As a bracing alternative to Star Wars
and the derivative space operas that followed, Quatermass
impressed more serious science fiction fans with its unsettling vision of Earth's near future. This four-chapter TV miniseries follows an admirable tradition of British science fiction, compensating for a limited budget (though generous by 1978 standards, at £1.5 million) with superior writing (by Nigel Kneale) and intelligent, resourceful direction (by Piers Haggard) that emphasize ideas and atmosphere over senseless action and special effects. Presenting a near-future scenario that would later inspire elements of The Road Warrior
, Max Headroom
and other dystopian visions, the story finds Kneale's popular creation, Prof. Bernard Quatermass (here played by the late, great Sir John Mills) in his darkest hour, desperate to find his lost 16-year-old granddaughter and coerced out of retirement to investigate a mysterious alien force that is, in his horrified phrase, "harvesting the human race." While lawless gangs pillage the remains of an England blighted by war and ecological disaster (the rest of Earth reeling under similar fate), a youth-cult of "Planet People" awaits their deliverance from Earth, gathering at ancient sites like Stonehenge and Ringstone Round. Joining forces with astrophysicist Joe Kapp (Simon McCorkindale), Quatermass ultimately realizes that there is only one, devastating solution to their planetary dilemma.
Drawing on 25 years of Quatermass legacy through films and television, Kneale and Haggard are uncompromising in their depiction of anarchy, decay, and desperate pockets of hope, and Mills is brilliant in his title role as a genius devoted to saving what's left of humanity. The result of their collaboration is the most compelling of all Quatermass adventures, and the most disturbing. While the four-hour Quatermass series is the one to watch, this two-disc DVD set also includes the truncated theatrical version and "The Enduring Mystery of Stonehenge," an hour-long episode of The History Channel's excellent series In Search of History, placing the fictional speculation of Quatermass in current historical context. All in all, a fascinating combination. --Jeff Shannon
As the millennium draws to a close, civilization is on the verge of collapse. Gangs rule the streets. Books are burned for fuel. And a monstrous force from outer space is destroying the world's youth. Planet Earth is in dire need of a hero. Enter the world's greatest rocket scientist--Professor Bernard Quatermass. Fresh out of retirement, the aging Quatermass is as brilliant and plucky as ever. While London crumbles under anarchy, the professor uses his powerful intellect to marshal assistance from American and Russian quarters and combat what could be the planet's final enemy. Along the way, he hopes to be reunited with his missing 16-year-old granddaughter. One of sci-fi's most original creations, inspiring favorites like The X-Files, this classic 1970s production of QUATERMASS stars Academy Award®-winner Sir John Mills (Ryan's Daughter, Gandhi) and features all four episodes, plus the rarely-seen theatrical version, on DVD for the first time ever. DVD Features: THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION--The Rare, Feature-Length Theatrical Version; "Enduring Mystery of Stonehenge" episode from THE HISTORY CHANNEL®'s award-winning series In Search of History; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection