Thursday, July 29, 2010

News: Updated BIONIC WOMAN (1976) DVD Packaging

TVShowsOnDVD has posted revised packaging key art and a couple of menu screenshots for the forthcoming first season Bionic Woman DVD set from Universal.

According to the site: "Fans immediately complained about the cover design, noting that two of the smaller pictures (the "helicopter" and "running" images) were from the third season; it felt inappropriate for them to be on the first season box. Fans also noted that the large picture of Jaime Sommers seemed a bit too serious-looking, as well. TVShowsOnDVD passed this fan feedback along to Universal immediately, and the studio pulled the packaging graphics from distribution before the day was over."

You can read the complete article (detailing the changes to the artwork) and view the DVD menu screens here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Models: BUCK ROGERS (1979)

As promised, here are snaps of some of the classic 1970s spaceship models I built as a teenager. I thought I'd spread 'em out over multiple posts and showcase them by series. Today, obviously, is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century day. This built-up Monogram "Starfighter" has held-up fairly well - I only had to re-attach one of the engines, which had fallen off. It still looks pretty good, too. Somehow, I managed to get the decals applied successfully, and it also helped that this particular ship required a minimum of painting - although I probably should have done some detailing on the cockpit interior. I know that the Hartland SFX guys called this ship the "Thunder Fighter," but I don't recall it ever being called anything but a "Starfighter" on the show....

Of all of my old models, it appears that the Monogram "Marauder" has actually held up the best. No broken parts, all of the decals are intact and pretty much perfectly placed - hell, for some reason, it was even less dusty than the others. I always liked this Draconian ship (sometimes called a "Hatchet Fighter" on the show), with its odd lines and oversized cockpit. It doesn't look very realistic (there really doesn't seem to be much space for the engine, fuel, etc.), but it sure does look cool.

More photos to come.

"Internet Pick of the Week"

Well, one of them, anyway. Last Saturday, the Guardian.UK website "Tech" section featured Space: 1970 as one of their "Internet Picks of the Week," - part of a 1970s nostalgia blogroll that included such fun and funky sites as Plaid Stallions, Made In The 70s, and the cool Spanish music blog, Dance 70 Countdown.

It's nice to be noticed, and I wanted to extend a friendly welcome any new visitors who found their way here because of it. Hope you like what you see, and will stop by often!


Created for the Battlestar Galactica cast and crew wrap party at the close of their first - and only -season, this gag reel has a bunch of great bloopers. Now, the forced "comedy" and "humorous" narration is both extremely unfunny and annoying, but it's worth sitting through to get to the end of the video, where Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict are heard singing the wonderful Colonial standard, "We Gotta Find Earth."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Astronauts in Hell

Over on my DVD Late Show site today, I have reviews of Shout! Factory's fantastic new Blu-Ray releases of the Roger Corman Alien rip-offs, Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World. I haven't covered much "space horror" here, despite that fact that both Alien and these imitators fall into the timeframe covered on this site, not so much because I don't like the subgenre (because I do!), but because these films don't really seem to fit in with the overall tone of what I usually write about here.

If you'd like to see what I thought of these particular sci-fi horror flicks, you can read my reviews of the new releases here.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Okay - this is a new one to me. I stumbled across this image online while looking for some other Galactica images, and was surprised that I was completely unaware of this toy's existence. I remember the really disappointing Mattel BG action figures and vehicles, but I don't think I ever saw this item before.

Unfortunately, I can't make out the descriptive copy, so I have no idea what this stuffed Daggit said when you pulled its string - "Hey, I'm really a chimp?" I'm also a little creeped out by the model. Is it just me, or does she look like Noah Hathaway (Boxey) in drag?


More ads from my collection, this time for the 1980 NBC miniseries, The Martian Chronicles, starring Rock Hudson.

