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Cult | News | 31 March 2005

Quatermass DVD

Review: Nigel Kneale's amazing dramas out on DVD.

Everyone who cares about TV science fiction should own this DVD. It's an act of worship. It's also a duty - like going to just one opera, seeing just one Shakespeare play, or drinking just one cocktail with a silly name.

Quatermass and the Pit is simply the first finest thing the BBC ever made. It justifies licence fees to this day. It sits there glowing smugly at you from this DVD, polished to within an inch of its life, with missing footage restored, original film inserts shining, and finally in six wonderful parts, rather than the weird three hour video release we've seen through a glass darkly.

Don't defend Quatermass and the Pit. Champion it. It's not slow, it's stately. It's not cliched, it's inspirational. It's not stilted, it's stylised.

This was made half a century ago. It was performed live. And yet it's still bogglingly clever, as it weaves aliens and superstition, archaeology and possession, science and magic, horror and audience participation into something that's just sublime.

The peformances are great, the special effects better than ever, and the struggle of Professor Quatermass to save humanity from the horrors of the pit is still gripping.

This magnificently restored box-set also includes the prequels, Quatermass II and what remains of The Quatermass Experiment. Both have been cleaned up as much as possible, and you'll want to love them just as much as their big brother.

Quatermass II has moments of sheer chilling genius, but the script is too often let down by the production's rougher edges. Your heart will break halfway through episode six as it all falls apart. And then there's Monica Gray - less an actress than a finishing school on legs. "But what about Johnny?" she'll enunciate mercilessly. As Quatermass's daughter, her sheer Brief-Encounter-ishness will leave you gasping for air.

And The Quatermass Experiment is exactly that. An intriguing practice run, it's wonderful to see it at last.

The edition comes with simple, wholesome extras - a short piece on the BBC Visual Effects men, and the director and writer gripe and praise the BBC from easy chairs.

Send us your comment now. We'll publish the best on this page.

Chris Thorrington
This DVD set is,for me,the Holy Grail. Iwatched all the three series on t.v. as a boy,and despaired of ever seeing them again...I was thrilled to be able to obtain them after fifty years....

Terrific to finally get to see the surviving episodes of Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass 2.However, the last episode of the latter was the worst exercise in mind numbing dullness I have ever witnessed.

Paul Tapner
The picture quality on quatermass and the pit is absolutely fantastic. Top markes to the restoration team. Despite knowing the story of the quatermass experiment well, the moment when caroon suddenly spoke german made me jump. It was superbly understated in sheer creepiness. And at the end of episode two, the BBC wait till the credits have finished before putting an announcer on screen to say when the next part is on. Shows how long ago it was made, doesn't it?

John Merrick
It's great to know that there are so many Quatermass enthusiaists around! Quatermass and the Pit was an absolutely formative experience for me as a (probably too small) boy cowering like everybody else behind the armchair... I enjoyed the Experiment remake very much, but like other correspondents felt the final sections a bit rushed and definitely lacking the sight of a monster - although I suppose live effects might have been difficult to make look convincing.

Gareth Stafford
In a word, superb. An essential DVD release for any fans of British Sci-Fi.

John Ellis NY
Great set, and restoration. Hope it's just the beginning of more Kneale: "The Creature", "The Beast" series, etc. And more BBC4 productions if the originals are lost. His work is unique.

Ray MacFadyen
This box set is fantastic stuff! Brilliantly written and innovatively produced, Quatermass has to be one of the jewels in the BBC's crown. The Restoration Team have also done a marvellous job in making the episodes look so good.

Steve Duckworth
I am 57 years old and as I child I was frightened out of my wits by Quatermass and the Pit. It gave me so many nightmares that I never did see all of the episodes. I only saw all of it when it was released on video and I still found it chilling. This new restored version is superb, all credit to the restorers. In trying to understand why it is still so eerie it seems to me that it is the mixture of science fiction and the occult that makes it so effective and this is greatly enhanced by the music and the sound effects. Well done to everyone involved.

