Bumper Round-up

Quick reviews for recent stuff (Dead Reckoning! Get Carter! The Sandman!) and to misquote a Spielberg movie, I’m gonna need a bigger shelf unless I stop buying 4K discs…

In lieu of writing ‘proper’ posts, here’s a summary of where things are at lately. Hopefully genuine review posts will follow, but time being what it is lately (Einstein reckoned time is relative, and here its pretty short of late), I thought I’d get something out there.

P1110377 (2)First of all, I’ve had a bit of a mad splurge over the last few weeks on some Kino 4K titles on import (joining The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and For A Few Dollars More which I bought months ago). This bunch are mostly noir titles; the three-disc Touch of Evil, Kubrick’s dabbles in noir The Killing and Killer’s Kiss, with the Billy Wilder classic Some Like It Hot. These are all upgrades, double-dips (dear God, the Wilder is a triple dip, I had it on DVD too) of various Blu-rays bought over the past several years, something I’m increasingly wary of these days. But aren’t those slips gorgeous? Currently box-art seems something of a lost art so its especially lovely to see original artwork being used (The Killing actually has a reversible cover in the disc case, as I showed on my recent review). As well as The Killing, I’ve watched Some Like It Hot, and yes it too looks damn fine in 4K- its surprising how good these b&w titles look in the 4K format (as if we needed further proof how gorgeous Marilyn Monroe was). The contrast, grain management, improved gray scale, all impress, and Kino seem to have gone nuts on the bitrates, way over the top (compare that to Disney releasing the near-three hour Heat on 4K using a BD66).

I only saw Killer’s Kiss on Blu-ray a few months back. The film was made prior to The Killing and being less than seventy minutes long, it was included as a special feature on Arrow’s The Killing Blu-ray which I bought back in 2016, but I never actually watched it. I think I was misinformed by Internet opinion that it was lesser-tier Kubrick not worth bothering with, that The Killing was widely considered Kubrick’s first ‘proper’ film and first worthy of note: I suppose Killer’s Kiss being relegated to the special features menu only reinforced this view. Anyway, I finally got around to it; I knew there was a boxing element and was pointed back in the film’s direction after enjoying Robert Wise’s The Set-Up a few months back.  Well, diminished expectations and all that, but I absolutely loved it, probably for all the reasons so many disparaged it. Raw, low-budget, with a brisk (for Kubrick, positively frantic) pace, a bare-bones story shot like a docudrama with amazing footage of a lost New York, foreshadowing stuff like Taxi Driver. The only thing holding me back from a gushing review post here back when I watched that Blu-ray was suddenly learning only days later that Kino was releasing the film on 4K, so I decided to wait and will continue to wait until I’ve seen it again on this 4K disc. I’m really looking forward to it, but just waiting for the perfect time.

Which is a bit of a sour point: the best time to watch these noir (especially in 4K) is late at night when its dark and these long hot summer days are not conducive to that. What’s that line in a film about mood – ah yes, Gurney Halleck in Dune; “Mood? What’s mood to do with it?”, but its true about movie watching (if not fighting); one has to be in the correct mood for a particular kind of film and bright summer days/evenings- well, unless you’re watching something like Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat,  which was made for hot summer nights. Besides, by the time its late/dark enough, I’m usually too tired to watch a demanding film, and noir ARE demanding, usually quite complex and nuanced and narratively pretty dense for their usually short running-time. Case in point, I recently tried watching John Reinhardt’s The Guilty a few weeks back and damn near fell asleep near the end – my wife actually did fall asleep, missing its last fifteen minutes and I’ve ribbed her endlessly ever since regards her missing its major twist. “You’ll never guess!” I’ve teased her. There’s a film that deserves a proper rewatch soon as possible.

P1110379 (2)Hmm, yeah, some more purchases. Here’s me claiming to reign it all in regards buying discs, and sure, I’ve (mostly) stopped the blind-buys but of late that’s only transferred my wallet’s woes to the upgrades/double dips: here another Billy Wilder classic upgraded to 4K (this time courtesy of Criterion) and Flicker Alley’s The Guilty/High Tide double-bill (in the latter’s case, I’ve elected to use the original art on the reversible cover). Criterion’s Double Indemnity rather annoyed me- not the disc or the film, but because over here in the UK, presumably due to licensing issues (or the duplication costs?) Criterion only released it on Blu-ray (I have the old Eureka edition).  So in order to get the 4K edition released in the States  that everyone was raving about I had to grudgingly import it, complete with two Blu-ray discs locked to Region One that I can’t watch (so I’m keeping that Eureka set for some of the extras, but that true of Arrow’s The Killing disc and my Blu-ray of Some Like It Hot). Goodness, no wonder my shelves are filling up, I’m buying new upgrades and keeping the old discs too- madness.

