Release Date(s)1957 (July 30, 2019)
Studio(s)Hammer Films/United Artists (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
Despite Hammer Films’ reluctance to venture beyond the successful horror formula that they would eventually become known for, other genre films sporadically squeaked their way out. Such was the case with 1955’s The Quatermass Xperiment. Based upon an earlier British TV series, the story concerns a scientist who must stop an alien organism from spreading that has already infected the only surviving crewmember of a crash-landed space rocket. It was a great success upon its initial release, and after a second TV series was made, it too was adapted as a film in 1957 as Quatermass 2, or as it was released in the United States, Enemy from Space.
The film picks up with Quatermass conducting research into moon colonization, but striving to gain government funding for the project. Late one evening, he nearly avoids a car collision with two young people, one of which has been exposed to a cracked meteorite that has left a V-shaped mark on his face. Curious about its origins, Quatermass investigates the area where this took place, only to discover a large facility that bears a striking resemblance to his colonization plans, as well as armed guards bearing the same V-shaped mark who order him to leave. Not one to take things lying down, Quatermass eventually makes his way inside the facility and discovers that it is secretly developing food for alien creatures that dwell inside its set of large silos. Thoroughly alarmed, he struggles to convince whomever he can to help him stop them.
In many ways, Quatermass 2 is a more interesting film than its predecessor, particularly pertaining to its plot. In these films, Quatermass’ character is often at odds with invading alien beings, but in this instance, it takes more time to convince those around him about the validity of the details, seeing as many of them are already under alien control (in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type of way). Although the film was based upon the earlier serial, and adapted by its original writer Nigel Kneale, it was also altered in order to bring it down to a manageable size. Quatermass’ daughter was cut out of the story completely, while the ending was altered. Val Guest was asked again to direct and actor Brian Donlevy returned to reprise the titular role.
Although the film was a success upon its initial release, it also ran into some competition as Hammer’s release of The Curse of Frankenstein was dominating the box office, eclipsing Quatermass 2 significantly. Many years would go by before another sequel, Quatermass and the Pit, would be released. Over the years, fans have argued the pros and cons of the Quatermass film series versus the TV serials, with particular regards to Brian Donlevy’s bull-headed performance and the story alterations made to Quatermass 2. Regardless, they remain popular genre films from a company that rarely dipped its toes into the world of science fiction.
Scream Factory brings the film to Blu-ray in the U.S. for the first time from a new 2K scan of an archival film print. The element is in really good condition, sporting a decent black-and-white presentation. The transfer’s main adversary is crushed blacks which, depending upon the lighting of any given scene, can be hampering, particularly the opening sequence which is quite dark. Coarse grain is present throughout, but detail appears fairly crisp and film-like. Delineation is good, with whites never appearing blown-out. It’s also a clean presentation aside from mild instability, lines, and speckling.
The audio is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a clear track, but not at all that dynamic. Dialogue sounds a bit wooden but discernable while sound effects have decent push to them, though there’s a lack of ambient activity. The film’s score by James Bernard has the most presence to it, coming through with the most potency. It’s also a clean track with no leftover instances of hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
Extras include a new audio commentary with film historian Ted Newsom, which is a lively listen from a true fan of the film; another new audio commentary with film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr, a more informative but enjoyable listen as the two discuss the differences between the film and the TV serial, among other subjects; a wonderful vintage audio commentary with writer Nigel Kneale, director Val Guest, author Marcus Hearn, and Ted Newsom, which is made up of two separate Laserdisc audio commentaries that have been stitched together; Val Guest: Quatermass and the Hammer Experience, a newly-edited 21-minute interview with the director about his career and his work at Hammer Films; a new 3-minute interview with special effects assistant Brian Johnson; a new 2-minute interview with third assistant director Hugh Harlow; the U.S. theatrical trailer under the title Enemy from Space; the 26-minute Sci-Fi episode of The World of Hammer, narrated by Oliver Reed; and an animated still gallery featuring 41 promotional images, posters, lobby cards, and newspaper clippings. It’s also worth noting that the reverse artwork features the U.S. poster for the film.
Scream Factory’s recent dips into the Hammer vaults have warranted a cadre of fine Blu-ray releases, and Quatermass 2 is among them. Another beloved genre classic has been given plenty of TLC with a nice transfer and a set of entertaining extras.
– Tim Salmons