Author Topic: Quatermass (1979)  (Read 1468 times)

Ambient Sheep

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Quatermass (1979)
« on: May 19, 2020, 08:22:26 PM »
This haunting four-part series from 1979 is being shown on Talking Pictures TV tonight from 9pm, subsequent episodes every Tuesday.

Freeview/Youview 81, Virgin 445, Sky 328, Freesat 306.

If you're not familiar with it, it's a worthy entry in the Quatermass canon, here's a bit more non-spoilery info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quatermass_(TV_serial)

Quote
Quatermass (also known as The Quatermass Conclusion or Quatermass IV) is a British television science fiction serial produced by Euston Films for Thames Television and broadcast on the ITV network in October and November 1979. Like its three predecessors, Quatermass was written by Nigel Kneale. It is the fourth and final television serial to feature the character of Professor Bernard Quatermass. In this version, the character is played by John Mills.

Influenced by the social and geopolitical situation of the early 1970s and the hippie youth movement of the late 1960s, Quatermass is set in a near future in which large numbers of young people are joining a cult, the Planet People, and gathering at prehistoric sites, believing they will be transported to a better life on another planet.

Quatermass was originally conceived as a BBC production, but after the corporation lost faith in the project due to spiralling costs, work was halted. The scripts were taken by Euston Films and Kneale, then working for Independent Television, was commissioned to rewrite the scripts into two versions: a four-part television serial and The Quatermass Conclusion, a 100-minute film, intended for international theatrical release.

I loved this when it first went out (I was 14 at the time), am looking forward to seeing it again.  Hopefully it holds up (I believe it will), and I hope some of you will watch it too.

Sorry, as ever, for the short notice, although I did mention it in the Talking Pictures thread over a week ago. :-)

Alberon

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2020, 08:26:54 PM »
I remember watching this as a ten year old. Some of the imagery was disturbing and I really didn't know about Quatermass back then. I remember a scene where one of the hippies is levitated and then explodes.

Having watched the BBC version Quatermass and the Pit not that long ago I should give this a go.

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2020, 08:28:56 PM »
You totally should, but perhaps we should avoid spoilers for those who haven't ever seen it. :-)

A couple of comments from the TP thread:

...it's a good watch.

One of the most brilliant and disturbing TV dramas ever. Love it.

Norton Canes

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2020, 08:37:22 PM »
Was just about to reply when I saw my own quote :)

It's so, so good. Sort of like The Changes (and Children Of The Stones) crossed with Threads. Absolutely a must-watch.


notjosh

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2020, 07:14:02 AM »
I watched this last month after working through the other three serials. I think this one was my favourite. John Mills is brilliant and the extra budget allows the visuals to match Kneale's ideas a bit more, so there's not so much 'my god - there's a figure emerging in the smoke!' etc.

Not that the first three aren't also brilliant too mind. And they're all available (what's left of them) to stream on Amazon. Quatermass and the Pit looks great.

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2020, 11:18:28 AM »
I saw it as a ten year old and again on the Sci-Fi channel in 1996.  I think it holds up better than some other tv shows of the same vintage.  Anyone know if it was a new print/digital remaster?  It didn't look it.

Dex Sawash

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2020, 12:42:42 PM »

Patrick Swayze is best Quartermass

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2020, 01:05:47 PM »
...and again on the Sci-Fi channel in 1996. 

Shit!  Come to think of it, so did I!  Don't remember much about it from then though, as much of the 90s is a bit blurry for me...

(Not watched last night's yet, wasn't at home.)

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2020, 03:03:03 PM »
John Mills is brilliant...

Indeed, which is odd considering Kneale, as usual, didn't like his casting, believing that he "didn't have the authority for Quatermass".


and the extra budget allows the visuals to match Kneale's ideas a bit more

This bit from Wikipedia amused me:

Quote
Production designer Arnold Chapkis constructed several large and elaborate sets, including those for... the Kapps' radio telescope and observatory...; Kneale quipped about the radio telescope set that "it probably would have worked if they'd just aimed it properly!".

This led Euston executive Johnny Goodman to joke, "Our biggest problem was finding someone who wanted the two giant telescope dishes after we finished filming. There's not much demand for such things".

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2020, 05:00:08 PM »
Does anyone know if the Hammer film versions are much cop?

Blumf

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2020, 05:17:50 PM »
Does anyone know if the Hammer film versions are much cop?

