Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quarter Fist, No Mass

One of the few posts Mad Larry has left on his blog is an essay on why Nigel Kneale sucks. Well-written it is too, and I can hardly disagree. Having peered at one of his infamous tales and read the scripts, I do have to boggle at how he ever got in such high regard. True, he pretty much invented huge sci-fi concepts... but then crucial medical advances were found out in concentration camps. Just goes he did it first doesn't make it any good; anyone who's seen The Sarah Jane Adventures will find it unnervingly similar to stuff by Sparacus. Except it's actually good and with less pointless gay sex scenes. By which I mean, none at all, in fact it's the most heterosexual TV show I've ever seen.

Kneale's scripts really do show that his praise as Godfather of British Sci Fi (whatever) is really misplaced. His scripts are eight-tenths characters sit around being drunk, sexists, racist, selfish and miserable as they live their pathetic lives. The remainder are two minutes of token sci-fi which happened to be record breaking. Having read his 'forgotten/less remembered' tale The Road, this formula fits perfectly. The first 24 minutes are 18th century arseholes getting drunk at the pub, then do a bit of amateur ghostbusting while they argue over whether black fellas DO come from the Devil. Then they hear a very oblique and demented radio play about a nuclear war. Apparently the haunted forest they're exploring is actually replaying events from the future, but I'd be blown to tell that until I looked it up on wikipedia. It beggars the imagination how it would have looked on TV as extras panic like the Goodies as disembodied voices say things like "Get out and walk" "Can you hold another baby?" "Four minutes is up!" "Ooh, they missed" before there's a big bang and silence and we're left with the extras STILL panicking.

Wow. The world will end in nuclear war. What an amazing concept you got there, Kneale. Pity it has nothing to do with the irritating skin disease of a central cast who do absolutely sod all for the play. Has this oblique knowledge of the transience of mankind done ANYTHING to their outlook? Why do women always die of fright in your things? Hell, what WAS the entire point?

Look at The Stone Tape. That's not ABOUT the idea of ghosts being recordings. It's about a total dickhead cruelly using an emotionally vulnerable blonde before getting sacked because he's a complete twat. The drama comes from the jerk main character, not the incredibly poorly-thought-out stuff about ghosts. His ex-girlfriend dies and haunts him by becoming a ghost - the only novelty is there's an explanation for her being a ghost beyond "man, she's pissed off at you". People hail it because of it's half-decent explanation of ghosts, ignoring the fact the script is so ridiculously full of coincidence and poor plotting RTD would be lynched if he did it. Not to mention the racism stuff and the fact our heroes beat each other up for kicks...

Is Mad Larry right for once? (by "right" I mean, completely accurate with my own personal world view) Well, there's only one way to find out.

I thus decide to check out the original Quatermass (stupid name, I prefer Quartermass - sounds butcher, dunnit?) and see if it really was scary/intelligent/entertaining and worthy of all the stupid worship Mark Gatiss gave it (edited out of The Idiot's Lantern along with the underage gay molestation, I'm sure you'll be glad to know.)

THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT - Contact Has Been Established

I could be mistaken, but I think this is the oldest bit of TV I've seen. I've seen movies from the 40s of course, and maybe Dinner for One, but as has been pointed out to me, it was TV for a different culture before my parents were old enough to watch TV (or my grandparents rich enough to HAVE a TV). But surely someone, even at the time must have looked at the caption of "a thriller for televsion" and gone "Of course it's for bloody television, I'm looking at the magic picture box, not the bloody radio!"

Accompanied by that Mars, God of War music that worked SO much better in The Leisure Hive (this version stops being recognizable and turns into a broken ringtone tune), we get the opening titles in the style of running writing on a blackboard. People were SCARED by this? Surely not, it should have reminded them of science classes at school. Anyway, the episode starts with some vaguely decent footage of a rocket taking off, accompanied by a bored-shitless voice explaining that the first ever rocket take off in the whole world is taking men out into space for the first time... but this means RISK! (Ahem, that's why they sent up dogs and monkeys first, wasn't it?) The voiceover then reveals that all contact has been lost.

I appreciate cutting to the chase, but methinks you missed out some decent material there. Hell, even The Astronaut's Wife knew you could milk tension out of a space flight gone wrong. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that said movie might be a better tale of alien possession all told. Maybe if Quatermass had Johnny Depp, it might be good. But then not even David Tennant could save it, so maybe not.

Cut to ground control which looks uncannily like something the D-Generation would make for a sketch about the UN, with men and women sitting in raised rows of desks with microphones, looking bored stupid. I would have thought that losing contact with a shuttle would have caused SOME kind of panic, alarm going off or something. Don't they have satellites up there or something? Even if they don't, there MUST have been some kind of contingency plan for this emergency - space race or not, these people are supposed to be intelligent are they not? Some Morse code or something? A rescue rocket? Bloody hell, the Goodies have a better plan B for space disasters! These guys look like they're waiting to see if teacher will turn up or should they just jig?

Suddenly, George Harrison phones in from Australia (man, the British Rocket Group needs its ass saved by the Beatles?!) and very slowly tells us exactly what the narrator did while Bernard stands around with his Diver Dan cravat looking worried and not actually doing anything. Or saying anything. Then George repeats himself and is told to ring back in six hours if something changes, and maybe get Paul to answer the phone this time. A great sense of passion and emergency has been established. A clue: no.

