Hammer Sci-Fi: Quatermass 2 aka Enemy from Space (1957)

Written by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest
Directed by Val Guest
Starring Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sidney James, Bryan Forbes
US Release Sept. 1957
RT 85 min.
Home Video Anchor Bay
Classic Horrors rating = 7 (out of 10)

quatermass-2-brian-donlevy-hammer-horror

Warning: review contains plot spoilers.

When we last saw Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) at the end of The Quatermass Xperiment a year earlier, he wasn’t deterred by a failed rocket launch that brought an alien invasion to Earth.  At the beginning of Quatermass 2, though, he’s run out of funding to go any further, even though a rocket sits on the launch pad of his impressive research facility.  This time, he accidentally, some may say coincidentally, stumbles onto an alien invasion and is not the cause of it.

His assistants have been tracking meteorites coming in “low and slow” 90 to 100 miles north of the facility, but Quatermass discovers one of them for himself when he nearly crashes into a woman frantically driving her husband to the hospital.  We are also dropped right into the action and don’t see a meteorite crack open to expose the man to ammonia gas that burned his face.  We begin to learn this information after the opening credits.

Reconstructing the “stone” to see how it looked before it hit our atmosphere, Quatermass eventually learns that each one is the same and they all looked like tiny rockets.  Driving to Winnerden Flats to investigate, he discovers a giant industrial complex that look suspiciously like the model of a Moon base that he designed.  Nearby is a strange “town” where it’s employees live.  Its community center displays posters like “Secrets Mean Sealed Lips” and “Talk About Your Job… Lose It.”

Being his normal, impatient and cranky self, Quatermass tells the police “all they’re capable of understanding,” although I understood the threat better here than I did in the first movie.  The aerodynamic shape of the meteorites “implies mathematics, precise learning… intelligence.”  They are some kind of container, he says, and the proper authorities shouldn’t need much more to realize it’s a simple, every day, alien invasion.

These must not be the proper authorities.  Getting nowhere fast, Quatermass heads to Scotland Yard to notify his old buddy, Inspector Lomax (John Longden).  Jack Warner previously played him, but Longden is humorous here about their encounter in The Quatermass Xperiment and the trouble the professor caused him then.  All he knows, though, is that the complex is a top secret government project to make synthetic food.  Lomax refers him to Mr. Broadhead (Tom Chatto) at the House of Commons.

“All I ask is to break through this wall of secrecy,” Quartermass pleads with Broadhead.  Conveniently, an inspection of the facility for which Broadhead has been waiting, is granted while Quatermass is present, so the two men join a tour group.  About this time, Quatermass notices unusual marks on the people who are acting strange.  During the inspection, he barges into the medical center, but finds no trace of his associate, Marsh (Bryan Forbes), who was burned earlier by a meteorite.

The observant Quatermass gathers all the information he needs to devise a theory.  He thinks inside the meteorites are organisms that, as opposed to humans, can’t survive in oxygen.  The complex is producing a highly concentrated ammonia corrosive which they can breathe in order to keep them alive.  What about the oil-like substance that envelops and kills Broadhead?  Quatermass says, “That black slime is deadly!”  It’s not as deadly, though, as the giant, pulsating, rock-like creatures growing in the tanks of the complex.

After it’s frenzied opening, Quartermass 2 settles down for a bit and extends its climax.  I got a little sleepy, but was energized when the professor and a small group of rioting construction workers are trapped inside the complex.  An overhead pipe is cracked and blood drips on them from it.  Oddly enough, some of the protestors have just been taken into one of the tanks.  Putting two and two together, Quatermass exclaims, “That pipe has been blocked by human pulp!”

This is different from its predecessor in that it’s more large-scale and less personal.  There’s an Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe and the threat seems more significant.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good ol’ government conspiracy?  Had the three giant aliens not emerged from their tanks to go on a destructive rampage, Quatermass 2 would have been a different movie entirely.  Ultimately though, they’re both about the same thing: big, bad aliens and the brilliant scientist who tries to stop them.

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