Topic: Quatermass

Further to a chat with Gymkata during a recent podcast, here’s an overview of the Quatermass series. It ran for many years, though suffered from inconsistent casting of the lead actor, and was strongly influential on such things as “Dr Who” and Stephen King (“The Tommyknockers”).

(1) THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (aka The Quatermass Xperiment, The Creeping Unknown)

In 1953 writer Nigel Kneale came up with this for the time very popular BBC series. His main character, Professor Bernard Quatermass, was played by Reginald Tate. Unfortunately, only two episodes survive (thank you, BBC).
The success of this led to a Hammer film adaptation in 1955 called “The Quatermass Xperiment”- title changed to capitalise on the then-new X certificate. As was their custom at the time, Hammer imported an American actor to play the lead- Brian Donlevy. The film was a success, starting Hammer off on their course of sci-fi/horror movies. Kneale was not happy with Donlevy’s performance (and the script) and when Hammer wanted to make a sequel he refused them permission.
In 2005 a remake starring Jason Flemyng was done by the BBC.



This 1956 Hammer film was their response to Nigel Kneale refusing the use of Quatermass. The main character is called Dr Adam Royston and was played by American actor Dean Jagger. Basically, it’s a Quatermass film in all but name.


(2) QUATERMASS 2 (aka Quatermass II, Enemy From Space)

A second BBC production, again by Nigel Kneale, in 1955. Sadly, the actor Reginald Tate died shortly before production and was replaced by John Robinson who gives a rather stiff performance. This was again a big success and was filmed by Hammer in 1957, once again starring Brian Donlevy.
This is perhaps the first film/TV production to use “2” as a suffix- eg “Jaws 2”- though I may be wrong about that.


(3) QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (aka Five Million Years To Earth)

IMHO the epitome of the series. Again, Kneale wrote the BBC series which was shown in 1958-59. Quatermass was this time played by Andre Morell. It took Hammer till 1967 to film it,  starring Andrew Keir. The film has become a cult classic.


(4) QUATERMASS (aka The Quatermass Conclusion)

A 1979 Thames TV production, written by Kneale, starring Sir John Mills as Quatermass. It was filmed in such a way that an edited movie length version could also be released.



A 1996 radio production, written by Kneale, with Andrew Keir as Quatermass.


Re: Quatermass

I'm currently reading "Into the unknown", the biography of Nigel Kneale, a true television pioneer whom I had the honour of meeting briefly at a screening of The Stone Tape (if I recall - may be wrong) at the South Bank a few months before he passed away. It's hard to appreciate now just what an impact Quatermass had.  Quatermass and the Pit is probably the strongest of the four series and still had the power to chill today.

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."


Re: Quatermass

Sadly I missed the John Mills one which had an airing on Talking Pictures TV just a few weeks ago.


Re: Quatermass

Barbel: thanks for the history lesson!  I've only seen QUATERMASS AND THE PIT and enjoyed it very, very much.  I'll seek out the others.

Current rankings:
Bond rankings: Lazenby>Moore>Connery>Craig>Brosnan>Dalton


Re: Quatermass

I love the Hammer Horror franchise! They originated after the end of the Universal Monster franchise of which I am a great fan of also.

Quartermaster Xperiment is my favourite but the Pit comes a close second. I did read that Brian Donlevy liked a drink and was often on set inebriated. Nigel Kneale was unhappy at this and according to the director Val Guest, Kneale exaggerated the extent of his drunkenness, Guest maintaining that Donlevy always knew his lines.

I think you’re right Barbel, in that Quatermass II is the first “numbered” sequel movie, (although Shakespeare got there first in the play, Richard II)  ajb007/shifty

As a kid I read magazines like Famous Monsters and yearned for the chance to see a Hammer film but it wasn’t until about 1972, aged 16, that I saw Dracula (1958) and Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) on a double bill at some London fleapit.

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.


Re: Quatermass

CoolHandBond wrote:

I did read that Brian Donlevy liked a drink and was often on set inebriated. Nigel Kneale was unhappy at this and according to the director Val Guest, Kneale exaggerated the extent of his drunkenness, Guest maintaining that Donlevy always knew his lines.

The version I heard or read was that Donlevy would be sitting on the set, quite drunk and barely able to walk or talk, but when Guest yelled "Action!" he would leap up and say his lines flawlessly, hitting his marks and giving a professional performance.... until Guest yelled "Cut!" when Donlevy would again collapse into his chair. Don't know how true that is, but all sources agree that Nigel Kneale totally disapproved of him as Quatermass. (My favourites would be Morell and Keir)

Bond connections- Cec Linder (Felix in GF) is in the BBC version of "Pit", while Julian Glover is in the Hammer version of it (as is Bryan Marshall from TSWLM). Plus Val Guest was one of the many directors of CR67.