Anyway, enough of my foolish financial woes, I’m just partying before the recession and Autumn of Discontent (see what I did there?) puts paid to my collecting. On with some quick reviews.

Dead Reckoning (John Cromwell, 1947) – first film from Indicator’s Columbia Noir #5 set, and allegedly one of the few genuine noir films in the set. Bit alarming, that. I never warmed to Humphrey Bogart, so haven’t seen many of his films. In fact, I can only name a few films of his I actually liked; In A Lonely Place for one, and another that I first saw on television decades ago, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is a Blu-ray gathering dust on the shelf that I keep meaning to watch, but… Anyway, something about Bogie just rattles me. Maybe this box set’s contents will feature a film that will warm me to his charms more, but Dead Reckoning isn’t it – unless of course this is another example regards mood. Maybe it was just the wrong film on a warm summer night. Shame, its a great title for a noir. I was especially disappointed in Lizabeth Scott, who I’ve seen and been impressed by before. Here she was ill-served by an underwritten character (likely deliberately underwritten to enable/underscore the surprise twist) leaving her with little to work with- I suppose someone like Rita Hayworth (originally conceived of for the role) would have gotten by better from sheer screen charisma and presence, but Scott just doesn’t have that. Also, I just couldn’t see any chemistry between Bogie and Scott, and a film whose success largely depends upon the romantic tryst between two characters is in trouble from the start when the chemistry seems lacking. Is it wrong of me to note that I thought I would have enjoyed it more had it featured Glenn Ford (no stranger to this kind of noir) in the lead role?

Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971) – No casting issues with this film. Don’t ask me how/why I never saw this film before, but we all have these oversights/black holes in our moviegoing street-cred. Release by BFI in a simply gorgeous 4K edition that is so tactile you feel you can reach into the screen and touch it, and smell the beer and aftershave, sweat and cigarette smoke- it’s excellent; its another case of a film likely looking better than it did even when it first came out. This is such a film of its time, its like some kind of time machine physically taking us back, and who’d really want to go back to Newcastle circa 1971? What a cast (Ian Hendry brilliant yet again, and what a shocker seeing Michael Caine chucking that bloke from Coronation Street off the carpark roof), and what a  gorgeous jazzy score (that main title sequence is sublime). Here’s a film that I was ready to rewatch as soon as it finished.

The Sandman: Season One (Ten Episodes, 2022) – I don’t know what’s more shocking- that someone actually managed to make a decent live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s comicbook classic or that somehow its on Netflix, but then again, it is the home of Stranger Things…  Its been well over a decade since I last read Gaiman’s opus (I bought the graphic novel paperbacks so long ago it was from a genuine bookstore) and a lot of my memory of it is burry, which was rather curious seeing it onscreen thinking “oh yeah, they actually did that…” or “I don’t remember that at all” so I can’t comment regards how authentic it was.  It wasn’t perfect though, I have to confess I was bit bothered by some of the casting choices- it was a great cast and I’ve no complaints, but John Constantine is now Johanna Constantine, played by Jenna Coleman? And I had a bit of a hard time keeping a straight face watching Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, of all things. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong in subsequent seasons or the inevitable Johanna Constantine spin-off (call me a cynic, but the writing/casting for that episode had “pilot for a spin-off” written all over it). Those caveats aside,  I did enjoy the series; even the music was good (shades of BR2049 in places and ‘nowt wrong with that). Inevitably the highlight of the show (and if you only watch one episode of it, make it this one, its pretty standalone) was The Sound of Her Wings, the sixth episode and an adaption of likely most readers favourite issue of the comic. Should have been retitled The Sound of An Emmy, because it surely deserves a nomination at least.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (Rudolph Carter, 1954) – this BBC adaptation has always been on my radar if only because it starred Peter Cushing, one of my very favourite actors (my unofficial quest to watch everything he ever did continues slowly apace). I bought this new Blu-ray edition (from the BFI folks) a few months back but watched it just a week or so ago… I intended to write a proper post about it, even tried, but… goodness this was so depressing. Its through no fault of the adaptation (by Nigel Kneale, of Quatermass fame) its limited production values (mostly a live performance thankfully recorded for posterity), or its cast, but more the horrible inescapable fact that George Orwell’s cautionary tale is as timely now than ever- perhaps more so. Real-life events of the past several years, just how the world has slowly changed largely for the worse, makes something like this all the more prescient and important. Its horrible, like a warning from a future that just feels just more plausible than ever.

