Movie: Quatermass 2 (1957)

Two years after Hammer Studios made the feature film of The Quatermass Xperiment, they made this sequel.  Wisely opting to not take any chances, the sequel has nearly the same people behind the camera, and at least one very important cast member reappearing in front of it.

Brian Donlevy again portrays the titular professor.  In the first movie, I found him to be an intriguing character, but I disliked how he would bully everybody into doing whatever he wanted.  In a way, I admire the movie for having a protagonist that’s a tad difficult to like; however, I also had trouble identifying with somebody who is a relentless champion for their ideas, even if potentially at the expense of human lives.

Fortunately, Quatermass has mellowed out some for this outing.  That said, he crosses over into pleading and whining at times.  I kind of wish the performance was pitched more between these two extremes.

Regardless, this is an energetic sci-fi horror thriller.  I like it more than its predecessor, and it may end up being one of my favorite sci-fi films from this era.

The plot concerns meteorite-like objects that have raining down on an isolated British town.  When Donlevy goes to investigate, he is startled to discover a large industrial plant laid out exactly like a moon base he keeps trying in vain to get funding for.  Turns out this is a hush-hush government operation to produce “synthetic food”.  A small army guards the facility which, given the plant’s stated purpose, makes it all the more bizarre that their only instructions appear to be “fire at will”.

Donlevy loses an assistant in this first attempt to infiltrate the plant.  His lackey had been inspecting one of the “meteorites”, when it burst open, pouring out smoke and leaving a burn-like area on his face.  Our hero had seen such a mark before on another person, complete with a V-shaped scar.  Guards from the plant take the assistant away, refusing to let Donlevy follow.

So now we have a few mysteries in play.  What is this secret government installation?  Where do these faux-meteorites come from?  What is in those rocks and what happens to the people who are exposed to those contents?

The plot develops in a logical manner and I was pleased with how the various threads are resolved.  The only downside is the ending feels rushed, leaving some relatively minor details unresolved or pithily dismissed by a line of dialogue.

If for nothing else, this movie needs to be seen for an incredibly tense scene where Donlevy is finally allowed to tour the facility as part of a group.  Needless to say, things don’t go as planned for anyone involved.  The cinematographer makes excellent use of the Shell refinery used for the plant, expertly framing shots to maximum effect in crisp black and white photography.  Once the actions ramps up, the camera work and editing make the most of this sequence.

And something will probably interest nobody but myself, Michael Ripper makes an appearance. Here was somebody who was probably in more Hammer productions than any other actor, usually playing a bartender or innkeeper. So, here he is…tending a bar, of course.

I recommend The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2, giving a slight edge to the latter.  Although I watched them in order, I believe the sequel can be watched on its own.

Dir: Val Guest

Starring Brian Donlevy

Watched on Shout Factory blu-ray