I enjoyed this three-part television miniseries adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel/story cycle as a kid, and when I bought the DVD a few years ago, I enjoyed watching it again. Helmed by Logan's Run director Michael Anderson from a teleplay by the great Richard Matheson, The Martian Chronicles was something of a television event back in the Winter of 1980. It's far from perfect - the effects are remarkably primitive for a post-Star Wars production, and the adaptation lacks much of Bradbury's poetry - but it has a fascinating cast, an occasionally eerie atmosphere, and was remarkably ambitious for its time.

I expect I'll be writing a full review one of these days.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA's Lost Season - Sophomore Year Speculations

There's obviously been much fan speculation over the last thirty years about what the second season of Battlestar Galactica might have been like, had the show been properly renewed, rather than canceled and then half-assedly resurrected a year later as a cut-rate kid's show. Entire comic book series have explored possible storylines, there have been original novels and tons of fan fiction.

But I've seen very little actual realistic speculation about what a 1979-1980 television season might have been like. Most of the stuff I've read has postulated exciting storylines that would have been very cool for the fans, but incredibly expensive to actually have produced. So, based on my understanding of 70s network television and trends witnessed in Season 1, here's what I think we might have seen, had ABC decided to give the series a last-minute renewal:

The first season was made up of basically three types of story. The first third of the season consisted of several "Apollo/Starbuck crash on a planet" episodes, with plots that were basically TV Westerns ("The Long Patrol," "The Young Warriors"). Then, there were the big, two-hour "epics" like "Gun On Ice Planet Zero," "The Living Legend," and "War Of the Gods." And, finally, there were the "bottle" shows, set entirely on the Galactica or within the Colonial fleet, centered more on characters rather than action ("Murder on the Rising Star," "The Man With Nine Lives," "Take the Celestra!").

Had the show gone to a second season, I think we would definitely seen a lot more of these "bottle shows." ABC and Universal were both uncomfortable with the high cost of the series (specifically the effects), and it was the show's budget more than ratings that got it canceled in the first place. And we saw with Galactica 1980 that ABC still had interest in the concept if it could be produced cheaply (too cheaply, in 1980's case). There would have almost certainly been a lot of behind-the-scenes belt-tightening, and it's a safe bet that we would have seen a lot more stories set within the Colonial fleet.

Now, I probably wouldn't have minded that too much, since I was fascinated by Colonial society, and some of those later episodes are among my favorites. Seeing the writers explore the fleet culture - not to mention the core characters - probably would have been a good thing. We might have gotten some detail on daily fleet life for civilians, more info on the various classes (Sires? Siresses?), and a look at the economics of the survivors' situation. There would almost certainly have to be some sort of Black Market and criminal element. And, I would personally like to have seen more of the Borellian Nomen... and discover what other interesting subcultures might have existed among the Colonials.

Unfortunately, I think we would have seen a reduction in the cast, too. Battlestar Galactica had a huge regular cast, and once it got going, many characters featured in the opening titles ended up being marginalized or forgotten. My beloved Maren Jensen - beautiful as she was - probably would have been written out. At the end of the first season, she'd already disappeared - she hadn't been seen since "Greetings From Earth," where she'd been depressingly reduced to the role of "school marm." Although originally intended to be both one of the prominent Viper pilots and a love interest for Starbuck, it hadn't worked out that way, and she'd spent most of her time riding a computer console on a corner of the bridge, chewing her lovely lip.

Tony Swartz' Flight Sargent Jolly would probably have completely disappeared, along with some of the other semi-regulars. I also suspect that Herb Jefferson as Boomer might have found himself cut loose, since his role as Blue Squadron's third musketeer had been mostly supplanted by Anne Lockhart's Sheba. I also don't see much of a continued role for John Colico's delightful Baltar; as a convict on the prison barge, there's not much he could do to menace the fleet, and even if he escaped (again), would the Cylons realistically want him back?

