Quatermass (1953 franchise)

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Still from Quatermass and the Pit (1967 film)

The 1953 Quatermass film and serial franchise includes:

  • The Quatermass Xperiment (AKA The Quatermass Experiment), (1955 film), (1953 serial)
  • Quatermass II (AKA "The Enemy from Space") (1957 film), (1955 serial)
  • X the Unknown (1956 film)
  • Quatermass and the Pit (AKA Five Million Years to Earth), (1967 film), (1958 serial)
  • Quatermass (AKA Quatermass IV or The Quatermass Conclusion) (1979 serial)
  • The Quatermass Memoirs (1996 radio)
  • The Quatermass Experiment (2005 serial reboot)


Summary

Professor Bernard Quatermass is a fictional scientist from the British Experimental Rocket Group (both creations of the writer Nigel Kneale), who appeared in several British dramatized Science Fiction/Horror productions. An intelligent and highly moral British scientist, Quatermass is a pioneer of the British space programme, heading the British Experimental Rocket Group. He continually finds himself confronting sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity.

Details

  • Release Date: 1953-present
  • Country/Language: UK, English
  • Genres/Technical: Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Black and White
  • Starring: Reginald Tate, John Robinson, André Morell, John Mills (television); Brian Donlevy (films); Andrew Keir (film and radio); Jason Flemyng (2005 TV remake); et.al.
  • Director: Nigel Kneale, Val Guest, Roy Ward Baker, et.al.
  • Writer: Nigel Kneale
  • Producer/Production Co: BBC, Hammer Films

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: PG (Violence, and some scary monsters)

Though not targeted at children, the Quatermass films and serials are roughly comparable to darker Doctor Who stories in tone, theme, and content, and could be considered generally "kid-friendly", with a little adult supervision for the (mild and typically off-screen) violence and horror.

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • SSs__ (Two and a Half Tentacles: non-Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror)

The (typically excellent) Quatermass series does not directly reference Lovecraft or his creations, instead using Nigel Kneale's own unique and very imaginative brand of cosmic horror and weird fiction, featuring ancient astronauts, amorphous alien horrors, undead psychic Martian cultists, alien ghosts and hobgoblins, and more.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • (needs reviews!)
  • Ywhateley: The (typically excellent) Quatermass series does not directly reference Lovecraft or his creations, instead using Nigel Kneale's own unique and very imaginative brand of cosmic horror and weird fiction, featuring ancient astronauts, amorphous alien horrors, undead psychic Martian cultists, alien ghosts and hobgoblins, and more. The Quatermass films and serials are roughly comparable to darker Doctor Who stories in tone, theme, and content, and could be considered generally kid-friendly, with a little adult supervision for the (mild and typically off-screen) violence and horror. I always highly recommend the Quatermass franchise to fans of Lovecraft's weird fiction, and to fans of Doctor Who and other British Sci-Fi/Horror/Fantasy.

Synopsis

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT: Three astronauts are launched into space aboard a rocket designed by Professor Quatermass, but the spacecraft returns to earth with only one occupant: something has infected him during the spaceflight, and he begins mutating into an alien organism which, if it spores, will engulf the Earth and destroy humanity. When the creature escapes from custody, Quatermass and Scotland Yard's Inspector Lomax have just hours to track it down and prevent a catastrophe.

QUATERMASS II: The story concerns Quatermass's investigation of reports of hundreds of meteorites landing only in the Winnerden Flats area of the UK. His inquiries lead him to a huge industrial complex, strikingly similar to his own plans for a Moon colony. This top-secret facility is in fact the centre of a conspiracy involving the alien infiltration of the highest echelons of the British Government. Quatermass and his allies must now do whatever is necessary to defeat the alien threat before it is too late.

X THE UNKNOWN: A group of soldiers taking turns using a Geiger counter to find a small and harmless hidden source of radioactivity in a wide pit area accidentally find another mysterious source of radiation where ground water starts to boil. As the other soldiers begin to run, there is an explosion; the soldier closest to the explosion dies of radiation burns while another soldier has bad radiation burns to his back, while at the site of the explosion, there is a Y-shaped crack in the ground with no apparent bottom. Dr. Royston, from a nearby Atomic Energy Laboratory at Lochmouth, is called in to investigate, along with Mr. "Mac" McGill, who runs security at the UK Atomic Energy Commission. Originally intended as a sequel to the Quatermass films, names were changed when Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale refused to approve of the sequel.

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT: The plot centres on the discovery of a mysterious object buried at the site of an extension to the London Underground. Also uncovered nearby are the remains of early human ancestors more than five million years old. Realising that the object is in fact an ancient Martian spacecraft, Quatermass deduces that the aliens have influenced human evolution and the development of human intelligence. The spacecraft has an intelligence of its own, and once uncovered begins to exert a malign influence, resurrecting Martian memories and instincts buried deep within the human psyche.

QUATERMASS: The fourth Quatermass serial 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. The series begins with Professor Quatermass arriving in London to look for his granddaughter, and witnessing the destruction of two spacecraft and the disappearance of a group of Planet People at a stone circle by an unknown force. He investigates this force, believing that his granddaughter may be in danger. As the series progresses, it becomes apparent that the Planet People are being harvested rather than transported.


Comments, Trivia, Dedication

Associated Mythos Elements

The Quatermass serials might be connected to Cthulhu-themed RPGs through:

Keeper Notes

The Quatermass series should be a fantastic source of non-Lovecraftian weird fiction for keepers to borrow plots, creatures, and other ideas from. Some of the creatures have some superficial or thematic similarities to Lovecraft's creations, but are quite different in many ways, providing some interesting variations for monsters which might otherwise get stale and predictable.

The "twenty minutes into the future" setting centering on investigators from the British government cooperating with the British Experimental Rocket Group might make an interesting alternative to the stock Cthulhu Icarus or Delta Green settings.