Barry Norton
The question is now, when are the BBC going to release the updated Quatermass Experiment?

Jonathan Robinson
Am the Great nephew of John Robinson (The Prof, Series 2) and am SO excited this is coming out on DVD!!!! Can't WAIT to see it!

Stuart Pinel
I am awed to finally see the full series as exists. After 52 years, the quality shone through the two surviving episodes of the original Quatermass Experiment. Nigel Kneale has always said that his stories were character driven and in the first two episodes, this shines through - sadly the cut 2005 story feels both overtrimmed and rushed in comparison with this original masterpiece. And each successive story improves - significantly each time. The stories are magnificently paced and could in no way be considered slow. If there are any more re-makes, any chance of making them with the full script (and for heavans sake, give us the monster next time!)

Charlie Keeble
I was right about the BBC4 remake of the Quatermass Experiment, it really showed what a great programme I was about to buy. To understand this trilogy of Quatermass is the deffinition of classic science fiction. To me the Quatermass serials form the genesis of the fantasy genre!

The stories everyone has stolen from ever since, and particularly Chris Carter, who ripped off Kneale right left and center for his X-Files "mythology". Special effects are important, but they don't matter much without great storytelling, and that's what Kneale and Cartier delivered, time after time.

Jim Linwood
As well as the quality of Kneale's writing and the plausibility of his aliens, the trilogy reflects the anxiety and paranoia of the times arising from the Cold War and possible use of nuclear weapons, Kneale also raised much wider issues such as the ethics of scientists in a nuclear-age, technological change, latent totalitarianism in the British establishment, environmental pollution and the destructive nature of racism. I look forward the restoration of these classics.

Pat Lawrence
Great news the BBC have at long last released the original TV Quatermass trilogy on DVD. I remember my art teacher in the late 50�s getting bored with my paintings of the hull and the horned devil, for months on end. My passion for �the Pit� climaxed in the early 80�s by organising a petition of 250 signatures to get BBC Enterprises to release it on VHS.I can not wait to see the restored edition on DVD. Does anybody have any info what happened to the final 20 minutes of the live TX of The Quatermass Experiment or was it just the joy of live television? How about Fred Hoyle�s A for Andromeda and The Andromeda Breakthough, without the petition!

david prendergast
quatermas and the pit this for its time was very dark a bit out of date now but some of the very best brittish sci fi

Tim Burnett
I have all 3 Hammer movie versions of the original Quatermass stories on VHS, and the VHS verson of 'the Pit', but I'm sure I'll be buying this DVD. Quatermass has been a hero of mine since childhood (I only got to him in the movies back then...Brian Donlevy?..OKish, but Andrew Keir has always been my favourite!)..Oh, and finally - The 'British Rocket Research Goup' inspiration - it should have been real!

stephen duke
ive long wanted to see quatermass i like the package and the booklet but feel that the pdf files of the scripts are a bit of a let down and barely readable in places other than that its a great package

Dicky Howett.
I saw the two Quatermass Experiment 1953 telerecordings projected on a large screen at the NFT. Although the quality varied greatly, these old 405 line off screen recordings had good definition. Can't wait to pause frame the DVD and examine the production values.

John C-S
I remember Quatermass and the Pit series on TV (as a repeat), when I saw the video again years later, I thought it fantastic. The release of these DVDs is something I have been waiting for for a long time. Quatermass Experiment 2005 was excellent. Well Done BBC!

Annette Black
I still recall the absolute terror my three brothers and I experienced as we hid behind the armchairs in the living room watching. I had nightmares for quite a long time and would love to be able to watch tonights remake but cannot get BBC4 in Toronto. Will I be able to p/up the original series on DVD next time I am in the UK?Also will there be another showing of tonights showing in the near future. THankyou

Daz Marks
Is there any likelihood of the three Quatermass Script books being reprinted? - I believe they were last printed in 1979 and it'd be good to see them re-issued in conjunction with the DVD release and the BBC4 Live broadcast.

