Tag Archives: Quatermass

Quatermass and the Pit on Blu-Ray (commentary details and restoration pictures)

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT ON BLU-RAY

Good things comes to those who wait.

When the Quatermass serials were released on DVD some years ago, I got in touch with Steve Roberts at the Restoration Team – wizards who have done so much for archive TV releases, not least Doctor Who – to offer my services. I didn’t know Steve at all, and he didn’t know me (nor did anybody in the world of archive TV – I had yet to start talking about Doctor Who in my stand-up and so my anorak was not, at that moment in time, tax deductible). My social and professional circle then (hard to believe) was pretty Doctor Who/science-fiction far free bar a couple of notable exceptions. Life was very different. But I harboured a hope that one day my vast storehouse of Quatermass documents and interviews would find a wider audience in a professional release.

Anyway, Steve was very polite and, I am pleased to say, ensured that the photos I had offered him (which had been given to me by the actor Cec Linder and the designer Clifford Hatts) were put onto the disc and into its accompanying booklet (written by that doyen of archival arcana Andrew Pixley). There was no time or money to do the commentaries I had – in a moment of uncharacteristic boldness – suggested, but I was still grateful that I had had some minor input into what I figured would be the only release of this kind that these programmes would get. It niggled that the promised credit for handing over my treasured and unpublished photos didn’t appear (an omission that took place down the line from Steve) and that we wouldn’t have commentaries with some of the surviving cast and crew with whom I was in touch – but I understood the various practicalities and that the release we got was far more impressive than the time and budget it had been allocated dictated it should have been. On a more personal note it was my first encounter with Steve – who was a gateway drug to his colleagues all of whom I now consider very good friends, and whose input into my personal and professional life has been far more important to me than any such relative trivialities.

What terror lurks within these sealed containers? Photo (c) Charles Norton

Fast forward to 2018 and Charles Norton, another crusader in the cause of cowbwebbed classics of the cathode ray, mentioned that he had pitched a Quatermass Blu-Ray release. Knowing he is receptive to stupid ideas and that there was time to get them acted upon, I got giddy and started pushing ideas his way. He was, as ever, receptive and keen, but also realistic about the budget (if any) we would have. We ultimately looked at doing a commentary on selected episodes of Quatermass and the Pit, at one location and all on the same day. That was the only way we could really afford to do it.

We eventually did all six episodes and every single element was recorded on a different day and at a different location.

Best laid plans and all that.

Luck was on our side in some respects. One of the few (three – we think) cast members still with us, Mark Eden, is married to Sue Nicholls who is a work colleague of my partner so I knew they lived literally up the road and that we had an “in”. By a weird coincidence, many years ago I made a reference to Quatermass at a comedy gig (largely for my own amusement) on the one night Andy Murray, Nigel Kneale’s biographer-to-be, was in the crowd. He introduced himself and we’ve been mates ever since. He also lives five minutes from my house (there must be some sort of Kneale Ley line running underneath south Manchester and causing his acolytes to gather here). So that was two contributors we could nobble off without too many practical problems.

The delightful Sue Nicholls and her husband Mark Eden, who played a journalist in Quatermass and the Pit at the start of his illustrious career.

Except… neither Andy nor Mark were available on the same day. Oh well, an extra day is fine – it just meant Charles having to travel to Manchester twice but was no skin off my nose (though I shouldn’t really be taking extra days off – I could only really afford to do one day on this project. But it’s Quatermass so I’m not going to say no am I? This is why I can’t afford socks). Andy brought Hobnobs to the recording of his episode which was delightfully apposite and is a measure of the man. It’s a good job we weren’t doing the other serials as we’d have been munching on cacti and drinking black, ammoniac slime. Hobnobs are much nicer.

It was such a big budget that some of the commentary was recorded at my house. The Hobnobs aren’t mine. The Martian is.