Speaking of those chrome-plated pursuers, we probably would have seen considerably less of the Cylons, as well, with the producers saving them for sweeps week "events" to pump up Nielsen numbers. ("The Cylons are back!") This would be when we'd get the slightly more extravagant two-hour/part "epics," although there would definitely be fewer of them. One such "event" would almost certainly have involved the return of the Battlestar Pegasus and its legendary Commander Cain (if Lloyd Bridges' fee could be budgeted), since such a story would be able to use a lot of stock combat effects shots and standing sets. (Would Cain have approved of Sheba's involvement with Apollo? Would he have wanted her to rejoin him on the Pegasus? Hmmm...)

Considering Glen Larson's interest in the spiritual, we likely would have also seen a lot more of the Ship of Lights and its enigmatic, angelic crew and a return appearance from Patrick MacNee's Count Iblis. What we probably wouldn't have seen, although most of the show's young fans would have loved it, were any more non-human aliens. Oh, we got a few early on - the Ovions and the "Android Sisters" in the pilot, the pig-like Borays in "The Magnificent Warriors" - but elaborate make-ups and/or masks would certainly have been prohibitively expensive. Most likely, we would have met more human cultures/colonies along the lines of the Terrans from "Experiment in Terra," and Adama would speculate that this meant they were following the path of the Thirteenth Tribe in the right direction.

More character-driven stories would have led to more soap opera stuff, with additional screen time devoted to Apollo and Sheba's budding romance (and Starbuck and Cassiopiea's as well). One episode we know would have appeared for sure, is the one that formed the basis for 1980's "The Return of Starbuck," although the ending would probably been quite different. The Battlestar Wiki also lists a few other unproduced scripts that might have been reworked into year 2 episodes; from the synopses on the site, "Two for Twilley" and "I Have Seen Earth" could have both been produced under the budget-conscious conditions I postulate in this essay, and "Showdown" and "The Mutiny" might have made decent double-length event episodes.

As for effects, the repetitive recycling of stock shots would certainly have become even more obvious and intrusive, and the rare new sequences from Universal's Hartland facility would have co-opted miniatures and shots from Universal's other current space show, Buck Rogers (just as Buck co-opted several Galactica props and models for its purposes). Teenage fans like myself probably wouldn't have minded too much, as long as there were still spaceships zooming across the screen, but it wouldn't have helped the series' reputation or longevity.

If the show had been renewed and had resembled what I've speculated above, I doubt it would have gone on to a third season. The history of science fiction on American network television, up until Star Trek: The Next Generation (and that was syndicated, and thus spared the interference of network execs), is of two-or-three season runs, with diminishing production values and story quality. In fact, until the aforementioned ST: TNG, the longest running SF adventure series on U.S. television was Irwin Allen's Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea in the 60s, and that show perfectly illustrates the standard trajectory of genre shows prior to the mid-80s. Each season the budgets got smaller, the production values diminished, and the scripts got sillier as the writing staffs ran out of ideas and resources. Effects shots were endlessly recycled and the stories became more and more set-bound.

Still, when all is said and done, I would still have rather seen a second season along the lines of what I imagined here than Galactica 1980....

Friday, July 23, 2010


I've been meaning to write about TRON here for a while, but hadn't quite gotten around to it yet. But there's a new trailer out for the new, 3D IMAX sequel, TRON LEGACY (so glad they didn't call it TR2N or TRON 2.0), and I've got to say, it looks like they've actually got this "revisiting a classic" thing right.

To me, that means respecting the efforts of the original filmmakers, not just taking a title and doing whatever the hell you want with it. I really loved TRON when I saw it in '82, and still think it holds up surprisingly well as a SF adventure film, so I was skeptical about the sequel.

But - Bridges and Boxlietner both return, there's the original TRON coin-op, Flynnn's Arcade... and even a sweet Black Hole reference (rumor has it that these filmmakers will be tackling that one next). You can check out the new trailer here.

