Quatermass II (1955)

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Released 7-Jul-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 188:06
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rudolph Cartier
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Robinson
Monica Grey
Hugh Griffith
John Stone
Brian Hayes
Tony Lyons
Eric Lugg
Hilda Barry
Herbert Lomas
Richard Cuthbert
Kim Grant
Peter Carver
Peter Macarte
Case ?
RPI Box Music Trevor Duncan
Robert Farnon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The second Quatermass serial opens like the first, with a rocket launch. This one however has been unsuccessful, with the prototype nuclear engine exploding, causing death and mayhem. Luckily, the explosion occurred in what was Britain's 1950s nuclear dumping ground: outback Australia.

    About a year earlier there had been a flurry of tiny meteorites. Quatermass's daughter and assistant Paula (Monica Grey) has a boyfriend in the army, John Dillon (John Stone). Dillon has found some meteorite fragments in a field, and the farmer was a witness to this latest strike. Dillon shows the fragments to Quatermass (John Robinson) and his assistant Dr Pugh (Hugh Griffith).

    The find excites the scientists, because the likelihood of a meteorite landing intact on the Earth's surface is highly remote. The mystery becomes more intriguing when Pugh discovers that the fragments form a regular shape, and when put together that shape is hollow.

    On visiting the farmer, Quatermass finds him taciturn and unwilling to talk about the experience of seeing the meteorite land. On their way back to town Quatermass and Dillon stumble on a large manufacturing plant, heavily guarded. They see another meteorite land and Dillon gets too close, getting something on his face. Shortly afterward guards arrive and whisk Dillon off for "medical treatment". Something is fishy in Winnerden Flats, as Quatermass soon finds out as he attempts to get Government assistance.

    The first Quatermass adventure had men going into space and bringing something back with them. This one has something coming from space on its own recognisance and attempting a takeover. In some ways it is a combination of War of the Worlds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although the film of the latter had yet to be made when Quatermass II hit the screens (Kneale might have read the Jack Finney novel on which it was based, but as it dates from the same year as this series it is unlikely).

    From the little information I have been able to find on the production of this serial, it was originally intended to have Reginald Tate reprise his role as the intrepid scientist. However, Tate died just two months prior to the screening of the first episode and was replaced at the last minute by John Robinson. Robinson sadly is not very good. He has a tendency to fluff his lines and he also overacts badly. Fortunately the story moves at a swift pace so the viewer does not have much time to linger on his inadequacies.

    This time the budget extended to filming of some outdoor sequences which were inserted via telecine during the live broadcasts. This helps the story to open out more than was evident in the two surviving episodes of the first serial. Also helping is a large dose of familiar British character actors, some of whom had had long cinema careers behind them, and some who would be more famous in later years. In the former category are Herbert Lomas, who appears as an old man in the pub in episode two, Austin Trevor in several episodes as Fowler, and Ian Wilson, the bespectacled short man in the pub sequence in episode 5. In the latter category are Rupert Davies as the ill-fated parliamentarian - later he would play Maigret on television; Wilfred Brambell (Steptoe and Son) as the tramp in episode 2; Melvyn Hayes (It Ain't Half Hot, Mum) as a boy in episode 3 and Roger Delgado (Doctor Who's original The Master) as the reporter Conrad. Then of course there is Hugh Griffith, later an Oscar winner for Ben Hur.

    The serial was screened over 6 consecutive Saturday nights on the BBC and fortunately it was telerecorded for posterity. It is enjoyable and suspenseful, and like the first serial was adapted for the big screen with the basic plot intact. Quatermass II reached the big screen in 1956 with American actor Brian Donlevy reprising his role from the first film. I have not seen it but it gets good reviews, though writer Nigel Kneale was reportedly unhappy with the choice of leading man. In any case, the television serial is well worth seeing and scrubs up well even without the big budgets and sophisticated special effects of more recent science fiction fare. It comes as part of a set containing what survives of The Quatermass Experiment and the entirety of Quatermass and the Pit. Each episode is shown complete, including opening and closing credits.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The programme is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1.

    The video quality is slightly better overall than that afforded the first serial, but it has more significant problems with resolution. In 1955 Britain had a 405 line black and white television standard, so resolution was lower than that of modern PAL televisions. While videotape recording systems existed, they were very expensive and quality levels were variable. Television programmes were recorded for posterity using a camera synched to the frame rate of a television monitor that it was pointed at. This process was known as telerecording or kinescoping.

    You can clearly see the problems with this approach on this DVD. The image is slightly distorted at the sides, more so on the left of screen, probably due to the curvature of the monitor screen. There are also visible scan lines, which are quire distracting at times, though one gets used to them. There is a lack of clarity and detail to the video as a result. Contrast is poor and shadow detail almost non-existent.

    There are no serious film artefacts.

    Optional subtitles are provided in English, and these are quite close to the spoken dialogue. They are slightly smaller than subtitles on most DVDs, in the typical BBC fashion.

    The disc is dual-layered with no layer break within any of the episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is generally clear and I found no use for the subtitles except to clarify matters of spelling. The audio is slightly distorted and muffled but surprisingly good considering how it was recorded.

    Again, the theme music is Mars, the Bringer of War from Holst's suite The Planets. There is also some stock music, used for sinister effect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are included on disc one in this set. This programme is on disc two and contains only a minor extra.

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    Some footage from the film is seen on the main menu together with some of the music.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 is identical to the UK Region 2. The programme is not available in Region 1 at this time.

Summary

    A fine old television serial well transferred to DVD.

    The video and audio qualities require the viewer to make allowances, but are as good as the old Doctor Who serials of a decade later.

    No significant extras on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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