Box set of the 1970s sci-fi television series starring John Mills as the eccentric Professor Quatermass - to celebrate 50 years since the first series was broadcast. In 'Huffity Puffity, Ringstone Round', Quatermass returns after retiring as a supernatural force comes to earth and is responsible for the disappearance of young people. In 'Lovely Lightning', Quatermass and Annie take the only survivor of the Ringstone Round incident, Isabel, to London. In 'What Lies Beneath', Quatermass meets another scientist, Chisolm, whilst hiding below London. He may hold the secret to the mystery. In 'An Endangered Species', Quatermass and team bait the alien force with a deadly poison. Finally, 'The Conclusion' is a film version made up of all four episodes of the series.
John Mills stars as the eponymous Professor in 1979's Quatermass
, the fourth, final and best of the celebrated television science fiction serials. The Professor's early adventures were 1950's TV productions, all made into cult Hammer films, including the excellent Quatermass and the Pit
(1967). Here Quatermass, now an elderly scientist searching for his missing grand-daughter, finds himself facing a new alien nightmare in a convincingly bleak near-future Britain of urban decay, social collapse and unchecked violence.
Written by Nigel Kneale, as were all the Quatermass stories, this was an intelligent extrapolation of 1970's industrial-strife-ridden Britain, a continuation of the apocalyptic British SF tradition of John Wyndham (The Day of the Triffids was serialised by the BBC two years later). Thanks to a generous budget sufficient to allow for an international theatrical version, the production values are impressively large-scale, and the naturalistic performances from a cast including Simon MacCorkindale, Barbara Kellerman and Brenda Fricker add greatly to the sense of reality. Best of all, John Mills brings tremendous class to an adventure which remains a rare example of serious, ideas-based adult TV SF. Director Piers Haggard (Pennies from Heaven) packs considerable tension and not a few scares into Kneale's epic canvas.
On the DVD: Quatermass is presented on three DVDs with two 50-minute episodes and perfunctory production notes on each of the first two discs. The 4:3 picture is good for a 1970's TV series, though there is some minor print damage. Sound is adequate two-channel mono. Disc 3 offers the 101-minute international theatrical version, called The Quatermass Conclusion. This version contains some slightly stronger, 15-rated material, and different credits. The disc also features an oddly presented but interesting 18-minute interview with Nigel Kneale which is centred on the original three Quatermass BBC serials. A 16-page booklet is informative and the packaging is among the most attractive to grace a DVD set thus far. --Gary S Dalkin