A few words about…™ The Quatermass Trilogy – in Blu-ray

Upgrade from DVD - Absolutely 4 Stars

While most cinephiles think of Hammer for their horror productions in the 1950s and ’60s, taking our beloved creatures, and delivering them in shocking colour, the company had successes in the ’50s in the sci-fi vein, beginning with films such as Four Sided Triangle.

In 1955, the first of their Quatermass films hit screens.

Very low-budget, black & white, cheap effects – you’ll undoubtedly note moving matte shots…

But it found an audience, possibly because it was skewed towards adults.

Home theater fans can finally own the films on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino and Scream Factory.

Originally BBC TV fare, the first of the films was The Quatermass Experiment, starring US actor, Brian Donlevy. Apparently, all British actors were at that time hard at work at Ealing, on the Guinness comedies.

The Val Guest directed production did well, and was followed two years later with Quatermass 2, again a low, but not as low-budget affair as the first.

Apparently, no film elements are known to survive for the film, with the exception of a single (fortunately clean) print. Those who follow shadow detail, will find it lacking here.

Move forward another decade, and Quatermass and the Pit arrived, this time in blazing Eastman Color. As I recall, this was the first that I had seen, probably on a TV broadcast.

Color adds to our ability to clearly discern that the creatures involved are rather stiff latex, and not actually aliens.

These are all “little” films. No sci-fi epics here.

But they have gained a reputation, that seems qualified, as wonderful, diminutive, UK sci-fi productions.

As an aside, there was to be a fourth film in the series, which ended up as X the Unknown.

Image – Quatermass Experiment – 4
Quatermass 2 – 3.25
Quatermass and the Pit – 3.75

Audio – 3.75 – 4

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely

Recommended

RAH

 

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

42 Comments

  1. Shame about Quatermass 2 (is this the first sequel to just have 2 after the title?). I don't think of the first two films as b/w, more like b/grey. I'd like to see the print they used for the transfer, I think a print with a decent grey scale would have worked, but how many generations away from the original neg was this print? I hope a print with a good grey scale can be found in the UK.

    I saw Quatermass & The Pit at the cinema on release, but it didn't quite work for me, all that bright Eastman colour, it needed murky b/w & lots of night shots & the paranoia of the fifties, & of course Brian Donlevy as Quatermass.

  2. Johnny Angell

    I don’t see this on Amazon.

    There is no ‘Trilogy’ release.

    Each of the titles are available separately.

    Xperiment was released in 2014 by Kino.

    The two sequels are being released by Shout at the end of July

  3. Johnny Angell

    I don’t see this on Amazon.

    Unless I'm misunderstanding, I don't think all three films are being newly released "as" a trilogy.

    Shout Factory is releasing QUATERMASS II and QUATERMASS & THE PIT on July 30th
    https://www.amazon.com/Quatermass-2…uatermass+2&qid=1562079360&s=movies-tv&sr=1-1

    https://www.amazon.com/Quatermass-Pit-Blu-ray-Andrew-Keir/dp/B07NNMJK3J/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1HUHT6O7043OH&keywords=quatermass+and+the+pit&qid=1562079420&s=movies-tv&sprefix=quatermass,movies-tv,159&sr=1-1

    While the first movie came out on blu-ray from Kino back in 2014
    https://www.amazon.com/Quatermass-X…04NXCA4YE5G&psc=1&refRID=0PQ35SEPK04NXCA4YE5G

  4. Lord Dalek

    There's a reason it's called "Quatermass II" and it has nothing to do with the fact that it's a sequel.

    Well I've no doubt it was called Q11 because the original BBC TV serial was called Q11, but my point still stands…is it the first film sequel with 11 after the title?

  5. Billy Batson

    Well I've no doubt it was called Q11 because the original BBC TV serial was called Q11, but my point still stands…is it the first film sequel with 11 after the title?

    If you read it that way. Its called "Quatermass II" because the plot revolves arround the Quatermass II experimental rocket. Not that its a sequel to The Quatermass Experiment.

  6. Lord Dalek

    If you read it that way. Its called "Quatermass II" because the plot revolves arround the Quatermass II experimental rocket. Not that its a sequel to The Quatermass Experiment.

    I'm sure you're correct, it's been a while since I've seen it. I thought the plot revolved around that top secret government establishment/factory where very bad things are happening, there's not much about the rocket (does it take off at the end, I can't remember). The question still stands, is it the first? Anyway, the important thing is…will we ever get a decent HD version of this? I've seen it on the BBC, SD & 4×3, but the picture looked quite nice, there must be some good prints around somewhere.

