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Posts Tagged ‘Val Guest’

Massed letter-writing campaigns and appeals to basic human decency have all clearly come to nothing, for the schedulers at the Horror Channel have plunged on with the second season of Space: 1999 regardless (you can take this ‘horror’ remit a bit too far). All you really need to know about the second season is that the show only got renewed by the skin of its teeth, and on condition that Gerry Anderson’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Sylvia was replaced as producer by someone more in tune with the demands of the US TV sci-fi audience. Who they got was Fred Freiberger, one of the most notorious figures in the history of the genre. Diligent Horror viewers can get enjoy a double helping of Freiberger every night at the moment – their SF-themed block of programming kicks off with a repeat of an episode of the third season of the original Star Trek (cancelled, and I am tempted to say deservedly, during Freiberger’s producership) and then concludes with Space: 1999 (ditto, except this time it was definitely deserved). Freiberger, later in his life, compared his encounters with science fiction and its fans to falling out of a plane during the Second World War and being held prisoner by the Nazis. He was in no doubt which was the less gruelling experience (hint: it was not the one with the plane).

To get maximum Freiberger (although God knows why you would want to) you should check out one of the episodes he wrote as well as produced. The most notorious of these, probably, is… well, first I should probably say that this was a UK-based production and the UK is doubtless an exotic place to many American visitors. Even the place names sound bizarre and alien (probably). And, we should remember, Freiberger’s remit was to think primarily of the American viewer, unfamiliar with the towns and cities of southern England. So it was that Freiberger decided it was perfectly reasonable to turn in a script entitled The Rules of Luton. (Legend has it he saw the name on a road sign while driving in to the studio one day.)

Now you and I might think that the rules of Luton mainly concern long-term parking at the airport and possibly the punishment for jumping the queue at one of the local curry houses, but Freiberger had a different take on this. The episode opens with a bunch of the characters en route to a mysterious new planet which they are going to survey in the hope it will provide a new home to the long-suffering inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha. (We are already pretty sure it won’t, as this would mean the end of the series.) However, just as they are about to land, their Eagle transporter springs a leak, and (in a somewhat questionable piece of decision-making) Commander Koenig (Martin Landau) opts to be dropped off there for a few hours, along with alien science officer Maya (Catherine Schell), while the pilot (someone from Howard’s Way) goes back for a fresh ship.

The planet seems very nice, helped no end by the fact this is one of the series’ most extensive location shoots, but things go badly wrong when (in another dodgy piece of decision-making) Koenig tucks into one of the local berries while Maya starts picking the flowers. There are wails of outrage from all around them! A booming, apparently disembodied voice (David Jackson, probably best known for playing Gan in Blake’s 7) decries them as criminals and cannibals. (Dude, it’s a berry. This isn’t cannibalism – Landau’s performances may be a bit ripe sometimes, but he ain’t no fruit, nor indeed a vegetable.)

Well, it turns out the planet is called Luton (the British cast-members do their best to salvage the situation by pronouncing it Luh-Tahn) and here the fruit and veg is running the place, and takes a dim view of flower-picking and vegetarianism. (Insert your own joke about vegans here.)  Some trees of great local importance inform Koenig and Maya that they will now be required to fight for their lives against other berry-eating recidivists, if they want to leave in one piece. Three actors in some of the dodgiest alien suits ever to make it onto a film set duly appear and wave bits of rock at them. The slightly mind-boggling thing is that the producers went ahead and hired what I can only describe as proper actors to play the opposition – looking rather like a green version of Lemmy in a costume which is mostly black leather and long hair is Jackson, again, while Roy Marsden (later to become a respectable TV face) is obliged to dress up as a mangy parrot. The third alien is played by Godfrey James – more of a jobbing actor than the other two, but still someone with a very respectable list of credits.

They were (reasonably) young, they needed the money…

Koenig’s laser-stapler doesn’t work on the aliens (a typical example of a brazen Freiberger plot device) and so he and Maya are obliged to leg it from the hostile trio. The boss tree makes a rather ominous announcement: in order to make this a fair fight, they have given the aliens ‘special powers’ which are the equal of those of Koenig and Maya. Even Koenig recognises this as being distinctly iffy, given they are outnumbered and all. Maya, admittedly, has the power to change into easily-trained animals and rubber-suit aliens, but what exactly is Martin Landau’s special power supposed to be? It’s certainly not the ability to lift a duff script.