Quatermass shows off his brilliant proactive skill by sighing a lot and asking some female technician what she thinks. In a ridiculously overraught manner (in which she refuses to look anyone in the eye, probably because they'd corpse) she moans that if only the astronauts were in a plane crash then we'd KNOW they were dead. Yes, what a consolation that would be. Them slowly suffering decompression and ashyxiation in interplanetary space is just a demmed liberty! It then strikes Ham-Woman that since they don't know the astros are DEAD, they MIGHT be ALIVE. "Yes," mumbles Quatermass in his I-don't-give-a-shit manner, seemingly absorbed in the Times' crossword.

Realizing that she's pretty much been left holding the show, this appalling actress gives an incredibly stilted monologue about she doesn't know what's gone wrong, but she finds looking at the bizarre space-radar (resembling the time rotor from the Rani's TARDIS) kind of freaky since "those tiny marks on the plastic seemed so reassuring at the time". Oh, for Christ's sake, woman, get an acting class! If I heard shite like that on my radio, I'd switch off! Quatermass seems to agree that getting this talentless harpy to the emotive audience indentification figure was a bad move, but he still seems unable to show any emotion rather than irritated boredom. Then HE does a monologue that reveals this truly stupid ground controller is actually married to the head astronaut! So not only have they got someone who admits she has no idea how to work the machinery, she's emotionally involved with one the guys whose lives hang in the balance?! Quatermass notes that he SHOULD have got rid of the woman but, er, it was just not gentlemanly. Plus she would have bitched at him. This place makes Torchwood Three look professional!

With our main actors unable to grasp the concept of acting, it's time for the Ministry to send an abusive phone call (I don't blame them - that my taxes provided a nuthouse like this to run the space program would make me to move to Russia). Taking the phone from some guy who will one day be incredibly old and appear in Black Orchid, Quatermass confirms for the third time in as many minutes that they can't contact the astronauts and no, he DOESN'T give a damn. The Man from the Ministry (whose 'phone acting' suggests he's either being electrocuted or suffering Parkinson's disease) is similarly bored out of his mind, but mindly apologetic that the total failure of the space program actually means some paperwork is going to have to be done. This guy's the worst actor I've seen so far in this, but at least he sound vaguely concerned by the plot while Quatermass tells him to damn it all and tell the public everything with the passion of tying his shoelaces.

"I've had enough of this crossexamination!" Quatermass adds, obviously sick and tired as I am of explaining that the bloody rocket ship's vanished. That's FIVE times now. Methinks the audience have grasped it by now - and the fact you really don't give two hoots about it. "What do you imagine my concern is?" he adds, noticeably NOT denying the fact he couldn't care less about the astronauts.

At this moment, George Harrison rings up and says that they've found that the rocket is now heading straight back to Earth but NOT responding to the remote control. Ham Lady moves a bit of blue tack around her model of the solar system to plot the location of the rocket according to George's numbers - blogger slams head against table repeatedly... couldn't she have worked it on a map or something slightly less stupid looking? - and everyone reads out phone numbers with ridiculous gravitas, like it actually MEANS anything. For the love of Led Zeppelin, if it's in the atmosphere, surely gravity will pull it back to Earth? Yet everyone acts like if they get one number wrong the rocket will fly off into outer space! This stupid technobabble wank would be a bit more forgivable if Quatermass didn't bluntly remind everyone how utterly screwed the astros are... to the wife of said astro... who is playing the crucial ground controller role. Quatermass, you are an idiot. Even back in 53 when no one knew ANYTHING about space travel, they knew that was a stupid thing to do. What next, you're gonna tell her to toughen herself up?

Anyway, Quatermass suddenly remembers he has a computer... well, a calculator... and discovers that the angle of the rocket shows it must be coming from a point beyond the moon, ergo it went off course three times the distance planned. (And, ergo, must be completely out of fuel by now). Contemporary knowledge aside, it beggars belief they didn't have some kind of way of monitoring beyond ringing the rocket up every five minutes and asking for longitude and latitude.

Suddenly everything goes black. For about thirty seconds. And then we're back in bloody ground control yet again where Quatermass is showing an EMOTION! He's rather chuffed with the notion of being the first man in space (yet surely the astros stayed inside the rocket with no space walks, so...) but he's soon back to his staggering lack of humanity as he and Ham Girl read more telephone numbers. Seven minutes of this. It turns out that Man from the Ministry has turned up and Quatermass starts to tell him to piss off but backs down and goes to meet him. A) Wuss! B) You're a bit busy, remember?

Quatermass meets MM and reveals that, actually, the rocket's reappeared again so the bollocking he was about to recieve is completely unnecessary. Wow, you could have rung ahead since you have such time on your hands, but no. Luckily, MM is a complete retard - despite having been seemingly involved in all phases of construction and design, he STILL doesn't understand the concept of "separation" and needs it explained with an oh-so-convenient model. He also needs the entire PURPOSE of the mission explained and what they were intending to do. OK, I get that the audience might be so brain dead and tuning in late to require such an explanation, but why not do the explaining to character that NEEDS it explained? Was the idea of 'TV news reporting exposition bypass' - done so well in Ambassadors of Death - so amazing a concept back then? Or did Orson Welles scare the hell out of you people too badly?