  7. Billy Batson

    Well I've no doubt it was called Q11 because the original BBC TV serial was called Q11, but my point still stands…is it the first film sequel with 11 after the title?

    According to this page, it was:

    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NumberedSequels

    "The first use of a number in a sequel title was probably Quatermass 2 in 1957,note the follow-up to The Quatermass Xperiment.note These were the original UK titles; in the United States the first film was issued as The Creeping Unknown so the second one had to be retitled as well: it was known as Enemy From Space. However such instances were rare, at least before the 70s, because studios at the time felt that it attached a film to an earlier film to the extent of alienating potential audiences who may not have seen the earlier film and so feel discouraged from seeing a sequel titled "Part II" if they had not seen "Part I". It's why all the James Bond films were titled differently and not James Bond 1-20,note and why film-series such as the "Carry On" or the Pink Panther series often included "Pink Panther" but slight variations so as to not tie it exclusively. The first major film to change this was Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Part II."

  8. Wow, only took one post to put a huge spoiler in it for a movie that a lot of people might be seeing for the first time since it’s only coming to Blu-ray in the states for the first time. QatP needs to be seen without knowing that bit about the end.

  9. PMF

    Reads like a possible spoiler, here; as I have yet to see the film.

    Yes it is. Can you remove that quote from your post since you said it might be a spoiler then put it in youown post.

  10. Billy Batson

    Shame about Quatermass 2 (is this the first sequel to just have 2 after the title?). I don't think of the first two films as b/w, more like b/grey. I'd like to see the print they used for the transfer, I think a print with a decent grey scale would have worked, but how many generations away from the original neg was this print? I hope a print with a good grey scale can be found in the UK.

    Apparently from what I gather, the original plan was to use the 35mm composite fine-grain housed at the BFI, but due to damage in the latter part of the film it was decided to use a print.
    I didn't realize at the time that the plan was to use the BFI source, which most likely would have yielded a lot more detail, it looks like that their not planning on using any part of that transfer and instead going one hundred percent with the print source, pity.

  11. Yeah, in my days as a Telecine Colourist, I did plenty of b/w prints (SD) on both Rank Cintel & Sprit telecines, & got some lovely results, of course it all depends on the print you have to work from.

  12. Lord Dalek

    There's a reason it's called "Quatermass II" and it has nothing to do with the fact that it's a sequel.

    Nigel Kneale gave his reason for the title QUATERMASS II in his foreward to the publication of the TV script:

    "It was an uninventive title, I felt, but I could find no better. The formula has become respectable in recent films, but I felt then that I had to justify it as referring not only to the new serial but also to Quatermass's doomed rocket-design"

    Kneale had another dig at Brian Donlevy in the foreward, saying he "turned my troubled professor into a bawling bully".

    For me, QUATERMASS II is the best, most inventive and ambitious of the TV serials. Unfortunately the feature film completely omits the dramatic mission into space which was the climax of the TV serial, presumably for budgetary reasons.

  13. I saw 'Enemy From Space' when it first came out (I was eight), and it scared the crap out of me. I love 'Quatermass and the Pit' as well, great script, wonderfully realized. The first film, not so much (although I have the disc). Looking forward to these on July 30th.

  14. bigshot

    Anyone who thinks Quatermass films look cheap has never seen Fire Maidens from Outer Space.

    I’m sure there are “cheaper” looking movies, but the Aliens in The Pit look cheap. There are not convincing in the slightest. All IMHO.

  15. Johnny Angell

    I’m sure there are “cheaper” looking movies, but the Aliens in The Pit look cheap. There are not convincing in the slightest. All IMHO.

    And yet despite the budgetary limitations of the production, Hammer managed to craft a creepy, compelling, original story that absolutely works. Quatermass and the Pit is probably my all-time favorite Hammer movie.

  16. dpippel

    And yet despite the budgetary limitations of the production, Hammer managed to craft a creepy, compelling, original story that absolutely works. Quatermass and the Pit is probably my all-time favorite Hammer movie.

    Sadly, I don’t care for the movie at all. But that’s what makes it hard to make a good movie, who knows what the audience is going to like?

  17. There was a third film eventually released (or at least a TV version) entitled "The Quatermass Conclusion". Evidently, Hammer has been trying to get a reboot of Quatermass off the ground since January of this year. I always disliked Brian Donlevy as Quatermass. I always thought Andrew Keir was a better choice for the role and he certainly brings the intensity I thought the role should be played with.

    I imagine that the Scream is just the UK scan released on BD previously.

