Sun 13 Mar 2011
QUATERMASS II: ENEMY FROM SPACE. Hammer Films, 1957. Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sidney James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn, Vera Day. Originally serialized by BBC-TV, Oct-Nov 1955, in 6 30min segments. Story & screenplay: Nigel Kneale & Val Guest. Director: Val Guest.
Yet another surprisingly effective British Thriller that builds quietly to a really gripping finish. Brian Donlevy plays the eponymous Doctor Quatermass, who stumbles onto a top-secret Government Project that turns out to be a front for Alien Invasion.
I was struck by the writers’ ability to come up with really alien-looking aliens and an eerily off-the-wall kind of Invasion. Director Val Guest does a good job of starting out Slow and Realistic (The top-secret Government Complex is actually an Oil Refinery — and looks it.) then working up to a Big Finish that’s all the more impressive for looking so out-of-place in such a modest film.
In terms of Writing and Playing, Quatermass 2 is uniformly intelligent; the characters talk and act like ordinary folks, and Brian Donlevy is surprisingly effective as the gruff, ill-mannered, unlikely hero of the piece.
I’ve always been puzzled, though, by the fact that they chose him to star in the Quatermass films, despite the popularity of the British Actor who played him on Radio. One assumes that they must have had an eye on the American Market, but Good Lord: BRIAN DONLEVY?!?!
That’s not enough Star Power to light up a Marquee! Truly, the minds of Film Producers are inscrutable to us Mortal Men.