MM can however see a slight flaw in the plan, which involves leaving a huge atomic bomb ticking dangerously in low orbit. The sort of flaw you would have thought Quatermass should have noticed. I mean, even if it DOESN'T lose orbit, crash and blow up the Earth... it's going to be hanging in the way of the next space mission! Quatermass uses his cunning evasion strategies to point out that the total loss of control with the rocket and allowing it to warp the laws of time and space and slingshot halway to Mars and back within half an hour is probably down to a "valve" going wrong, but he doesn't know for sure and also - brace yourself - doesn't care. And he doesn't let MM get a word in edgeways when he sensibly points out these flaws. Quatermass then goes on to explain that as the rocket is in an elipse it will keep looping around the Earth, before noting that it will only do this once. And, to be honest, they aren't actually sure if what they're tracking is the rocket. Er... what? Is he deliberately being stupid to annoy MM?

Yet there is much more telephone numbers to read as Quatermass runs back in, grabs a microphone and shouts, "DO YOU READ ME?!" waits five seconds of silence and then adds, "IT MAY MEAN NOTHING!" Give me strength, please. He then tunes his calculator which, I dunno, restores remote control or something. Cut to the chase: more phone numbers, separation achieved, wierd close ups of blurry things for no apparent reaons, everything goes black for another twenty seconds, the brakes fail, Quatermass gets disturbingly close to a male technician as he fondles the controls, the rocket crashes in Croydon. All of screen of course.

We then cut to a very pathetic set of a cross-sectioned ruined house which is clearly on a stage with a little old lady on the top floor being able to peer down to the floor below as dogs bark and babies cry. The space rocket sits in the front garden, with absolutely no debris around it. "What is it? What is it?" croaks the old lady as some pigbin josh yokels wanders into the garden and stares at the rocket. "Ooh, the roarin flames! It fell oot of the sky! Aw ma gawd, it's somthun dredful!" as they wonder at the fate of the old woman who is, of course, right behind them but is assumed to be dead. "Ere, what do you think of dis?" they ask a Bobbie who emerges from the ruined house (WTF was he doing in there?). "It's one of dem fings, dey've finally dropped one, it's gunnar go off!" so the Bobbie shouts to the camera for the neighbors to "get some clothes and run away". While the hysterical housewife turns her back on her husband and policeman rescuing the old lady and starts shouting at camera, "Len! Len! She moost be dead, Len, she moost be! Oh, it's gunna go off!"

...

I'd just like at this point to remind us all of Trevor Ray. WHO you ask? Just one of Doctor Who's less remembered script editors and architect of Season 7 which, as we all know, tried to be all Quatermass-y. Ray notes that the reason for this were sound: Quatermass was phenomenonally successful, even more popular than Doctor Who is today. Therefore, copying it could only be a good thing. But then Ray sat down and actually saw this episode and his reaction was similar to Richard Richard drinking pernod: "THIS IS SHIT!!!"

He was referring of course to this scene. Yet there are nutters in this world who actually think that British sci-fi doesn't get any better than this. And despairingly some of them write for Doctor Who.

So, as we deal with the fact that not only are the populace of Croydon so thick as pig shit they don't even know about the first manned space flight (which would surely be noticed... a bit like the coronation...), they are so subnormal they assume atom bombs don't go off on impact and and unable to notice people right in front of them. No wonder the TARDIS refuses to visit this place. Now let's spend five minutes rescuing old lady and some tape recordings of cats meowing. "I better report this," the Bobbie says at last.

...



Meanwhile, MM is showing off his staggering lack of talent as he reveals that Britain forgot to tell anyone that they were actually firing off space rockets and that no one in England noticed it smash into Wimbledon Common. Either Mr. Kneale is criminally stupid, or harbors a pathological hatred of his fellow Englishmen's niavete and gormlessness. As further evidenced by Quatermass telling the fire brigade not to pour cold water on a red hot metal capsule - what did the firemen THINK would happen?!

Having established what has happened and there were no casualties or injuries (how convenient) we cut to an old, half-deaf geriatric on the newsdesk who relays THE EXACT SAME INFORMATION as he, for some reason, cuts the head off a rose. Just then, the piggy features of the Marshall of Solos, the Squire of Cornwall and the Chief Inspector of the Police State walks in with an identical rose in his button hole. Worst blind date ever. Turns out the Marshall is actually the star reporter of the newspaper and assumes this is another crappy rainy day article until the magic words "flying saucers" are mentioned. Showing an amazing talent compared to... well... absolutely everyone else in the show, he decides to investigate a crashed alien spacecraft rather than a flower show. At last, someone who reacts like a normal human being!

To remind us of the standard of acting, we cut to the sulking Bobbie and Fireman who talk like gumbies on ritalin and miserably complain that, er, they haven't been allowed to blow themselves up yet. I share your regret, gentlemen. The duo fight off an invisible rabble of reporters, sightseers and locals... fuck me, this is so cheap... as said brain donor locals exclusively reveal that the earth shook and there was a blinding flash as it arrived. For Christ's sake, ANYONE could tell you that! I'm amazed the journos haven't started making stuff up already, it'd be a darn sight more interesting than anything the Croydonians have to say!

Finally the Bomb Disposal Squad arrive in the form of Quatermas, MM and Ham Lady. Who act like they've been unable to see the rocket sticking out of the street until right this second. By god this is ineffable shite. If you're only able to do a stage play, do a proper one! "It looks exactly the same. Except a little darker in colour," it is noted. So it does NOT look exactly the same then?