And while on the subject of warnings of the future, it looks like Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall is coming to Amazon Prime on Friday. I can hardly wait. Its got such a crazy, ridiculous premise, I’ve so wanted to subject myself to its cheesy silly horrors while avoiding spoilerific trailers. There’s a thought: am I the only person alive actually avoiding spoilers for Moonfall? Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow is one of my favourite bad movies, it was all I could do to refrain from buying it on Blu-ray disc when it was released a few months back (maybe if had been on 4K over here in the UK, I would have given in to its despicable allure, but it was limited to DVD/Blu-ray). Anyway, that’s my Friday (or Saturday) night sorted then, and possibly will be my next posting here; yes, be afraid, its Moonfall next, unless I get some time to sit at this laptop again beforehand.

They Came From Beyond Space (1967)

they1If there’s any redeeming feature of Amicus’ quite bizarre They Came From Beyond Space, its possibly just that it makes its co-feature, the totally inane The Terrornauts (that I watched last month) actually look better in hindsight. I wouldn’t have thought such a thing possible, but there you go, films can be full of surprises, and no matter how bad a film is, there’s always a worse one out there. I seem to have a curious knack of finding them, unfortunately.

A film featuring a Crimson Plague so dangerous that its victims can’t be left on Earth but have to be shipped off to the moon for disposal has to be quite unnervingly topical in 2020, but its not enough to save it- nor is having Michael Gough impersonating a dangerous piece of cardboard as he plays the Master of the Moon quite crazy enough to raise an amused titter. There is very little here to commend They Came From Beyond Space to anyone- the script is silly, the production values somewhere south of a Blakes 7 episode and its patently clear that the films director, Freddie Francis was terribly bored, his disinterest can be seen in every shot and set-up. If the director didn’t care then why should we in the audience? While The Terrornauts rather exalts in its silliness there is a grimly po-faced seriousness to this one that just irritates.

The film is one of those alien-abduction movies in which unwitting people are taken over, or possessed by, nefarious aliens… or, as in this case, lumps of space rock. Its in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or It Came From Outer Space, but woefully inferior. I suppose as a Nigel Kneale scripted Quatermass it might have been tense and dramatic fun, but really, Robert Hutton’s Dr Curtis Temple is no Quatermass and the film’s far too dumb to really engage, even though it indirectly taps into the paranoia of Kneale’s yarns (its inferred that the Governments of the world are in league with the aliens regards shipping the plague victims to the moon).

The film begins as a meteorite shower falls in steady formation onto a farmers field in Cornwall, England, landing in a precise ‘V’ shape that would shame the keenest parachutist team. A bunch of astronomers investigating the odd space-rocks are taken over by the strange alien forces that are possessing the space rocks and, using funds loaned from a possessed bank manager in the nearby village (!), the aliens transform the farm into an alien base/spaceport, launching rockets to the moon. Fortunately for humanity, Dr Curtis Temple is immune to the aliens because of a metal plate in his head and he leads a desperate effort to repel the invaders and rescue the enslaved human victims of the crimson plague (who, shock twist, are not dead, but merely rendered comatose and later revived for lunar slave duty to build more rockets for the Master of the Moon who wants to travel back to his planet in some other galaxy and…).

Well, of course it was going to be daft. A lot of these sci-fi b-movies were. The ones that are still fun, or perhaps naively sincere, are the ones that remain watchable. Films like this one really aren’t.

Add this one, though, to the list of films that are somehow on Blu-ray in a world in which The Abyss isn’t, because, well, I’ve discovered that this film was, incredible as it seems, deemed worthy of release in HD over in America. Why in the world anyone would want this film in their collection or think it worthy of one day re-watching it is quite beyond me, but I’ve said it before- every film, it seems, has its fans.

The Quatermass Xperiment

quaterm1Continuing this recent Hammer marathon, my delve into Hammer films I haven’t seen before means we now go back a little further in time, to 1955. The Quatermass Xperiment is widely considered the beginning of the Hammer line of films that fantasy and horror fans hold dear and would both cement the company’s name in British film history, and put its films on the world stage.

