Monday, 27 June 2016

A Tribute to Val Guest




(11 December 1911 – 10 May 2006)

Guest "brought a lot of intelligence to a genre that is often sorely in need of it." (director Joe Dante)

English film director and screenwriter, Val Guest is best known for his work for Hammer. Several of his science fiction and horror films have been featured in this blog. What we notice about his films is how they seem to work without the need for expensive and flashy special effects. Instead, like many British science fiction films, they seem to rely on fine story lines, good acting, effective use of cinematography and tight direction. 

Early life


Val Guest was born Valmond Maurice Guest to parents, John Simon Guest (a jute broker) and Julia Ann Gladys Emanuel in Maida Vale, London.

Some of Guest's childhood was spent in India before the family returned to England shortly prior to the first world war.


His parents were divorced when he was young, but he was not told of this and instead was led to believe that his mother had died. Even after his grandparents revealed to him that there had been a divorce, Guest led his father to think that he still believed that she was dead. Later meetings with his mother, however, were kept secret.

Val Guest was educated at Seaford College in Sussex.


Career:


After leaving Seaford College in 1927, Guest went on to work as a bookkeeper. at 15 years of age.

Guest then went on to appear in various London theatre productions and in some early sound film roles. In 1930 as part of a song writing partnership duo, Val Guest signed a contract with the music publishers Feldman's. He also earned additional income by writing movie news and gossip for such magazines as Picturegoer and Film Weekly.

Later, a fortuitous meeting with future film star Ida Lupino resulted in a meeting with her uncle, Lupino Lane at which an offer was made to Guest to script and appear in the musical film, The Maid of the Mountains (1932), which Lane was directing.

Val Guest decided to quit acting and began a writing career.


In about 1934, Guest became the London correspondent for the Hollywood Reporter trade paper before going on to work on film screenplays for Gainsborough Pictures.

The screenplay work came about as a result of a challenge issued to Guest to write a screenplay by director, Marcel Varnel who was less than pleased by Guest’s comments in his regular column, "Rambling Around" concerning the Varnel's latest film. 





The result of the challenge was the script, “No Monkey Business” (1935) directed by Varnel. Thus was born a partnership between Guest and Varnel with Guest being placed under contract as a staff writer at Gainsborough's Islington Studios. Guest’s screenplay writing career endured for the rest of the 1930s.




In the early 1940s after directing a Ministry of Information short film about the dangers of sneezing, Guest became a director in his own right with his debut feature, Miss London Limited. (1943), a musical comedy about an escort agency.

Guest’s involvement with the film industry would continue for the next 40 years as a director, screenwriter and producer.


Relationships


Guest was married to Pat Watson but they divorced after Guest fell in love with American actress Yolande Donlan whom he married in 1954.




Val Guest’s Sci-Fi Films:


Guest was eventually offered the opportunity to direct Hammer's first Quatermass film, (Quatermass Xperiment) which was adapted from the BBC television serial by Nigel Kneale. 




The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) was shot in the style of a television documentary. With that film’s success came a sequel, Quatermass 2 (1957) which Guest also directed. 




Guest went on to direct other science-fiction films such as The Abominable Snowman (1957), and The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) which won Guest and Wolf Mankowitz a BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay. 




The fluid and biting dialogue of The Day the Earth Caught Fire together with the superb acting performances is very impressive. I suggest you find a copy of that film and watch it. You don’t get dialogue in a film that is so full of such wit, cynicism, sarcasm and irony like that anymore! This film will be featured at a later date in this blog.


video

Trailer


Later career


Guest wrote and directed the less than impressive, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970). This was followed by sex comedy films, Au Pair Girls (1972) and Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974).



Guest went on to direct television episodes of series such as The Adventurer (1972–73), Space: 1999 (1976-77), and The Persuaders! (1971–72), as well as several episodes of the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense series in 1984 and 1985.

Guest's final feature film work was writing and directing The Boys in Blue (1982). 


Life After Films


Guest retired in 1985, and lived with his wife in retirement in California.

In 2001 Guest, presented his life story in the auto-biographical book, "So You Want to Be in Pictures."

In 2004, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Guest and his wife, Donlan.

In 2006, Val Guest died in a hospice in Palm Desert, California from prostate cancer aged 94. He is survived by his sons, David and Christopher, and two grandchildren.


A Final Thought


We can end this tribute with the words of Joe Dante which best describe much of Val Guest’s film work: 

“Thoughtful and well-done."








©Chris Christopoulos 2016


Sunday, 26 June 2016

A Tribute to Paul Blaisdell



(July 21, 1927 – July 10, 1983)


Painter, sculptor, visual effects creator and a most memorable monster-maker




Blaisdell was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1927, and grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts.

In his childhood he sketched alien monsters and constructed model airplane kits.

After graduation from high school, Paul briefly worked as a typewriter repairman and served a stint in the military.

He then attended the New England School of Art and Design in Boston where he met his future wife, Jacqueline "Jackie" Boyle. Paul and Jackie got married in 1952 after finishing college and moved to Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, California, where he worked for Douglas Aircraft.

At Douglas Aircraft Blaisdell worked as a technical illustrator.




Outside of work, Blaisdell drew artwork and submitted his illustrations to such science fiction publications as "Spaceways" and "Otherworlds."