Meanwhile, it seems that the BRG was trying to remain totally in secret, so all the journos have to piece together the plot by noticing that the eminent scientists are trying to use a "walkie talkie" (that's actually not a walkie talkie) to contact someone inside the space craft. Of course, the Marshall has brain cells and is able to deduce that the head of the BRG being next to a big silver rocket might be relevant. Realizing he faces an intellect far bigger than his own, Quatermass folds like a house of cards and breaks every official secret, telling the Marshall EVERYTHING. Is it a sign of Quatermass' personal distaste of red tape? Or that the author is an overrated moron and the character played by someone who makes Carrie Dobro look considered and animated?

Ham Lady decides to press her head against the red hot metal hull and claims she can hear tapping. Um, shouldn't your head be on fire? The lovely smell of cooking ham? And, given that the rocket's communications system failed in orbit, why does Quatermass assume it will work now, after it's crashed upside down into Hicksville?

Wait! What's this?! It looks like Peter Cushing, a clock and a few microphones! Why, it's the BBC news summary to tell us all YET AGAIN what's been happening. It makes the last twenty-two-and-a-half minutes an even BIGGER waste of time than they already were! I should have started here, with some decent exposition. Oh and the BRG have decided to spill the beans because all the pigshit locals are telling everyone world war three has started and the incredibly ineffective cordon around the ship STILL allows placard-wearing nutters saying 'JUDGMENT IS NIGH!' to walk up to the still-red-hot rocket. FOR FUCK'S SAKE! And, btw, why is everyone so old in this? I don't see ANYONE under 40 in this show, which means all the emergency services are all decrepit old men and, importantly, incredibly bad actors! GOD DAMN!

Yoof Agenda? Bring it on, Moffat, I know how bad the alternative can be.

Helping show off how ball-bogglingly cheap and stupid this production is, radio reporters are wandering around INSIDE THE CORDON describing huge jubilant crowds of onlookers we can't see. How brain damaged were people to enjoy this? I mean, you can't afford a crowd? Fine. Just have Quatermass and everyone indoors listening to it on the radio. I know you should show, not tell, but it's better to just tell than try to do both... Oh great, the Croydonians are back and telling their stories ALL OVER AGAIN. Except now the wife is screaming for a medal on the grounds her husband wasn't stupid enough to think it was an atomic bomb and run away screaming. I fucking hate you, housewife. And now some drunk fucker with a football rattle is attacking the "walkie talkie" operator screaming "WE'RE MAKING HISTORY!"

What kind of idiots are police? What part of 'keep them out' don't you get? Again, if for some reason there was only a skeleton force of policemen for some reason, this could be made sense of, but apparently the entire metropoliton force is out here and being more ineffectual than Chris Lilley full stop! Quatermass is of course showing the press his amazing inability to show any kind of concern for anything to occur, noting that "we've surprised a few people" after his atomic rocket smashed half of Wimbledon Common to pieces. So shit, Bernard. Ham Lady (still NOT on fire for some reason) also decides to forget her inarticulate fear for her husband's safety and blab it all to the press. To the credit of all concerned, the heavy-handed "I told my husband to bring me back a present from outer space" ominous foreshadowing is lost amidst all the irritating time-wasting padding. Is it meant to make us sympathize as we impatiently wait for the astros to get loose? As the Marshall notes, "The longer you wait, the more exciting it gets."

I just want this to END. Is that a success, Mr Kneale?

Well, the shuttle's finally cooled down and the Marshall is having great fun sledging Quatermass, reminding him of all the attention they're getting (simultaneously describing the silent mob watching them from off-screen). The shuttle then opens up in the most ridiculous manner possible, obviously designed by people who've seen flying saucer flicks but do not grasp the concept of an "airlock" as Victor Carroon emerges in a space suit remembling the bastard offspring of Sutekh the Destroyer and a deep sea diving outfit. My god, no thought at ALL went into that! It has huge gaps and is clearly loose! DID ANYONE GIVE THIS ANY THOUGHT AT ALL?!

Oh, fancy that, the first astro out is the only one who's wife just happens to be on the scene. There's lucky. And it turns out he's also the only astronaut who hasn't mysteriously vanished from the space craft. It has to be said the scene of Quatermass and dude from Black Orchid finding the empty spacesuits is kind of creepy, but the latest Jonathon Creek episode tackled a similar premise far more terrifyingly. Indeed, when the duo open a hatch in the floor, peer through and react with horror my first reaction was to assume the astros had hidden inside and were in the middle of hot gay sex. "HOW COULD THEY?!" wails the dude who isn't Quatermass. Well, forgive me if it's a more sensible scenario than just about everything else in this bit of televisual history.

Quatermass violently assualts the dazed Caroon and demands to know what the fuck is going on, and unsurprisingly Carron passes out. The end. No "to be continued" here, and anyone who missed the opening seconds would assume it was a one-off. And an incredibly crap one off as well. The credits roll, with the hilarious reveal that the Marshall's character was named "James Fullalove". Oh, I bet he WAS, sweetheart.

OK, I looked at this as objectively as I can.

It's rubbish. And I'm not talking about the pointless fades to black, the long pauses before being start speaking, the complete brain-damaged science or the logic of creating a huge set of a ruined house and then filming in one tiny corner of it. The dialogue is ridiculously expositional, often occuring in huge monologues. OK, TV was new, doesn't mean they hadn't discovered the ability to be funny or entertaining. The acting is uniformly atrocious and not even Victor Caroon can convincingly pass out. Only Paul Whinston-Jones as Fullalove seems to give a damn and the high and mighty Quatermass has absolutely no personality of any kind at all. He gets irritated when people want to distract him. He has nothing else.