  18. Wayne Klein

    I always disliked Brian Donlevy as Quatermass. I always thought Andrew Keir was a better choice for the role and he certainly brings the intensity I thought the role should be played with.

    I'm with you. Donlevy was an old-school actor who played everything brusque, and practically shouted his lines. Subtlety was not in his toolbox. While I still enjoy The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass II, I don't care for him at all in the role, really. Keir was a much, MUCH better Bernard Quatermass.

  19. Who is George Reis? If he thinks the grain is tight in the opening sequence someone should relieve him of his reviewing duties. It's a nice print and looks like a print – detail is sometimes just fine and sometimes it borders on being soft (for no reason that I can discern) – all the night scenes are so dark as to be ridiculous and the grain in those scenes could make a good horror movie. I'm happy to have it, but am having real trouble understanding how there's a single print in the entire world and somehow all the negatives have gone missing.

  20. haineshisway

    Who is George Reis? If he thinks the grain is tight in the opening sequence someone should relieve him of his reviewing duties. It's a nice print and looks like a print – detail is sometimes just fine and sometimes it borders on being soft (for no reason that I can discern) – all the night scenes are so dark as to be ridiculous and the grain in those scenes could make a good horror movie. I'm happy to have it, but am having real trouble understanding how there's a single print in the entire world and somehow all the negatives have gone missing.

    Bruce, I disagree with you that "all the night scenes are so dark…" (italics mine). The pre-credit sequence is overly dark, and I've no idea why, but subsequent night scenes have enough detail so that we can see what's going on. They look like legitimate night.

  21. haineshisway

    Who is George Reis? If he thinks the grain is tight in the opening sequence someone should relieve him of his reviewing duties. It's a nice print and looks like a print – detail is sometimes just fine and sometimes it borders on being soft (for no reason that I can discern) – all the night scenes are so dark as to be ridiculous and the grain in those scenes could make a good horror movie. I'm happy to have it, but am having real trouble understanding how there's a single print in the entire world and somehow all the negatives have gone missing.

    Film Elements held at the BFI:

    • Title
      Quatermass 2 (Original title)
      Enemy from Space (Alternative title)
      Quatermass II (Alternative title)
      Quatermass Two (Help search title)
    • Video materials (2)

      [​IMG] Digital BetacamVideo – – N-231762

      Master – Restricted access to preserved videotape

      [​IMG] Digital BetacamVideo – – N-376504

      Master – Restricted access to preserved videotape

      Film materials (8)
      [​IMG] 35mm BW PositiveSafety – Combined – – C-1244578

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film

      [​IMG] 35mm Dupe NegativeCTA – Mute – 109 Feet – Stock date: 1955 – – C-827167

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film

      [​IMG] 35mm Dupe NegativeCTA – Mute – 108 Feet – Stock date: 1956 – – C-827169

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film

      [​IMG] 35mm Dupe NegativeCTA – Sound – 7631 Feet – Stock date: 1956 – – C-521093

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film – suitable for duplication

      [​IMG] 35mm Dupe NegativeCTA – Mute – 7631 Feet – Stock date: 1956 – – C-139844

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film – suitable for duplication

      [​IMG] 35mm Duplicating PositiveCTA – Combined – 107 Feet – Stock date: 1956 – – C-827168

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film

      [​IMG] 35mm Duplicating PositiveCTA – Combined – 7631 Feet – Stock date: 1956 – – C-139843

      Master – Restricted access to preserved film

      [​IMG] 35mm Master Positive– C-139846

      Status pending – Material requires inspection to determine preservation or access status

  22. haineshisway

    So, they used the only surviving print in the world – except there are all these negatives at the BFI. I don't get it.

    Correct. Appears they hold two printing negs, as well as the fine grain from which they were struck.

  23. Maybe BFI wouldn't let them have it, since they probably licensed it through MGM/UA who had squat. But to be disingenuous on the packaging is kind of reprehensible. Perhaps a nice UK label will release it and use the BFI materials.

  24. Dick

    Bruce, I disagree with you that "all the night scenes are so dark…" (italics mine). The pre-credit sequence is overly dark, and I've no idea why, but subsequent night scenes have enough detail so that we can see what's going on. They look like legitimate night.

    I think it would be surprising if the night scenes were actually shot at night and the stills gallery in the disc’s extras show that the pre-credit sequence was a daytime shoot.

  25. Douglas R

    I think it would be surprising if the night scenes were actually shot at night and the stills gallery in the disc’s extras show that the pre-credit sequence was a daytime shoot.

    I agree with you about these all being day-for-night shots. That is why I said "They look like legitimate night."

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