Quatermass and the Pit -- One of the most popular science fiction/horror films of the middle of the last century is the 1968 Hammer production of "Quatermass and the Pit" (known as "Five Million Years to Earth" over here). Yes, this is the one that starts with a strange object and scattered ape-man skeletons found during an excavation of a new subway (or tube) station at Hobb’s Lane -- formerly known as Hob’s Lane, which tells you something right there, if you’re up on your demonology.
There is a website filled with people’s vague recollections of the original telecast shown in 1958 to a British audience. Well, it turns out that a label named PRS has issued that very telecast on a DVD with no information whatsoever other than it is the "Classic 1958-59 BBC Television Version Starring Andre Morell."
The film version is found on many labels. The one I have (Anchor Bay) has it paired with "Quatermass 2," starring a very pedestrian Brian Donlevy in the title role.
Those who saw the 1968 film will find this a very well done production despite its studio-shot limitations. Those familiar with the film will appreciate how it sticks extremely closely to the television version, which was shown in six episodes of 33 minutes each. Even the names of the characters and much of the dialogue remain unchanged.
The lead roles in the original and film versions are as follows: Quatermass: Andre Morell/Andrew Keir; Dr. Roney: Cec Linder/James Donald; Barbara: Christine Finn/Barbara Shelley; Col. Breen: Anthony Bushell/Julian Glover.
The scenes not used in the film help make the events a little more believable, as if anything could. And the difference in the appearance of the spaceship shows how cinematic imagination changed in the 11 years between the original and the film. The special effects of the life on Mars memories are better in the television version, while the climax is certainly more impressive in the film version. All in all, I would recommend that sci-fi lovers get both and watch the 1958 version first.
Note: BBC kept turning out Quatermass productions into the 1970s. One of them has been released by A&E with the title "Quatermass: The Legendary ‘70s Sci-Fi Classic." Here John Mills takes over the star role in a not too well made tale of (surprise!) civilization on the verge of collapse. It is, however, fun to watch, along with some bonus material about Stonehenge.
Time Team -- Back in 1994, British television viewers (and later, American ones) began to watch the first of 20 seasons of "Time Team." Basically, each 50-minute episode follows the first three days of a "dig" someplace in the world and is hosted by Tony Robinson, famous for playing the faithful servant of the Blackadder family.
From the many episodes already released on Athena Learning DVDs, eight have been gathered in an anthology set of three discs titled "Time Team, the Team’s Favorite Digs." Each disc has one "bonus" episode, making eleven in all.
Since archeology is not exactly the fastest moving activity to watch on the telly, it is Robinson’s job to enliven the conversation at the least. The inclusion of an attractive blonde archeologist with the charming name of Carenza helps hold one’s attention too!
The objects of the digs vary from resurrecting an entire Roman villa or even a medieval town to unearthing a Spitfire that went down in its first mission over France. In fact, with a huge earth remover standing close by, it is almost ludicrous to see the team working around the crushed remains of the Spitfire with their tiny trowels, as if the compacted body of the plane, which hit the ground at both a very small angle and at great speed, was as delicate as ancient coins and pottery shards.
At least one knows that the episodes are not rehearsed, because none of the team knows what to expect when the first inches of earth are being removed. The results should have great appeal to historians as well as scientists.
This is not for all audiences but is well done in its own way.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays.