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Nigel Kneale (1922-2006)

Date of Birth: 18 April 1922
Place of Birth: Isle of Man, UK
Date of Death: 29 October 2006
Place of Death: Barnes, London
Also Known As:

BIOGRAPHY

Born in 1922 the son of a local newspaper owner and editor on the Isle of Man, Nigel Kneale attempted a career as an actor before concentrating on writing. He won the Somerset Maugham award for short fiction in 1950 for a collection of stories entitled Tomato Cain all set in the Isle of Man's past. Influenced by his own personal experience the stories did flirt with monsters and the paranormal. Encouraged to follow this success with a novel, instead he turned to the newly emerging medium of television and joined the BBC as one of only two members of its script department. His main job was to tailor stage plays so that they could be put before the cameras. Not too difficult when everything was shot live and resembled a stage performance anyway.

With a gap in the BBC's schedules in the summer of 1953, Kneale wrote The Quatermass Experiment, a six part science fiction serial. With the audience in Britain for the first time turning away from radio to television because of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, The Quatermass Experiment hooked the nation and cleared the streets for its evening transmissions. Kneale had been critical of the BBC's attitude to drama at the time, calling it radio with pictures. Indeed the special effects department refused to create a monster for the serial and Kneale himself had to make and perform the part with the aid of children's author Judith Kerr who he later married.

Asked to do another futuristic story along with Quatermass producer / director Rudolph Cartier, they dramatised George Orwell's nightmare future vision 1984 (1954). One of most complex productions the BBC had attempted at the time, it was shot in two studios including one for a whole orchestra to provide the music to accompany the live performance. The production and especially its final scene where the hero is threatened with his worst nightmare in Room 101 provoked thousands of complaints and was raised in the House of Parliament. Horror had come into the nation's living room. In reality the rats that were the cause of the terror were rather docile and had to be lured into place by apple juice being smeared around their cage. It was in considerable doubt if the planned "repeat" second live performance would take place until it was learnt that the Queen approved of the work.

In 1955 Hammer Films released the film version of The Quatermass Xperiment, a brave decision as it was believed it would be impossible to attract a huge audience with the new adult X certificate. It proved to be a massive hit not only in Britain but also in America under the title The Creeping Unknown, leading directly to the creation of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958) and the beginning of Hammer's reign as the major producer of successful horror films. Kneale did not contribute to the script as he was under contract to the BBC (though the BBC did profit) and Hammer used their regular American screenwriter Richard Landau.

in 1955 Kneale created Quatermass II for the BBC which he would help translate to the big screen. A third story, Quatermass and the Pit, would follow in 1958, shot at Ealing Film Studios which enhanced the production and it remains Kneale's personal favourite of his Quatermass stories.

Amongst his work for the BBC was an adaptation of a Chekov story for director Tony Richardson. Richardson set up Woodfall films who inaugurated the British "new wave" with an adaptation by Kneale of John Osborne's "angry young man" play Look Back in Anger (1958).

Kneale continued his ground breaking work at the BBC with a number of plays, many now sadly destroyed, that merged fantasy themes with a deeper underlying theme. In the early seventies, the BBC rejected both a new play, Cracks, and a final Quatermass serial. Kneale moved to the commercial ATV channel where he continued to craft popular and impressive fantasy drama including a filming of Quatermass / The Quatermass Conclusion (1978).

American directors who had grown up watching the filmed versions of his dramas secured his services in the early eighties. John Carpenter asked him to write a non-Michael Myers script for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, though it would be much changed by release, and John Landis collaborated on an eventually unmade remake of The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954).

Kneale has continued to write for television but it is for his ground breaking work in the fifties, sixties and seventies for which he will be remembered. Along with author John Wyndham, Kneale took Science Fiction away from rockets and ray guns and returned it to the structure of HG Wells but in a contemporary setting and with a sub-text that resonated deeper than its genre trappings would suggest. He continues to influence knowingly or unknowingly every Earthbound fantasy drama brought to the screen.