I had just tracked down another surviving actor, Keith Banks (the third, John Hamblin, is in Tasmania : so we drew a line there although I wouldn’t have put it past Charles to jump on a plane, trailing his microphone and dropping his mobile as he did so, in order to get five minutes with him). Keith and I had exchanged letters earlier in the year and even though he is in his 90s he was an engaged correspondent and I was confident he’d participate. He was happy to but didn’t want to travel. That’s OK, one more extra day wouldn’t be a problem. Would it? Oh, but then visual effects assistant Peter Day was also happy to help but he too needed a different day at yet another location that would take some getting to (at one point Charles and I crossed a motorway roundabout with no pavement and blind corners and I realised that much as I love the serial,  if doing a seven hour round trip wasn’t a bit of a silly thing to do in its name, then perishing in the path on an articulated lorry really was).

With actor Keith Banks who played Nuttal in Quatermass and the Pit.

Rounding off the track were two people we were confident we could get on the same day and at the BBC. One of my drinking buddies in London is TV legend Clive Doig who I knew had been a cable basher on Quatermass and the Pit (“What’s a cable basher?” asked Charles and only then did I realise I had no idea). I hoped Clive would be game because he’s an entertaining fellow possessed of a sharp wit and a good memory. Ditto Dick Mills (sound assistant). Both were more than happy to oblige and I knew would give us excellent value. But neither was available to play on the same day. Sigh. So we went to Clive’s house when he was back from his holidays and, before he went on his,  did a separate recording day with Dick at Television Centre (which was the day and place that all of the recordings were originally intended to be done when the commentary plans were being laid by mice and men).

But hey, we had an eclectic line up and enough for each episode. Judith Kerr, Nigel Kneale’s widow, was also keen to take part but ultimately the dates let us down (in her early 90s, she still has an extremely full calendar and works at a rate that shames this 44 year old). A near miss and one I know Judith was disappointed about because she loves talking about Quatermass and her late husband of whom she is so proud. It wasn’t for want of trying on the part of Charles, Judith and Judith’s wonderfully helpful agent Philippa though.

Restoring the Pit (c) Charles Norton

So much for the living, what about those sadly no longer with us? Well, over the years I had corresponded with several people from the serials and three key contributors – designer Clifford Hatts, visual effects wizard Jack Kine and Production Assistant Paddy Russell – had, for various reasons, elected to record their memories for me on cassette tape. These archive interviews have now been interspersed in the commentaries with the more recently recorded conversations and so these fabulous people are represented, on the Blu-ray, by themselves. As someone so grateful to them for indulging a geeky teenager all of those years ago it touches me that they’re preserved on tape and that their voices can echo through time and speak to us today. It’s a living record of the kindness they showed a young stranger and of my enduring gratitude to them.

Add to that a bit of Nigel Kneale from a BBC interview and Peter Crocker telling us about the restoration and we have a track with various first-hand perspectives and mostly never-before-heard recollections. Only Charles’s dogged flexing of budgets and resources and his ambition to make this as definitive as possible could have made this happen. It was knackering process that eventually took us all over the country, sometimes for an interview that only lasts ten minutes – but it’s the sort of commentary I, as a consumer, would like to hear, which is the only rule one can follow when doing these things. I do a bit more of a proactive presenting job than on many commentaries though – there were various gaps which I have plugged with (I hope) interesting facts and observations which I have gathered from decades of interviews, letters, archives, paperwork and, I hope, informed insight.

I recently uncovered a stash of photos which I would have loved to have had as exclusives for my book, but the geek in me couldn’t have a definitive Blu-ray out there with a photo gallery which was incomplete because I had held stuff back for my own gain (even though I’m essentially giving away stuff I went to great time and personal expense to find). I’d even forgotten scan one picture which I had found in Paddy Russell’s things, but a delay with the authoring meant we could squeeze that in at the last minute (a little part of me – if I am honest – had hoped that my genuine mistake would have left me at least one exclusive for the book but when I remembered it and Charles mentioned the delay my conscience wouldn’t let me hold it back. Ah well. I’ve never been what you’d call commercially savvy. Buy the book anyway!).