Well, there’s a lot of chasing about, during which Koenig gets dinged, one of the aliens falls in a river and drowns, and so on, and so on. Meanwhile the chap from Howard’s Way is making good on his promise to return for them, even though the entire planet has vanished from his sensors (these trees are remarkably resourceful). What follows is a load more chasing about, with what looks very much like a cameo appearance by the killer vine from the Fluff Freeman segment of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors at one point.

The only non-chasing about element comes when our two heroes pause for what feels like a good ten minutes to share back-story with each other. Maya talks about her long-lost brother and the history of her planet; Koenig talks about his dead wife (killed in the Third World War of 1987 – don’t know about you, but I missed that at the time). It is an entirely unexpected piece of character-building, which leads me to conclude that a) Freiberger didn’t write this scene and b) it was something they had to come up with on location when the episode turned out to be running short. So far as I can recall, neither Mrs Koenig or Maya’s brother are mentioned at any other point in the series.

In the end it’s back to the chasing about. One of the noticeable things about Freiberger’s run on Space: 1999 is the extent to which the plots are thinly-disguised rip-offs of ones from original Star Trek, or at least contain virtually identical elements. So the replica Enterprise from The Mark of Gideon gives us the replica Moonbase Alpha of One Moment of Humanity, while the Space: 1999 episode New Adam, New Eve resembles a cross between Who Mourns for Adonais? and a wife-swapping party. The chief donor where The Rules of Luton is concerned is the iconic episode Arena, with all the usual Freiberger nonsense (super-powered aliens, absurd science, silly plot-devices) added to it. Arena concludes with Captain Kirk building a bamboo cannon to defeat his opponent. Rules of Luton concludes with Commander Koenig turning his jacket’s belt into a bolas with which he entangles Lemmy the alien’s legs: the alien promptly falls over and bumps his head, thus giving Koenig a win. He also gets to make a speech denouncing the cruelty and arrogance of the tree praesidium, stirring up trouble on Luton. Wisely, he and Maya make their departure before the gooseberries start rioting.

If you have travelled at all in the wonderful land we call SF, you do expect the script from Rules of Luton to be awful – what genuinely comes as a blow is how bad the direction is, considering this episode was overseen by Val Guest. Earlier in his career, Guest oversaw two hugely important and very accomplished British SF films – The Quatermass Xperiment and The Day the Earth Caught Fire – but here his work is just clumsy, with endless use of the same bits of footage. One wonders how severe the constraints on this production really were: the whole thing owes its existence to the fact that season 2 was given a very tight schedule, with twenty-four episodes to be made over no more than ten months. (From start to finish, season 1 was in front of the cameras from late 1973 to early 1975.) As a result Freiberger decided to double-bank some of the episodes, which is why Landau and Schell are so prominent here and yet peripheral characters in The Mark of Archanon (which isn’t quite as bad as this), and why this one is largely shot on location (the standing sets were being used by the other unit). Even so, filming a whole episode on location must have meant working at a hell of clip, which is presumably why the tipped-off viewer can apparently spot picnic tables and canoeists in some shots of the planet Luton. (I’ve never been able to bring myself to pay that much attention to it.)

So it’s rubbish, but like much of second season Space: 1999, it’s so extravagantly, uninhibitedly rubbish it’s almost enjoyable. One critic of the series has said ‘it is as bad as TV can get’, and I can see what he means. But would the world really be a better place without The Rules of Luton? I can’t quite bring myself to say so.

(Ho ho – when the Horror Channel first broadcast Rules of Luton, not long after showing the Freiberger-produced subtlety-free racism allegory Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, the transmitters battled on heroically for most of the episode before packing up in shame midway through the closing credits. The Horror Channel was off the air for over an hour. Lord knows what will happen when they show Space Warp.)

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I think it makes a certain kind of sense to stick to what you’re good at. If so, then I am surprised there has not been more of an outcry about the British film industry’s enthusiasm for making syrupy-soft allegedly life-affirming comedy dramas aimed at old people, fairly insipid rom-coms, and dour costume dramas, for our record in this area is not much better than that of many other nations. No, what we should be producing more of – and I think a target of two or three a year is not unreasonable – is apocalyptic science fiction films, because there was a time when we led the world in films of this kind (well, good ones, anyway). Nowadays we barely even seem to bother: the last proper one I can think of is 28 Days Later, which is not far off being twenty years old (the boom in zombie movies it kick-started is still going, of course: see what I mean, we’re good at this stuff).

