CineSavant Column

Saturday August 10, 2019


I’m just coming off Holiday, and have returned to a nice note from Gary Teetzel about Quatermass 2. For twenty years the talk has been that the 1957 film is on the endangered movies list, that the only existing copy is one surviving print, etc. Apparently, author and series originator Nigel Kneale took a page from the Orwell estate, and had it written into his contract that rights to the second Quatermass show would revert to him over time. I’m guessing that that happened around 1970, because that’s when the movie disappeared from view — Kneale just didn’t like it and saw to it that it was withdrawn from exhibition. The movie didn’t resurface until at least 1987 or so. Although I became re-enthused about it back at Cannon, when the first VHS tapes came out, by that time Q2 was virtually forgotten by all but diehard Sci-fi fans.

Gary’s welcome note was forwarded from a post by Robert Harris, probably at the Home Theater Forum. He published a list of film elements for Q2 presently held by the British Film Institute. They appear to include everything one would need for remastering — dupe negatives & dupe positives for both the feature and the trailer. But they’re all labeled ‘Master – Restricted access to preserved film.’ It’s likely that Shout Factory simply couldn’t access the restricted feature materials for any number of reasons, and certainly not right away. I remember this same thing happening 25 years ago at MGM Home Video. When George Feltenstein heard that The Quatermass Xperiment was a little longer than the beat-up ‘The Creeping Unknown’ copy held in the United Artist vaults, he went to the trouble of petitioning for access to the restricted materials preserved by the BFI. That began a slow and frustrating process, but the result was a breakthrough for Sci-fi fans.

So, it’s great to know that Q2 is not teetering on the edge of extinction, that a whole set of Tinkertoys for a terrific resto are being safeguarded. The new disc looks quite good to me, showing detail I’d never seen before. And some day a fantastic hi-resolution remaster might come along. Just tell everybody that the diabolical alien conspiracy in Quatermass 2 is really about Brexit … that’ll get deluxe attention for the film.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson