Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > TV > British > Quatermass - Series 4 (1979/A&E DVD Set/Sci-Fi)

Quatermass – Series Four (1979/A&E)

aka The Quatermass Conclusion


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film/Episodes: B-



Before The X-Files, Dr. Who and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Professor Bernard Quatermass made his debut back in 1955 on the BBC.  The brilliant professor was taking on unreal, unusual phenomenon when few were familiar with what that concept was.  Three mini-series were made by the BBC in the 1950s and Hammer Films did theatrical remakes of the first two as well.  In 1979, he returned one more time and on his 50th Anniversary, A&E is issuing the final Quatermass adventure in this new Quatermass set.  This time, John Mills took over the role, the fourth of four actors to play him on TV.


Thames took over producing this time, as an elder Quatermass searches for his missing granddaughter.  It is the late 20th Century and England, running out of oil, has become a quasi-military state with gangs all over the streets.  He meets scientist Joe Capp (Simon MacCorkindale, later the lead in the disastrous American TV series Manimal) who is on his way to a TV station.  Quatermass follows, in time to witness a U.S./Russian outer space link-up.  He is not happy with either country and his critiques turn prophetic when something goes wrong.  Then things get worse.


The mini-series imagines The Soviet Union still existing, but they were off by about a decade.  Peter Hyams and Arthur C. Clarke would make the same mistake on a larger scale with their ambitious, plodding, and doomed-to-failure 2010 five years later.  Like that film, the idea of a higher power is also suggested, as was the case in the first Star Trek: The Motion Picture also in 1979, which still had its own Cold war going on.  So did Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, something none of these works had touched.


In line with the unusual phenomenon cycle of the 1970s, Stonehenge is thrown in as a factor in the story, with some of the shots and graphics looking like they came out of the original In Search Of… series with Leonard Nimoy.  As a four-hour mini-series, the story drags, while the gangs are nearly Mad Max (also 1979, coincidentally) and then there are the lost children who look like they came out of a production of Hair or Godspell.


This was ambitious and the intents were good, while the script by Nigel Kneale has some good moments, but the show cannot help its age and the noting of The Soviets is unfortunate.  Director Piers Haggard handles the project as best he can, but at full length, this gets a bit muddled.  It starts many things it does not wrap up, but there is an interesting alternative in this set.


The four episodes are on DVD 1, but DVD 2 has added a shorter theatrical film version that is much tighter, moves much better and is much more watchable.  The print is a bit darker, but the color is at least as consistent.  Purists might not agree with this view, but cutting the commercial breaks, breaks between the four shows and getting to the point of the story is much better.  This also cuts out the run-on problem with the lost children segments that are the weak point of the mini-series.  This cut runs 102 minutes and makes for a fun comparison; something we hope to see in future such releases.  This was a cut known as The Quatermass Conclusion.


The 1.33 X 1 images in both cases is fine for their age, both shot by cinematographer Ian Wilson, B.S.C., with a somewhat post-apocalyptic feel.  You get grays and browns, plus slightly underlit shooting throughout that gives this all a subtle atmosphere.  The nighttime shot that are here also work, though they all look like they are set bound.  The color is sometimes a bit faded-looking in the mini-series, versus the feature film version, but the two are a draw.  Film fans should see both for study purposes.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo for the mini-series and clear mono for the film.  They are both just fine and about equal, though the mini-series is a bit louder, but the mono on the film is not bad.  The only extra, give or take if you consider the feature version a bonus, is a History Channel In Search Of History installment entitled Enduring Mystery Of Stonehenge, which makes much more of the famous British location than either cut of Quatermass.


The previous mini-series have yet to find their way on DVD, though the feature films have been issued in so many versions that we are still working on the best versions to cover for this site.  Any serious science-fiction fan will want to check out this fine set and get to know Quatermass better.  We’ll come back with more as soon as we can.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com