The Quatermass Xperiment was based on Nigel Kneale’s BBC serial The Quatermass Experiment (note the subtle spelling change for the film version) from 1953. which had been hugely successful for the BBC. Hammer producer Anthony Hinds immediately saw the possibilities in a film version and  chased the film rights as soon as the six episodes were aired.

Three astronauts have been launched into space in the first launch of the British-American Rocket Group, which crashes back to Earth in an English field after straying off-course and out of contact with Ground Control. Of the three crew, only one remains, the only sign of the other two astronauts being their spacesuits, still sealed but empty. The sole remaining crew member is Victor Carroon (Richard Wandsworth) who is badly injured and incoherent.  Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) who is in charge of the project desperately tries to find out what happened to the flight while it disappeared for a number of hours, and what happened to the two missing crew. Meanwhile Carroon baffles his doctors, never becoming coherent and slowly deteriorating. Recovered from the crashed ship, in-flight footage from during the period in which the ship was out of contact suggests an extra-terrestrial encounter with something unseen that killed the missing crew. Carroon breaks out of hospital abetted by his wife, beginning to transform into some monstrous creature to terrorise London and threaten the whole world.

quaterm2One of the chief pleasures of material like The Quatermass Xperiment is its vantage point at the start of the Space Age, back when anything beyond the Earth was alien and unknown and full of mystery. Space has inevitably been ‘normalised’ over the decades since, but back in the early 1950s (and of course in all the 1930s/1940s pulps prior) space was unknown, full of dark mystery. There are wonderful moments in this film when people wonder at the astronauts having been somewhere no-one else had ever been, experienced things no-one has ever seen or felt, and an almost palpable sensation of the fear of a dark frontier. There is an almost Lovecraftian theme of humanity transgressing where we should not go, or of the Outer Dark of Space infecting us, changing us. A contemporary sci-fi/horror film loses that.

The Quatermass series by Nigel Kneale has always had a dark and foreboding theme questioning our place in the universe: Quatermass and the Pit (both the 1967 Hammer version and the earlier BBC serial) has always been a personal favourite of mine, the Hammer film scaring me witless when I was a kid.

For once, the casting possibly hindered my enjoyment of this Hammer effort. For one thing, Brian Donlevy’s American Quatermass proved especially troubling- the guy is portrayed as a bully and a jerk, striding around like he’s got a broom up his ass. Quite unlike the portrayal I’m familiar with from the two versions of Quatermass and the Pit I’ve seen. This seems to have been a concious decision of the film-makers and one that original writer Nigel Kneale (who had no input in the film) was particularly unhappy with- so incensed was Kneale that he refused to allow Hammer to immediately make a sequel (which is what X: The Unknown was intended to be, necessitating that Dean Jagger’s character be changed from Bernard Quatermass to  Dr Adam Royston).

quaterm4The other particularly sour point in the casting is Margia Dean as Carroon’s wife, Judith. On the evidence of this film, Margia Dean simply could not act: its like watching someone from some amateur acting group thrown in front of the camera, not helped by being horribly dubbed in post as if by someone hellbent on making her look/sound even worse (so jarring its a little like Harrison Ford’s ‘deliberately bad’ narration in the theatrical prints of Blade Runner in 1982). So bad in fact was Dean that I looked her up and wasn’t really surprised to read of sources alleging that she was cast in the film because she was the girlfriend of 20th Century Fox president, Spyros Skouras (I’ve since been surprised that she appeared in quite a few films, despite her apparent lack of talent, before retiring in 1965 upon marriage to an architect). It did strike me a number of times just how much better the film would have been had June Thorburn played the part- it seems the kind of role that Thorburn would have excelled at.

Better casting includes Jack Warner as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lomax (predating his most popular turn as Dixon of Dock Green), Richard Wordsworth who is absolutely brilliant as the doomed Victor Carroon, and good old Lionel Jeffries as an harassed Government minister who constantly complains to Quatermass regards his recklessness (not unfounded, as it turns out, with Quatermass coming across as some modern Frankenstein by the end of the film through a sobering epilogue).

With a typically great soundtrack by James Bernard (who deservedly went on to become a Hammer regular), a score that prefigures some of the techniques of Bernard Herrmanns Psycho, the film is a great thriller, the source material raising above the limitations of some of the cast. Certainly, its inevitably somewhat dated but its pre-Space Age perspective adds a certain mood of horror and Lovecraftian atmosphere. Some of the imagery is terrific- particularly that of the crashed space rocket. The Quatermass Xperiment is one of those films that I’ve heard about for many, many years and yet somehow never got around to. Well, I’ve rectified that at long last and I’m so glad I did.

