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Scream Factory lovingly restores “Quatermass 2”, Hammer’s ode to a sci-fi icon — the genesis of many future horror and science fiction classics.

“Everyone of you listening to my voice, tell the world, tell this to everybody wherever they are. Watch the skies. Everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.”

With this simple plea, Howard Hawks’s The Thing From Another World defined an era. In the nuclear ashes of World War II, when the worst horrors of man dangled from every corner newsstand, weary eyes turned to the stars. The poets wondered what we might find out there. The pessimists wondered what might find us. Somewhere in between, the Atomic Age of science fiction took hold of our collective imagination.

Renegade robots. Sky-scraping beasts made of our own technological hubris. A gorilla with its head stuck in a fishbowl. Occasionally the threat was just a popcorn paintjob on post-war confusion. You can find solid cases for Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers coloring Joseph McCarthy as a hero or villain depending on the cut, despite almost everyone involved denying either intention.

But as Sigmund Freud once said, sometimes a crab monster is just a crab monster.

It was in a montage of such crab monsters that I saw an image that’s stuck with me for at least a decade. Not a spoon-shaped alien or studio-stock laboratory where monochrome fluids bubble in implied Day-Glo. It was a man in a trenchcoat running for his life across a chrome labyrinth of industrial hell as gas-masked stormtroopers unloaded from the catwalks above with Thompson submachine guns.

There was nothing fanciful about it, no creatures fit for Famous Monsters of Filmland, no bad rubber to keep it safely out of contemporary nightmares. This was real. A ready-made nightmare without expiration date.

That’s the first time I saw Quatermass 2 and the first time I heard the name Bernard Quatermass.

It possessed me, that simple sequence, and I dug into as much as I could find on Nigel Kneale’s seminal sci-fi hero. Thanks to the early BBC’s infamously lax archives, finding the original six-part serials in complete form and non-Vaseline quality is just shy of a holy crusade. The Hammer movies, which halved the three-hour serials into brisk feature length, are similarly hard to find in the wild.

Enter Scream Factory with definitive 2K restorations of Quatermass 2 and Quatermass and the Pit. I haven’t had the chance to watch the latter, but I can confirm that long-ingrained scene from the former is still as unsettling as it ever was.

Bernard Quatermass is a rocket scientist, kind of. The serials make it explicit — that’s ProfessorBernard Quatermass to you — but nobody bothers with titles in Quatermass 2. In one of the newly recorded commentaries for this release, film historian Ted Newsom thinks that’s deliberate. While Kneale’s character is a more traditionally high-minded academic in the serials, the Hammer version has little time for theory.

As the head of the British Experimental Rocket Group, he’s more manager than teacher, like the kind of former military men that Walt Disney enlisted to oversee believed-impossible construction projects. When old friend Inspector Lomax (John Longden) phones a government contact on Quatermass’s behalf, he joylessly repeats their question: “Are you dependable?” Quatermass grunts an insulted, “What?,” and Lomax confirms. Yes of course; Quatermass is always dependable.

And that has more than a little to do with the furrowed-brow, resiliently squinty performance of Brian Donlevy.

When Hammer approached the BBC about adapting the first serial, The Quatermass Experiment, the studio insisted on casting an American in the lead for the sake of international distribution. When he was cast in 1955, Donlevy was most famous for being a bad guy, both on and off-screen depending on who you ask. Nigel Kneale eagerly agreed and said as much whenever given half a chance.

A sizable chunk of his combo commentary track with director Val Guest is dedicated to the star’s allegedly perpetual drunkenness. Guest, in turn, spends a sizable chunk of his own time defending Donlevy. The truth or what’s left of it seems to be that the actor did have problems with alcohol and drank more than he should’ve on Quatermass 2, but even knowing that, you won’t notice.

Whether because or despite this, his Quatermass is believably surly when the situation calls for it. Holding bureaucratic feet to the fire? No problem. Demanding answers from a firing squad of silent soldiers? Sure thing. Donning a dead man’s uniform to sneak amongst them? With almost alarmingly little hesitation.

You can draw a line from this Quatermass to Dr. Loomis, another doctor in a trenchcoat that may or may not be hiding a gun. John Carpenter is a professed fan; he used the penname “Martin Quatermass” for PRINCE OF DARKNESS, another hard-to-find classic available from Scream Factory. Kneale did not appreciate the homage.

The serial version of Quatermass had six, 30-minute episodes to piece the whole conspiracy together and save the day.

The movie version has 84 minutes. Of course he’s a little more reckless.

While Kneale was left out of the Experiment adaptation process, Hammer invited the creator to write his own script for the sequel. Returning director Guest then shaped it to better fit the format. The duet commentary between film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr covers most of the differences, with the long-and-short being that Guest streamlined it for chills, spills, and thrills. In what you might notice is a pattern, Nigel Kneale did not enjoy the changes.

While I can’t speak to the pace of the serial, it’s hard to fault Guest when the result moves like one of our hero’s legendary rockets.

Technically Quatermass 2 is the first-ever numbered sequel, and it also technically isn’t.

Yes, it’s the second Quatermass movie, but that’s also the name of his latest prototype ro