Blaisdell later met with Forrest J Ackerman, legendary magazine publisher, noted literary agent and founding creative director/editor of the magazine, “Famous Monsters of Filmland.” Impressed with Blaisdell’s work, Ackerman became his agent.

In 1955, Blaisdell was hired to create the creature effects for Roger Corman's low-budget film The Beast with a Million Eyes. Roger Corman had run out of funds right at the point of constructing the alien “eye-creature.” Effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen was put forward as an option but the remaining $200 in Corman’s budget was not going to cover it. Suddenly, in came Blaisdell who could work monster and special effects magic at a very modest cost. 


Blaisdell spent several years designing the monsters and handling the special effects for numerous low-budget movies, such as Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) and The Spider (1958) and was even the actor portraying a particular creature in the film.




With independent science fiction films no longer being fashionable and Blaisdell becoming disenchanted with the film business he, together with film editor and actor, Bob Burns, formed the company Black Shield, to publish the magazine, “Fantastic Monsters of the Films” which lasted for seven issues during 1962-63. He walked away from the magazine when the plates for the eighth issue were destroyed in a fire at his printers.

Blaisdell eventually severed all ties with the movie industry to work as a carpenter.

He died of stomach cancer at the age of 55 in Topanga, California in 1983.


Paul Blaisdell’s Most Memorable Monsters




“Little Hercules,” the Beast with a Million Eyes creature: This creature only possessed two eyes but the film’s director, Corman had superimposed eyes over the top. It was an 18-inch foam rubber marionette puppet, designed to be a slave of the actual many-eyed threat and on film it was largely obscured by whirling special effects. Total cost: $400.00 ($200 for materials and $200 for labour).



“Marty” the The Day the World Ended creature: This was a hideous, radioactive mutant from the then distant future year of 1970. This was a monster constructed from foam rubber and cast from Blaisdell’s own body so that the suit could be built around himself. However, being only 5’7″, Blaisdell was not exactly the towering mutant that was supposed to be depicted in the film. The shortcoming was made up for by the head adding a bit of much needed height. Another problem arose during the film’s climax when all the rain caused the foam rubber suit to swelled up almost resulting in drowning the suit’s wearer!





“Beulah” the It Conquered the World creature is one of director Corman’s most memorable alien monsters. Originally Corman only intended to provide fleeting glimpses of the cave-dwelling alien but instead decided to bring it out in full view for all to see in all its glory. It turned out that Corman had found that he was losing light and was unwilling to bring a generator to the shooting location in order to shoot with movie lights. He therefore settled on the cheaper alternative. Blaisdell then set about devising an ingenious bicycle-chain/air pump system to operate the creature’s limbs from the inside. The final result wasn’t what was intended due to an accidental snapping of the cables and Corman’s refusal to allow time for making the necessary repairs.





Who can forget the huge bulbous latex and Styrofoam heads of the Saucer Men from Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957)? These iconic sci-fi creations of Blaisdell’s are even paid tribute to in more modern times in such films as Mars Attacks! (1996).





Paul Blaisdell may felt rather bitter and disillusioned, believing that he could have achieved greater results had he been given larger budgets. However, he would have had all the reasons in the world to be proud of his efforts considering that he managed to come up with the most memorable monster creations, despite the most meagre of resources at his disposal. Paul Blaisdell’s legacy will live on through his enduring influence on current and future monster makers.








©Chris Christopoulos 2016

Monday, 6 June 2016

Quatermass 2 (1957)


An eerily impressive, thoughtful and disturbing sci-fi film that creates a sense of unease and is quite chilling in its social and political implications


Directed by Val Guest
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Written by Nigel Kneale, Val Guest
Music by James Bernard
Cinematography: Gerald Gibbs
Edited by James Needs
Production company: Hammer Film Productions
Distributed by Exclusive Films (UK), United Artists (USA)
Running time: 85 minutes
Budget: £92,000


Cast


Brian Donlevy: Quatermass
John Longden: Lomax
Sidney James: Jimmy Hall
Bryan Forbes: Marsh
William Franklyn: Brand
Vera Day: Sheila
Charles Lloyd Pack: Dawson
Tom Chatto: Broadhead
John Van Eyssen: The P.R.O.
Percy Herbert: Gorman
Michael Ripper: Ernie
John Rae: McLeod
Marianne Stone: Secretary
Ronald Wilson: Young Man
Jane Aird: Mrs. McLeod



video
Quatermass 2 / Original Theatrical Trailer (1957)


What if?..........

(Spoilers Follow……)

Good evening. I’m your host, Bill Bannerman and welcome to tonight’s program, Probing The Past where we will be examining a 1957 incident involving for a second time, the infamous maverick Professor Bernard Quatermass.

(Note: Lines contained in inverted commas have been taken directly from the film.) 

You will recall from a previous broadcast of our programme that in 1955 a Royal Commission of Inquiry reported its findings into the manned rocket mission headed by the very same Professor Bernard Quatermass. This mission came to be known as The Quatermass Xperiment.

On 26 August 1955, a manned missile launched by the team led by Professor Quatermass, landed in the English countryside, one mile south of the village of Bray, Berkshire. Of the three members of the crew aboard the craft, two were found to have mysteriously disappeared. The surviving crew member, Mr Victor Carroon was recovered barely alive and subsequently underwent an horrific physical metamorphosis. The surviving crew member managed to break out of medical confinement and, while being pursued by investigating Scotland Yard inspector Lomax, embarked on a killing spree using humans and animals to feed his transformation. It was later determined that this was the method which an alien life form was to use in order to invade our planet.

