Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quatermass II (1955)

If you're wondering why I skipped the first Quatermass and went direct to the second, it's because, unfortunately, two-thirds of Series One, named The Quatermass Experiment (1953), is lost. Episodes Three, Four, Five and Six are gone, believed to no longer be in existence. It's possible to watch the first two episodes as filmed and finish up by reading the available photocopied scripts of the remaining four if you really want to, although it's not necessary because, while QII does reference what came before, it's a new story with an entirely new threat.

If you did watch the previous two episodes, however, you'll notice that Professor Bernard Quatermass is no longer played by Reginald Tate. Tragically, Tate died less than a month before shooting was due to begin. Instead of respectfully postponing the project the producers moved forward and quickly recast the role, which is how John Robinson came to be the titular scientist. To his credit, Robinson did a fine job despite having had little time to prepare. He struggles in the final episode, but it's the weakest of the six and most of it is easily forgotten anyhow.

The Professor's daughter, Paula (Monica Grey), is employed at the laboratory. She's perhaps the most emotional one but only to a certain degree and often as a necessary foil to the driven men. Otherwise, she's the type of strong, intelligent female equal that 1950s TV series were capable of including but rarely did.

It seems as if the actors sometimes—if not at all times—had a single chance to get it right, one take and job done, as evidenced by the infrequent line errors being present in the final cut; but so too are the quick recoveries, just like stage actors do, pushing onward, making it seem like a real situational solecism.

It's easy to pick apart the occasionally amateurish production methods in comparison to contemporary ones, or even to its big screen remake, because the settings have the wobbly backgrounds you often see in stage productions that are operating beyond their budget, but if I'd been alive and watching the series when it was first screened I'd have been absolutely, utterly hooked.

Each episode opens with a title card (pictured above) and a super-dramatic/stirring rendition of part of Gustav Holst's Mars, the Bringer of War (1914) that really gets you psyched. It's fair to say that it's perhaps the best part, but five of the six episodes don't disappoint. They're suspenseful, respectful to the topic, and at times even damn creepy, the latter being something that British sci-fi excels at.

6 episodes, approx 30 minutes each.

3½ stone shells out of 5