❉ HOME marks the centenary of Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale’s birth with a season devoted to the legendary screenwriter’s work.
2022 will mark the centenary of the late, great British scriptwriter Nigel Kneale. Born in Barron-in-Furness in April 1922, Kneale was the mind behind Quatermass plus a whole host of one-off films and TV plays. Over more than fifteen years since his death, his influence on certain dark corners of genre drama remains undimmed.
Various projects celebrating his work and legacy are in the pipeline for the centenary year, but first off the blocks is a season of Kneale’s work in January at HOME in Manchester. Co-curated by Dr Andy Willis of the University of Salford and Kneale biographer Andy Murray, the season focusses in on Kneale’s skills as an adapter, both of his own work from small to big screen and of plays and novels by other writers.
Specifically, HOME’s screenings will start with Kneale’s landmark live 1954 television version of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, produced by the legendary Rudolph Cartier. There’s a rare outing for the 1962 BBC Kneale / Cartier version of Wuthering Heights (first produced in late 1953, though it wasn’t preserved). Starring Keith Michell and Claire Bloom and described at the time by Dennis Potter as ‘like a thunderstorm on the flat, dreary plains of the week’s television’ (in his capacity as a Daily Herald TV critic), it brings the bleak Yorkshire moors of Emily Bronte’s novel into a west London television studio. Telefantasy connoisseurs may also appreciate Patrick Troughton as Hindley and David McCallum as Edgar amongst the cast. Kneale’s acclaimed, highly effective 1989 TV adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, which introduced a whole generation of impressionable young viewers to the concept of the jump scare, will be screened too.
Feature films being screened during the season include The Witches (1966), a proto-folk horror tale of weird beliefs in a sleepy English village, sourced from a pseudonymous 1960 novel by bestselling author Norah Lofts. The starry Kneale-penned film versions of John Osborne plays, Look Back in Anger (1959) and The Entertainer (1960), will be shown, both directed by Tony Richardson for Woodfall Film Productions and headlining Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier respectively.
From Kneale’s tumultuous collaborations with Hammer, there’s also The Abominable Snowman, which he adapted from his original, topically Yeti-tastic 1955 TV play, the now-lost The Creature. Like The Creature, and indeed Nineteen Eighty-Four before it, the film stars Peter Cushing, on excellent form. Last but no means least, there’s the classic 1967 film version of Kneale’s Fifties TV serial Quatermass and the Pit. Probably one of the writer’s most widely-seen and influential pieces, it features Andrew Keir as the titular professor and horror icon Barbara Shelley as the psychically-sensitive Barbara Judd.
Alongside the screenings, there’ll also be an hour-long ‘in conversation’ event with Andy Murray and writer, performer and Kneale fan Toby Hadoke discussing assorted aspects of Kneale’s life and work.
Tickets for the season go on sale from 17 December. If Manchester’s too much of a trek for you, keep your eyes peeled for more to come in a similar vein. For now, though, there’s nowhere else to be in January 2022 than in a darkened cinema at HOME, delighting in Kneale’s remarkable gift for engaging, stimulating and unnerving an audience.
❉ Curated by Andy Murray, author of Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale and Andy Willis, Professor of Film Studies at University of Salford, “British Writers/ Nigel Kneale: Into the Unknown” takes place at HOME Mcr, Wed 5 Jan 2022 – Tue 25 Jan 2022. For more information and to book tickets visit https://homemcr.org/event/british-writers-nigel-kneale-into-the-unknown/
❉ News source: Andy Murray/HOME Manchester.
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