After a decade-long successful Freedom of Information battle, it has come to light that a top secret joint House, Intelligence and Defence Commission of Inquiry involving Professor Quatermass was convened two years later in 1957 to investigate the professor’s involvement in an alleged second attempt by an alien life-form to invade our planet.

Too farfetched to be believable? Then before we proceed to probe the events surrounding what we have called tonight’s programme…. Quatermass 2, let us take a look at some footage which some have claimed represents unequivocal proof of alien life. This footage shows a strange glowing orb hovering in the sky above Fairbanks Alaska at 3.00am on May 13, 2016. As you watch the footage, you will see the object split into two with one half vanishing before the remaining orb erupts into three separate lights, which make a triangle formation prior to disappearing.


video


So viewers, what do you think? Is this proof of the existence of alien life? Well, since the events of 1955, we do know this to be a fact. However, does this represent part of yet another extra-terrestrial plan to invade our planet almost sixty years after the last alleged attempt?

Professor Quatermass has since passed away, but perhaps he may be speaking to us from beyond the grave in tonight’s broadcast of the newly released six-decade old sealed recordings of the top secret joint House Intelligence and Defence Commission of Inquiry proceedings into the 1957 Quatermass 2 incident……



[Roll black and white film footage….]


Joint House Intelligence and Defence Commission of Inquiry into the 1957 Winnerden Flats event and the role played by Professor Bernard Quatermass


[Scene of a large room with the lonely figure of Professor Bernard Quatermass seated at a table before three presiding members of the Commission of Inquiry who are also seated but who are in an elevated position in relation to the other people in the room. These three men are;

Rt Hon. Sir L. Lippert (Leader of the House of Lords & Chair)

S Skouras (Ministry of Defence)

B Lovell (Joint Intelligence Bureau)

N Kneale (Directorate of Scientific Intelligence)

Behind Quatermass are several tables at which are seated various members of both houses of Parliament, officials & experts from various ministries and departments, along with several select advisers.

The camera focusses in on the three presiding members….]


L. Lippert (Chair): Professor Bernard Quatermass, you have been called to appear before the joint House, Intelligence and Defence Commission of Inquiry into your …. independent…. investigation of reports of hundreds of meteorites landing in the vicinity of the Winnerden Flats area. Your inquires then led you to an enormous industrial complex, which you claim was strikingly similar to your own plans for a proposed Moon colony. You also alleged that this top-secret facility was in fact at the centre of a conspiracy involving a planned alien infiltration of the highest echelons of the British Government. Is this correct?

Quartermass: Apart from the barely concealed sarcastic innuendo, essentially, yes.

L. Lippert: Let me remind you of the findings from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 1955 incident in which you played a central part. Namely, its determination that you had deliberately and recklessly launched your rocket without official sanction, and that by so doing, you did endanger the national security of Great Britain, the very existence of the British Empire and the survival of the entire human race. Unlike that incident, this second alleged alien incursion of yours has yet to be…….

Quatermass: It is those very things that my supposedly reckless behaviour succeeded in preventing in the face of once again having to confront something beyond our understanding!

S Skouras: Why don’t you start your testimony at the beginning, Professor and we’ll ask for clarification when needed?

Quatermass: Fine with me. The series of unusual events began earlier as I was driving down a rather lonely country road and began to enter a “T” intersection when I almost crashed into a speeding car being driven by a young couple.

L. Lippert: How was this strange or unusual?

Quatermass: Well, the boy – Chris, his name was – had a large dark blister on his face. I commented to his girlfriend that “I’ve never seen a burn like that.” She then handed me some rock fragments and informed me that they were responsible for the burn and that they were in Winnerden Flats for a picnic. To be frank, they seemed to be “nothing but pieces of stone.” We then tried to push Chris back into the car but he tried to bolt away and so we had to virtually tackle and man-handle him back into the car. He definitely seemed to be suffering from shock.

S Skouras: How was this event significant?

Quatermass: It’s the name of the place, “Winnerden Flats” and the rocks which I’ll get to soon. I then drove to the Rocket project when my attention shifted from the sky to the radar antenna mounted on top of the roof of the building. When I entered I noticed that my two operators, Brand and Marsh, were watching the radar screen. They had noticed scores of objects “coming in low and slow.” They lost them possibly “because they reached the ground.” They had been able to track the objects to one hundred miles north of the project’s location. However, I was as mad as hell when I came in as they had reset the equipment, All I could think about was chewing them out for their unauthorized use of the scanner. I barked at them in no uncertain terms that I would “not see it used for any other purpose.”

L. Lippert: It’s a pity that we haven’t been able to track down the two alleged young people you claim to have almost crashed into, nor do we have any recorded confirmation of the radar tracking of the “rocks” that it is claimed fell out of the sky….

B Lovell: It seems Professor, that you have a tendency to become rather – annoyed – when things aren’t done your way.

Quatermass: Annoyed? That doesn’t begin to explain how I was feeling seeing that I believed at the time that “none of us may have jobs.” You see, I had been struggling to gain government support for my Moon colonisation project - without success I’m afraid.

Anyway, I gave Marsh the stone fragments I had kept from the earlier car incident and instructed him to have them analysed and classified.