It was rumoured a year or so ago that the film was going to be getting a remake; I don’t know how that has been progressing but do I think that bringing it up to date into our current times might lose much of the charm of the piece.

The Quatermass Xperiment is currently available streaming on Amazon Prime


Quatermass and the Pit (1958-59)

Hammer’s 1967 adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit has always been one of my favourite films, simply because it scared the hell out of me when I was a kid-  it’s always impossible to shake that connection you have with a film that has such a key effect on you like that, you’ll see better films, sure, but you’ll always hold those early film experiences dear. Thankfully the film still holds up pretty strong today and the blu-ray I have of it is a prized part of my film collection on disc, but I never saw the original BBC serial from 1958 upon which the film was based, until now.

q1The tv serial Quatermass and the Pit dates from a far-different era to what we know now, as far away from today’s big-budget Netflix extravaganzas as one could imagine. The serial was aired over six episodes, broadcast on Monday evenings at 8 pm from 22nd December 1958 to 26th January 1959. Incredibly, each episode was mostly live, broadcast from BBC studios in Hammersmith, London, with some sequences previously shot on film (due to technical issues such as location shooting or reliance on physical special effects etc) inserted during the performance. It lends the whole something of the atmosphere of a play, with a genuine feeling of vitality and excitement, and edginess from the feeling that, well, anything might happen. Any mistakes can’t be fixed by an editor! Fortunately everyone seems to have been well prepared- rehearsals took place between the Tuesday and Saturday prior to each Monday transmission (camera rehearsals taking place on the day of transmission), but there’s clearly that tension of live performance, slight timing issues that might have been edited on film but had to be accepted here. There’s a lovely moment when Bernard Quatermass walks into an office and the door doesn’t close behind him as intended, and he turns during his line and closes it in passing before putting his hat and coat away. Its nothing at all, really, but it feels like a ‘real’ moment that the actor has to nonchalantly react to, as if he were in a theatre. Sometimes it’s the little things that give something its reality, moments that are edited out or corrected in subsequent retakes. The tension and edginess of being a live performance translates well into the subject matter and tactile horrors of the story.

q3Workmen on a construction/demolition site in Hobbs Lane, London discover a pre-human skull which excites the attention of Dr Matthew Roney (Cec Linder) a paleontologist who is baffled and thrilled by the skulls large brain volume that suggests a primitive man hitherto unknown to science. Subsequent excavations discover further bones and skulls and finally what appears to be the outer surface of a missile or bomb, which halts Roney’s work as the military are brought in and the site closed off.

Frustrated, Roney calls his friend Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andre Morell) in an effort to stop the military ruining his valuable archeological find. Quatermass and Colonel Breen (Anthony Bushell), who has recently been appointed to lead the British rocket Group against the professors objections, arrive at the site; more fossils are found as the strange metallic object is uncovered. Roney dates the fossils to some five million years, suggesting that the object has been buried all that time, a finding Colonel Breen considers ridiculous, instead hypothesizing that the object is an experimental german bomb that failed to explode during the Blitz.  Whatever it is, it is large and hollow, the interior apparently empty but for etchings on one of the interior walls that suggest an occult pentacle.

Most everyone feels a strange, foreboding atmosphere around the object, a sensation of unease. Intrigued, Quatermass makes enquiries about the history of the area; Hobbs Lane was formerly Hob’s Lane, Hob being an antiquated name for the Devil, and there are tales of ghosts and poltergeists told by locals and in press articles over decades. The military attempts to drill into an interior wall of the object into what appears to be a concealed chamber, the resulting vibrations cause some distress to those there and one soldier has an hysterical attack, screaming that he saw a dwarf-like creature walk out of the wall, a description Quatermass remarks matches a 1927 newspaper story of a ghost seen in Hobbs Lane.

