Monday, October 15, 2012


This morning I skim-read a couple of reviews (how could I miss them) for the new Clash of the Titans film, which is a remake of an okay 1981 opus. The original was moderately budgeted but it still was no slouch in the visuals department, and featured stop-motion effects produced and directed by the legendary maestro Ray Harryhausen.

I remember when the '81 Clash hit the theatres... we knew it was coming. It was years later that I got around to watching the movie. I remember some reviewers commenting at the time that the visual effects were already 'old school' considering the great strides made in effects technology such as motion control. The effects were still effective, to me. They supported the story and enabled some instant classic moments such as the rise of the Kraken.

However, the most supportive ingredient in this Clash, and one element which is actually superb, is Laurence Rosenthal's score. It qualifies as one of those "makes the movie seem to be better than it perhaps is" works. John Barry was to do the score but his effort was tossed and Rosenthal was brought in to write a new one. By the way, the paperback book, undoubtedly already inked and cut by the publisher by the time the decision had been made to take another stab at the music, actually had Barry's name credited on the back cover; which might make the tie-in book a bit of a collector's item for those who look for that sort of thing.

Last night I decided to look on Youtube for any clips of Laurence Rosenthal's score...

Great stuff. Even away from the movie. I have the LP packed away somewhere. Bought it back when the film was released.

The new Clash is getting less than stellar reviews. More important, I would like to hear what the civilians have to say about it. If I do go to the movie house to watch, I will do so in one which is playing good ol' 2-D.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


The worst Irwin Allen show after Lost in Space, but as I have discovered, Land of the Giants (1968 - 1970) has quite the fan following. Fox Home Video recently released the final 60s Irwin Allen show on DVD in one big box; with both seasons included. Unlike the previous releases of Allen fare, the Giants set gets the star treatment: There are lots of so-called extras. Of great appeal to the die-hard fans, this set has to be to shake off its steep sticker price. You get what you pay for. (I understand there are extras on some of the other related boxed sets but they are limited in comparison to Land of the Giants.)

The premise of Giants is as follows: The suborbital spaceship Spindrift is en route to London from New York city when it passes through a cloud and lands on a planet of giant people.

Exciting stuff.

I was living in Europe the time that Land of the Giants played on ABC in first run. As there were only two years worth of episodes, 'stripping' this series (that is Monday to Friday at 5 p.m., sort of thing) was problematic. Giants would end its run in just over two months. This is the reason why I did not see it until 1983 when CKVR ran the show late at night that summer.

After taping and watching a couple of episodes, I could readily figure out why Giants was all but forgotten. It was deadly dull! The characters were empty souls -- and essentially duplicates of the Lost in Space characters -- amongst some impressive scaled-up props and outstanding optical mattes. These qualities do not make a show, however.

Land of the Giants did have an above average Johnny Williams (by now, "John") theme tune. I remember seeing the beginning of an episode on BBC-2 in England a few years ago where I was not only reminded of the clarity inherent in the PAL television system but was also treated to a different -- and excellent -- opening title sequence and musical theme. I did not realize this series had a different opening treatment in its second year, and a super-charged one at that. You learn something every day.

I guess the producers were trying to spice up and hyper-energize the second year, figuring the audience was cold to the lack of character development and scripting in the first.

Check out the first season opening title sequence from Land of the Giants... (I love that tremolo tuba!)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Oh my lordy. Things run in a theme. I was on Youtube looking for Super-8 films and this came up as a hit...

It is a Super-8 Star Trek short film made by a bunch of kids in Cape Cod in 1978. I have not laughed like that in ages while watching a 'movie'. The kids staged a fight sequence and it is, as far as I'm concerned, worth the price of admission. The original series had professional stuntmen and it showed, even if they did not always look like the characters they were standing in for, but, needless to say, the kids here do "their own stunts", so the illusion is perfect... and hilarious!

They were talented little buggers. And they clearly understood the source material.

The audio was added a few years ago as were a few "opticals".

Great show.

