June 5, 2008

Public Domain Drive-In: Quatermass Double Feature

Today, my father would have turned 60 years old. I wouldn't normally bring up that fact, but simply to relate the memory of how he described his father taking he and my aunt to see Forbidden Planet at the now torn-down Brighton Theater on Archer Avenue.

I say this because, had we lived in England, my father might have described how he and his family sat around the television and watched the adventures of Bernard Quatermass.

Much like Forbidden Planet influenced Star Trek, Quatermass had not only an effect on British Media, but also on Doctor Who, mostly in the late 1960s to 1980s. Stories such as The War Machines, The Invasion, Spearhead from Space, andThe Daemons "borrowed' images and concepts wholesale from the Quatermass serials. In fact, Quatermass could be seen as the "father" of Doctor Who - getting name-checked in Remembrance of the Daleks, influencing one of the early New Adventures, and even having a future Doctor guest-star in a 2005 revival of The Quatermass Experiment. And, of course, Torchwood (which will be the subject of this month's Comic Related TV Party column) pretty much updates the format for the 21st century - an "expert" on paranormal affairs leading a team to fight extraterrestrial menaces.

Unfortunately, due to the BBC's policy of destroying old shows - without necessarily checking for duplicates - we only have a two intact episodes of The Quatermass Experiment. (Most of the DVDs of this material - some painstakingly restored by the Restoration Team - are available in England). However, Quatermass 2 - which has been described as a British Invasion of the Body Snatchers - remains secure and intact. (And Quatermass and the Pit, in its tale of Martians influencing human development...well, the ideas proposed still chill to this day). If you are looking for groundbreaking television drama...well, both Quatermass serials show the limitations of 1950's live television. Nigel Kneale might be seen as a pioneer to some, but in many ways, his teleplays only reflect the outlook of postwar England. Look at it more like a British Twilight Zone or Outer Limits - staking out some unique territory and, in the process, laying the groundwork

And crackling good viewing.

(By the way, please hunt down Hammer's 1967 film version of Quatermass & the Pit, also known as Five Million Years to Earth. It's not public domain, but it's the closest we'll see to Doctor Who on the big screen)

Internet Archive - Quatermass II

Guba - Quatermass & the Pit

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