quality, so the camera angles are simple and don't draw attention to themselves. The film makes use of some impressive location shoots at a Shell Oil plant and clever use of matt-paintings, as well as some good looking gory effects although the monsters at the end are predictably cheesy. There is an impressively large cast of extras on hand in some of the later scenes. James Bernard gives a distinctively strong soundtrack that helps to build the tension.

Brian Donlevy returns to the Quatermass role and although very dissimilar to the TV series' quiet British scientist, he does bring a plausible, down-to-earth atmosphere and looks suitable running around under fire. A number of recognisable actors have brief roles - Carry On star Sid James plays a reporter; John Van Eyssen (Harker in Dracula (1958)) as a menacing plant guide and even Hammer's frequently recurring Michael Ripper appears as a barman.

It would be ten years before Hammer went back to the series with Quatermass and the Pit (1967), the sucess of their gothic horrors pushed sci-fi into the background. Quatermass 2 is a grim and exciting picture on a much larger scale than Hammer's previous sci-fi films, boasting some solid production and direction. Certainly worth watching for fans of conspiracy sci-fi pictures and Hammer fans should enjoy it.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Brian Donlevy - a former American 'heavy' actor, nominator for an Oscar for Beau Geste (1939)
Sid James - the lusty star of most of the English Carry On... comedy films.
Directed by anyone interesting? Val Guest - A former comedy director who shot many important Hammer films between 1954 and 1960 including their first colour picture Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) and crime drama Hell is a City (1960).
Is it scary?A couple of scenes might prove scary, but not much.
Any violence/gore? A lot of rather brutal (for the times) killings with blood and gory effects.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Fans of conspiracy sci-fi pictures should enjoy this above average production.
Good Soundtrack?A strong soundtrack from Hammer regular James Bernard.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Black and White.
The print is decent, with little print damage but very heavy grain, especially in the night-scenes.
Audio English language mono. Mostly fine.
Subtitles None.
Run-timeFeature: 1hr 21m 07s (PAL)
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio Commentary (recorded by ABUS) with Val Guest and Nigel Kneale (recorded seperately), has some interesting stories, but with some dead air, and less conversation than the DD-video recorded commentary tracks.
  • On camera interview with Val Guest - an interesting addition to the commentary information. (8m 51s)
  • Original, American theatrical trailer. Very low quality. (1m 55s)
  • A detailed 24 page booklet about the film and its background.
AvailabilityAvailable as a single-disc release or in the Hammer Horror: The Early Classics boxset. Both include the booklet. Was also available in a dual-pack with The Quatermass Xperiment.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? E-M-S German R2 DVD (title Feinde aus dem Nichts) and ABUS R1 DVD. Both include audio commentary, neither include interview.
Cuts? None known - this print is the original British cinema version.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 18th July 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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