I refuse to believe anyone was terrified by this episode at least. There is nothing even ATTEMPTING to be scary until three second panning shots of empty stupid space suits. Were people somehow impressed at the idea that space ships could crash into suburbia? I doubt it, as even the Croydonians aren't impressed, assuming it's just the blitz restarting. The characters are one-dimensional rubbish and you'd have thought that a wife frantic about the safety of her husband would be a safe bet, but she seems to be on prozac, acting as if it's nothing more serious than his train being delayed. The logic of the plot is totally retarded, with the BRG being a complete waste of time - it could have been an alien spaceship for all their insider knowledge matters. True, the cliffhanger might have shocked people and wanted them to see next week, but there's never so much as a hint the mystery might be resolved. Quatermass doesn't care why the ship went out of control, what happened to it when it vanished or why it's back. Indeed, I bet had the other two been lying there dead, he wouldn't have reacted at all. No one at any point notes the mysteries as anything worth discussing, and the prestige of being the first man in space is considered as important as BeeKeeper of the Year.

Realism? Fail. Excitement? Fail. Likeable characters? Fail. Intriguing plotline? Mmm, two people we never see turn out not to be there. Um, I'm going with "fail". Film this today with the cream of the acting talent and the writing would still be atrocious (even though the 2005 Quatermass did a heavy rewrite and cut all the padding). Yeah, Kneale may have done this before Ambassadors of Death, Invasion of the Moon-Creatures or The Astronaut's Wife.

Doesn't mean he did it well, though.

POST SCRIPT

I have now seen the first twenty-five minutes of the American movie adaptation, The Quatermass Xperiment (sic) made some two years later. A vast improvement, unsurprisingly. Not only does the budget allow for crowds and emergency services the script demands, the movie's ability to tell things visually speeds up the narrative - you don't need fifteen minutes of two old farts babbling about finger prints when you can see said prints no longer come from a human being. Apart from a few poetic moments (like remarking that as no one knows how far the rocket has been, there can never be a word to describe the distance it has traveled... bar "shitloads" anyway).

The movie also gives the script a right royal bollocking in almost every department. No brain dead Croydonians here, and bar the rocket conveniently landing upside down in a wide empty field where it will be easily accessible and do the least amount of damage, is stupidity free. The locals are shown to be intelligent, assuming it to be a meteor rather than the dem Germans at it again, and even the fire brigade seem intelligent. The scene where the senior chastises the junior for his paranoid belief that the rocket's a bomb that needs watering is in another dimension to the TV version where it's clear anyone not a scientist is barely intelligent to keep breathing.

The major change is in the retarded origins of the BRG. Here it is revealed that maverick Quatermass decided his rocket was double-fisted enough and rather than wait for the ministry to give the go ahead launched it in secret without their say-so or even knowledge. Unfortunately, it went out of control and crashed in a meadow - not only has the British space program lost its desired secrecy, they all look like bloody idiots now. There. All my problems with the script solved. The lack of publicity, ignorance of the locals, the cack-handed way the authority handle it... it's all easily explained in a way you wonder while Kneale never bothered.

Quatermass of the movie is an improvement too. He's a jerk. Plain and simple. He's arrogant, impatient, irritable and struggling to achieve a Paul Darrow-esque level of deadpan disdain. He's the guy who acts like he doesn't CARE if everyone hates him, but deep down would really prefer it if people liked it. Despite a slightly robotic delivery at first, this guy has some subtle touches - like his hands shaking with nerves while he verbally fights his corner, or smiling pleasantly whenever he's genuinely insulting someone. Even his sexist attitude is given a bit of depth: if he didn't dismiss Caroon's misses as always, she'd twig how serious things were. He's actually trying to protect her feelings! He's also got a lot of brain cells his TV self lacks. He works out lots of stuff the TV version needed to have explained to him very slowly, and even puts together theories faster than the Brigadier-esque police chief Lomax who replaces Fullalove in this version. He's reckless, unpleasant, and has a deep rooted fear of the unknown - a world away from the wooden cut out that was wasting time on TV. The big difference can be summed up in the scene where, upon realizing the other astros have vanished Quatermass grabs Caroon and demands answers; on TV, Caroon collapses and the question is unanswered, in the film Quatermass is dragged off and shouted at for his ruthlessness.

I'm highly impressed with the film so far, as it seems a lot closer to the demented status of demigoggery that the TV series is supposed to have earned.

21 comments:

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Accompanied by that Mars, God of War music that worked SO much better in The Leisure Hive (this version stops being recognizable and turns into a broken ringtone tune),

I think I read that the original transmission version of The Quatermass Experiment no longer exists (or a proper print wasn't made..), that the only copy left is a video one made from filming a monitor showing it live... so a lack of quality in picture and sound would be fully excusable..

Ahem, that's why they sent up dogs and monkeys first, wasn't it?)... Don't they have satellites up there or something?
According to wiki, Quatermass was made in 1952. That predates most of the space-race - before this point Korolyov has been working alomst entirely on making intercontinental missiles for launching nuclear weaponry at Stalin's request and Von Braun isn't trusted and/or liked enough to be given any substantial money or tasks by the US government. I'm almost certain that this pre-dates Laike, and certainly pre-dates Sputnik and Yuri Gargarin, so I doubt that the ideas were part of the popular consciousness yet.

Pedantic defense over.

