Hollywood Gothique
LA Cinema Gothique

Obituary: Director Val Guest

According to his report at Yahoo News, 94-year-old director Val Guest died of prostate cancer on May 10.

Guest was a jack-of-all trades craftsman who made many films in many genres without ever becoming a household name or even a prominent cult figure. Yet he made several science-fiction, fantasy, and horror films that display solid crafstmanship and intelligence that deserves recognition.

Both THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT and QUATERMASS II were based on television serials by Nigeal Kneale, who deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the thoughtful approach to science-fiction, yet Guest filmed them in black-and-white with a straight-foward, no-nonsense approach that made their fantastical elements seem entirely credible.

Perhaps Guest’s greatest achievment in the genre was THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE, a cautionary tale about global warming that results when simultaneous nuclear test by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. knock the Earth’s rotation off its axis. Guest co-wrote the story and managed to convey an effective sense of humanity on the brink of worldwide destruction, despite a limited budget that forced the use of stock footage and simple special effects to substitute for elaborate specatacle.

Guest also directed some less impressive but still amusing films, such as WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (a follow-up to ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., starring Playmate of the Year Victoria Vetri). And he was one of several directors who handled bits and pieces of the notorious James Bond spook CASINO ROYALE.

In his book The Horror People, John Brosnan dismissed Guest with faint praise as a “competent, unspectacular commercial director.” It may be tiem for a reassessment.