S Skouras: So, your anger stemmed largely from your failure to gain support for your Moon project? Interesting….


Quatermass: My moon project was facing cancellation! Of course I was angry. There was my rocket ship proudly dominating the landscape, thrusting it’s nose majestically skyward, straining at the leash to bring us closer to our dream of building a colony on the moon. How then could I even “bear to look at it? The sum total of our achievement up to now--one Rocket, crewless, untried."

L. Lippert: Our dream or…. your dream, Professor?

Quatermass: Alright, yes, my dream…My “moon project, may it rest in peace.” Sometimes all it takes is one individual with vision enough to accomplish something that will change civilisation and the course of human history forever. My vision is for this country to be the “first to build a colony on the moon and put men there against the odds.” As for my rocket, my aim was to get it up there “not once but a hundred times!” How’s that for a concept – a reusable rocket! And what was I faced with? A committee of Whitehall bureaucrats who could only respond to the challenge I put to them with comments like, “We have projects of far more importance.” Far more importance!

It’s that kind of mealy-mouth sentiment that may not see us landing on the moon for at least a dozen or more years from now or establishing actual human colonies on the moon or Mars not until sometime in the middle of the next century!

S Skouras: What did you do then, Professor after learning that…. your dream was to remain just – a dream?

Quatermass: Well, after learning next morning that the rock fragments had a “definite shape” and were “symmetric and hollow” and that hundreds of meteorites had landed in Winnerden Flats, I decided to head off out there with my colleague, Marsh.

As we drove out there via Carlisle Road, we encountered a new road with a sign that read, "Warning! Road Closed, Government Project." We then decided to ignore the sign and drive on until all of a sudden the road came to an abrupt end! We thought it was rather strange “to have a road leading to nowhere.” So we got out of the car to investigate….

L. Lippert: I find it more pertinent that you should have found it necessary to disregard an official warning by proceeding to trespass on an official project situated on government property.

Quatermass: “Official” and “government.” I’ll come to those two concepts and how they tie into the whole affair a bit later. Anyway, we got back in the car and drove back taking another fork in the road that brought us to an area where we could see below us both a demolished town and our moon project facility complete with domes and fully constructed! I commented to Marsh that it was “exactly the same as what we’ve got” - “The Moon Project in all its essentials.”

B Lovell: It seems all rather a bit too coincidental, don’t you think, Professor?

There was a government facility certainly, but it has since been destroyed in that rather unfortunate incident which you seemed to have played a major role in and the plans we do have for it don’t really correspond to the design of your moon facility, apart perhaps for some domed structures….


Quatermass: More than just coincidence and as for the plans you refer to, I wouldn’t bet too much on their authenticity. Now here’s where it really gets interesting. Marsh and I went on down there by foot to get a better look when we soon noticed that the area was strewn with the strange rock fragments. Suddenly a siren sounded and I wondered if that was meant for us?

As I was thinking that we had “better go and explain ourselves," Marsh had dug up an intact object. After he picked it up, some kind of vapour billowed out from the object. Poor Marsh then collapsed to the ground and I noticed a big dark blister - a V shaped scar appear on his cheek. 


Soon after that a bunch of black clad goons from the installation arrived, armed with machine guns and sporting similar V-shaped marks as Marsh. A couple of the goons grabbed Marsh and began taking him away and refused to respond to my questions. All I got for my trouble was a rifle butt in the face before being escorted back to my car and ordered to "Go, go now."

L. Lippert: Professor, all we seem to have here are two educated individuals behaving in a rather cavalier manner. First, you ignore clearly signed warnings. Second, you enter a restricted government area and are quite rightly firmly dealt with by security personnel who are employed for such a purpose. Finally, your colleague (who probably should have known better) handles an unidentified meteorite which had just fallen to the ground from space and surprise, surprise succumbs to some foreign noxious substance that it emitted. As to what happened to your friend Marsh: obviously quarantine protocols were quickly and rightly put into place to prevent the possibility of further contamination.

Quatermass: That’s not how it played out in my mind. All I could think to do was to drive into the local town and report what happened to the police. However, this town had no police, in fact no police for 50 miles! They only had a camp committee located in the Community Centre. As soon as I walked into the Community Centre I couldn’t help noticing the signs on the walls. There was one that read, “Secrets mean sealed lips” and another that read, “Talk about your job – lose it!” Talk about generating a climate of fear!

B Lovell: Well, that’s understandable considering the uncertain times we live in Professor. One can’t be too careful these days especially with the kind of threats posed to our way of life by those outside our national borders intent on causing us harm.

Quatermass: I suppose so if you don’t mind generating and then playing on hostility, fear and suspicion among people for particular purposes. I certainly got a dose of that when I spoke to the camp secretary, Dawson and a lady who was with him. When I mentioned the facility I saw earlier they told me that I shouldn’t have been there. When I asked about using the phone to call the police they told me that the police “wouldn’t touch it.”

Anyway, I gave up on those two jokers and drove to the nearby town of Brawley. At the county police station there, instead of helping me, the local cops proceeded to set up road blocks to my enquiries. I was told and I quote, “You ran into an experimental project you don’t understand in a place you had no right to be.” Furthermore, they wouldn’t tell me anything about the facility citing only “Orders from Whitehall.” To top it off, I had a bureaucratic door slammed in my face when I was informed that any report on the matter would have to forwarded through London.

