Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Time Shift-The Kneale Tapes- Nigel Kneale (2003)

Way too brief look at the life and work of writer Nigel Kneale who changed television programs and the notions of science fiction in the 1950's and 60's.

Kneale started out writing short stories set on his Isle of Man. His publisher wanted him to follow it up with a novel, Kneale wanted to try and write for the infant television.

His fame came when the BBC had a program go belly up and they needed something to fill the slot, so Kneale pitched the idea for the Quatermass Experiment. It was a radical departure from anything on TV at the time. Here was a show that was more than what the BBC was doing at the time, which was essentially Radio with pictures. In one huge move Kneale changed the face of television by using the medium as best as possible and by presenting adult heroes for adults.

The show was a huge success and the film got lots of attention for it's mixing of horror and science fiction. Rarely had anything been done so graphically. The people and even the BBC were horrified. (The BBC wanted no part of Kneales monster so Kneale had to make the costume and the creature himself)

From there Kneale went on to do an adaptation of 1984 that horrified the country, but had one big fan, the Queen.

The film uses a mix of clips, interviews with experts and with the man himself, to show that Kneale was working decades ahead of everyone else. We see how his Year of the Sex Olympics predates reality TV by a good thirty years. We also see how the stories of superstition and fantasy having a "real" basis gave birth to TV shows like The X-Files (Which tried to get him to write for it but was turned down).

This is a super little film about the man and his work. The only problem is that at 40 minutes it's way too short. Things blow by and we get only passing references to several stories he did. I understand that it was the limits of TV slot it was produced for, but at the same time here is a man who changed culture and he deserves more.

If you can find a copy this is definitely worth a look. I picked one up from a collector at a nostalgia show.

1 comment:

  1. Kneale was probably one of the most significant writers in the history of television. He was the first person to actually explore the boundaries of what could be done with the medium in terms of location filmed inserts and the sheer bumms on couches value of the cliff-hanger ending. Despite the fact that he apparently despised "Doctor Who", in many ways, he is as much responsible for it as the people who usually get the credit for creating it. He created the tropes that it uses and I suspect most current writers of it would cite his work as an influence.

    As an aside, the first serial was simply called "Quatermass". "The Quatermass Experiment" was a sequel made a year later followed the year after by, (for my money at least,) his magnum opus "Quatermass and the Pit".