Robert JE Simpson
The restoration of the dvd is stunning. Quatermass and the Pit has become a thing of beauty in the hands of the Restoration Team. The new refined VidFIRE process enhances the Pit beyond expectation. Quatermass II and Experiment finally make it to dvd, and the wait was worth it. Thanks to all concerned.

Mary Morgan
I can't wait to see these (despite the Hammer Horror cover). I'd agree: Quatermass and the Pit is among the greatest drama (forget the cult label) the BBC has ever done. And whatever led to this brilliant achievement, I want to see. As for my wishlist: A for Andromeda and the Andromeda Breaththrough. Please!

Chris Wild
Superb effort from the BBC - these timeless classics are really a landmark achievement in British cimematography. Capturing the essence of suspense, intrigue with a twist of spine-tingling thrown in. Many thanks for not forgetting to put these on DVD - some modern horror/sci-fi directors, script-writers should take a good look at these as inspiration for the modern decade.

James Chadwick
I'm an ex-pat living in the USA is there any chance of this set being released via BBC America ive seen all the Hammer films but have never seen the originals so PLEASE BBC release it over here.

dave morgan
this is a real gem of a release which has eluded me for years.great work a trilogy worth having for the avid BRITISH SCI - FI buff.congratulations

Anne Hall
how/where do I buy Quatermass DVD? At the age of 11, I was not allowed to watch 'Quatermass'; I have long wanted to fill the gap.

I think it's brilliant, but I can't help but think that it should have been held back for a little while, so that the re-make, to be broadcast live on BBC 4 could be included as well. But then again, The Quatermass Conclusion was produced by Thames anyway, so it's not that complete!

Iain mac Ailean
I'm with Tony Randall on the subject of the cover design - it's hideous! It makes a long awaited DVD set look like a budget range of Hammer B movies.

Lisa, Loughborough
I'll definately keep a look out for this one. I haven't watched any quatermass for at least 10years.

Greig Mackenzie
I can't wait to get hold of this box set. I've got a copy of "The Pit" on VHS but have only seen one episode of series 2 on the BBC lime gorve day, many many years ago. i'll be buying this for sure!

Fred Kellogg
If the packaging artwork is anything like the restored Quatermass series then you most certainly have a winner on your hands. Count on me buying the complete Quatermass restoration.

Paul Rogers
This is excellent news, although I would have liked to have seen the 1996 radio documentary/celebration 'The Quatermass Memoirs' included in the set.

Russell Buer
The Orginals are always the best Age 47

Jai Davis
I don't expect you to show this on the website but please pass this message on to the relevent department. Please get someone to have another go at the DVD covers for "Day of the Triffids", "Nightmare Man" and "Flipside of Dominic Hyde" while there is still time. But above all thank you so much for getting these titles released.

Now, if they'd just do the same for the Telegoons.

Stephen Reed
The intense wait is almost over. As a life long Quatermass fan this is indeed a thrill and probably the most eagerly anticipated release of the year - last years favourite being the Dr Who 3 DVD set of 'Lost in Time'. Thank you BBC for giving these a well deserved release, the Restoration team have done a magnificent job judging by the article. Keep up the good work guys, your work is always superb! I've even ordered my Dad a set, as he saw them when they were televised all those years ago - thanks again!

Paul Hayes
I can't wait for this set - I already have copies of all the episodes, but to see them in fully restored quality will be a big plus, especially given all the care and craft that's gone into the restorations. Certainly, the inclusion of the two existing episodes of "The Quatermass Experiment" is a Godsend for all those of us who've struggled with our nth-generation pirate video copies down the years!

Antony Randall
I am so pleased these serials are being released especially the fact that they have been cleaned up and presented in the best possible way... Its just a pity that the box art hasn't had the same care and attention the restoration group applied to the episodes. Its looks more "Evil Dead Trilogy" than "Seminal BBC Sci-Fi Trilogy" Did the marketing bods actually view the serials before hand..???

Stephen Dray
The Restoration Team do a fantastic job - I'm looking forward to this release. The best work they have done so far is the "Seeds of Death" which looks like a brand new black and white recording.



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