Near the top of any stack of British doomsday films is Val Guest’s 1961 movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire (NB: title may be figurative). It sounds like a rather excitable B-movie made in the wake of The Day the Earth Stood Still – and there are plenty of these, such as the Italian film The Day the Sky Exploded – but, being a British film, it is made with healthy amounts of thought, restraint, and good old-fashioned phlegm.

The film’s main gimmick, inasmuch as it has one, becomes apparent from the start: in the sequences that frame the story, the black-and-white picture has been tinted ochre, representing the burning heat throughout these scenes. We find journalist Pete Stenning (Edward Judd) wandering through the streets of a near-deserted London: the Thames has virtually dried up in temperatures of over a hundred degrees. Stenning goes into the offices of his newspaper and (his typewriter ink having turned to paste) proceeds to dictate the story of what has befallen the world…

In flashback, we return to more conventional times, with the men (and they are virtually all men) of the press preoccupied with a string of apparently unconnected natural disasters: floods and earthquakes, mostly. Some planes are also reporting navigational problems. Amidst all this news of the Americans and Soviets both having recently tested enormously powerful nuclear weapons at opposite ends of the globe is only a minor item. But all the news seems trivial to Stenning, who is having something of a breakdown – his marriage having ended, he is concerned for the future of his son, and is drinking too much. His job is in peril and it is only the connivance of his friend and colleague Maguire (Leo McKern) that keeps him employed.

The authorities at the air ministry and the meteorological office stonewall any attempts to find out what’s going on, and Stenning’s own enquiries only put him on the wrong side of secretary Jean Craig (Janet Munro). But strange events continue: there is an unheralded, unscheduled lunar eclipse, then a protracted heat-wave. Then a stifling heat-mist blankets much of the world, followed by savage hurricanes and typhoons. Stenning has (almost inevitably) got it together with Jean by this point, and it is from her that he learns the reality of what is really going on – the nuclear tests have toppled the world on its axis, and caused it to shift its orbit, taking it much closer to the sun…

There is a sense in which watching The Day the Earth Caught Fire is like looking back into a very different world, which has now almost vanished. These are the sixties before they really started to swing: the mood is still stolid, post-war, sensible. Most importantly, newspapers are still the dominant media, and most of the film is centred around the offices of Stenning’s rag. Normally when a film focuses on a paper, it’s a fictitious one (unless we’re talking about a based-on-fact movie like The Post); one of the possibly-startling elements of this film is that Stenning works for the Daily Express, an actual newspaper (one guesses that the Express movie critic was rather positive about this film). Even more surprising, the editor of the Express in the film is played (not especially well, it must be said) by Arthur Christiansen, who was the real-world editor of the paper for over twenty years. These days it is customary to dismiss the Daily Express as being one of the more excitably nutty organs of the right-wing media, so there is a degree of cognitive dissonance in seeing its staff portrayed so heroically; a scare story about the Earth falling into the sun would probably qualify as a quite a subdued piece by the paper’s current standards – no doubt it would turn out to be the fault of the EU, or Tony Blair. (An unintentionally funny moment, from a modern perspective, comes when Christiansen declares – even as the fall of civilisation takes a big step closer – ‘We must keep the tone of the paper optimistic!’)

The film is also very much of its time in its concern over the proliferation of nuclear weapons – something it shares with another great British film from about ten years earlier, Seven Days to Noon – but it also seems almost prophetic in the way it depicts wide-scale climate change as a result of human foolishness. Everything is rather exaggerated for dramatic effect, naturally, but many chords are struck – the authorities initially refuse to be pinned down on the exact cause of the punishingly hot weather, and the characters seem almost overwhelmed by the immense implications of what is happening in the film. There is also something chillingly plausible about the various reactions as the situation worsens – there are mentions of black market water dealers, severe rationing, outbreaks of typhus in London, and so on.