(Another effective touch is the way they use music from "The Cage", "Amok Time", and "The Doomsday Machine".)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


As a friend of mine said, "Wow!".  Back in 1979, two French (or French-Canadian?) guys, Yves Lapointe and Sylvain Labrosse, were sixteen years of age when they produced this Super-8 short film on their favourite television series, Space: 1999. I'm specifying "favourite" simply based on viewing their 13-minute homage to the much maligned 1975-1977 science fiction show. In fact, it is the second season (or "second series") that they mimicked, not the first, as many, including moi, would assume. In addition, because it was made by two people who would have seen the French-dubbed version, the title is Cosmos 1999.

All I can say is, "Enjoy!".  Watch and admire the effort (and laughs) put forth by messieurs Lapointe and Labrosse. The music cues, authentic ones from the show's second year, are used exactly the way they were on the actual series they obviously know very well.

This film makes one wonder what the filmmakers are doing today?


The Time Tunnel ran just one season (on ABC) back in 1966 to 1967. Because of this, unless one caught it on first air-dates then you were to hear of it only described to you; in my case, by a friend. In 1974 or abouts, he told me of The Time Tunnel and proceeded to describe an episode where "these guys", Tony and Doug, the two handsome leads of this series, end up on the Titanic just as it was about to sink. I had more than heard of the ocean liner Titanic, I was a fanatic at an early age, but I could not pull any memories from the memory bank to reward my friend's noble feat to jog my memory. I just did not remember any television based time machine other than Doctor Who's Tardis. (What my pal was describing was the pilot episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday", starring some dude by the name of Michael Rennie.)

Eventually, I did see a couple of episodes in the mid 1980s courtesy of CKVR's summer classic television programming. I found The Time Tunnel to be boring and without much merit. Why, I asked, do Tony and Doug always end up at a time and place where some major event is happening, such as Krakatoa during the volcano incident, or the War of 1812? Why did they not end up in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, during tobacco harvest season?

I should mention that a television budget could only realize such ambitious scenarios through the use of 20th Century Fox's stock library. By duping sections from films such as The Buccaneer (1958), or The 300 Spartans (1962) the tv epic could realize its lofty goals.

Irwin Allen admitted that The Time Tunnel was his favourite of his own series'.

Check out this original promo...

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Then came The Starlost. I sat on the floor cross-legged with my friend Dennis. We watched. I seem to remember that we enjoyed the experience. Maybe it was a 'fix' for two little geeks. There were some "dumb" things to be sure, such as our intrepid characters, once they broke out of Cypress Corners (their world's dome) and into the Ark, stepping on a green mat and 'flying' down the super-long corridors, courtesy of some fringey chroma-key video effects. Dennis' mom: "This is so God damned stupid!" We both ignored her. What did she know?

At a leisurely pace -- Star Trek by this point, and Dennis and I were both fans, especially after I turned him onto both the show and the James Blish novelizations, would have had an action scene or two, some funny lines and some great orchestral musical flourishes of brass and tympani, not to forget an absorbing plot -- Devon, Rachel, and Garth (Keir Dullea, Gay Rowan, and Robin Ward) explored the sterile-looking spaceship interiors. They came across what looked like a 'Tourist' help centre computer. Devon sat in the chair and an image of a hunched William Osler came on. After the computer-man noticed that someone was sitting in the chair, he would ask, "may I be of... assistance?". He wore heavy-framed glasses and flickered his eyelids a lot, especially when he was answering Devon's seemingly stupid questions. (Hey, wouldn't you ask certain questions if you came from a dome-enclosed Amish-like community headed by a semi-sober Sterling Hayden, only to break out and into a radically different environment, one without trees or inhabitants of any kind?) On one such occasion when Osler blinked in machine gun fashion, Dennis' mom exhorted, "this is God damned ridiculous!" (Her comments came across as a sort of negative laugh track.) "It is kind of silly", I'm sure I started to think at this pivotal moment. And I think a little bit of disappointment started to creep in. Dennis and I were not little kiddies... we had fully functioning 11-year-old brains. And we knew what was good; Star Trek had set the bar. (The animated Star Trek series had premiered that same year -- I know that we looked forward to that every week, and probably more than the 'video-taped show'.)

When the first show finished and that freaky theme music closed off, I'm sure Dennis and I both liked it, overall. I know that I watched most, if not all, of The Starlost's sixteen episodes. There was the one with the big bees: "Those are big bees!" The week after this one premiered, my social studies teacher, Mr. Brown, said, "did you guys see The Starlost on the weekend... the one with the bees?" I remember he smiled as he said this. Wouldn't you? Mister Chekov played a character named "Oro" in another installment... he was probably named after Oro township up near Barrie, Ontario; as I would figure out a few years later. I liked the episode "with the kids", a lot of them were about the same age I was at the time; bet you if I watched now, they look like 'babies'. I did like the twist ending of this one.