The Quatermass  Xpermiment (stupid spelling) and Quatermass 2 are both solid 50's sci-fi.

Quatermass and the Pit is top notch. Personally I prefer the TV version, but the film is undeniably great.

If you've enjoyed other mid-C20 Brit sci-fi, like The Day the Earth Caught Fire or The Damned, you will not be disappointed.

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2020, 09:55:10 PM »
The Quatermass  Xpermiment (stupid spelling) and Quatermass 2 are both solid 50's sci-fi.

Quatermass and the Pit is top notch. Personally I prefer the TV version, but the film is undeniably great.

If you've enjoyed other mid-C20 Brit sci-fi, like The Day the Earth Caught Fire or The Damned, you will not be disappointed.

Yeah, they're all good on their own merits.

Quatermass 2 has an nice serious role for Sid James.

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2020, 09:56:31 PM »
Enjoyed Quatermass, loved the juxtaposition of the decayed cities and the British countryside. The hippies and punks date it a LITTLE bit.

Hank the Rapper

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2020, 08:58:05 PM »
Not sure if this is quite the right thread, but it's got a link to Kneale, so fuck it.

Just found out Year of the Sex Olympics has recently got a BFi re-release on DVD after bloody ages, as of last month. Anyone familiar with it? Bit sad a colourisation hasn't been done on it, ala some Pertwee Whos, but just thankful I can finally see it.


daf

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #15 on: May 21, 2020, 10:27:48 PM »
Just found out Year of the Sex Olympics has recently got a BFi re-release on DVD

That's a saucy title - Anyone get their bum out?

Hank the Rapper

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2020, 10:54:16 PM »
That's a saucy title - Anyone get their bum out?

Leonard Rossiter's in it. I bloody hope so!

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2020, 02:06:50 PM »
but just thankful I can finally see it.

You should have mentioned it in the find a film thread (or whatever it's called), I've had a copy for years.

A shame they've not done chroma-dot recovery though (if it has them).  I've seen photos and it looks really colourful.

massive bereavement

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2020, 06:26:00 PM »
That's a saucy title - Anyone get their bum out?


A while since I watched YOFTSO but I don't think you saw anything stronger than a bit of smooching. The BBC not retaining a colour copy on VT is one of their biggest crimes, a b&w film print is better than nothing but it was the early days of colour and it's clearly designed with that in mind. The sound quality suffers too on a telecine transfer, I think it would be a very different experience if we were able to watch it as intended. A bad re-mix can ruin a great song and this is the TV equivalent. 

As for Quatermass, as I recall it was one of the first programmes shown after ITV came back from the strike that went on for ever, which might be why my parents allowed me to stay up despite there being school the next day.  Only thing I think I can remember about it was a scene with a bunch of druid like people involved in some kind of ritual and one of my parents remarking that this was what Ken Barlow did in his spare time when he wasn't acting for "Coronation Street". Maybe I just dreamed that and they had sent me to bed, or it was some other programme.


« Last Edit: May 23, 2020, 08:08:11 PM by massive bereavement »

Norton Canes

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2020, 06:55:11 PM »
That's a saucy title - Anyone get their bum out?

Wait 'till you see Tittupy Bumpity.

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #20 on: May 24, 2020, 10:44:36 PM »
I missed this but fortunately it's on archive.org: https://archive.org/details/TheQuatermassConclusion1979/The+Quatermass+Conclusion+1979+chapter1+Huffety+Puffety+Ringstone+Round.avi

Thanks so much for posting this, just watched the first two episodes.

Why on earth haven't any of the Ghost Box artists based a song around the Huffety Puffety Ringstone Round song?
« Last Edit: May 25, 2020, 01:30:01 AM by holyzombiejesus »

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2020, 08:55:08 AM »
Glitch King!

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2020, 08:30:37 PM »
Watching part 2 and enjoying the grimy 1970's aesthetic. Kneale didn't like the kids and their hanging around and rock concerts did he?

Blumf

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2020, 08:40:04 PM »
Kneale didn't like the kids and their hanging around and rock concerts did he?

Charlie Brooker, I think, did a bit on Kneale being, at heart, a grumpy conservative.

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2020, 08:58:55 PM »
Yup.  Wikipedia makes it clear that -- amongst its other themes -- it's a fairly direct attack on what he saw as the vapidity and loose morals of the hippy movement -- he actually wrote it seven years earlier, in 1972.

