Quatermass ConclusionThe final Quatermass (on TV) story ends with, hem hem, someone having to stay behind to set off a nucular bomb. This will divert the menace lurking out there in space threatening to destroy all life, having taken 1000s of lives already. In Armageddon they’ve already destroyed central Paris (hurray!), shown front and centre. In Quatermass they’ve destroyed all the young people gathered in Wembley Stadium (hurray!) and a stonehenge-alike (hurray!), all conveniently alluded to off-screen with the SFX you’d expect from 1979 TV.

[SPOILER ALERT – if you want to see Quatermass Concluded/4/1979 look away. If you want to see Armageddon, consider yourself in receipt of a bag of pity.]

Bruce Willis prises the bomb-setting-off role from his son-in-law, but John Mills is having a heart attack having just unexpectedly found his lost grand-daughter – she gives him a hand reaching for the button…

Despite this final coincidence, the Quatermass story works out better on so many levels, but it gets a fat raspberry for being so relentlessly down on “the kids”. Kneale was into his 50s when he first wrote it, and approaching 60 when it was aired, and boy was he ever grumpy. His reinterpreted Armageddon is of an entity purposefully harvesting people (specifically young people), having already precipitated the general breakdown of civil society for some reason. The near-future society is actually not far off the vision of other Euston Films of the time (Sweeney and Minder). Well maybe with more tit-flashing TV shows and machine-gun toting gangs of youths. The unrelenting negative view of human nature on display – the propensity of the young to be stupid and destructive and so on – is to the detriment of a clever and well acted show. (Manimal is in it!) It’s so dark that it comes as a surprise when the prologue is so optimistic – well almost. I was left wondering if Kneale originally wrote several versions where all people, except the old clever scientists are actually wiped out. But then they would NEVER LEARN.

The slow genesis of the script (written early 70s, shot late 70s) is in evidence where the youths are portrayed as violent hippies, rather than as (as would be more appropriate in 79) techno punks. A shame as TOYAH briefly appears among their number – she must have cornered the market in those characters then! Sadly the version I was watching (ITV4 over the last four weeks) had TERRIBLE sound, and I missed a lot of nuance in the script (I didn’t catch why the sun/sky was going green?), but it was triffic to see it nonetheless. And stone circles! I love stone circles.

A creeping biblical armageddon diverted by the actions of a balding old man. And not even Aerosmith to muck it up.

[Fuller review of the DVD version from zetaminor.com from whom I nicked the image of John Mills.]