Thanks to producer Rudolph Cartier reinserting the original film into the repeat compilation of Quatermass and the Pit, we still have the beautiful film negatives for this release. Photo (c) Charles Norton

I’ve told all this from my point of view but I’m just one – very minor – cog in the wheel (and Charles Norton has been the driver all the way – this release wouldn’t have happened nor would it have been as ambitious without his tenacity and chutzpah). In terms of the episodes themselves, Peter Crocker has done an amazing job on the restoration. Click on this link below for a before and after comparison which you might enjoy (I tried embedding it but I have no idea, I’m sorry – I find old actors, other people do clever things when pressing buttons!):

Quatermass and the Pit titles before and after restoration.

Yes, good things come to those who wait.

But do you know what? I do get a credit on the photo gallery for this, something I’ve been waiting for for many years, and looking at it, I don’t think anyone will really notice or care. And does it make me any happier deep down? Not really. A salutary lesson it not sweating the small stuff.  

I’m proud of this Blu-ray. It’s the sort of thing I’ve dreamed of but thought impossible. We have managed to store in it special memories that will now be preserved forever. It’s a sort of time capsule – maybe it it can be unleashed on the humans of the future in, say, … five million years? it’s such a powerful piece, I’m sure its effects will be undiminished.

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT WILL BE RELEASED ON BLU-RAY ON 5th NOVEMBER 2018.

The first volume of my Quatermass book will be out soon, from Miwk Publishing. It’d be out sooner if I didn’t spend a morning doing this sort of thing.

Thanks to Charles Norton for the pics and before and after comparison. All the photos copyright (c) Toby Hadoke.

Toby Hadoke – October Updates

LATEST UPDATES (October 2018)

I am still performing regularly at The Comedy Store (every second and last Sunday of the month), XS Malarkey (Tuesdays) and the 99 Club  Leicester square (Wednesdays – but I have opted to do the gig fortnightly from now on). I can’t fit many other gigs in because…

My play Going, Going Goon – part of the the I Told You I Was Ill umbrella, marking the centenary of the birth of Spike Milligan – was performed in front of a live audience in Hull on Saturday 29th September. It will be broadcast on Radio 3 on October 7th at 7.30pm.  It stars Mark Heap (Green Wing, Spaced), Pippa Haywood (Green Wing, Bodyguard, The Brittas Empire), Jonathan Keeble (amazing radio actor with hundreds of credits), Stephen Wight (Olivier nominee for Dealer’s Choice, also starred in McQueen on stage) and, um, me (he knows the writer). The two other plays in the strand were written by Lee Mattinson and Jessica Hynes (who stars in her own piece). The audience loved the show, which is hosted by John Hegley, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I hope you give it a listen (as it clashes with Doctor Who perhaps I should point out that it’ll be on iPlayer for a month!).

With Jonathan Keeble, John Hegley and Mark Heap after a successful evening of Spike Milligan plays.

My adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s lost television play The Road will be broadcast on Radio 4 on October 27th. It was recorded at Maida Vale studios and stars Mark Gatiss and Adrian Scarborough who play, respectively,  a philosopher and an inventor who are investigating reports of a haunting in a wood in the late 18th century. It’s a spooky piece with a sting in the tale (don’t read up on it – avoid spoilers) and I know it is eagerly awaited in some quarters (many have tried and failed to get a remake off the ground in the past). We used some sound effects from the original production (which were themselves recorded ay Maida Vale) and the stellar cast is completed by Hattie Morahan (whose father directed the original), Colin McFarlane, Susan Wokoma, Francis Magee, and Ralph Ineson. I will be hosting a listening event at Home in Manchester which will play the broadcast as it goes out (start time, 2.30pm) and will take part in a Q and A afterwards. Tickets are free (but you need to have come to another event at home in their Film Fear season): details here.

Adrian Scarborough and Mark Gatiss star in The Road on Radio 4. They’re not alone in the woods…

 

I am going to be one of the guests on Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (except this edition is being recorded at the Manchester Dancehouse) on October 5th. The podcast has an illustrious roster of past guests s I’m extremely flattered to have been asked. The recording is sold out, but it will, of course, be available online afterwards if you go here.

Quatermass and the Pit comes to Blu-Ray soon, and I have been working on the release, donating a large amount of photographic and audio material, as well as presenting the commentaries on all six episodes. Not many cast and crew survive, but if they do, we got them, and they have been spliced in with some recordings of my chats with those who are no longer with us. The film sequences have been remastered and they look extraordinary. It’s going to be a terrific release considering the age of the source material and is well worth a look.

