QUATERMASS (1979) TV Mini-Series
Also edited for for film as The Quatermass Conclusion
On Blu-Ray from Amazon
Professor Quatermass is invited onto a television show with Doctor Capp to discuss America and Russia’s joint space expedition. After the space mission goes terribly wrong, the finger is pointed at Quatermass who earlier aired his controversial opinions about the doomed space shuttle. Whilst in hiding with Doctor Capp at his astronomy laboratory, Quatermass is shocked to see how society has fallen: gangs mugging innocent people, the lawless ruling the streets – law and order is not part of this world anymore. He is disturbed further by the mass of new-age youngsters called Planet People chanting and making their way to the stone circle of Ringstone Round, expecting to be beamed onto a distant planet which breeds opportunity and hope. Both Capp and Quatermass dispel this as nonsense but when the youths disappear in front of their very eyes, they begin to question the reality of the situation. But this is only the beginning as thousands of youngsters across the globe disappear in similar circumstances. What otherworldly species could be doing this, what do they want with the youths and how can they be stopped?
Nigel Kneale’s four part mini-series for television, Quatermass, is set in a dystopian near-future where society has crumbled and the youth have either turned to destruction or a cult of other-worldly hope whilst the elder generation live in a network of disused old cars. Living in a secluded part of Scotland, Professor Bernard Quatermass is shocked to discover this reality in London and is intrigued if a little puzzled by the lifestyle choices of the young. However, the Professor is more concerned in finding his missing granddaughter, that is until the youths mysteriously disappear. With the equipment at their disposal, Dr Joe Capp and Professor Quatermass begin to investigate the disappearance and fear that the youths may be being harvested, but for what purpose?
For fans of science fiction, Quatermass offers some intriguing storylines to sink your teeth into with its strange story of a cult of new-age youths, alien beings and their technology and the state of despair that Britain has sunk to. Professor Quatermass isn’t in for an easy ride with his life in danger wherever he goes as he attempts to solve the puzzle before more youths are “taken”. As news reports roll in from Brazil and across the globe, this ‘harvest’ isn’t an isolated incident and it’ll keep on occurring if they don’t do something about it. For all Quatermass knows, these stone circle locations could have played host to disappearances thousands of years ago too, such as the nursery rhyme suggests:
Huffity Puffity, Ringstone Round
If you lose your hat it’ll never be found
So pull up your britches right up to your chin
and fasten your cloak with bright new pin
and when you are ready, then we can begin
Huffity puffity puff!
John Mills stars as Professor Quatermass, an experienced elder gentleman who seems to have given up on science to concentrate on finding his missing granddaughter. He’s kind and polite but outspoken when he feels he needs to. He’s not the biggest of chaps and his desire to not engage with conflict sees him as easy prey from the badders, the gangs ruling the street who don’t think twice about mugging anyone as defenceless as Quatermass. Fortunately, he has backup in the form of the dashing young doctor Joe Capp (Simon MacCorkindale), a family man who lives out in the countryside with his wife and two daughters. Capp is all too familiar with the dangerous youths and rides around in his modified jeep with his German Shephard, Puppy, for protection. However, no amount of armoured vehicles, security dogs or guns will protect them from the desires of those in space who seem keen to harvest as many young humans as possible.
Though the series is well paced for the most part, there are sections in which Quatermass can drag a little but a scene involving animal costumed dancers, a giant banana and a large prop of a naked woman with flashing nipples will surely be one to be remembered. Tittupy Bumpity is apparently the most-watched show on TV according to its producer, but in a Britain where there appears to be only one television studio and one TV channel, it’s no real suprise it’s the favourite. There’s often hints of dry and odd humour throughout the series, but none gets stranger than this!
Network Distributing have brought this fantastic high definition transfer to Blu-Ray after restoring the original 35mm negatives, whilst also accompanying it with a new 5.1 audio mix from original triple-track audio elements. The audio is sharp and clear in 5.1 and compliments the visual well. Disc One features the four episodes whilst Disc Two is dedicated to The Quatermass Conclusion which is the four episodes condensed into an hour and 45 mins film. Considering the mini-series is 3 and a half hours long, it’s better to watch the mini-series to get more detail though it’s nice to have the option on the second disc.
You’ve got to hand it to Quatermass. There’s no series quite like it and it’s a darn shame that there’s nothing similar to this on television nowadays. There’s scenes that will truly haunt, such as that at Wembley Stadium, and the series combines some brilliant ideas to create a rather bleak existence. Emotionally, Quatermass and Capp reflect the strains that these terrifying experiences have on the people, particularly Capp who starts off as the empowered family man and ends up lost and in despair. Although the alien aspect is never fully explained, it is approached from Quatermass’ point of view and what he thinks the aliens’ motive is which gives a realistic edge to the whole affair and retains the mysterious edge it carries throughout.
Though the series is now over 35 years old, Quatermass has certainly aged well and is definitely worth a look for sci-fi fans young and old.