While digging an extension to the London Underground Railway, workmen discover an object which might be an ancient Martian spaceship – and Professor Quatermass of the British Rocket Group investigates a mystery which prompts frightening revelations about the origins of humanity itself.
Before 2001: A Space Odyssey and Doctor Who, Quatermass and the Pit was the paramount British science fiction saga in film and television. Kim Newman's fascinating study focuses on Roy Ward Baker's 1967 film, written by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale for Hammer Films, but also looks at the origins of the Quatermass franchise in 1950s BBC serials and earlier films. Exploring the production and reception of the film and series, Newman assesses the lasting importance of this landmark franchise.
A legendary fusion of science fiction and horror, Alien (1979) is one of the most enduring modern myths of cinema - its famously visceral scenes acting like a traumatic wound we seem compelled to revisit. Tracing the constellation of talents that came together to produce the film, Roger Luckhurst examines its origins as a monster movie script called Star Beast, dismissed by many in Hollywood as B-movie trash, through to its afterlife in numerous sequels, prequels and elaborations. Exploring the ways in which Alien compels us to think about otherness, Luckhurst demonstrates how and why this interstellar slasher movie, this old dark house in space, came to coil itself around our darkest imaginings about the fragility of humanity. This special edition features original cover artwork by Marta Lech.
The release of Star Wars in 1977 marked the start of what would become a colossal global franchise. Star Wars remains the second highest-grossing film in the United States, and George Lucas's six-part narrative has grown into something more: a culture that goes far beyond the films themselves, with tie-in toys, novels, comics, games and DVDs as well as an enthusiastic fan community which creates its own Star Wars fictions. Critical studies of Star Wars have treated it as a cultural phenomenon, or in terms of its special effects, fans and merchandising, or as a film that marked the end of New Hollywood's innovation and the birth of the blockbuster.
Will Brooker's illuminating study of the film takes issue with many of these commonly-held ideas about Star Wars. He provides a close analysis of Star Wars as a film, carefully examining its shots, editing, sound design, cinematography and performances. Placing the film in the context of George Lucas's previous work, from his student shorts to his 1970s features, and the diverse influences that shaped his approach, from John Ford to Jean-Luc Godard, Brooker argues that Star Wars is not, as Lucas himself has claimed, a departure from his earlier cinema, but a continuation of his experiments with sound and image. He reveals Lucas's contradictory desires for total order and control, embodied by the Empire, and for the raw energy and creative improvisation of the Rebels. What seemed a simple fairy-tale becomes far more complex when we realise that the director is rooting for both sides; and this tension unsettles the saga as a whole, blurring the boundaries between Empire and Republic, dark side and light side, father and son.
Despite being one of Andrei Tarkovsky's most successful films, Solaris (1972) was the one he most disliked. This dismissal of his most generically marked film has often been accepted by those quick to embrace the image of Tarkovsky as a transcendent artist rising above the politics of the Soviet film industry and the trappings of genre to produce personal works of art. Going against such currents, Mark Bould instead treats Solaris as the product of a genre as well as the work of a skilled film-maker. He teases out Tarkovsky's fascination with Stanislaw Lem, on whose novel the film was based, and also considers Steven Soderbergh's 2002 adaptation. Lively and revealing, Bould's examination situates Solaris within the Russian and global cultures of the fantastic, to which Tarkovsky contributed three major science fiction films. This special edition features original cover artwork by Matthew Shlian.
Peter Kramer, Roger Luckhurst, Will Brooker, Mark Bould