L. Lippert: All of which was in accordance with proper procedures and protocol, Professor. All of the officials mentioned behaved appropriately. As to the question of your own conduct in this matter….

Quatermass: Yes, in “accordance” with preventing someone from getting at the truth. Yes, indeed, “appropriate” stonewalling conduct with “proper” laws to back it up!


L. Lippert: You may wish to characterize it that way professor, but let’s proceed shall we and see where the facts lead us?

Quatermass: All I could do was drive back to the rocket centre where Brand informed me that there were more radar traces. I then ordered the rocket centre guarded. As for the ‘meteorites’, it was determined from the reconstruction of the container before it had entered the atmosphere that they were indeed “some form of container” and that they contained “ammonia gas’ and something else….” something alive!”

N Kneale: Something alive, you say? Alive in what sense?

Quatermass: We concluded that the internal gases combined with the objects’ aerodynamic shape was “indicative of…mathematics…. of intelligence.”

N Kneale: So this your alien invasion plan, Professor? Alien life forms contained in individual receptacles that rain down upon the earth. Once deposited here they just supposedly loll about waiting for hapless human individuals like your colleague to stumble upon them and pick them up. Having been picked up and examined, the alien life forms escape their confinement and proceed to possess the human hosts! This scenario makes our investigations into alleged UFO incidents seem absolutely valid and scholarly.

L. Lippert: It is a pity that Mr Marsh cannot testify as he does not have long to live due to unfortunately having suffered severe atomic radiation poisoning, probably as a by-product of his work at your project.

Quatermass: You’re missing the whole point of the role played by the facility and those involved with it in executing the invasion plan! As for my friend Marsh, his testimony concerning the truth of the whole affair is not the only one that’s missing. New national security provisions, acts of treason legislation and non-disclosure agreements have seen to that. And when all else fails we have recourse to mysterious disappearances and “accidents.” Just ask Inspector Lomax…. Oh, wait, let’s see…we can’t!

L. Lippert: Yes, it was a tragedy what happened to the Scotland Yard Inspector dying in that horrible automobile accident…Dreadful. So close to his retirement, I believe.

Quatermass: In my efforts to discover what happened to Marsh, I contacted Inspector Lomax. The Inspector had previously assisted me during the previous incident in ’55. He informed me that the facility was Top Secret, that it was apparently “harmless enough” in that it was a government project “to make synthetic food." I firmly believe that if things like that plant are slapped with the label, “Top Secret” then all “law and order goes out the window.” Lomax was at least able to put me in touch with Member of Parliament, Vincent Broadhead……err, the late Vincent Broadhead.

L. Lippert: Yes, it was horrible to learn of his being killed in that dreadful plane accident as he was returning from that important trade mission overseas….

Quatermass: That was what the public were told and you all know it! I’ll get to the details of his manner of dying soon enough. Anyway, Broadhead had been pushing hard to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the Winnerden Flats facility. Broadhead thought that the project was just a waste of money, “a blunder, even to the extent of covering it up.” He wanted more information about it especially since we didn’t “know anything about it.” 


His suspicions concerning the facility stemmed from the fact that there appeared to be no system of “distribution…sales or organisation.” The official line was that the facility had been built to manufacture artificial food. 

I was soon fortunate enough to be able to accompany Broadhead on an official inspection tour of the facility.

B Lovell: Yes, I see that from your earlier report that you managed to slip away from the main visiting party at the facility despite presumably having been kindly provided with a pass to enter and participate in the tour. I presume at this point that neither you nor Mr Broadhead had discovered “nothing sinister so far?”


Quatermass: No, but we were about to. Well this “guided” tour wasn’t going to tell me anything about my colleague, Marsh so I pulled Broadhead aside outside the Medical Centre Building and got him to join me in having a look inside. When we entered the medical building we were met by a doctor with a belligerent attitude and an empty hospital. Where were the patients and the rest of the staff? I asked the doc,“what are all these beds for?” but I didn’t get a satisfactory answer and of course the doc denied having ever seen Marsh.

Before we could get any answers to our questions, Mr “Everything will be answered later” PR tour guide located us and herded us back to the inspection team. On the way I noticed a large container labelled, “Ammonia.”

The inspection tour team was led to one of the large containment domes. Strangely enough three men inside the dome donned their gas masks just as we were being shepherded further inside. Feeling like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I looked for the nearest exit but the PR guide noticed and tried to seal the door. I was fortunate to escape and get back outside.

So, gentlemen, how do you explain the disappearance of the rest of the inspection team? More “accidents” and fatal illnesses?

L. Lippert: Those wonderful public servants and officials whom you claim were on this tour of the facility were, based on their respective skills, invited to join Mr Broadhead on his overseas trade mission and were also tragically killed in the plane crash. The only human remains found were those of the pilots and an attendant I’m afraid. The plane’s wreckage was spread far and wide and much of what was found was badly incinerated.

Quatermass: How convenient! Then explain how it was that I saw Broadhead exiting the top of one of the round domed structures and witnessed him stumbling down a ladder screaming, coughing and covered in a burning corrosive black slimy substance? My ears still ring with his warning, “No! No! Don’t touch me.... It burns!” The substance soon blinded him and then killed the poor fellow.