Further drilling causes a hole to open up and Quatermass and the soldiers find inside the remains of insect-like creatures, evidently aliens that resemble some kind of locust with horn-like antennae.  Examining the remains, Quatermass and Roney postulate that the creatures may be Martians that arrived on Earth five million years ago. Colonel Breen still believes it the work of Germans, evidently an elaborate hoax to instil panic in wartime England. Quatermass, however, feels that the object is yet dangerous, in some way affecting those near it with horrific visions and causing poltergeist-like activity, and evidenced thus in the historical record as far back as he can investigate in records centuries old. What Quatermass does  not realise is that the object, or alien vessel, is itself alive and is becoming activated by the human activity around it, and will soon result in a transmission that will affect the public nationwide in a night of violence and terror…

q2.jpgHaving seen the Hammer film several times before, I was naturally familiar with the general plot, and it is evident the film was faithful to the serial. But naturally the longer running time (each episode was allocated about 35 minutes incase the live performance over-ran beyond the usual 30-minute runtime) over six episodes allowed more detail, background and character moments than the film was afforded over its own 97 minutes. Aired in black and white it feels much like a Twilight Zone episode, the monochrome aiding the mood with its stark lights and shadows, and of course it feels naturally authentic in its 1950s period setting, today almost lending it a kind of strange, alien-world vibe with its antiquated technology and scientific knowledge.

I’ve become familiar with Andre Morell through his work with Hammer, over the past few years seeing him in Hammer’s The Camp on Blood Island, Cash on Demand, The Plague of the Zombies, The Mummy’s Shroud and The Hound of the Baskervilles. He was an actor with a commanding presence and powerful voice, and his Quatermass here is generally considered the definitive one, as it was played by other actors in the earlier BBC serials and ensuing Quatermass films/projects. I was surprised to discover that he declined the role in Hammer’s own feature-film adaptation. Andrew Keir played Quatermass in Hammers version of Quatermass and the Pit and, being the performance I became familiar with he’s always seemed my Quatermass, but I have to admit Morell is brilliant here and it’s such a pity he didn’t reprise his performance in the film.

The rest of the cast is universally fine; Bushell suitably infuriates as his characters closed-thinking hampers the efforts of Quatermass to raise the alarm, and Canadian actor Cec Linder is very good as the scientist friend of Quatermass- notable among the minor cast roles is Michael Ripper as one of the military worksquad. The acting of all the cast is pretty impressive considering a great deal of it was performed live.

q4The scale of the production is obviously limited by its age and budget, but I think this works in its favour. In its live performance it has the feel of a play and stagecraft, and it also works in similar fashion to a radio production, larger-scale events often occuring offscreen and being described by characters (looking through doorways or windows for instance, or watching tv transmissions)  and thus benefiting from the viewers imagination. Its a technique that works brilliantly on radio and it’s the same here. As the scale of the horror escalates out of Quatermass’ control, thus it becomes increasingly handed over to the audience’s imagination. Of course a modern adaptation would be more literal and show more (as did the Hammer film version, albeit itself limited by budget naturally) but I don’t think a contemporary version would necessarily improve on this thrilling original. That said, the film is obviously Nigel Kneale examining racism and using his tale to explain it as a genetic modification of apes by ancient Martians in their attempt to colonise the Earth- in the grand tradition of the later Star Trek, Kneale’s tale is an allegory of racial tensions of his time (1950s Britain being plagued by race troubles culminating in some attacks and riots) but obviously it’s all quite timely for us today in our own era of Political fragmentation, Brexit and immigration issues.

The grand twist of both serial and film is that while it is a tale of alien invasion, it’s one that occured five million years ago, and by some accounts the aliens won, as we are the descendants of their genetic manipulation (the original Earth-Apes being wiped out). While they themselves perished (the Martians destroyed themselves in Wild Hunts on the Red Planet, in which Martians of different groups ultimately slaughtered each other), their legacy of bigotry and racism continues through us. At the conclusion, Quatermass delivers a stark warning directly to camera: “If we cannot control the inheritance within us, this will be their (the Martians’) second dead planet!” he snarls. In the Atomic Age of 1959 and on the eve of the next decade of manned spaceflight, it must have been a foreboding and chilling ending. It rather worked that magic on me, in 2019.

This was quite excellent and yes, superior even to the Hammer film that I have loved all these years since a kid. I watched the serial on iplayer, but it has also been released on Blu-ray, which includes some considerably intriguing special features so I’ll no doubt be ordering a copy someday. As its free on iplayer, it’s surely a no-brainer for genre fans unfamiliar with it to give it ago. Its somewhat dated, but endearingly so- this has the feel of something to treasure. This is science fiction of ideas and grand concepts and its rather disturbing too- quite refreshing compared to the big on spectacle, empty-headed nonsense that passes for science fiction so much of the time these days.

And maybe a remake/reboot of this would indeed be quite timely and pertinent to the times we live in. Blame the Martians.