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Quatermass II | 1957 | Brian Donlevy, John Longden

Rampant paranoia and corruption are the order of the day, as Professor Quatermass is ensnared in a sinister high-level alien conspiracy to take over the world. Classic sci-fi sequel from Hammer.
After the American head of the British space effort Professor Quatermass (Donlevy) has his moon colonisation project turned down by Whitehall, he is intrigued to discover a virtually identical plant thriving in the secretive, Area 51-style community of Winnerden Flats. Investigating, Quatermass discovers that meteorites, which are falling in the area, have infected locals and plant workers with an alien parasite, turning them into Nazi-like zombies.
Aided by Inspector Lomax (Longden, who ably took over from Jack Warner), MP Broadhead (Chatto), and Sid James’ boozy reporter Jimmy Hall (“Drunk, he’s clever – sober, he’s brilliant!”), Quatermass discovers the supposed “synthetic food” plant is a front for an alien invasion, supported at the highest levels by (zombie-fied) government officials. As Quatermass testifies, “Inside those domes are thousands of tiny creatures that can join together and expand into things 100 foot high! And each one can infect a human being!” After Broadhead, Hall and two plant workers are killed, the plant is stormed and the aliens therein destroyed.
“It was difficult to believe sometimes, in the 50s, that science was a force for good”, says Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale. In this superior sequel, Kneale (now on board as scriptwriter, having freed himself from his BBC contract) explores Cold War themes of scientific outrages and governmental corruption, then coming into vogue, in which ‘silence’ spelled ‘complicity’. (His screenplay was based on his script for the six-part 1955 BBC TV version.)
As Winnerden’s ‘Camp Committee’ has it, “Secrets Mean Sealed Lips!” Accordingly, director Val Guest invokes a supreme paranoia throughout, slightly undercut by Donlevy’s blustering performance, which grates a little, and the disappointing, if appropriately bizarre, aliens themselves (50s low-budget special effects haven’t aged so well). However, it’s more than made up for by another terrifying score from James Bernard, and some judiciously-placed set pieces: Broadhead’s grisly demise by black, burning slime; Lomax’s horrified realisation that his boss has become a zombie.

Brian Donlevy as Prof. Bernard Quatermass
John Longden as Chief Inspector Lomax
Sid James as Jimmy Hall
William Franklyn as Dr. Tom Brand
Bryan Forbes as Marsh
Charles Lloyd Pack as Work Camp Manager Dawson
Tom Chatto as Vincent Broadhead, M.P.
John Van Eyssen as The Plant Tour Guide
John Rae as E. J. Macleod
Percy Herbert as Paddy Gorman
Michael Ripper as Ernie the Bartender
Vera Day as Sheila
Betty Impey as Kelly
Edwin Richfield as Peterson
Marianne Stone as Miss Beal
Jane Aird as Mrs. McLeod
Michael Balfour as Harry
John Stuart as The Police Commissioner
Joyce Adams as Woman Member of Parliament
Philipp Baird as Lab Assistant
John Fabian as Intern
George Merritt as Super
Barry Lowe as Chris (uncredited)
Director: Val Guest
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Writers: Nigel Kneale, Val Guest
Photographer: Gerald Gibbs
Composer: James Bernard
UK | 85 minutes | 1957

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