I love Bernard Quatermass. He’s sort of a grouchy, anything-for-science, early combination of Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein, William Hartnell as The Doctor, and MacGyver. There’s also a Frankesteinish streak of driven determination to him, the kind that usually leads to disaster.
Thankfully, that’s not entirely the case with Quatermass (as it is with Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and The Fly). Well, not after the first movie at least.
The Quatermass Xperiment: Indirect references to The Thing From Another World aside, this is an early foray into “astronaut returns to Earth with an alien plague” territory. In order to survive, said astronaut, Caroon has to feed off of living energy.
Carroon is slowly taken over by this thing, becoming somewhat of a forerunner to the pod people from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (predating it by a year). In fact, Quatermass has to defeat it before it releases spores that will result in the same thing happening over all the Earth.
As for that Frankenstein-like drive, it’s evident in the last line. After all the death and destruction, Quatermass’s assistant asks, “What are we going to do?” Without hesitation or so much as a flicker of doubt, Quatermass says, “We’re going to start again.”
Quatermass II: This is possibly my favorite of the three. For one thing, it predates and, at least to me, influences The Blob. Yes, there are significant differences. In this case, somewhat zombie-like humans work to maintain and help the blob-like beings, much like what will happen years later in The Stuff.
For another, we have more Body Snatcher type pod activity, this time in the form of meteorites that burst open and leave burn marks on their victims. These victims then act as a hive-mind in the service of their interstellar overlords. Huh…Lovecraft, anyone?
We also have an early example of the “poke/pick up/get too close to the strange object, suffer the consequences” pattern that will show up again and again from The Blob to Alien to “The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill” to Slither.
Quatermass And The Pit: Again, there are indirect references to The Thing From Another World and Lovecraft. For one, it centers on the discovery of a spaceship that’s been buried underground for millions of years.
As in Quatermass II, the creatures take over people’s minds, but this time they also proceed to wreak telekinetic havoc all around Hobbs End. The final confrontation between the paleontologist, Matthew Roney, and an enormous, mind-controlling, energy-based space being would be right at home in the Cthulhu mythos.
So, to sum up in a painfully obvious way, Nigel Kneale had a deep and lasting impact on science fiction and horror cinema. I’d love to see these remade. He might be a little long in the tooth to play Quatermass, but I wonder what Sean Connery is up to.