It’s all handled in a downbeat, naturalistic style which serves to keep the story unsettlingly credible. However, the script (by Guest and Wolf Mankowitz) isn’t quite wall-to-wall doom and despair – woven in there, alongside the main plotline, is the story of Stenning and Jean’s romance, which is equally plausible and smartly written. Edward Judd gets the ‘introducing’ credit in this film; he gives a great leading man’s performance of the kind he would continue to produce in a number of other British SF and fantasy films in the 1960s. Munro inevitably has a rather more secondary role, but she is also appealing and plausible. Leo McKern is saddled with the gravitas-provision and exposition-delivery character part in this film (the kind of thing someone like Paul Giamatti does nowadays), but also manages to find some interesting stuff to work with there. For modern audiences, there’s also a nice moment when a pre-stardom Michael Caine (aged 27) has an uncredited cameo as a police officer: his face is never clearly seen, but that voice is unmistakable.

This is one of those films which is not especially celebrated nowadays, but which seems to me to cast an extremely long shadow – it certainly anticipates several of the effects-driven SF disaster movies that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin have been regularly producing for many years now, but I can also discern something of its tone and imagery in many other pieces of British and American SF – not just films, but also TV shows and even comic books. This is a smart, serious film, even if the print in wide circulation via DVDs and so on diffuses Guest’s original, carefully ambiguous ending to create something a little more hopeful. The Day the Earth Caught Fire isn’t about hope; it’s about anger, and fear, but in that very reserved British way. Not just a great British SF film, but a great British film, full stop.

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As 2013 draws to a close I find myself inadvertantly tying up a couple of loose ends from earlier in the year: or at least making a late addition to both the series of pieces celebrating the centenary of Peter Cushing’s birth (from June this year) and that looking at the work of Nigel Kneale (from September). That it’s also a Hammer movie is a bonus too; though it predates – just! – the studio’s reinvention of itself as the world’s greatest producer of genre and horror movies.

The film in question is Val Guest’s The Abominable Snowman from 1957, a rather lurid and hokey title which the film itself either fails to live up to or doesn’t deserve, depending on what your expectations are. Like the Quatermass movies, this started life as a TV play and was then reconstituted as a feature release. It’s not terribly similar to Quatermass in terms of its subject matter, but there are some familiar Kneale themes visible if you look closely for them.

Abominable_Snowman_movie

Proceedings get underway with some appropriately ominous and slightly exotic music, as the credits appear over stock footage of mountain ranges. Being well versed in the ways of Hammer and their, er, limited budgets, I was expecting this to be the precursor to a film shot entirely on sound-stages, but this turned out to be not entirely the case.

Anyway, regardless of where it was filmed, the movie is set in Tibet – or possibly Nepal – where top boffin John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is engaged in a study of the local plantlife, aided by his wife and a junior boffin who’s vaguely comic-reliefy. We learn very quickly that Rollason has promised his wife he’s packed in his hobby of going on dangerous expeditions up mountains, and this lets us know that the movie is obviously going to be about him going on a dangerous expedition up a mountain. So it proves: the head lama of the monastery where Rollason is based makes various ominous comments about his motives and the place of Man in the world, and then some Americans turn up.

Chief American is Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker). Although Cushing is inarguably the star of the film and plays the lead role, the imported American star Tucker gets top billing in both the credits and on the poster: the demands of trying to sell your film in the States, I suppose. Anyway, as has been blatantly obvious since the title of the film came up, Rollason and Friend are both determined to track down – and, possibly, capture – a Yeti, and Friend has kitted out an expedition with that very end in mind.

However, the locals are not keen on this idea, and Cushing starts to have second thoughts too when he learns more of the kind of man he’s teamed up with – a chancer, an adventurer, a con man, and a mercenary, quite willing to take terrible risks or commit questionable acts if it means improving his chances of turning a profit. Things get even worse when they get up in the high valleys, where it becomes apparent the Yeti are more than simple ape-like hominids, and bring their peculiar powers to bear against the expedition…

There’s no denying that even if you discount the black-and-white photography and plummy accents of all the British characters, The Abominable Snowman is still a very mid-50s sort of movie. Looking for the Yeti was topical, back then, for one thing, with British newspapers funding expeditions to track down the beast (following Hillary’s conquest of Everest in 1952 there was almost a sense that the entire region was now British territory). And for all that it has a remote setting and looks on paper like a pulp B-movie creature feature, it has much wider themes. There’s a vein of A-bomb concern and general pessimism about the state of civilisation not very deeply buried and central to the main idea of the film.