B Lovell: (To an attendant) Pass this please to Professor Quatermass. (To Quatermass) I take it you are familiar with the newspaper and its front page story concerning the late Mr Broadhead? Please note the headline, “Vincent Broadhead leaves on Trade Mission.” Please note also the date of the paper’s edition. Do you still maintain that you were with Mr Broadhead on a guided tour of the facility on that day!?

Quatermass: I most certainly do and that I was also fired on by guards with machine guns as I made my escape from the facility.

B Lovell: I suppose they were all extremely bad shots despite their training since you seemed to have made this alleged escape of yours relatively unscathed?

Quatermass: (Pauses as he proceeds to rub the inside of his right eye with the middle finger of his right hand. After several seconds, he continues) My next move was to meet with Inspector Lomax and explain to him that I believed the facility was indeed making food but not food for human consumption. I believed then as I still do now that it was constructed to provide an environment conducive to the alien creatures being housed inside the huge domes.

N Kneale: How did Lomax react to this fantastic story of yours?


Quatermass: Lomax believed enough of it to attempt to approach the Commissioner of Police, that is until he noticed that he, too, had the V-shaped mark on his hand. We then realized that the aliens had already taken control of the government! Government and even police officials were being systematically infected to protect the facility and the invasion plan.



[Tumult in the room and the voice of the chair calling for order] 

L. Lippert: Come now, professor! You know this Inquiry is presided over and attended by various government members. Look around you at each one of us and say if you can see any evidence of V-shaped marks or alien possession! No, of course you can’t, because there weren’t any then and there aren’t any now!

Quatermass: Oh, there’s “possession” all right! Perhaps now not of the extra-terrestrial kind, but there is instead one kind of possession which is just as insidious, cancerous and destructive with truth, justice and freedom among its first causalities. That is one reason why we turned to what we believed to be the free press to get at the truth and get the word out to the public whom those in authority and the Establishment don’t seem to trust anymore.


L. Lippert: Oh, yes. By the “free press” you mean that alcoholic hack journalist…err, crime reporter, Jimmy Hall?

Quatermass: A “hack” that was prepared to pay the ultimate price for truth. Jimmy was at first sceptical of our story but agreed to visit Winnerden Flats.

N Kneale: How was that Jimmy Hall was able to swallow your tale about alien invading creatures, bearing in mind the lack of any real evidence?

Quatermass: At the Rocket Centre we showed Jimmy Hall the evidence we did have and informed him of our belief that the invading alien intelligence consisted of a “multiple organism” with “one single consciousness” and that it was a piece of a larger organism. Its purpose was to infect a human host and achieve "an immediate invasion of his entire nervous system. The host would thereby be implanted with an instinctive “blind compulsion to act for them."

We also received a preliminary report on the black substance. It was a deadly poison to every living thing on earth much as the ammonia and methane atmospheres of the outer planets would be. On the other hand, oxygen would be detrimental to the alien creatures. I believed that the substance itself was food for the alien life in the facility’s domes.

When we later arrived at that local community centre where they were having a St. Patricks Day dance, we received a hostile reception from the locals who were employed to work at the facility. Jimmy asked one of the fellows there, “what’s working conditions like at the Plant?” The reply he got was that it “couldn’t be better.”

L. Lippert: Sounds like you were confronted with perfectly contented employees. Quite unlike our many of our public servants and unionised labour force, what!



[Ripple of laughter in the room] 

Quatermass: Well, this “contented” lot did try to throw us out but Lomax identified himself as a police officer and informed the crowd they were in danger. He appealed to them to listen to my explanation about the plant “producing deadly poison” but we just received a hostile reaction.

L. Lippert: What did you expect, disturbing their celebration with wild fear-mongering stories like that?

Quatermass: Suddenly, one of the “meteorites” came crashing through the centre’s roof, injuring the barmaid who, despite warnings from us, picked up the meteorite and became infected. Armed guards then arrived on the scene with detectors and retrieved the rock.

S Skouras: I put it to you, professor that the crowd at the centre was so stirred up by your outrageous proclamations and appeals, combined with the accidental meteorite fall or more likely “overshot from the plant,” that it caused them to form into a violent and unreasoning mob. Furthermore, that the melee which resulted led to the unfortunate killing of Jimmy Hall by person or persons’ unknown.


Quatermass: That’s not what happened at all, except for the fact that the villagers did form a mob that marched on the complex. As this was taking place, Lomax and I got in the car and head for the facility. As we headed for the site, I managed to hit and kill a guard on the road with the car. We also located a truck loaded with steel containers containing alien creatures. This was the method used to get them back to the domes. I then sent Lomax back to London, while I disguised myself as the dead guard to gain entrance to the facility.

L. Lippert: So, you admit to having committed an act of murder while attempting to trespass on government property!

Quatermass: I did not set out with the intention of harming anyone. When I tell you what I witnessed in this facility, this so-called government property, you’ll see I was only trying to prevent a greater harm being caused to humanity.

When I arrived at one of the dome processing areas I could hear urgent announcements being made exhorting the workers to “keep the containers moving’ and to “Hurry! Hurry!” I was soon able to look into the dome through an inspection port and saw a huge dark multi-eyed writhing alien creature. Some of the other possessed workers began to suspect that I wasn’t one of them, but before they could do anything about it, an alarm sounded with an announcement concerning an emergency at Gate 4.