It then strikes Ham-Woman that since they don't know the astros are DEAD, they MIGHT be ALIVE. "Yes," mumbles Quatermass in his I-don't-give-a-shit manner, seemingly absorbed in the Times' crossword.

Lol.

Taking the phone from some guy who will one day be incredibly old and appear in Black Orchid,

Another lol.

All the obscure British actors I know from these sci-fi shows can be a bit of a pain. When I saw the opening credits for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes episode 'The Norwich Builder' I recognised the name 'Jonathan Adams'. But I had no idea from where. Was racking my brains for basically all of the first 20 minutes until I realised - it was the boss from Star Cops!

Cue blank looks from the rest of my family.


Yet everyone acts like if they get one number wrong the rocket will fly off into outer space!

If it's in orbit, that could happen. It's fairly well known that if an object hitting the atmosphere is at too steep an angle that the friction of the atmosphere due to the different velocities of atmosphere and object will cause it to violently burn up - it's less known that if the angle is too shallow a rocket can actually bounce off the atmosphere into space. What's more the exact angle is different for every planet. Fortunately Isaac Newton worked out the formula hundreds of years ago, so we've had plenty of time to work it out.

That said, sounds like the rocket isn't in orbit from your spiel, so never mind all that.

Contemporary knowledge aside, it beggars belief they didn't have some kind of way of monitoring beyond ringing the rocket up every five minutes and asking for longitude and latitude.

Erm, yeah. This... is sounding a bit bad.

And then we're back in bloody ground control yet again

Doesn't the entire thing take place in one set? I was a live drama, after all..

We then cut to a very pathetic set of a cross-sectioned ruined house

Ah, there you go. Shows me..

So, as we deal with the fact that not only are the populace of Croydon

Hang on... isn't Croydon meant to be a fairly well-off Southern town? Not particularly yokel-prone... I mean I only really know it as Sarah-Jane and Captain Darling's home town..

Ah, well, it's outside London so I guess it fits the bill.

Meanwhile, MM is showing off his staggering lack of talent as he reveals that Britain forgot to tell anyone that they were actually firing off space rockets and that no one in England noticed it smash into Wimbledon Common.

Jesus Christ. Did he write this on the fly? Or was it a round-robin thing...

As further evidenced by Quatermass telling the fire brigade not to pour cold water on a red hot metal capsule - what did the firemen THINK would happen?!

"Arr, wall we thunk thart if we was ter gow an' put summat cold awn it, it wuld go all cold, see? Aye, ahhh, oi com from outsoide tha city oi do..."

Of course, the Marshall has brain cells and is able to deduce that the head of the BRG being next to a big silver rocket might be relevant. Realizing he faces an intellect far bigger than his own, Quatermass folds like a house of cards and breaks every official secret, telling the Marshall EVERYTHING.

LMAO.

And now some drunk fucker with a football rattle is attacking the "walkie talkie" operator screaming "WE'RE MAKING HISTORY!"

This bit, at least, sounds brilliant.

Quatermass violently assualts the dazed Caroon and demands to know what the fuck is going on, and unsurprisingly Carron passes out. The end.

Hmm. Not much you can say about that.

Invasion of the Moon-Creatures

Is that the Goodies one, lol?

It does sound quite rubbish. But my lone experience with Nigel Kneale in Sharpe's Gold hadn't led me to expect much else..

Youth of Australia said...

I think I read that the original transmission version of The Quatermass Experiment no longer exists (or a proper print wasn't made..), that the only copy left is a video one made from filming a monitor showing it live... so a lack of quality in picture and sound would be fully excusable..
Yes, that comes across in episode two where a guy walks into the room and either is shot by seventeen million Daleks or nuclear war breaks out.

Pedantic defense over.
Ah right. But still it seems odd that even the British would send men up into space without some kind of test animal before hand - it's made very clear Caroon ain't just the first bloke in space, he's the first living thing to leave Earth.

Cue blank looks from the rest of my family.
Full fist, it's HIM! The exact guy!

Doesn't the entire thing take place in one set? I was a live drama, after all..
Not that I know of. There was the live version with DT, but I'm pretty certain this version wasn't.

Hang on... isn't Croydon meant to be a fairly well-off Southern town? Not particularly yokel-prone...
Well, maybe North Croydon is full of rednecks. I dunno, which is Wibledon Common?

"Arr, wall we thunk thart if we was ter gow an' put summat cold awn it, it wuld go all cold, see? Aye, ahhh, oi com from outsoide tha city oi do..."
...eerily accurate there.

This bit, at least, sounds brilliant.
He does outstay his welcome as he goes around massaging people's backs and mumbling, "Oh, noes, youse is too modest, you British. Too modest. You built this, didn't cha?"

"Uh... no..."

"COURSE YOU DID! TOO MODEST! WE'RE MAKING HISTORY!"

*police drag him away*

Is that the Goodies one, lol?
Yeah. The one with the rabbits. But, honest to god, it is so much better. I mean it's brilliant already, but compared to this...

GRAEME: Come in Flopsy! Come in, Spiro! Speak to me!
BILL: Give it up, Graeme.
GRAEME: It was all working fine until we lost contact...
TIM: ...six months ago.
GRAEME: Hey, six months! They'll have reached the moon by now!

I mean, passion, drama, wit, respect for the audience's intelligence. You could learn summit from the likes of them, Kneale!

Cameron Mason said...

I think half the adoration comes from people who saw Quatermass and decided they could do something like that.

