QUEST FOR LOVE
Random Quest (1961) was one of John Wyndhams last stories. The film version here is a slightly altered version of the short story the original was told through the eyes of the one of the relatives that Tom Bell visits towards the end of the film, for instance, while the ending invents a whole different fate for the alternate world Ottilie that was not in the story. The story has however proven popular as a film adaptation even if none of the adaptations are very well known with there also being a now lost episode of the British science-fiction anthology tv series Out of the Unknown (1965-71) and a later BBC tv movie adaptation Random Quest (2006) starring Samuel West and Kate Ashfield.
The alternate history is a relative rarity on cinema screens. The reason may be that the effect of such a story lies in the background detail. You have to have some knowledge of the historical era in question in order to recognise the differences not something the great unwashed commercial movie-going public are known for. At worst, the alternate history has emerged as the crude tv series Sliders (1995-2000). Although there have been occasional exceptions to this on film with the likes of It Happened Here (1965), Fatherland (1994), White Mans Burden (1995), C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) and the tv series The Man in the High Castle (2015 ) and SS-GB (2017). Quest for Love was not a wide success when it came out.
The film rather fascinatingly takes place in a world where there has been no World War II or Vietnam Wars; where John F. Kennedy is alive and the head of the League of Nations (which in our timeline merged into the United Nations in 1945); where actor Leslie Howard is still alive; where Edmund Hillary has yet to conquer Mount Everest; and where medicine is slightly less advanced than here. The plot plays out along the lines of later alternate timelines films such as Sliding Doors (1998), Twice Upon a Yesterday (1998), Me Myself I (1999) and The Butterfly Effect (2004), which focus less on divergent paths history might have taken and more on what happens to an individual if life choices had turned out differently. Quest for Love does however gets full marks for rooting this inside an alternate historical justification, which none of the other mentioned do. Mostly, Quest for Love plays out as a love story certainly it does play the alternate history angle well and does not embarrass itself in this regard as Sliders did.
Joan Collins is top-billed on the credits and was given prominence in the films re-release on dvd in the 00s but Tom Bell is the real star of the show. One is used to Bell in his work in the decades since in British tv and films like The Krays (1990) and Prime Suspect (1991) and sequels, where he is usually cast as a drunken and embittered old man so it is unusual seeing him here as a young, dashing leading man. He does a fine and credible job of portraying someone thrust into a world that is alien to him. Joan Collins gained a celebrity superstardom in the 1980s after moving to America and appearing on tvs Dynasty (1981-9). Here she comes from the day when that celebrity was ahead of her and she was a fresh face playing bit parts in a few British horror films Fear in the Night (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Tales That Witness Madness (1972), The Devil Within Her/I Dont Want to be Born (1975) and episodes of US tv series like Batman (1966-8) and Star Trek (1966-9), including also being the tragic romantic lead in that series classic alternate history episode The City on the Edge of Forever (1966). I am not entirely sure if the romance between her and Tom Bell rings true he seems to fall for her almost instantly and the rest of the film is about him having to disentangle himself from his alter egos caddish lifestyle and prove himself to her. It is however the originality of the premise and the strength of the love story across worlds that drives the film.
Other screen adaptations of John Wyndhams works include:- Village of the Damned (1960), from Wyndhams The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) about alien children; The Day of the Triffids (1962); the BBC tv mini-series The Day of the Triffids (1981); the childrens tv series Chocky (1984) about an alien visitor; the remake of Village of the Damned (1995); and the BBC tv mini-series The Day of the Triffids (2009).