DVD
The Complete Quatermass

Starring: Reginald Tate, John Robinson and Andre Morell
BBC DVD
RRP: 29.99
BBCDVD 1478
Certificate: PG
Available 04 April 2005


Professor Quatermass occupies a unique position in British TV history - he is the undoubted godfather of serious, adult science fiction. Launched into the world of live television in 1953, the head of the British Rocket Group encountered a creeping alien intelligence that took over the body of an astronaut (The Quatermass Experiment), an alien invader using a chemical plant to manufacture its food while taking over the minds of politicians (Quatermass II), and the remnants of humanity's Martian origins (Quatermass and the Pit)...

These three BBC serials have gone down in broadcasting history as undisputed landmarks and now for the first time the trio has been restored and released on DVD replete with a host of extras. Sadly, only the first two parts of the Quatermass Experiment were recorded due to the limits of the technology of its day. In the time before videotape shows went out live (in all three instances) and were sometimes, but not always, copied onto film during the transmission.

Thankfully, both Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit survive intact, although the former is a technically poor recording - often out of focus, lacking detail and subject to fluctuations in brightness and contrast. However, thanks to modern digital restoration techniques even this has been minimised. In fact, due to the quality of modern TVs, these DVDs offer today's audience a better quality of viewing experience than would have been available back in the 1950s. The sound has also been dramatically improved.

The Quatermass Experiment understandably looks its age although there are moments of real drama and tension when it becomes clear that the surviving astronaut appears to have the memories of his missing colleagues. Quatermass II remains the blueprint for conspiracy theories and boasts moments of genuine shock and tension - the thing in the tank (apparently a rubber glove in some BBC canteen soup although you'd never know). However, it's Quatermass and the Pit that really stands out. Its six episodes are nothing short of marvellous. A quality casts, great script, a plentiful use of film inserts for the more complex scenes and very passable special effects combine to create a classic.

In truth, anyone reading this review will already know plenty about Bernard Quatermass' time at the BBC (his appearance on ITV many years later was something altogether less desirable). Perhaps what you won't know is just how good these 14 episodes can look. Add some vintage interviews, a documentary and a fascinating insight into how the special effects were achieved and this three-disc set is nothing short of first class.

You really have no choice but to buy it.

 

Anthony Clark

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All prices correct at time of going to press.