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J. Lee Thompson
This edited version of Quatermass (1979), less than half the length of the original TV series, was produced to be released theatrically overseas. This meant Nigel Kneale had to write a script that would work both as a 4 hour series and as a 100 minute movie. See more »
In 1979, Nigel Kneale's legendary creation Professor Bernard Quatermass returned for one final tale as an old man facing against a seemingly unstoppable alien menace threatening the Earth's youth. Well technically he returned twice. The first time was in Quatermass, a four part story aired on British television. The second time was in The Quatermass Conclusion, a 100 minute edited version of the four part story to be released in movie theaters outside the UK. The Quatermass Conclusion should have had a different title: The Quatermass Hodgepodge.
The basic premise of The Quatermass Conclusion was to take the four part, 200 minute long TV version and turn it into a single 100 minute film. Write Nigel Kneale was aware from the beginning that this would be the case and wrote his script so that the story would hopefully work in both formats. This wasn't a first for a Quatermass story: the three BBC stories from the 1950s had all been re-filmed by Hammer, cutting them down from three hour to films about 90 minutes or so long and all three of them had worked. So that would mean this version would work as well right?
Well not really, no. The big difference between the Hammer films and this one is that the Hammer films were rewritten and newly filmed versions of the original stories, whereas Kneale wrote with the idea of the TV version being cut down into a movie. Despite Kneale writing the script with that in mind, The Quatermass Conclusion feels like a hodgepodge. Whole plot points and characters are removed such as why Quatermass went with Kapp after the live TV broadcast at the start of the film, the elderly people Quatermass meets in the third part of the TV story (who become important to the finale) and the dramatic revelation of what the alien menace actually is (reduced to Quatermass talking over a few shots taken from throughout the middle two parts of the story) to name a few examples. Parts two and three and the more heavily edited of the four parts but there are large cuts across the board which I'm sure will confuse anyone who hasn't seen the original TV version.
Is there anything else of interest about the film then? If you are a Quatermass fan, then yes there is. Because of the removal of the elderly people Quatermass meets, there is a major deviation from the TV version in this film and what would have been the end of part two. The film also features a somewhat different musical score which has music not heard in the TV version as well. There are also additional voice overs (mainly to cover scenes deleted from the TV version) as well as a few alternate takes used in the film. The overall result is an edited down version of the TV story as much as an alternate version of the same story.
Between the heavy edits to the original version that make the story almost incoherent, the alternative scenes and musical score, The Quatermass Conclusion is really only of interest to fans of the Professor. If you're coming to the 1979 story and have a choice between the TV version and this edited down movie, pick the TV version. It is a much more coherent, in depth, and frankly a much better version of the story.
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