L. Lippert: Yes, we have been made aware of a report of a disturbance at gate 4 of the facility involving a violent mob attempting to force its way into the plant. Unfortunately, there were casualties at that point, but sufficient warning was given that the guards would be forced to “shoot to kill” if the mob did not disperse and withdraw. The mob did after all attack one of the trucks and as a consequence the guards were forced to retaliate with gun fire.

It seems, professor, that the mob of locals took their lead from your criminal actions by fighting their way into the plant and then into the main pressure control blockhouse, where I believe you yourself were waiting for them.

There’s a lot of blood on your hands, professor!

Quatermass: Despite your attempts to discredit me and cover up the truth for whatever reason you have; I am determined to have what took place on the record. If such alien incursion events have occurred twice already, you can all be sure they will happen again. You can bury the truth for a while but it always has a way of somehow being unearthed and allowed to stand for all to see.

L. Lippert: Then by all means, do go on with your version of the “truth,” professor.


Quatermass: In the pressure control room I began to examine the controls and noticed that the gases being used were, ammonia, methane, hydrogen and oxygen. I also theorized that the oxygen was being used to acclimatize the aliens to our planet’s atmosphere. I therefore closed off all gases to the domes except of course, the oxygen.


B Lovell: I believe we are now coming to the part of your report which lays bare the real despicable aspect of your conduct. Do tell us about the “contingency” plan involving the use your up until then un-used rocket ship!

Quatermass: Brand and Peterson were make preparations at the launch centre to launch the rocket at midnight and use it as an atomic bomb to hit an orbiting asteroid which was the source of the containers that were landing on the earth.

B Lovell: In other words, to “use the rocket as a guided atomic bomb!” Did you give any thought as to the likely consequences to humanity by undertaking such a course of action?

Quatermass: I truly believed at the time that it was “the one thing that may save us – and humanity!”

N Kneale: It appears that your colleague, the allegedly missing Marsh, disagreed with you. After all, it has been reported by an eye-witness at your oswn rocket launch facility that he arrived with a contingent of guards to stop the launch. Unfortunately, Brand apparently ran amok and was shot and killed but not before he managed to launch and arm the rocket. I suppose you contend that Marsh was also possessed by the alien intelligence?

Quatermass: That is exactly what I do maintain. You’ve managed to get to him too. Even all the records at the Rocket project relating to the radar sightings and the rock analysis results seem to have disappeared or have been destroyed supposedly during the gunfire that killed Brand. At any rate I’m glad the rocket launch proved to be successful seeing that the individual creatures had somehow combined to form huge 150-foot tall creatures that to all intents and purposes seemed to be unstoppable.

You see, what happened was that at the Plant’s control room, a bargaining process was taking place and a few of the men arranged to see inside one of the domes. Soon after doing so, we heard a deathly scream that reverberated through the oxygen pipe. Suddenly blood started to leak out of the oxygen supply pipe. The aliens had used the men as a plug to stop the oxygen flow I had earlier set up to poison the creature.

In anger, a couple of the men began firing their tank buster weapons at the dome and managed to blow one up. This led to a toxic gas drifting towards and infiltrating the control room. The alien creature then emerged from the ruined structure and proceeded to attack the control room while we eventually escaped the plant by means of a jeep.

When we stopped some distance away, we looked back to see three giant creatures in distress due to being exposed to our atmosphere. At that point the rocket successfully destroyed the asteroid and with the aliens’ base gone and being fully exposed to earth's atmosphere, the giant creatures merely collapsed and died. We had to quickly take shelter behind our overblown jeep due to a huge wind gust. Furthermore, the V-shaped marks disappeared from all of those who had been affected, but it left them with no memory of having been possessed by an alien intelligence.


L. Lippert: Which leads us to a very interesting point: who can remember anything to support the veracity of the events and allegations contained in your final report and in your present account to this Commission of Inquiry? The answer appears to be - no-one!

Quatermass: What interests me more is just “how final can it be?" As long as people keep asking questions and demanding answers; as long as whistle-blowers and the rest of us speak out whenever we notice lies and deception from those in whom we place our trust; as long as we think and act to prevent encroachments being made on our civil liberties, freedoms and our right to know and be informed about matters that affect us: then truth has a chance to be seen and heard.

What bothers me more is just “how final can it be?" This alien invasion of our society, our very humanity, our institutions, our power structures and own individual consciousness has happened and will happen again if we allow it to…



[Quatermass suddenly breaks off and looks at each of the three presiding members’ faces in turn] 

And by God, it’s happening right here, right now before our very eyes!


[End film] 


Bill Bannerman: Professor Bernard Quatermass:

Was he a man with a sense of destiny who would go to any lengths, even to the extent of committing treason to achieve personal fame and world-wide acclaim?

Perhaps he was a thwarted visionary scientist desperately seeking support and validation for his pet projects by whatever means possible?

Or was he as many maintain, a courageous victim of a political and military conspiracy to silence him and prevent his warning to the world and allowing the truth to be known about the kind of danger all of us are in?

And what of the fate of Professor Quatermass?

From the released documents that accompany the film you have just seen, it appears that the trail almost goes completely cold. We do know that under the provisions of the then newly passed national security laws, he was detained in an undisclosed location, possibly even off-shore. The professor was tried by a secret tribunal and found to be guilty of treason against the government and The Crown by means of conduct endangering the national security of Great Britain.

That is all we know about the fate of Professor Quatermass. Was he executed for his “crimes?” Under the national security laws that were then hurriedly passed by both houses of Parliament, that punishment would almost certainly have been given. 


However, there was a rumour going around in the mid to late 1960s that a man closely resembling the professor was called in by the authorities to deal with an event that allegedly took place in about 1966 or ’67 that bore similar hallmarks to the events of 1955 and ’57. Was the professor not executed after all? Was he perhaps released from some kind of secret detention to help deal with an extraordinary event a few years later? 

Who knows? We can only be certain that due to his age at the time, Professor Quatermass is no longer with us had he been alive in the mid-sixties.

Does the footage at the start of this programme indicate the start of an extraordinary event for us? If so, who will warn us? Who will we turn to for help? Will history merely repeat itself?

Until next week’s program, please…keep watching the skies. This is Bill Bannerman wishing you good evening from all of us at Probing the Past where we take one step back into the past and two steps forward into the future….



Points of Interest


Film Facts:

Quatermass 2 is a 1957 black-and-white British science fiction sci-fi / horror film from Hammer Film Productions, produced by Anthony Hinds, directed by Val Guest, and starring Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn, and Vera Day. Quatermass 2 is a sequel to Hammer's 1955 film, The Quatermass Xperiment. 






The Quatermass Xperiment proved to be very successful for Hammer Studios who enthusiastically purchased the rights to Nigel Kneale's next instalment. 






The film received an ‘X’ Certificate from the BBFC and was released in the US under the title Enemy from Space. It was also the first sequel to use a number in the title.

The plot of Quatermass 2 is quite faithful to the story of the original television serial. However, in the television version, Quatermass takes off in a rocket to confront the aliens in outer space, whereas in the film version the unmanned rocket is used to destroy the aliens' asteroid base. 




Val Guest directed both The Quatermass Xperiment and the sequel, Quatermass 2. Val Guest aimed for realism and made use of such filming methods as hand-held cameras. He also employed detailed storyboarding and careful planning of each days’ shooting which was reflected in the final product.

Filming for Quatermass 2 took place between 28 May and 13 July 1956. With a budget of £92,000 (achieved by the advance sale of the distribution rights in the United States to United Artists) greater use of location filming was possible unlike for its smaller budgeted predecessor.

Nigel Kneale collaborated with Hammer on the adaptation of Quatermass 2 in that he wrote the first draft of the screenplay with subsequent drafts worked on by director Val Guest. 






Filming Locations:

The Winnerden Flats facility was represented by the oil refinery at Shell Haven in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, on the Thames Estuary, also used in the BBC television version of the story. Filming at the plant and conveying its size and atmosphere was made easier by the fact that very few people were required to run it.

The addition of giant domes in which the aliens were contained at The Shell Haven location was made possible by the use of matte paintings created by special effects designer Les Bowie. 




Other locations used included the real-life new town of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, which was under construction at the time and doubled for the fictional new town of Winnerden Flats.

Other scenes & locations included;

  • Trafalgar Square in London including, where traffic was held up for just two minutes to allow Guest to take shots of trucks hauling equipment through London to Winnerden Flats. 

  • House of Lords foyer where Quatermass first meets with Vincent Broadhead. 






Cast & Characters:

Nigel Kneale was unhappy with Donlevy's interpretation of the Quatermass character as being overly gruff, cold and somewhat heartless in his dealings with his colleagues. Added to this were alleged reports of Donlevy’s alcoholism. Still, he was said to have managed to handle the lead role with helpful reminders from colleagues and plenty of black coffee.

What comes across in Donlevy’s portrayal of Quatermass is the antithesis of the stereotypical likable scientist/hero character. Instead, his methods and very ethics appear to be questionable. He would rather act on impulse and gut instinct with things needing to be done his way which to him is the right way and the only way. He’s not cute and fuzzy! In fact, he can be quite unlikable!

At no point during either of the Hammer/Donlevy Quatermass films is Quatermass referred to as a “professor.”

John Longden played the role of Inspector Lomax which was played by Jack Warner in The Quatermass Xperiment. Longden had starred in British silent films and appeared in several early Alfred Hitchcock films such as Blackmail (1929) and The Skin Game (1931) 




Sid James was cast as Jimmy Hall in order to "lighten the story a bit.” Or course, we know him best from the Carry On series of films.

Assessment:


Much of the film’s strength lies in the strong string musical score which is effectively used to build a creepy and eerie atmosphere. Also effective use of plot and characterization rather than special effects (which are quite ordinary) make this film stand out. 




Unlike many of the science fiction films of the 1950s and since, Quatermass 2 also stands out largely due to its central premise: Invasion from within, using the Earth's own power structures and resources against humanity without hardly anyone noticing! 




TV series like X-Files and sci-fi films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers may owe something to a film like Quatermass 2 in terms of exploring ideas and issues about power and corruption; high level conspiracies; loss of identity & personal freedom; danger of conformity; the right to be informed and so on. Of course, there are also those brave but flawed heroic individuals who are not afraid to uncover the truth. 




Quatermass 2 is an important film as it serves as a kind of warning to Western democratic governments as to how easy it could be under certain circumstances to adopt aspects of dictatorship-style means of control and governance. It also asks us to consider just how much we should be prepared to implicitly trust government and authority and whether we should allow fear to prevent us from questioning the actions of those in authority.













©Chris Christopoulos 2016