Quatermass (1979) (Blu-ray TV series review).

‘Quatermass’ originally came to TV screens in the early 1950s and this, the fourth and final series, was created by Thames Television and written by Nigel Kneale. Made in 1979, it stars John Mill, who by this time was in his 70s. A veteran of countless movies and TV appearances, he needs no introduction. As Professor Quatermass, the former head of the British Rocket Group, he emerges from seclusion in Western Scotland to make a TV appearance to comment on a joint United States and Soviet Union space mission but finds that society has crumbled into near anarchy. Gangs fight in the streets, everything is in decay and limited security forces try their best to keep a lid on a bad situation, without much success it must be said.


Witnessing the rendezvous of the spacecraft, they see it dramatically destroyed by an unknown force with all the astronauts killed. Outside in the streets, Planet People, similar to hippies, go about in a trance waiting to be taken to another planet somewhere in the universe. They gather together, inexorably driven by what seems to be another intelligence from the cosmos. Quatermass is saved from near death by a former colleague, Joe Kapp (played by Simon McCorkindale) and taken to a place in the countryside where radio astronomers attempt to monitor signals connected to the mysterious force. He also joins in with Joe’s family, having a relatively pleasant time before the drama starts. This begins when the Planet People gather in their hundreds, heading towards a stone circle from megalithic times situated not far away in the countryside. They are shocked when at the pitch of their chanting frenzy, a bright beam from the sky comes down to turn them into dust leaving only a child who was lingering just outside the circle. All others had been disintegrated!

Matters only get worse. There are other gatherings and more annihilations, even a vast crowd at Wembley Stadium from which Quatermass only just escapes with his life. Even the gangs involved in warfare, joining with the planet people, throw their guns aside and head blindly to their doom, despite thinking they are going to paradise in the sky. For some reason, the people getting on in years are not affected and it’s mainly the younger generation who are caught up. Quatermass evolves the theory that this is caused by a weird cosmic intelligence or even a machine, farming the essence of human beings. How would he stop it before the Earth was doomed?

In four parts, it’s quite an extensive and absorbing drama which is compulsive viewing. Despite being made in the 70s, it is still very relevant today and, though it has a British signature, it doesn’t really matter what country you watch it from. The acting is good throughout, especially from John Mills, making this a worthwhile series to watch. The Blu-ray comes with two discs but the second disc which contains a theatrical version isn’t all that necessary. Only the purists would watch both.

In essence, the extra material on the Blu-ray discs is not much to shout about. There is the restoration but that’s what you would expect anyway and apart from that barring a few minor items, all you’ve got is an image gallery. There is, however, a booklet which is well worth having.

First appearing in the late 70s, you will see a lot of gadgetry from that time and the special effects are limited by today’s standards but, what the heck, good drama will stand alone without any of that sort of stuff. ‘Quatermass’ in its various forms produced epic TV and if you want to watch a damn good Science Fiction series, then watch this one. Definitely recommended.

Rod MacDonald

August 2015

(blu-ray region B: pub: Network. 2 blu-ray disks 200 minutes 4 * 50 minute episodes with extras. Price: £18.50 (UK). Catalogue Number : 7958026. DVD version: £13.00 (UK)

cast: John Mills, Simon McCorkindale, Barbara Kellermann, Ralph Arliss and Margaret Tyzack

check out website: http://networkonair.com/shop/2248-quatermass-blu-ray-pre-buy-5027626802646.html#sthash.X0dFiZci.dpuf

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