Kneale died on 29 October 2006 at the age of 84.
DAVID HANKS

GENRE FILMOGRAPHY

* = television

1952
Mystery Story (17 August 1952) (script) *

1953
The Quatermass Experiment
(18 July 1953 - 22 August 1953) (script, monster puppeteer (uncredited)) *

Wuthering Heights (6 December 1953) (script) *

1954
Nineteen Eighty-Four
(12 December 1954) (script) *

1955
The Creature
(30 January 1955) (script) *

Quatermass II (22 October 1955 - 26 November 1955) (script) *

The Quatermass Xperiment (original scripts)
Astronave atomica del dottor Quatermass - Italian title
The Creeping Unknown – US title
Le monster - French title
O Monstro do Espaço - Portugese title
Quatermass - Finnish title
Schock - West German title
Shock

1957
The Abominable Snowman
(original script)
The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas
O Abominável Homem das Neves
- Portugese title
Das Geheimnis des Himalaya – Austrian title
Lumihirviö - Finnish title
Il mostruoso uomo delle nevi - Italian title
Odrazajacy czlowiek sniegu – Polish title
Snömannen – Swedish title
Yeti, der Schneemensch - West German title

Quatermass 2 (script)
Enemy from Space – US title
Feinde aus dem Nichts - West German title
O Inimigo do Espaço - Portugese title
La marque - French title
Quatermass II: Enemy from Space – US title
I vampiri dello spazio - Italian title
Vihollinen avaruudesta - Finnish title

1958 - 1959
Quatermass and the Pit
(22 December 1958 - 26 January 1959) (script) *

1962
Wuthering Heights
(11 May 1962) (script) *

1963
First Night: The Road
(29 September 1963) (script) *

1964
Studio 64: The Crunch
(19 January 1964) (script) *

First Men in the Moon (script)
Ensimmäiset miehet kuussa - Finnish title
Die Erste Fahrt zum Mond - West German title
Först på månen - Swedish title
Første mand på månen - Danish title
La gran sorpresa - Spanish title
H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon

1965
Theatre 625: The World of George Orwell: 1984 (18 November 1965) (script) *

1966
The Witches
(script)
Creatura del diavolo - Italian title
The Devil's Own – US title
Az ördög maga – Hungarian title
Pacte avec le diable - French title
Der Teufel tanzt um Mitternacht - West German title

1967
Quatermass and the Pit
(script)
L'astronave degli esseri perduti - Italian title
Five Million Years to Earth – US title
Das Grüne Blut der Dämonen - West German title
The Mind Benders
Les monstres de l'espace
- French title
¿Qué sucedió entonces? - Spanish title

1968
Theatre 625: The Year of the Sex Olympics
(5 March 1969) (script) *

1970
Wednesday Play: Wine of India
(15 April 1970) (script) *

1971
Out of the Unknown: The Chopper (16 June 1971) (script) *

1972
The Stone Tape
(25 December 1972) (script) *

1974
Bedtime Stories: Jack and the Beanstalk
(24 March 1974) (script) *

1975
Against the Crowd: Murrain (27 July 1975) (script) *

1976
Beasts
(script) *

The Book Programme: Tales of Horror (16 December 1976) (performer (himself)) *

1978
Late Night Story: The Photography
(24 December 1978) (story) *

Quatermass (24 October 1979 - 14 November 1979) (script) *
The Quatermass Conclusion
Quatermass Conclusion: la Terra esplode
- Italian title

1981
Kinvig
(4 September 1981 - 16 October 1981) (script) *

1982
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
(script (uncredited))
Alla helgons blodiga natt 3 - Swedish title
Halloween III - ondskans natt – Finnish / Swedish title
Halloween III - pahuuden yö - Finnish title
Halloween III - West German title
Halloween III, le sang du sorcier - French title
Regresso Alucinante - Portugese title
Season of the Witch

