Famed British science fiction writer Nigel Kneale passed away October 29, 2006 at age 84. Kneale, known as Tom to his friends, was a major creative force in the British television and motion picture industries. Kneale abhorred the appellation of "science fiction" writer but the majority of his work was in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres.
Kneale's first major success was his live television mini-series The Quatermass Experiment (1953). In four separate series, Kneale's Professor Quatermass dealt with various menaces from outer space. The first series portrayed a more conventional alien-on-the-loose scenario with a strange being that resembled mutant vegetation.
In the second live series, Quatermass II (1955), the aliens were using an industrial complex to mask their plans of worldwide conquest. By the third live installment, Quatermass and the Pit (1958), Kneale's approach took on an anthropological bent, the existence of an alien Earth presence offering an explanation of place names, some of our most fundamental spiritual beliefs and, possibly, even our own existence.
The last chapter, Quatermass (1979) offered a new interpretation of the function of ley lines and the placement of ancient monolith sites such as Stonehenge.
The trailer for Quatermass and the Pit, located at the external site Youtube.
The first three series resulted in film versions produced by Hammer Films, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)(the "x" inserted as a reference to British film ratings), Quatermass 2 (1957), and Quatermass and the Pit (1967), known respectively in the U.S. as The Creeping Unknown, Enemy from Space, and Five Million Years to Earth. The fourth TV series was shot on film and released to video in a movie version, The Quatermass Conclusion (1979). Although Kneale disapproved of the first two films, science fiction fans generally hold the entire series in high regard.
Kneale also wrote a thoughtful, philosophical story about the Himalayan Yeti that cast the legendary beings as wiser than their human counterparts. Titled The Creature (1955) it became the film The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957). With a certain appropriateness, Kneale wrote the screenplay for the Ray Harryhausen film First Men In the Moon (1964), adding a wraparound story that cleverly challenges the accepted history of space travel.
Kneale wrote many other TV and film scripts in the science fiction/fantasy/and horror field as well as some prestigious dramatic movies and television broadcasts such as Look Back in Anger (1958), The Entertainer (1960), Damn the Defiant! (1962), Sharpe's Gold (1995) [British soldier in Napoleanic times], and Kavanagh QC (1997) [John Thaw as a solicitor].
Kneale wrote an unproduced script for a remake of Creature From the Black Lagoon. It must be wondered how Kneale's unique viewpoint would have spun a new explanation and meaning for the Creature. The effects of Kneale's anthropological approach can also be seen in films like Lifeforce (1985) (from the Colin Wilson novel The Space Vampires) and John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness with script credited to the Carpenter pseudonym Martin Quatermass. This was perhaps done as a sign of respect for Kneale's uncredited work on the disappointing Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Kneale's fantastic envisioning of a Halloween plot by an Irish mask manufacturer, which featured further thoughts on the function of Stonehenge, was destroyed in the transition to the screen.
In 1996 The Quatermass Memoirs was broadcast on BB3 radio and in 2005 there was a live TV remake of The Quatermass Experiment that received mixed reviews. In 2003 Kneale was the subject of a BBC Four biography and in 2000 the British Film Institute included Quatermass and the Pit and 1984 as two of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes.
Major Genre Credits: (TV) The Quatermass Experiment (1953), 1984 (1954), The Creature (1955), Quatermass II (1955), Quatermass and the Pit (1958), Theatre 625: The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968), The Stone Tape (1972), Bedtime Stories (1974), Beasts (1976), Quatermass (1979), Kinvig (1981), Unnatural Causes (1986), The Woman in Black (1989),
(Movies) The Quatermass Xperiment (The Creeping Unknown)(1955), Quatermass 2 (Enemy From Space)(1957), The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957), First Men in the Moon (1964), The Witches (1966), Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth)(1967), The Quatermass Conclusion (1979).