One interesting element of the show was the theme music (as I mentioned briefly above). It favoured a synthesiser and, as a melody goes, was quite memorable... very catchy and easy to mock-hum with a vocal synth sound: I'm doing it right now. See what I mean? A glass of wine just killed that. Or did the wine start it? Over and above the theme tune, the back-ground music was unique, but pedestrian. There is one piece I recall which was basically the theme but played very slowly, and with what sounded like a recorder. (A recorder has a very 'breathy' quality.) To be honest, though, the back-ground music often irritated in its droning manner. In fact, some of these back-ground cues 'showed up' on the Canadian television series, Swiss Family Robinson. The music was provided by Score Productions, a company out of New York City that wrote music -- at least its staff composers did -- for various television events, game shows, etc. It was run by a man by the name of Bob Israel, who wrote music himself along with his staff musicians. (I remember TV Guide doing an article on Israel, and his company, a couple of years later.) No doubt, the producers of The Starlost got a 'package deal' for the music. (This is very common practice in television today as it is cheap to do... just a guy and his synthesiser, and no musicians on the floor to be paid.)

The visual effects shots of the Ark were sometimes video, other times, film. The filmed versions looked as though the crew had immersed the model in a murky swimming pool and some guy was hired to swim around with a camera in hand. Due to video camera limitations at the time, there was not a lot that could be done to make miniatures look as big as what they were supposed to represent. They often looked static with perhaps a zoom done to mimic flight; this would be chroma-keyed over a fat-star background.

The Science aspect of The Starlost was sloppy or almost non existent. In the premiere, the computer-man said, "a class G solar star". Harlan Ellison says, "(it makes no sense), it's like saying, 'a big house home'."

Over the years The Starlost would occasionally play on CTV in repeats. It didn't help syndication matters that there were only sixteen episodes produced. If the show were to be 'stripped' Monday to Friday, then the whole series would be done in three weeks! What did happen, however, is that several compilation films were made. Each one would be made up of two episodes. Even then, I don't recall seeing it a lot. This is probably a good thing. When The Starlost finally hits stores on DVD, I might be tempted to revisit and relive a moment from my childhood; and imagine Dennis' mom's running commentary.

And just what the heck was that Toronto Star 'television' reviewer smoking?!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Finished my tea and thought about a movie theatre from my past. There are a few, but one that snapped to mind was The Roxy in Barrie, Ontario (Canada).

I decided to cut to the chase and do an Internet search: The first website I checked from the search results was one called "Cinema Treasures" ( Not to put down the site, but I immediately noticed an error. The page dedicated to the Roxy stated that the palace closed in 1975. As Lucifer, that cosmic comedian, would sometimes tell Baltar in Battlestar Galactica, "well... not exactly". In fact, I cannot remember what year the Roxy was shuttered, but the last film I recall seeing there was Poltergeist; and that would have been June of 1982. I'm sure there was another after that one, though. (The first flick I recall seeing at that theatre was King Kong in December of 1976.)

Okay, there was a bunch in between, in a non-chronological order: Moonraker; Prophecy; Starship Invasions; Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Superman; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; The Fog; Battle Beyond the Stars; The Amityville Horror; The Concorde...Airport '79; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; a lot of 'spacey' stuff, by the looks of things (it was the main house, after all). But, surprisingly enough, not Star Wars. That played across the street in the much smaller Imperial 2 (get it?).  This anomaly was probably engineered by the fact that the film playing at the Roxy in June of 1977 had already been booked months ahead of time, and, of course, as we all know, Star Wars kind of "surprised" us all... especially the exhibitors.

Back to the Roxy: It was a grand palace of a theatre. It opened in 1931, in the era of palace theatres.

"Cinema Treasures" website entry on The Roxy...


Terrible show... it enjoys the largest following of the Irwin Allen Four, but that does not change the fact that Lost in Space -- which ran on CBS from 1965 to 1968 -- has to be seen to be believed. With the exception of a very few episodes, this is best skipped; or watched to believe what I say.