1989
The Woman in Black
(24 December 1989) (script) *
Frau in Schwarz - West German title

2001
SF:UK: When Aliens Attack
(18 March 2001) (performer (himself)) *

SF:UK: Big Brother Goes Hardcore (1 April 2001) (performer (himself)) *

2003
The Kneale Tapes
(15 October 2003) (performer (himself)) *

Watching You (22 May 2003) (performer (himself)) *

2005
The Quatermass Experiment
(based on the original scripts by) *

NON-GENRE FILMOGRAPHY

1952
Arrow to the Heart (20 July 1952) (additional dialogue) *

The Cathedral (26 October 1952) (script) *

1953
The Affair at Assino (1 January 1953) (script) *

The Commonplace Heart (13 January 1953) X (script) *

The Wednesday Play: Curtain Down (12 January 1953) X (script) *

Golden Rain (2 August 1953) (script) *

The Laice (29 March 1953) (script) *

Number Three (script) *

1956
Arrow to the Heart
(22 April 1956) (script) *

1957
Mrs Wickens in the Fall
(8 September 1957) (script) *

1958
The Cathedral
(15 August 1958) (script) *

Look Back in Anger (script)
Blick zurück im Zorn - West German title
Les corps sauvages - French title
I giovani arrabiati - Italian title
Mirando hacia atrás con ira - Spanish title
Nuori viha - Finnish title
Orgismena neiata - Greek title
Paixão Proibida - Portugese title

1959
Golden Rain (28 February 1959) (script) *

Panorama: 26 January 1959 (performer (himself)) *

1960
The Entertainer
(script)
El animador - Spanish title
O Gelotopoios - Greek title
Der Komödiant - West German title
Kun hymy hyytyy - Finnish title
Gli sfasati - Italian title

1962
H.M.S. Defiant
(script)
Damn the Defiant! – US title
Kapinalliset merellä - Finnish title
Les mutinés du Téméraire - French title
Ponte di comando - Italian title
Rebellion - West German title
Revolta no Defiant - Portugese title
Under brændende sejl - Danish title

1969
The Wednesday Play: Bam! Pow! Zap!
(5 March 1969) (script) *

1986
Unnatural Causes: Ladies' Night
(script) *

1988
The ITV Play: Gentry
(31 July 1988) (script) *

1991
Stanley and the Women
(28 November 1991 - 19 December 1991) (script) *

1995
Sharpe's Gold
(12 April 1995) (script) *

1997
Kavanagh QC: Ancient History
(17 March 1997) (script) *

REFERENCES

PERIODICALS

Dark Terrors no.7 (October - December 1993) pp.9-19 (UK)
illustrated article

L'Écran Fantastique no.12 (1979) pp.52-53 (France)
interview

Film Comment vol.28 no.3 (May / June 1992) pp.51-53 (USA)
article

Film Dope no.31 (January 1985) pp.11-12 (UK)
filmography (by Tise Vahimagi)

Filmfax no.37 (February / March 1993) pp.64-67 (USA)
illustrated interview (The creature remake that never got made by Ted Newsom)

The House That Hammer Built no.11 (February 1999) pp.128 - 136 (UK)
illustrated filmography, interview

Journal of Popular Film and Television vol.30 no.3 (Autumn 2003) pp.158-165 (USA)
illustrated bibliography, article

Midnight Marquee no.47 (Summer 1994) pp.57-68 (USA)
illustrated article (Val Guest and Nigel Kneale: Hammer's dynamic duo by Dennis Fischer)

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.56 no.662 (March 1989) pp.90-93; 95 (UK)
filmography, biography (The Manxman by Julian Petley); illustrated article (Bam! Pow! Zap! - Nigel Kneale by Julian Petley)

Primetime vol.1 no.9 (Winter 1984 - 1985) pp.22-25 (UK)
interview

Shivers no.28 (April 1996) pp.50-51 (UK)
illustrated interview

Sight and Sound vol.28 no.2 (Spring 1959) pp.86-88 (UK)
illustrated article

Starburst no.16 (1979) pp.14-19 (UK)
interview

Starburst no.58 (June 1983) p.40 (UK)
interview

Starburst no.59 (July 1983) pp.30-33, 41 (UK)
interview

Starburst no.265 (September 2000) pp.48-57 (UK)
illustrated filmography, article, interview

Time Out no.489 (31 August 1979) pp.8-10 (UK)
interview

TV Times vol.80 no.31 (24 July 1975) p.20 (UK)
article

TV Zone no.106 (September 1998) pp.38-43 (UK)
illustrated article

TV Zone no.162 (May 2003) pp.46-51 (UK)
illustrated article

Video Viewer no.2 no.11 (May 1983) p.5 (UK)
article

Video Watchdog no.47 (1998) pp.32-43 (USA)
illustrated interview

OTHER SOURCES

National Film Theatre Programme March 2000 pp.40-42 (UK)
illustrated note

 


Last Updated: 14 February, 2010

 

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