The worst telerecording problem occurs in Quatermass II, IIRC - a fly appears on the film recording for about five minutes.

Cameron

Youth of Australia said...

By the way, I've now seen the second episode and have to admit at some improvement. Maybe the first episode WAS written on the fly, as this is slightly better though people are more prone to monologuing than ever. Pretty good with Fullalove (I'm sorry, is he supposed to be a porn star or something) but not good for Ham Lady.

I am amazed at Quatermass' not only continuing to lack any kind of personality, but everyone going out of their way to show how bloody stupid the guy is.

Quatermass the genius -

- thinks smacking a dazed and exhausted man will get him to talk
- takes it entirely on trust the three astros got ON the rocket in the first place and never bothered to check
- kidnaps Caroon before the police can investigate him
- does a full investigation on Caroon but two coppers instantly spot a vital clue he never even checked for
- throw a nurse across the room when she disagrees with him
- doesn't think that anyone might recognize him after his picture is all over the newspaers across the entire country
- doesn't notice that the space suits haven't been taken apart (required if the wearer was to get out of them) and needs to have this pointed out to him
- cannot speak any language other than English

Everyone seems worried that Quatermass might be scared of something, but probably because this is the only emotion he's shown. When Ham Lady gives a very long and sub-spara speech that she was cheating on Caroon and intended to dump him after the test flight, and now feels responsible for the accident, Quatermass just wanders off, bored and mumbles that he's not the person to talk too.

No shit, watching this, you'd be convinced that Fullalove is the main character. He's smarter than everyone else, working out the truth quicker than those in the know.

Plotwise not much happens except the police (lead by a 80-year-old idiot who barely speaks coherently) point out that the astronauts vanished from inside their suits without the airlock ever being used. Assuming, I dunno, Caroon ate them, they take his finger prints but find said prints have changed and look a bit like another guy's. Meanwhile, Caroon's freezing cold, his skeleton has changed and he can now speak fluent German and knows stuff he shouldn't possibly know while remaining feverish.

Oh, and it turns out the rocket is full of alien asbestos and Doctor Bellfriar from Blake's 7 turns up, outacts Quatermass, decides he likes it and goes OTT screaming "WHAT HAPPENED IN HERE?!"

I tell you, one fundamental difference between this and Doctor Who - in Doctor Who, someone would answer the question. Or make a suggestion. Seriously, no one really seems interested in making suggestions. The guys are missing. This is bad. The end OF PART TWO!

I think half the adoration comes from people who saw Quatermass and decided they could do something like that.
Maybe. I would have hoped they could do better than a zombified git in a white coat wondering around refusing to be interested while a fat journo talks about much more exciting stuff.

The worst telerecording problem occurs in Quatermass II, IIRC - a fly appears on the film recording for about five minutes.
That seems to happen in episode two. I thought there was a bug on my screen.

Unfortunately I can't find any more eps of TQE, so I'm gonna try and catch a copy of the film.

Can I just make my prayer here that when they DO adapt Nightshade they remove all the Quatermass bollocks like they did with Idiot's Lantern ("Ooh, Doctor, they clench their hands just like Quatermass!" "Ooh, I know the way to Westminster Abbey, I saw Quatermass!" "Ooh, just like Quatermass!" SHUT THE FUCK UP, BISHOP!)...

Cameron Mason said...

That seems to happen in episode two. I thought there was a bug on my screen.

Apparently that was why they never telerecorded the other episodes, even though it had apparently been pre-sold to Canada...

Unfortunately I can't find any more eps of TQE, so I'm gonna try and catch a copy of the film.

They didn't telerecord the final four episodes.

Cameron

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Yes, that comes across in episode two where a guy walks into the room and either is shot by seventeen million Daleks or nuclear war breaks out.

Ah, the wonders of the steam age!

Ah right. But still it seems odd that even the British would send men up into space without some kind of test animal before hand - it's made very clear Caroon ain't just the first bloke in space, he's the first living thing to leave Earth.

Yes. You have to admit it doesn't make half a bugger of sense - test animals are used for EVERYTHING in science. Also, if they have no idea what's going to happen to the bloke, why send three?

Full fist, it's HIM! The exact guy!

..pardon? Do you actually know what I'm going on about?

Not that I know of. There was the live version with DT, but I'm pretty certain this version wasn't.

Okay... I could have sworn the novelty was that it was performed live. I guess it was just the remake that needed the novelty...

He does outstay his welcome as he goes around massaging people's backs and mumbling, "Oh, noes, youse is too modest, you British. Too modest. You built this, didn't cha?"

Actually, this is just making me like him more.

I mean, passion, drama, wit, respect for the audience's intelligence. You could learn summit from the likes of them, Kneale!

The Goodies for the most part, are brilliantly written, that's for sure. And at one stage they did 26 episodes in a year!

Cameron Mason said...

The original Quatermass did go out live, IIRC I think they event did the repeat live as well...

Cameron

Youth of Australia said...

Goddamn blogger.

1) I meant Nathan's boss in Star Cops is the guy in Quatermass and simultaneously Black Orchid.

2) Bugger, they lost all the decent episodes with rampaging Krynoid monsters in it.

Cameron Mason said...


2) Bugger, they lost all the decent episodes with rampaging Krynoid monsters in it.


The BBC Visual Effects department refused to build it, as their equipment consisted of some model trees and a bottle of washing up liquid - Kneale built and operated it himself as a hand puppet for the final episode.

