I'm a little late in posting today. I was going to weasel out and claim my overlooked video was the clip of the doom-fated snake and the pneumatic Orit Fox in the previous post, but I honestly think THAT video will not be overlooked for some time to come. The reason I'm late is because I was in a quandry. I had intended to post on Knigel Kneale's QUATERMASS II (the television serial) when I saw that Dan Stumpf had blogged about the Hammer film version on Steve Lewis's Mystery*File. But, what the heck, there's some difference between the two and Quatermass is cool in any format.
Nigel Kneale turned to television and screenwriting because (he claimed) the money was good. Earlier, he had been an acclaimed short story writer; his only story collection TOMATO CAIN, AND OTHER STORIES won the Somerset Maugham award in 1950. For television he created Quatermass and wrote the four serials that make up that oevre, as well as adaptions of Kingsley Amis, Bernard Cornwell, and George Orwell. For the screen, he wrote LOOK BACK IN ANGER, THE ENTERTAINER, HMS DEFIANT, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH, and the adaptations of the first three Quatermass serials. We are talking about one talented dude here.
The Quatermass serials proved to be extremely popular and well-produced cliffhangers in England. The first, THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, was televised in 1953; the second, QUATERMASS II, in 1955; and the third, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, in 1958-9. The final one, titled simply QUATERMASS (also known as THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION), was televised 20 years later, in 1979. The first three scripts were issued as paperbacks by Penguin in 1959 and 1960; the last was adapted as a novel published by Hutchinson in 1979.
Quatermass was scientist Bernard Quatermass (John Robinson) and QUATERMASS II was name of a rocket he was developing. A mysterious accident where the rocket was being built resulted in a nuclear explosion. Top men in the government have been taken over/controlled by an alien vapor that had been released by a meteor. Quatermass then discovers a manufacturing plant that strikingly resembles his own proposed development for a moon base. Soon the the alien threat grows and Quatermass must take his new rocket into space to battle the invaders.
The Quatermass stories were an instant hit in England and fed on a growing concern about the power of bureaucracy and the possible dangers of government secrecy. QUATERMASS II was filmed live in six (roughly) half-hour episodes. Because its budget was twice that of THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, producers were also able to go on location and insert some pre-filmed scenes. (The producers also refilmed certain scenes immediately after the original broadcast.)
The star, John Robinson, by the way, was a last minute casting choice. The original Quatermass from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, Reginald Tate, was to continue the role but died shortly before filming was scheduled to begin. Look closely and you'll see Roger Delgado, who became better known as The Master from DR. WHO.
Without further ado, here is the BBC television presentation of QUATERMASS II:
Part 6, Conclusion: