The Quatermass Experiment (TV Series 1953– ) Poster

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And you thought SCREAM was frightening?
uds319 November 2001
As a seven year old when I first saw this on television (not ours, because we didn't have one in 1953) it was simply the most terrifying and funk-inspiring piece of horror on offer. Many elder citizens complained to the BBC that they had no right showing such diabolically upsetting images during family viewing times (despite the fact NOT that great a percentage of families HAD television then.....and only 9 inch screens at that, for the most part)

It was the first of Nigel Kneale's FOUR Quatermass tales and for its time, was extremely frightening, even on a small screen. A rocket ship returns to earth and crashes. Two of the crew are killed and a third found in a totally disorientated state. He slowly metamorphosises into a most unpleasant alien being, half cactus - half God knows what. Although only having the benefits of prehistoric special effects available to them, the thing was just horrific and much of the scare-factor was lost in its translation to the big screen a few years later (THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT). Precisely the same outcome was evidenced in the movie adaptations of Quatermas II and Quatermass and the Pit (FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH)

Nigel Kneale's imagination and innovative writing places him right up there with Arthur C. Clarke. This show is a wonderful (and still deeply disturbing) memory. How many sci-fi flicks have since ripped off this man into monster concept? SPECIES 2 for example? (The less said about that turkey the better!)
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Important but more than that – engaging and entertaining (in the third of it that is left in the world)
bob the moo27 March 2012
I don't review shows without seeing them. I think there is a couple of examples where I have commented on a film or show where I have bailed out halfway through, but I cannot think of a time where I have reviewed a series where the majority of it no longer exists. Indeed as someone very much of today it is weird to sit in this world where everything can be bought (or not) online within seconds, but yet here is a well-regarded classic sci-fi where 4 of the 6 parts simply don't exist anywhere.

I came to the two remaining episodes with no experience of the original television show; I had seen the movie versions of Quatermass 2 and The Pit, but those are different beasts in a way and the 2005 version of this didn't inspire me. Luckily the kindness of a fellow IMDb user meant I got a lend of the 3 DVD set of this show – thanks Theo, I appreciated the gesture! Anyway, in terms of the show I must say that my lasting feeling is one of annoyance that the rest of the show is no longer available because I was really getting into it by the end of the second episode. To modern ears the show is very talky but yet it works because it is very well written – some of the dialogue is clunky but mostly it captures a sense of place and the urgency and mystery of what unfolds is all there. The direction seems very stagey to me (which of course it was) but they make the most of limited sets and of course viewing it in context of the time is important.

What I only realised during the second episode is that the damn thing was being broadcast live! This made it all the more impressive because there were hardly any flubbed lines or problems visible to me and everyone gave strong performances. Tate is a solid Quatermass, not overly emotional but still driven. The support cast around him are all nearly as good although the further one goes down the cast list the less they have to work with (hence you get a few clichés in there – particularly on the London streets in the first episode).

Overall though, this is a great little snippet of television, even if it is hard to judge since only a third of it exists now. Important in its time, it still stands up well because it tells (or starts to tell) an interesting story in a manner that engages and intrigues. I look forward to getting into the next two series so that I can get a full story told to me.
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You Have To Be Charitable
Theo Robertson9 May 2007
I gave my friend Ange a loan of my old VHS tape of QUATERMASS AND THE PIT and because her video recorder decided to chew up the tape Ange bought me the BBC DVD trilogy by way of compensation . I hadn't even known the trilogy had been released via the BBC and I'm not entirely sure if I'd have spent my own money buying it since I had the PIT on tape until I lent it to Ange , and I wasn't too keen on QUATERMASS 2 but it also meant I'd finally get to see the two surviving episodes of THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT and if I didn't like them it only meant that I'd wasted an hour of my life

Hmmm I wouldn't say that I wasted an hour of my life because I've always wanted to see this TV drama ever since I saw the Hammer adaptation in the late 1970s but I have no doubt that this is the weakest of the BBC Quatermass trilogy . Fair enough you might laugh at the space sequences of QUATERMASS 2 and grumble that it's painfully overambitious but the German expressionist sequences in episode five make it a truly memorable piece of television even when watching it today . Watching the first two episodes of TQE there's very little than can be described as memorable

Perhaps I'm not being very charitable because that's the frame of mind you have to watch this in , but even so you'll probably be left unimpressed . You have to remember that there was still within the British psyche ( It was obvious in 1953 that we'd lost the peace ) so unlike a female audience on its original broadcast you can't really empathise with Judith Caroon's fear that her husband might not be coming home since we tend to live long uninteresting lives in the 21st century . You may also forgive the long drawn out manner the story is told since it's broadcast live and since it's very much a mystery the contemporary audience must be given time to wonder why are two of the crewman missing and how is Victor Caroon able to suddenly speak German ? The unfortunate thing is anyone who bought the DVD knows why and where the story is heading so it's not a piece of television that would have stood up to repeated viewings even if the last four episodes had been recorded for posterity

There are some other problems for an audience who aren't overwhelmed by charity and that is the production values . After the final episode TQE was broadcast it was decided at the BBC to set up a special effects team . In other words there was no special effects team during any of the six episodes broadcast and it shows . Without knowing this you'll be scratching your head wondering that there's something missing . There might be something of a novelty watching a sci-fi drama with zero effects involved but you can't help thinking you're watching something that has the production values of the average school play . It should also be pointed out how painful it is listening to very middle class actors trying to speak in BBC " Working class " accents - Mockney doesn't even begin to describe them

Still you should never look a gift horse in the mouth and I did thoroughly enjoy seeing an unabridged copy of QUATERMASS AND THE PIT and QUATERMASS 2 , not to mention an informative documentary on the writer Nigel Kneale entitled THE KNEALE TAPES so thanks very much for my gift Ange
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THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT {Episodes 1 & 2; Incomplete} (Rudolph Cartier, 1953; TV) N/A
Bunuel197610 November 2006
I had "The Quatermass Collection" 3-Disc Set of the three BBC serials for quite some time but, being already familiar with their cinematic adaptations courtesy of Hammer Films, they weren't so much a priority. However, I decided to check them out now as a tribute to their creator - influential writer Nigel Kneale, who passed away only recently; with this in mind, I regret not picking up the fourth Quatermass serial (released as a 3-Disc SE and whose reduced 'film' version I had also missed on Cable TV a few years back!) and his THE YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS (1968), both of whose DVDs are virtually impossible to track down now - but will probably order yet another Kneale-penned TV program, BEASTS (1976), without waiting for it to be discounted so I won't risk losing it as well (and, in any case, there's no better time than the present to sample some more of this incredibly talented scribe's work)!!

There's not much one can say about the first Quatermass serial, given that four of the episodes are no longer extant!; the scripts are available as a DVD-ROM but, with all the films I watch and the little time I have after work, it's not easy to find a spot wherein to read them (in fact, I've never checked out any of the DVD-ROM stuff on the discs I own - and, among these, is the full-length script of another 'lost' Nigel Kneale piece, THE ROAD [1963], available on the BFI's R2 DVD of THE STONE TAPE [1972])! Anyway, from the first two episodes alone, I can understand the impact this serial must have had - right from the atmospheric credit sequence, accompanied by an appropriately ominous score; it's all the more impressive when one realizes that, at the time, such programs where filmed live!

The cast is largely unknown but clearly proficient (Reginald Tate makes a reasonably effective Professor Quatermass): interestingly, here Duncan Lamont plays Victor Caroon, the 'monster'; he would later appear in an important supporting role in the 1967 film version of "Quatermass And The Pit"! Even from these episodes, however, I can see that there's a bit of padding involved - so that the films undeniably benefited from being more compact, but they also lost some psychological depth in the process!

