Quentin Lawrence

Active - 1958 - 1964  |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Spy Film, Action, War

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Quentin Lawrence was a director/producer (and sometime writer) mainly associated with television in England from the mid-'50s onward, although he did helm a handful of feature films. Across his 25-year career, in either medium, he specialized in action/adventure and thriller material. According to film historian David Del Valle, Lawrence was trained as a nuclear scientist. After the Second World War, however, he abandoned that field, and in the early '50s he started working in the then-new medium of television. His earliest credits date from 1955, and the newly established ITV network in England, which consisted of a patchwork of services across the British isles. ITV was conceived and authorized as a competitor to the BBC, which had previously enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the video airwaves; the fledgling network was sustained and fed by an array of small production companies including ATV, which was where Lawrence did most of his early work.

Lawrence's earliest credit as a director was on ITV Television Playhouse, and a program called A Question of Fact, which he also produced. In the fall of the following year, he became associated with ITV's Saturday Serial, and co-directed (with Arthur Lane) The Strange World of Planet X, starring Helen Cherry, David Garth, and William Lucas, about a scientist's potentially dangerous experiments with time travel. Lawrence and author Renee Ray showed something of a golden touch with this seven-part miniseries, as it proved sufficiently intriguing to get transformed -- albeit with a considerable rewrite -- into a feature film two years later (released in the U.S. as The Cosmic Monsters). Lawrence handled one installment of the anthology series Lilli Palmer Theatre, and then helmed the six-part miniseries The Trollenberg Terror, which ran from mid-December of 1956 into January of 1957. This production was so successful that it, too, became the basis for a feature film, which Lawrence also directed. The last movie produced at West London's Southall Studios, it was a solid big-screen debut for Lawrence, showing off his ability within the constraints of a low budget and a very fast shooting schedule to move a story along well and rapidly, leaping past the least logical elements in the script while making the most of the suspense and horror, although to some extent he was let down by the special-effects department.

Lawrence stuck to television for the remainder of the decade, helming episodes of William Tell and The Invisible Man, and moving on to the long-running Coronation Street. His second feature film was the thriller Cash on Demand, starring Peter Cushing, Andre Morell, and Richard Vernon, released in 1963. He followed this, amid a very busy schedule of work on Danger Man (aka Secret Agent, for which he also wrote some scripts), The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, and The Avengers, with the thrillers The Man Who Finally Died (1963, starring Stanley Baker, Peter Cushing, and Nigel Green) and The Secret of Blood Island (1964), a World War II prisoner-of-war drama scripted by John Gilling.

The remainder of Lawrence's career would be confined almost entirely to television, and series such as The Baron, Public Eye, Doomwatch, and numerous other programs, mostly in the thriller category. He also served in an uncredited capacity as aerial unit director on Harry Saltzman's gargantuan production of Battle of Britain (1969), directed by Guy Hamilton. Lawrence remained busy as a director and producer on television right up until his death at age 58.

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