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Book Review: Quatermass in Television and Movies (2016)

Professor Bernard Quatermass is a name synonymous with science-fiction television and film, a character on par with the infamy and importance of Dr Sherlock Holmes’ consulting detective in the mystery genre (supposedly the most portrayed fictional figure on film) and Professor Abraham Van Helsing’s vampire hunter in horror cinema.

The interesting thing about Quatermass, in comparison to these other two iconic figures, is that he did not develop from a literary source. Sherlock Holmes first appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet in 1887 and, along with Doctor John Watson, has graced popular culture ever since. Van Helsing, the knowledgeable scientist and fearless monster hunter, has similarly killed countless cinematic vampires since the initial publication of Bram Stroker’s gothic feast Dracula in 1897.

Quatermass was instead originally conceived by acclaimed writer Nigel Kneale for a six-part televised serial for the BBC in 1953, The Quatermass Experiment.  The show was so successful that a second and third series followed in 1955 and 1957, which overlapped with the first instalment of the film franchise in Hammer Film Productions’ The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), and the rest is history.

Mark F. Cain’s Quatermass in Television and Movies (2016) is a referential guide to the full scope of the Quatermass universe, from the initial televised run to the reincarnation of the series in the 1970s and mid-2000s, the full filmic franchise, and references in other strands of popular culture – from the 1970s band named after the treasured science-fiction hero to the 1959 Quatermass-themed episode of popular British comedy radio show, The Goon Show (1951-1960).

Reginald Tate as Professor Bernard Quatermass in television serial The Quatermass Experiment (1953).

As a compendium to the Quatermass universe, Quatermass in Television and Movies is a wonderful book for any fan of the franchise to dip into, new or old. At forty-seven pages it’s a quick and engaging read; Cain’s writing is peppered by fascinating facts that, in addition to the dedication of chapters to specific films or television series, allow readers to pick up the book at any stage of the Quatermass story.

Cain is first and foremost a fan of the series; while his formative relationship with Quatermass is directly referenced in the introduction and evidently helped to shape his genre preferences from early childhood, his love for the franchise is apparent on every page. Combining an analysis of the importance of the character, contextualised within the cultural influences upon the various instalments of the franchise within television and film, Cain’s insight into the Quatermass universe is both knowledgeable and respectful, and is a must read for fans of science-fiction.

Original poster art from the theatrical release of Quatermass II in 1957.

Quatermass in Television and Movies, which is free from 20 to 24 December 2016 as part of a festive promotion that includes his other publications, can be found here.

Mark F. Cain bibliography:

Quatermass in Television and Movies (2016)

The Boy Who Got Lost in Dreams (2016)

X-Files Episode By Episode: Season 1 (2016)

About Rebecca Booth

Rebecca has a Masters in Film Studies from the University of Southampton. In addition to her role as Managing Editor at Diabolique Magazine, she co-hosts the international horror podcast United Nations of Horror, as well as X-Files X-Philes and The Twin Peaks Log. She has contributed to several popular culture websites such as Wicked Horror, Den of Geek, and Big Comic Page, and has contributed essays to following publications: Unsung Horrors (We Belong Dead, 2016), Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (Spectacular Optical, 2017), and the forthcoming A Filthy Workshop of Creation: Sin & Subversion in Hammer's Gothic Horrors (Electric Dreamhouse Press, 2018).

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