Cameron

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

1) I meant Nathan's boss in Star Cops is the guy in Quatermass and simultaneously Black Orchid.

...holy shit, my mind has been blown. Is that not the weirdest coincidence.... well, in this thread at least.

I like that guy, though, he's good. Goes from Russian to Yorkshire with no trouble at all.

The BBC Visual Effects department refused to build it, as their equipment consisted of some model trees and a bottle of washing up liquid - Kneale built and operated it himself as a hand puppet for the final episode.

... *SNORT!*

Cameron Mason said...

No joke, but the BBC Visual Effects department nearly got itself shut down a few times in the 50s when they were testing some of their self built equipment, such as smoke and foam machines, and the results went too well and blanketed an exec meeting...

Cameron

Youth of Australia said...

Like that Goodies episode about advertising where foam fills up the TV?

I KNEW it was more a documentary than a parody...

Cameron Mason said...

You could do a TV docudrama about the early days of the BBC Visual Effects department.

Cameron

Youth of Australia said...

Nigel Kneale. Author. Playright. Social commentator. Unbelievably good props man...

Miles Reid said...

As much as I like Quatermass and the Pit, I do agree that NK is a little overrated. The Stone Tape is totally unscary (watch the japanese film 'RING' for scary shit on a VHS tape) and Year of the Sex Olympics... what little I could understand from the non-sensical future dialogue is just kinda dull... and needed more sex, if we'd seen the actual Sex Olympics, BEST TV SHOW EVER! That DVD needed subtitles, the sound quality is so bad, it really is hard to follow.

I think the reason a lot of British SF authors seem to lick Nigel Kneales black hole is simply because he was the first proper author of SF TV in the UK and anglo-philia seems to take place and elevated him to Godhood. If you want creepy, intelligent UK science-fiction, go and listen to the Journey into Space radio serials by Charles Chilton, especially 'The Red Planet'.

Alternatively, if you want clever Science Fiction B&W TV which ISN'T Quatermass or penned by Nigel 'I hate anyone younger than 30' Kneale, watch the original 'Twilight Zone' or the original 'Outer Limits' because I'm sorry England... you may be the country I love and you did give me Doctor Who... but Twilight Zone and Outer Limits is pure WIN.

Youth of Australia said...

As much as I like Quatermass and the Pit, I do agree that NK is a little overrated.
I ain't seen QATP but I've probably been put off by

a) I don't know which Quatermass stories exist
b) The fact the cool grasshopper Martians are actually dead and don't do much
c) a certain AS thinks it proves the Fendahl exists

The Stone Tape is totally unscary (watch the japanese film 'RING' for scary shit on a VHS tape)
I got freaked out when it was in Scary Movie 2...

and Year of the Sex Olympics... what little I could understand from the non-sensical future dialogue is just kinda dull... and needed more sex, if we'd seen the actual Sex Olympics, BEST TV SHOW EVER!
It sounds like it should be the title for the Drawn Together feature film...

I think the reason a lot of British SF authors seem to lick Nigel Kneales black hole is simply because he was the first proper author of SF TV in the UK
Wow. The others must have been REALLY bad. I mean, even getting rid of this awful, truly awful TV production, the script isn't up to much either. He can't do drama, characters, logic or scares from what I've seen of this story.

and anglo-philia seems to take place and elevated him to Godhood.
Well, he's apparently a mighty fine prop man...

Miles Reid said...

Well, WAS there any Science Fiction TV in the UK before Quatermass? I don't actually know.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Here it is revealed that maverick Quatermass decided his rocket was double-fisted enough and rather than wait for the ministry to give the go ahead launched it in secret without their say-so or even knowledge. Unfortunately, it went out of control and crashed in a meadow - not only has the British space program lost its desired secrecy, they all look like bloody idiots now. There. All my problems with the script solved.

The great thing is - it's plausbile. Wehrner von Braun got pissed off with the U.S government never giving him a go-ahead for any larger scale launch - knowing that the Russians were planning something big. In his bitterness he began overstating the equipment he'd need for his experiments, embezzling money and sequestering further supplies through very dubious means along with working on highly advanced plans. So when the Yanks came to him, furious that the Russians had got Sputnik past him, he calmly told them that he would be able to have an American satellite in orbit within the week. If von Braun got pushed any further, I wouldn't have been amazed if he launched a satellite without any authority.

Youth of Australia said...

Heh. Mind you, the ending of the film is rather worrying. After killing Caroon the Krynoid, Quatermass suddenly goes catatonic and runs off into the night - before revealing he's going to start his space flight project ALL OVER AGAIN.

Even though there are weird vampire parasite things in orbit and he has footage showing them chowing down on three astronauts. And even though he knows these things could wipe out all life if they get a host body that can survive in Earth's atmosphere. And even if they had a half decent quarantine proceedures, he's condemning another three astronauts to CERTAIN death.

What an asshole.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Hmm... so THAT'S the difference between him and Von Braun..

What the fuck did Quatermass do to warrant getting a franchise named in his honour? Aside from having a weird-arse named that Kneale found in the phonebook..

Youth of Australia said...

I dunno. The BBC were desperate since TQE achieved unheard of popularity - infamously politicians went home early so they could see it. Imagine that now: "Honorable speaker, I appreciate the bushfires in Victoria were devastating, but for fuck's sake, Underbelly 2 starts in an hour!!"

It certainly wasn't the charisma of the leading man - he died before they started the second one.