I filmed a role in the Eddie Izzard/Judi Dench/Jim Broadbent film 6 Minutes to Midnight at the end of last month: it’s directed by The Next Doctor‘s Andy Goddard. Most details are still under wraps but you can read a little bit about what I got up to on it here. 

The Quatermass book grows by the day. It’s pretty much my sole focus between now and Christmas. These past few months have found my securing contributions form David Tennant, John Carpenter, Barbara Kellermann, Indira Varma and Toyah Willcox. So it’s going to be pretty detailed! More info soon…

 XS Malarkey is now 21. What a run, and it continues this month with appearances from Chris Lynam and Danny McLoughlin amongst others.  More details are available at  the XS Malarkey Website.

I have had the sad duty of writing two obituaries this month. Both have been published by The Guardian and are for Jacqueline Pearce and Zienia Merton.

I have also made another documentary for the Doctor Who Blu-Ray range. More news soon…

Performing on stage in Hull with Pippa Haywood, Mark Heap, Jonathan Keeble and Stephen Wight.
With fellow writer Jessica Hynes

 

 

April 2018 – Latest Updates

LATEST UPDATES (April 2018)

I’ve agreed a deadline with my publisher for the book I have been writing about Quatermass, which means I’ll be keeping my head down for a bit whilst I get the donkey work done on that. I have interviewed Toyah Wilcox, Jason Flemyng and Annabel Lanyon all within the space of a week! I’m on fire!

There’s still room for some live gigs – I’m doing Bury Met on 5th, Nantwich Civic Hall on 6th and The Boo in Rossendale on the 7th. The following weekend finds me at the Manchester Comedy Store from Thursday through Saturday (2 shows on Saturday). And as usual I’ll be at XS Malarkey on Tuesdays, the 99 Club Leicester square on Wednesdays and the Manchester Comedy Store every other Sunday for New Stuff.

I had another obituary for Dorka Nieradzik published, this one was in the Herald. You can read it here.

 

Elf Lyons who makes her XS debut this month

This month at XS Malarkey the headliners whom I will be introducing will be the fabulous Michael Legge, the ludicrous George Egg, brilliant XS debutant Elf Lyons and lugubrious local Mike Newall. More details at the XS Malarkey Website.

Ongoing news but good news …

My dramatisation of Nigel Kneale’s famous lost television play, The Road, for Radio 4 was recorded in Maida Vale at the beginning of February. The cast is phenomenal : Mark Gatiss, Adrian Scarborough, Hattie Morahan, Colin McFarlane, Susan Wokoma, Francis Magee and Ralph Ineson.  It will be the Halloween Fright Night production for BBC Radio 4 on October 27th.  It is one of my proudest achievements.

The current DVD release of The Enemy of the World has an hour long documentary produced by Ed Stradling in which I try to find out some brand new facts about the making of this once lost Doctor Who serial. I interview some hitherto unheard from folks, and get some insights into the leading man who, in this story, plays a dual role.

I have also contributed to the new Season 12 Blu-Ray set which is out in the middle of the year: I wear a cravat and talk about – among other things – Glyn Jones, Sonatrans and a wobbly android.

Latest Updates March 2018

LATEST UPDATES (March 2018)

I’m presenting the 7th Dimension again on BBC Radio 4 Extra for three weekends commencing on March 17th. There’s plenty of fabulous stuff for me to chat in between, including a Daphne du Maurier play with Maureen O’Brien and Dinsdale Landen and a horror story involving something being found during the digging of a tube extension (sound familiar…?). Unfortunately my links will not be on iPlayer so you’ll need to listen live!

My forthcoming book on Quatermass benefitted this month from a lengthy interview with – and the seal of approval of – Nigel Kneale’s widow Judith Kerr (who wrote The Tiger Who Came To Tea and the Mog books). She provided some fascinating insights which will doubtless delight my very patient publisher Matt West at  Miwk. I’ll be a bit quiet over the next few months whilst I crack on with the book which I’d like to finish this year.