General pessimism is more or less what you expect from an original Nigel Kneale screenplay, of course. This film was based on his play The Creature (the title is less pulpy, more ambiguous, and thus much more appropriate), and he rewrote the script himself – and then, apparently, found himself rewritten again by Val Guest, who wasn’t keen on Kneale’s tendency towards speechification. As it is, the film gets its points across fairly concisely, but a sense of a clash of sensibilities persists. For much of the movie it looks like the Yeti themselves are going to remain an elusive, off-camera presence, which would probably help the film’s credentials as a serious piece of work: there’s nothing like a man on lifts in a gorilla suit to make your serious statement look risible, after all. Slightly surprisingly, this decision was apparently Guest’s rather than Kneale’s – Kneale wanted to communicate the true nature of the Yeti through their appearance on-camera during the climax. Well, perhaps this was a nice idea, but for all that the appearance of ‘live’ Yeti is fleeting, it’s still a very qualified success at best.

This is a bit of a shame as in most other departments the film stands up well, given its age and budget. The movie has pretty decent production values, and includes a fair bit of second unit footage actually shot on location up a mountain (though in the Pyrenees rather than the Himalayas). There are occasional issues where second unit stuff filmed during the day is inserted into sequences set at night, but on the whole this is well-integrated and gives the film more of a sense of scale. Any film starring Peter Cushing is never going to have very serious problems in the acting department (though Tucker, to be honest, isn’t very good), and the script holds up quite well too.

The atom-age nihilism and existential angst feel a little dated now, but the structure of the piece is textbook stuff – this may even be another case of Kneale writing the textbook, I’m not sure. Certainly many creature feature tropes are present and correct here – the hostile locals, the capture of a creature-that-isn’t-a-creature, the minor party member who falls under the spell of the quarry, and so on. The integration of more mundane perils into the storyline is neatly done too. It’s just a shame that the actual conclusion of the film feels a little rushed and ambiguous: Rollason returns to the monastery and announces he is now certain that the Yeti do not exist – but is this because he now understands the desperate importance of letting them survive in peace, and is lying to protect them? Or does he genuinely believe it, having been mentally interfered with by the Yeti themselves? As I say, it’s ambiguous, and the script doesn’t flag this up in a way that indicates it’s intentional.

But this is just about the only significant stone I can throw at an otherwise very solid little film. Like I say, it is very dated by modern standards, and the general pessimism and thoughtfulness of the script aren’t things you’re likely to find in a genre movie nowadays. If nothing else it shows that, even before they discovered luridness and Kensington Gore, Hammer were still highly accomplished when it came to making genre movies. The Abominable Snowman is well worth a look if you like brainy 50s B-movies.

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There was a time when, if you were talking about the most important and influential pieces of British SF film and TV, Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series would be in the top five without any debate whatsoever. Is this still the case? Frankly, I’m not sure – the name still has a certain degree of recognition, but does anyone really care any more? Does anyone remember the details? Haven’t other, more recent programmes crowded it into the background somewhat? (Frankly, since I found out an American network had embarked on a direct remake of The Tomorrow PeopleThe Tomorrow People, I ask you! – I haven’t known quite what to think.)

Quatermass isn’t quite Year Zero when it comes to Nigel Kneale’s career as a genre writer: a recording of his adaptation of 1984 managed to avoid being wiped by the BBC, which is more than can be said for the majority of the first Quatermass TV serial. Kneale himself, whom one gathers was never a man to couch a criticism in soft words, was very dismissive of the 1955 film adaptation of the original Quatermass Experiment, which has dated rather badly in many ways. And yet, in a peculiar way, the film – retitled The Quatermass Xperiment to emphasise the now-baffling X-certificate the film received – remains a landmark in the history of British cinema.

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Directed by Val Guest, the film opens with a young couple walking home through the countryside one night, laughing inanely at each other. They proceed to begin to roll in the hay (literally), but any expectations of that X-certificate coming into play are premature (whether anything else is premature is thankfully not explored). They are disturbed by something crashing out of the sky, virtually on top of them. It turns out to be a rocket, which has come to rest (in a credulity-straining moment) embedded nose-cone first in the ground. The emergency services are soon on the scene, accompanied by boffins from the British Rocket Group, most significantly their chief, Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy in this instance).

Signs of life are detected within the rocket, which was apparently launched without official backing and went out-of-contact for over two days in deep space. The vessel is cracked open and a lone astronaut, Caroon (Richard Wordsworth) stumbles out, clearly traumatised but unable to speak. Of the other two men in the crew, there appears to be no sign – but the ship has not been penetrated nor the hatch opened while it was in space. They have seemingly vanished into thin air…

Caroon is hospitalised and his condition gives the doctors cause for concern – there are signs of a physical metamorphosis being underway. Meanwhile, Quatermass and the police (inspector Jack Warner of Dixon of Dock Green fame is handling the case) are trying to work out where the missing astronauts have gone. They come to a startling conclusion: out in space, the rocket encountered a totally alien form of life which somehow assimilated the missing men and has infected Caroon, mutating his body and possessing the power to absorb the life essence of any creature it encounters. Unfortunately this comes just as Caroon’s wife, believing her husband to be being poorly treated by his employers, springs him from the hospital. Soon the remains of Caroon are on the loose in London, rapidly mutating and threatening to reproduce on a massive scale…

The original TV broadcasts of The Quatermass Experiment ran for over three hours, so I suppose it says something about the leisurely pace of small-screen drama in those days that virtually the entire story is reproduced in a film running rather less than ninety minutes. This is a pacy little thriller, the main loss being the climax – in the TV version, Quatermass confronts the gribbly monster that Caroon has become and essentially talks him to death. Here, rather more prosaically, it’s just a question of the main characters switching on a plug in order to save the day. I can’t help thinking we’ve lost some of the poetry of the drama there; Nigel Kneale thought so, being particularly unimpressed with Donlevy as Quatermass.

Having said that, Professor Q doesn’t get a great deal to do in this movie beyond snap at people and listen to other boffins exposit at him. There are lots of things that date this movie – the very idea of a British space programme is one of them, along with the charmingly antique fire engines, and so on – but one of the main ones is the fact that it’s a horror-SF movie populated almost entirely by middle-aged men in hats and ties. The only female character of note is Mrs Caroon, who’s arguably one of the direct sources of the trouble everyone else faces. (The fact that Caroon himself is kept in a public hospital, barely guarded and hardly monitored, is one of those things that makes you roll your eyes and just treat this as a penny-dreadful melodrama.)

Of course, you could also argue that the indirect source of the trouble is Quatermass himself, for launching his rocket precipitately in the first place. The prof does not come across as a noble, heroic science-visionary like some of his successors: instead, he is a bullying main-chancer who refuses to show remorse or take the blame for any of the events he has unwittingly caused to happen. The film concludes with the current menace dealt with, just about, at which point Quatermass strides off, his only comment being the instruction to a subordinate that they’re going to start again. The film closes with a second rocket blasting off, and the effect is undeniably ominous: Quatermass (and, by extension, science itself) presents a real danger if left unchecked.

So in a sense this is a lurid and melodramatic atom-scare B-movie, and a bargain-basement one compared to some of the similar films being made contemporaneously in the States. However, the extensive use of location filming does allow it to retain a tenuous sort of grip on reality, and the contrast between the almost-Ealingesque depiction of postwar Britain and the disturbing body horror of Kneale’s story is nicely done. It’s worth noting how far ahead of the curve Nigel Kneale was in this respect: you can look at this story and see how its central concept has echoed down the years in countless other movies, comics and TV shows – it’s curious how many stories derived partly from The Quatermass Experiment also draw heavily on The Thing From Another World, when the two don’t have much in common beyond the not-exactly-unusual idea of an alien incursion of some kind. I’ve never found any evidence of Kneale acknowledging any version of The Thing as an influence, and suspect it’s the kind of film he would have dismissed out of hand (John Carpenter, on the other hand, is on record as a Kneale fan).

The simplistic way of summarising Nigel Kneale’s screenwriting career is to say that his work is all about trying to build a bridge between genuine SF and real horror – or, to put it another way, to find a way of conjuring up a real sense of primal dread without recourse to the supernatural. We will be looking at some more of Kneale’s work over the next few days, and I think we will see that this doesn’t do the breadth of his career justice. But the horror aspect does has some truth to it, particularly in connection with The Quatermass Xperiment. Appearing in the closing credits is the declaration ‘A Hammer Film’, the first time the company had tried its hand at a horror movie. But they did it well, and it did well for them. Hammer decided to make some more – and they are still making them today. As I said, a landmark film in cinema history.

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