THE KNEALE TAPES (John Das, 2003; ***), the 40-minute documentary from the TV series "Time Shift", is featured as an extra on "The Quatermass Collection" 3-Disc Set. It's a pretty good overview of Nigel Kneale's career - though no mention is made of BEASTS or THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989), his adaptation for TV of the famous ghost story (which I saw as a stage play in London in 2002).

The program shows clips from several of Kneale's work - and I was especially glad to finally be able to watch samples from the notorious 1954 TV adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (which has been announced as upcoming on R2 DVD a number of times but is still M.I.A. for the moment), as well as THE YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS and QUATERMASS (1979), the fourth and final serial revolving around this leading figure in science-fiction lore. The interviewees include colleagues of Kneale's (including Christopher Morahan, director of THE ROAD) as well as younger admirers (such as noted film critic Kim Newman - who had moderated Kneale's Audio Commentary for the DVD of THE STONE TAPE - and the guys from "The League Of Gentlemen"), and they all show an obvious respect towards the man and his remarkably perceptive, indeed prophetic, legacy.

Other supplements on this set include: photo galleries for all three serials; the scripts of the 4 'lost' episodes of "The Quatermass Experiment" which, as mentioned earlier, are available as a DVD-ROM; excerpts from a conversation with Kneale and Rudolph Cartier (director of the three Quatermass serials) recorded in 1991; the title sequences of the two-part 'Omnibus' version of "Quatermass And The Pit" (1958-59) - shorn by about half-an-hour and whose previously-available DVD edition I had considered purchasing myself (without knowing it was edited!); and, as an Easter Egg, an amusing sample of an MST3K-style version of "Quatermass II" (1955)!

However, one of the most enjoyable extras (all found on the first disc of this set) is surely the 7-minute featurette, "Making Demons" - dealing with the special-effects work that the Quatermass serials involved, by the two men responsible; they talk about how these were devised while enthusiastically parading various still-extant cheapskate models and props, and they also touch upon their similar contribution to other seminal BBC productions (such as the afore-mentioned 1984 and the "Dr. Who" series).
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"What went on here? What did it do to them?"
ackstasis12 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
My experience with television sci-fi is limited to 'The Twilight Zone (1959-1965)," so I figured I might as well start at the beginning. The 1953 BBC serial "The Quatermass Experiment (1953)" was probably the first adult science-fiction TV series, and last night I watched the first two episodes. I must confess that I'm a little disheartened – not because they weren't enjoyable, but because the final four episodes are now considered lost (having been broadcast live). Audiences in 1953 need only have waited until the following Saturday to learn of the secrets harboured by returning astronaut Duncan Lamont (Victor Carroon), but I would never find out {admittedly, I did jump straight onto the internet to complete the story, but it's not the same}.

After Britain's first manned rocket returns to Earth with only one of its original crew, Dr. Quatermass (Reginald Tate) begins to wonder what happened up there. Curiously, it seems as though the surviving astronaut has taken on some of the physiological attributes of the missing crewmen. Though episode two finishes at this early stage, some online research revealed that the Lamont character eventually mutates into some sort of plant-like extraterrestrial organism, a prospect that would, I suspect, have astounded and fascinated me. The serial, which unfolds with minimal special effects, must surely have had a strong influence on everything from 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)' to 'Alien (1979).' At least the series was followed by "Quatermass II (1955)" and "Quatermass and the Pit (1958)," so all is not lost.
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Haunting Sci fi
rd08079524 July 2006
I was so impressed that this movie has stayed somewhere in the back of my mind for over 45 years. I was still at school and probably alone at home to be able/allowed to watch it. It took me quite some time to recover, even for a science fiction fan.

I have never seen it again, did not remember the title (for me it was just "the monster"), nor the actors, only that a spaceship came back with two of the crew dead, and the third one being contaminated by...what?

Since I recently discovered this great site, I decided to spend an hour trying to find it back, and I did. I have no idea how I would react seeing it again today but I would love to try. rd
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