With the wonderful Judith Kerr.

Two Interviewees from my Who’s Round podcast have died recently. It’s very sad to hear of their passing but fortunately I managed to supply obituaries for them (click on their names for their podcast, and on the paper’s name for the obituary): make-up designer Dorka Nieradzik was remembered in The Guardian and that wonderful actor Peter Miles gets an appreciation in The Herald.

I interviewed the late Dorka Nieradzik (right) and her good friend June Hudson together when they featured on my Who’s Round podcast.

I might just have had a little something to do with the latest Take Back Theatre project Ten Takes On Shelter. It’s all under wraps at the moment (appropriately, because it’s very cold) but worth getting tickets for here.

I play a 9ft tall solar space bear called Oscar McLeod in The Skies of New Earth, part of Big Finish’s Tales from New Earth boxed set which is rather fabulous. It’s a great fun part and I get some marvellous lines and the cherishable character description “ostentatiously belligerent”. I play other bits and bobs too, including the overarching alien baddie and a fellow called Dobtcheff (I know! What’s not to love?). It’s well worth your time and available here. I’m sticking a couple of reviews down here too:

“Toby Hadoke steals the show – Oscar is likely to go down as a fan favourite and will be a perfectly fine reason to start listening”
– Blogtor Who

“A shout out to Toby Hadoke who plays a plethora of parts. I instantly recognised his voice as the debate moderator. But even though I have interviewed him and met him a few times, I would never have guessed him as the Scandinavian Silver haired bear Oscar. A man of many talents indeed and a stand-out character to a lead in any future sets.”  
– Doctor Squee, indiemacuser.co.uk

The fabulous, thought provoking and brutally funny Sean McLoughlin

I’m MCing at the Frog and Bucket on 16/17th March, plus my usual stints at the 99 Club and the Comedy Store. This month at XS Malarkey the headliners whom I will be introducing will be the erudite Matt Stellingwerf, the brutally honest and sometimes dark Sean McLoughlin and the smart and likeable Glenn Moore : rare talents all. More details at the XS Malarkey Website. 

RICHARD SHAW RIP

RICHARD SHAW

I was rather saddened to recently learn of the death of the actor Richard Shaw. When I first saw the brilliant Quatermass and the Pit many years ago, I was captivated by it, and thrilled at what a complex and sumptuous production it was. I was also taken by many of the performances, but one that really stuck out was that of Richard Shaw as the beleaguered workman Sladden. Initially brought in to do a hush-hush drilling job to get into the hull of the mysterious object buried in Hobbs Lane, he is initially a typical, chirpy, working class character. As the story unfolds, however, he becomes pivotal, being the first to completely succumb to the baleful influence of the Martian inheritance dormant within us all. In a sequence even my Mum remembered from watching all those years ago, he assumes the gait and posture of one of the creatures, as all about him the pit goes haywire. Eventually seeking solace in a churchyard, he collapses to the ground and the gravel beneath him begins to move. Later, under cross examination by Quatermass, he has a vision of life on Mars five million years previously. So many aspects of Shaw’s performance could well have been hokey, and yet he pulled off every one brilliantly. Actors now are well versed in the tropes of science fiction, not so then. It is a performance well ahead of its time, by a largely jobbing character actor who merrily filled the screen both big and small, in roles which similarly filled the spectrum (he has one line in A Night To Remember, and none in The Dirty Dozen, but bigger roles in 633 Squadron and the Doctor Who story The Space Museum in which he was the lead villain). I enjoyed his performance in Quatermass so much that I entered into a correspondence with him. He was the first actor to whom I had plucked up the courage to do this, and the fact that he replied encouraged me to contact more people, and so a teenage pastime was born, which has of course, been greatly useful to me in later life.

As none of my Quatermass archive has been published (bar the use of my photographic collection on the BBC DVD release – in the gallery and booklet), it seems fitting that the original contribution to it should be the first to hit the public domain.

