It’s Hammer Time!: Quatermass II (1957)

Well, Hammer have taken me a little bit by surprise this week by uploading some more movies, so in a change of plans, here’s the wonderful Quatermass II for you to enjoy. The sequel to The Quatermass Experiment, it needs no introduction, but in case I’m wrong on that, not only can you read that previous entry where I do introduce it, Hammer historian Marcus Hearn will tell you more about it first when you click on ‘Play’.

Personally, I think it’s the better of the three Hammer Quatermass movies: Quatermass comes across as less of a dick, it’s got Sid James and William Franklyn in the cast, and it’s faster paced.

You don’t need to have seen the first to know whats’ going on so enjoy!

It's Hammer Time!

It’s Hammer Time!: Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1974)

Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter

Hammer is of course best known for its Dracula movies, starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as his nemesis, Van Helsing. Hammer milked these for all they were worth during the 60s, but come the 70s, it was getting harder and harder to squeeze new stories out of the old reliables. At the end, Hammer was resorting to the likes of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, which married Dracula and Van Helsing with kung fu movies:

So Hammer looked to other ways of expanding their vampire franchises. Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter was their most famous effort and most experimental. Written and directed by Avengers stalwart Brian Clemens (the movie was produced by Albert Fennell and the music written by Laurie Johnson, too), this subverted the traditional Hammer story away from the vampire towards the vampire hunter, Captain Kronos, a pot-smoking hedonist and swordfighter, who’s helped by a hunchback and gypsy woman in the movie.

As I said – experimental.

Unfortunately, patchy distribution meant that the intended sequels never emerged, but there have since been novelisations and even a comic picking up the Kronos story. And here it is in glorious HD for you. Enjoy!

It's Hammer Time!

It’s Hammer Time!: X The Unknown (1956)

Time to be frightened. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, Hammer Films had great success in 1955 with its adaptation of the BBC’s The Quatermass Experiment. Desperate for more X-rated Quatermass gold – and to tap into the success of US monster movies – Hammer turned to Quatermass’s creator Nigel Kneale and asked him nicely if they could use the character of Quatermass in another movie, albeit one he wouldn’t be writing. Whether he said it politely or not, Kneale gave a definite ‘No’ to that idea.

So Hammer instead went ahead with a movie that can only be described as “Quatermass with the serial numbers filed off”: X The Unknown. Incorporating elements of The Quatermass Experiment with (ironically) the still-just-a-glimmer-in-Nigel-Kneale’s-eye Quatermass and the Pit, this sees nuclear scientist Bernard Quatermass Dr Adam Royston (American actor Dean Jagger) and Inspector ‘Mac’ McGill (Leo McKern) investigating a mysterious source of radiation in the Lochmouth area of Scotland that killed a soldier. What is it that killed him and is currently killing others? Well, that’s ‘The Unknown’.

Featuring a cast of future stars, including Anthony Newley, Kenneth Cope, Edward Chapman, William Lucas and Frazer Hines, and television directors/producers (Peter Hammond and Ian MacNaughton), the movie was never never as popular as The Quatermass Xperiment but has proved influential enough that horror writer Shaun Hutson this year published a novel that updates it to the present day. Notably, the film was supposed to be directed by Joseph Losey, one of many Americans who had came to the UK to work after having been placed on the Hollywood blacklist of supposed Communist sympathisers. However, when Jagger arrived on set, he refused to work with Losey and Leslie Norman replaced the director.

Enjoy the film, which is preceded by an introduction from Hammer historian Marcus Hearn

Continue reading “It’s Hammer Time!: X The Unknown (1956)”

It's Hammer Time!

It’s Hammer Time!: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

Time to start a new mini-series: It’s Hammer Time!.

For decades, one of the biggest names in British movie production was Hammer. Famous for horror movies, particularly ones starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the studios were an integral part of British movie production and starting today, for a limited run, I’m going to be giving you a chance to watch a glorious smattering of them in HD.

We’re going to start with The Quatermass Xperiment, based on the famous BBC serial by Nigel Kneale of the (almost) same name and starring Brian Donlevy as the eponymous Quatermass. In it, the British Rocket Group sends an experimental rocket into space, but when it comes down again, all but one of the astronauts is missing and the surviving astronaut is different somehow. What happened? BRG’s Professor Quatermass is determined to find out.

When first broadcast on the BBC in the early 1950s, the six-part The Quatermass Experiment emptied the streets and changed the face of British television forever. It spawned two BBC follow-up series the same decade – Quatermass II and the jewel in the series’ crown, Quatermass and The Pit – and an ITV series at the end of the 70s called simply Quatermass. BBC4 even remade The Quatermass Experiment as a live broadcast, just as the original had been, starring David Tennant, Adrian Dunbar, Jason Flemyng and Mark Gatiss among others, back in 2005.

Taking advantage of the original series’ notoriety and shocks, in 1955, Hammer took it, condensed it down to a single X-rated movie (hence the slight change of name), gave it an American lead and changed the ending slightly. It was popular enough that Hammer was able to film Quatermass II, again starring Donlevy, a couple of years later, and in 1967, Quatermass and the Pit, starring Andrew Keir. 

But for your delight, here’s the first of those movies, direct from Hammer (yes, it’s still going). I’ve preceding it with Hammer’s own documentary, written by film historian Marcus Hearn. Enjoy!

Continue reading “It’s Hammer Time!: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)”