From the Quatermass page:
Quote
Kneale began writing the scripts, working to a delivery deadline of February 1973.  Much of the setting for the story was influenced by contemporary political events such as strikes, power cuts, the oil crisis and developments in the space race, especially the planned Apollo-Soyuz missions and Skylab.

Writing in the listings magazine TV Times to promote the serial, Kneale said, "Quatermass is a story of the future – but perhaps only a few years from now. There are some clues already in the most obvious places: the streets. Pavements littered with rubbish. Walls painted with angry graffiti. Belfast black with smoke and rage. Worst of all, the mindless violence".

Concerns about the state of society, especially the "dropout" culture of the youth movement, had been a theme of Kneale's writing for some time. This was seen in such works as The Big, Big Giggle, an unmade play about a teenage suicide cult; The Year of the Sex Olympics, about the consequences of a world with no censorship or inhibitions; and Bam! Pow! Zap! (1969), about teenage delinquents, all of which fed into the world depicted in the new Quatermass serial.

Kneale said, "I looked at the alarming aspects of contemporary trends. Since then, we'd seen 'flower power' and hippies, so all I did was bring them into the story. It was written in 1972 and it was about the sixties really".

Another theme that had crept into Kneale's writing at this time—as seen in Wine of India, about compulsory euthanasia for the elderly, and later the Beasts episode "During Barty's Party", about an elderly couple terrorised by rats—was the consequences of growing old.  Kneale later recalled, "The theme I was trying to get to was the old redressing the balance with the young, saving the young, which I thought a nice, paradoxical, ironic idea after the youth-oriented 60s".

From the Sex Olympics page:
Quote
Kneale was also influenced by the dropout counterculture of the late 1960s, recalling "I didn't like the Sixties at all because of the whole thing of 'let it all hang out' and let's stop thinking [...] which was the all too frequent theme of the Sixties which I hated".

Dissatisfaction with the youth culture of the time was a preoccupation of Kneale's—in the mid-sixties he had worked on The Big, Big, Giggle, an unmade script about a teenage suicide cult, and following The Year of the Sex Olympics he returned to the theme of youth out of control in his 1969 play Bam! Pow! Zapp!, and in the fourth and final Quatermass serial in 1979.

For The Year of the Sex Olympics Kneale extrapolated the possible consequences of the youth movement's desire for freedom from "traditional" cultural inhibitions, asking as the academic John R. Cook puts it, "In a world of no limits, will the result quickly be apathy if there is nothing any more to get excited about, nothing precious or illicit to fight for in the teeth of the censor?".

By the way, until now I had no idea that both his parents were Manx, and that -- although born in Barrow-in-Furness -- he spent much of his early life on the island.  Would help explain the conservative mindset.

Absorb the anus burn

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2020, 09:01:42 PM »
Not sure if this is quite the right thread, but it's got a link to Kneale, so fuck it.

Just found out Year of the Sex Olympics has recently got a BFi re-release on DVD after bloody ages, as of last month. Anyone familiar with it? Bit sad a colourisation hasn't been done on it, ala some Pertwee Whos, but just thankful I can finally see it.

It's fantastic... Bleak as fuck, as challenging sci-fi is meant to be.

Bad Ambassador

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2020, 11:40:10 PM »
It's interesting that his wife - a German Jew who fled to the UK as a child - wrote incredibly lovely children's books, while he - a miserable sod who instinctively distrusted anyone younger than him and who grew up in an affluent area only slightly less insular than Mars - complained about the ills of humanity.

Having said that, a lot of his work is brilliant, but Q79 is very hard to like because it's manages to be both incredibly reactionary AND hugely outdated, regardless of how good the direction or acting are.

Bad Ambassador

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #27 on: May 28, 2020, 01:38:20 PM »
Isn't there a scene late on in which an old man literally yells at a cloud?

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #28 on: May 28, 2020, 03:15:58 PM »
Hah yes, I think there might be.

Also fascinating to read about his wife, thanks for that.


Ironically, given I started this thread, not watched any yet.  A busy friend wants to do a watchalong but is struggling to find the time...

Re: Quatermass (1979)
« Reply #29 on: May 28, 2020, 06:49:21 PM »
Enjoyed this weeks - episode 2 - bleak ending.

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