Richard was deeply flattered to have been contacted about his role in the show – “you bring back long lost memories, where have all the years gone?” he asked. Rudolph Cartier had seen him in a play called The Schirmer Inheritance and offered Richard the role of Sladden. “When I read the script I realised it was a very important part and I quote, said thank you, and took the part.” He had fond memories of the cast, and as for producer Rudolph Cartier: “He was the finest director at the BBC, a very hard task master who was a joy to work for and in fact I did eight other plays for him.”

“Sladden was very difficult to play, trying to sustain the level of being twisted and torn by the Martians was very wearing – in those days everything we did was live, though we did do a little on film. During one of my runs through the flying objects I did break my toe. To say it was painful is putting in mildly but I had to keep shooting.” Original Quatermass monster actor Duncan Lamont played Richard’s role in the subsequent feature film, because “I was asked to play it originally but was already committed to another film with Ray Milland so had to say ‘Sorry, I can’t do it’”.

Richard, a humble, charming man, was not one to overplay his importance in the show, and was very happy to be reminded of his work on it, and proud of the serial itself. “I am very aware that I seem to be remembered for my performance in Quatermass, people still come up to me and I am very touched by it. It is gratifying to know my work is appreciated.”

After Quatermass, Richard continued to work over the next few decades, notching up three performances in Doctor Who. His biggest role was in The Space Museum. “Bill Hartnell was a long standing friend and we had worked together many times. When I played Lobos I sustained a severe blow to my left eye which caused some problems for the first episodes but we had to carry on.”

The late Bernard Wilkie recalled that Richard had been extremely co-operative and a joy to work with on his difficult, effects heavy scenes. Patrick Connor (also no longer with us, alas), who played a policeman in the series, also remembered Richard; “He was, to my knowledge, the only actor in the cast to have had only TV and film experience (i.e. none on the live stage). The number of actors without theatre experience had started to grow, and to some degree they were slightly looked down upon by theatre actors. Most of them were a bit aggressive and had a bit of a chip on their shoulder – but I got on with Richard fine”.

Very much one of those “I know the face but…” actors, despite a five decade career in some major productions, it is unlikely that Richard’s passing in April, aged 90, will get the acknowledgement it deserves, so I hope this little corner of the internet serves as some sort of tribute to the man and his work.

Richard Shaw 1920 – 2010, RIP.

Tickets available

OK, it’s official, tickets are available for my two fringe shows.

Now I Know My BBC is a brand new hour which will be performed between 5th-29th August, at 6.55pm at Belly Laugh at The Underbelly. It should contain the same mix of personal, satirical and heartfelt humour as my last show, and it’s been shaping up quite nicely in the previews (of which there are many more to come). It has a much broader scope than Moths, but I’m sure the Doctor will get a mention. Quatermass certainly does, and I can confidently claim I’m the only comic who’ll be doing that this year! Tickets are available from the venue or from the Edinburgh Fringe site.

Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf is definitely winding down, so we’re doing one final Edinburgh performance at the massive Edinburgh International Conference Centre. It should be a huge event, and a final opportunity for many of you to see it live. Tickets are available for the August 20th show from the Edinburgh Fringe site or from the venue.

I haven’t been blogging because, frankly, my writing time has been spent on the forthcoming show, but I have been keeping a diary of the various things I’ve been up to for the Doctor Who DVDs I’ve been working on this month. I will upload the memories from those experiences when the specific releases are announced, but there are some fun tales to tell and I’m really looking forward to them hitting the shops. I’ve been working with two wonderful programme makers, Ed Stradling and Steve Broster, on a documentary feature which is right up my street, and the work progresses well. We have one more shooting day in a week or so, and the boys have been good company as we’ve schlepped up and down the country interviewing people. I have done a commentary for another story (with producer John Kelly, who always gets a good line up) in the past week or so, and am doing another (for one of my favourite stories) with Steve in a week or so.

Also, exciting news about a book I have co-written with Doctor Who writer Rob Shearman will be announced shortly.

I promise to blog with more than pluggage soon, but frankly, I’m knackered.

So I’ll leave you with a fascinating fact – like Leo McKern and Elton John, Mervyn Pinfield, Doctor Who’s mysterious original Associate Producer, was actually called Reginald.

Moths went to Pitlochry last month - a long way, but beautiful.