Nigel Kneale

Active - 1955 - 2005  |   Born - Apr 8, 1922   |   Died - Oct 29, 2006   |   Genres - Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

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Biography by AllMovie

Manx-born author/screenwriter Nigel Kneale was one of the most compelling and influential film writers to come out of England in the '50s. He started on television, where his five-part series The Quatermass Experiment in 1953 took the fledgling British television industry by storm, racking up huge audiences despite the relative rarity of TV sets at that time. The series introduced a new, much more mature brand of science fiction to a mass audience. Hammer Films bought the screen rights and made a feature film out of The Quatermass Experiment (aka The Creeping Unknown) two years later, under director Val Guest, simplifying many of Kneale's best ideas and casting American Brian Donlevy in the role of the irascible scientist. Kneale objected to the casting, but this and the follow-up film, Quatermass II (aka Enemy from Space) -- adapted from Kneale's 1955 TV series -- were successful all over the world and helped put Hammer Films on the map after a shaky start. During this same period, his script for The Abominable Snowman was also successfully adapted into a Hammer film. His next series, Quatermass and the Pit, was the most popular of all, although it did not come to the screen until 1967 (aka Five Million Years to Earth), this time in color and with a wholly British cast. In the interim, Kneale wrote the screen adaptations of such mainstream dramatic fare as Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer, and the screenplay for the Ray Harryhausen science-fiction/adventure film The First Men in the Moon, and one harrowing psychological chiller, The Devil's Own. Kneale's science-fiction screenplays have all displayed rich characterizations and great originality in terms of their story-lines and central concepts, involving complex threats to the Earth that must be understood. They have often proved too complex for easy adaptation to the screen, but they have influenced two generations of filmmakers and terrified and delighted audiences for decades. His last Quatermass series, The Quatermass Conclusion (1980), in which the professor is killed off, suffered from the fact that it was now competing with a generation of science-fiction films done in the wake of Kneale's earlier work. It also disappointed many viewers with its downbeat setting and ending, and its release as a heavily edited feature film (rather than being redone entirely as a film) was offputting to American audiences, but is still worth watching, and MGM/UA's recent release of The Creeping Unknown, coupled with Corinth's long-available video of Quatermass II: Enemy From Space are well worth tracking down.

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