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  Quatermass Conclusion, The Quite-A-Mess
Year: 1979
Director: Piers Haggard
Stars: John Mills, Simon MacCorkindale, Barbara Kellerman, Margaret Tyzack, Brewster Mason, Ralph Arliss, Paul Rosebury, Jane Bertish, Rebecca Saire, Annabelle Lanyon, Toyah Willcox, Bruce Purchase, David Yip, Brenda Fricker, Tony Sibbald, Gretchen Franklin
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the near future and the world is on the brink of chaos, no matter how the authorities strive to keep order. In Britain, Professor Quatermass (John Mills), a retired space research scientist, is travelling to London television studios to be a guest on a news report about the meeting of the Americans and the Soviets in orbit above the planet, but the capital has become so dangerous the cab driver taking him there stops short of the destination and abandons the old man. Soon he is set upon by some curiously posh-sounding thugs, but all at once he is saved by Professor Joe Kapp (Simon MacCorkindale), who is also a guest on the programme...

Professor Bernard Quatermass is one of the classic characters of science fiction, created by Nigel Kneale, himself an influential pioneer in the field. The hero was a particularly British version of the crusading scientist, no Dan Dare rocket pilot but a more sober and intellectual man, which made the casting of the brash Brian Donlevy in the first two film versions of Kneale's television serials a source of great displeasure for the writer. In the third film, Quatermass and the Pit, Andrew Keir was far closer to what had been envisaged by the creator, and for the little-seen fourth film adaptation, Kneale could scarcely complain.

This was because The Quatermass Conclusion was actually a recut, hundred-minute variation on the 1979 television series Kneale wrote for Thames, a condensed run through of the main points of the original with a smattering of new footage added, mostly violent. The idea was to make money by not only broadcasting it on T.V., but to sell the film overseas as well, yet in the event more people in Britain saw the serial than those abroad actually went to see it in their cinemas. This leaves Conclusion as a curious footnote to a character who was better served elsewhere, and not simply due to the increased time that Kneale had to play with on the small screen - around four hours' worth.

Obviously, if you want the full story of Quatermass's final case, then you'll be wanting to see the series, but as a snappier plunge into the near-apocalyptic world depicted here, then you could do worse. The main problem with this is that it was written as Kneale had entered the "grumpy old man" phase of his career; his next project would be the sitcom Kinvig, which essentially, and in more words, was a giant "go fuck yourself" to every one of his fans who had had the audacity to thoroughly enjoy his previous work. So it is here that the elderly are built up as the real heroes, which is fine as far as the aged Quatermass being a terrific personality for this kind of crisis science fiction, but the young are portrayed as gullible fools.

The exception to this is Kapp, but even he is shown to be immune from the alien intelligence's power through his Jewish faith, an ancient religion that once again proves the old ways are the best, at least as far as this plot goes. The young have fallen under the spell of life from space, which they believe is taking them up to a state of heaven, but the Professor realises is harvesting them through a massive force from a distant planet, killing them and using their lives for energy. In its favour, the film does manufacture a sense of the world going to hell in a handbasket, with the anarchy Quatermass has to negotiate well-fashioned, as if to reflect the divisions in society brought about by hippies, and later, punk rock which might have been on the wane at this time, but had had a noticeable impact on the culture. Setpieces that include Wembley Stadium full of the dusty remains of the chosen ones are ambitious, but as a film it's not quite the terrific send-off Quatermass deserved. Music by Nic Rowley and Marc Wilkinson.

[Network have released a Blu-ray box set of the TV series including the film version displaying some excellent restoration. Extras include episode recaps, the film's trailer (mute, oddly), a gallery and the chance to watch the series with the music only.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Piers Haggard  (1939 - )

British director who works mostly in television, with the classic serial Pennies from Heaven to his credit; he also directed the final Quatermass series. On the big screen, his best work is the creepy devil worship horror Blood On Satan's Claw. Other films include (some of) Peter Sellers' terrible last appearance, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and snake-on-the-loose thriller Venom. He is a relation of novelist H. Rider Haggard.

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