Delve Deeper

Monday, April 3, 2017

Quatermass 2

Quatermass 2 is one of the best sci-fi horror films ever made, even though it is in black and white, even though the science is dated, even though the special effects are less than perfect. It has other names: The Quatermass Xperiment, and Enemy From Space, but I prefer Quatermass 2.

It stars Brian Donlevy as Quatermass, and I am glad to say he is less obnoxious in this film than he was in the first, as well as less hairy. The cast is almost exclusively male, so it not only fails the Bechdel test, but sets fire to the paper and dances on the ashes. There are many interesting supporting characters in this film, including Sid James as a reporter, and Vera James as Sheila, the barmaid, and of course there is Michael Ripper. A Hammer film isn't a proper Hammer film unless Michael Ripper is in it.  All of them come across as real people, an asset to the film as we care about what happens to them. This is a Quatermass film, nasty things will happen to them.

It stands out because of the extreme tension that pervades the whole film. Even though we know almost from the start that there is an invasion going on. We are Lovecraft fans, we know the significance of hollow meteorites when we see them. Nevertheless, nothing is predictable here, this is not your typical invasion. Like the next movie in the sequence, the unforgettable Quatermass and the Pit, the aliens are already here before the events of the film start. A big part of he tension comes from us discovering how deep the invading force has penetrated into our society. Indeed, at the end one is left wondering if the protagonists have detected all the domes, and if all the enslaved ones have been released.

I return to the domes, because they are the true stars of the film, and that is not to devalue any of the actors in any way. It is just to emphasise how magnificent they are, and how ominous. The word I believe is lowering. They lower over the movie. We first see them from a distance, thus

And then as a model, in their intended context as part of a moonbase.

And then, we get this.

They overwhelm and they dominate, and upon seeing them we just have to ask "Just what the hell is IN those things".  Be patient, for we will find out. So will Professor Quatermass.

There are many things in this film to chill our blood, and we don't have to wait long for them. I don't want to make a list of them all, but the robotic behaviour of the plant's employees is one of them, the ominous masks worn by the guards, and perhaps worst of all, blood dripping from a pipe that is supposed to be filled with gas. And then there are the contents of those domes. How anyone can see them and still say this film isn't Lovecraftian beats me. Indeed my first call was "shoggoth!", although these things are far more complex and intriguing than any shoggoth could be. It is true that the special effects fail us a little here, but I have seen much worse CGI, many times. And so have you.

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