As a little one, however, Lost in Space had it's allure. The earliest episodes had palpable "atmosphere". The black and white cinematography by Gene Polito (son of old time cameraman, Sol) lends a credible amount of this quality. Johnny Williams's theme tune is classic and his scoring of the first handful of installments forged an identity for the show -- again, I use the word "atmosphere". (This background music, which was re-tracked throughout the program's run is easily identifiable to those of us who grew up with this aural asset.)

That was the good stuff. The bad stuff is just about everything over, under, and in between. The cast, however iconic to a degree, has nothing to do and no room to grow or develop their characters. A guy like Mark Goddard gave it his all but could only hit a wall within the 2-D framework of "Major Don West". Of course, as any Lost in Space fan will tell you, the memorable personality hooks were Doctor Zachary Smith, young Will Robinson (played by Bill Mumy), and the Robot. The banter between Dr. Smith and his "tin-plated" companion is not without charm; something you understand more as an adult viewer. (Trivia note: The Robot with No Name was designed by Robert Kinoshita of Robby the Robot fame.) But overall, Lost in Space is tough going.

It's a darn shame, really. The cast as 'actors' is not without appeal. They just don't get anything to show their wares.

My brother had me on the floor with his summation of Lost in Space: "That show is ridiculous. A typical episode would have someone like Will or Dr. Smith walk off camera right (from the encampment). The next shot would be them entering from behind a rock on screen-left; they then notice some alien thing that they never happened to notice before."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which ran on ABC from 1964 - 1968, is perhaps not only the longest title of a major television network series (a real mouthful to say), but was for years the longest running U.S. one of the science fiction/fantasy kind. It is also the first and by far the best of producer Irwin Allen's four shows. The premise or the core idea of Voyage was the adventures of the futuristic, glass nosed submarine, the Seaview. The two lead actors are Richard Basehart and David Hedison. There are a good assortment of supporting characters. The sets and equipment were from the (very successful) 1961 feature film by the same producer.

The first season was photographed in black & white and was essentially a mix of foreign/enemy agent and espionage stories. These ingredients make for a show which is far more watchable than the later (ridiculous) episodes involving werewolves, terrible toys, and general, stock ridiculousness. Voyage was shot in "color" from the second season on which seemed to point the way to more, shall we say, colourfulness.

The ironic thing is the later episodes made for more enticing viewing to the average tiny tot. (I remember being a little bored by a story that took place in Venice. My mother said, "there's not much of the submarine in this one, is there?")

Watching Voyage now makes me appreciate the fact -- again, the earlier seasons -- that it is unfairly batched with the three other Allen telefantasy series (Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants). A couple I have seen lately are superior, by any measure. The crew acted like a real sub crew would, in the first season especially. In the third and four years the crew became a bunch of buffoons... in some cases not recognizing some fiendish plotting alien who copied what an earlier alien tried to do but failed. (I have never figured out how some evil force never managed to take over the vessel, lickity split.) The scripts became so consistently bad that they were often embarrassing.

In re-sampling this series, one quality I was pleasantly reminded of was the slight romantic feeling which reared its head from time to time throughout the series. This was helped by Paul Sawtell's superb theme tune -- one of the best tv-tunes of all time, as far as I'm concerned. You really do not get a signature theme of this quality in series television anymore. Times have changed.

If there is one Irwin Allen series that you might spend an hour of your life to satisfy any curiosity, this would be the one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


We are "brought up" not only by our parents but by "the television" that we watch. One guy who brought me up -- as much as it might pain me to admit -- is producer and showman Irwin Allen (seen to the right, directing the Time Tunnel pilot episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday").

His shows in the 1960s always seemed to be on the tube. Hardly a year went by where Allen did not have a program in the network schedule; and in syndication in later years. (In 1966, there were three of them.) They are, in order of original airdates...

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (ABC, 1964 - 1968)
Lost in Space (CBS, 1965 - 1968)
Time Tunnel (ABC, 1966 - 1967)
Land of the Giants (ABC, 1968- 1970)

Over the next few days I will recount my memories of these fine, fine programs (as SCTV's Guy Caballero would probably say).

First off, from today's adult perspective -- or as much as I have managed to mature in life -- all these series are pretty bad.

... With the exception of....