News: Bionic Updates

TV Shows on DVD has the official announcement for The Six Million Dollar Man DVD release, and sure enough, it's going to be one of those Time-Life, complete season packages that I won't possibly be able to afford:
This Fall, Time Life - the home of such classic TV as GET SMART, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E and THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS - will give TV DVD aficionados, cult classic completists and genre fans six million reasons to get excited about one of the most eagerly anticipated and buzzed about home entertainment releases in years with THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES. The set, which will initially be available exclusively online at a specially branded site, will be released in November 2010 and feature all five action-packed seasons of the futuristic, fan-favorite adventure series never before available in the U.S. on any format!
Sporting elaborate lenticular packaging with electronic sound effects, the 40-disc collection will include all 100 hour-long episodes and more than 15 hours of bonus material, including the three TV pilot films, the three reunion movies, and the Bionic Woman crossover episodes. You can read the complete press release here.

I've also updated the Bionic Woman post below with the official DVD package artwork from Universal.

UPDATE 7/26: Here's the website where the Time-Life exclusive Six Million Dollar Man DVDs will be available for order:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

News: SPACE: 1999 Year 1 Blu-Rays Available for Pre-Order

It looks like A&E Home Video is preparing a Region 1 HD Blu-Ray edition of Space: 1999 - Season 1. is taking pre-orders already (see the link below) for a 6-disc set that the package describes as "complete, uncut and restored in high definition." Amazon's listing does not indicate a release date yet - it only says that "This title has not yet been released. You may pre-order it now and we will deliver it to you when it arrives." Suggested Retail Price is apparently $99.95, but Amazon is pre-selling it at the discounted price of $69.95.

Either way, it's still too steep for me. I'm going to have to read some extremely positive reviews of the transfers before I'll shell out that sort of cash to buy the series for a third time. I'm not really convinced that a show shot for 1970s television resolution really needs to be presented at 1080p HD - hell, even a standard DVD betrays an awful lot of Brian Johnson's otherwise exemplary effects work by showing the wires supporting the miniatures. Of course, if someone wanted to buy it for me, I wouldn't object....

Preorder: Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

News: BIONIC WOMAN (1976) coming to DVD in October

I missed the announcement last week, but according to TV Shows on DVD, Universal has confirmed that the first season of the original Bionic Woman series from 1976 will be released on DVD on October 19, 2010.

A convoluted rights battle kept Universal from releasing both this series and its progenitor, The Six Million Dollar Man, on home video for years, but apparently it's all been cleared up now. This means that the Seventies' two most popular science fiction series will soon be on their way.

The four-disc set will contain all the episodes from the first season, plus the Six Million Dollar Man crossover episodes, "The Bionic Woman, Parts 1 and 2", "The Return of the Bionic Woman, Parts 1 and 2", and "Welcome Home, Jaime, Part 1" (almost always syndicated as a BW episode, but originally aired as a SMDM episode with "Part 2" originally airing as a BW episode).

In addition, there will be at a retrospective featurette and an audio commentary by producer Kenneth Johnson on at least one episode.

Universal still hasn't given a release date for The Six Million Dollar Man DVDs, and there are rumors that the discs will be issued as one of those Time-Life exclusives - which sucks, frankly, because while I can usually manage to buy shows one reasonably-priced season at a time, I never have enough cash on hand to buy one of those "complete series" sets.

I was a fan of both shows as a kid, and I'm looking forward to the DVDs (providing I'll be able to afford to get them). I saw a few episodes on the Sci-Fi Channel back in the 90s, and although they were a little dated, I still enjoyed watching them.

DAMNATION ALLEY (1977) Theatrical Posters

Another pre-Mad Max post-Apocalypse cinematic adventure from the 1970s was Damnation Alley, released the same year - and by the same studio - as Star Wars, but about as different in quality and impact from Lucas' epic as you can imagine.

Aside from the admittedly impressive 12-wheeled Landmaster vehicle, the film is remarkably cheesy (a word I generally try to avoid on this blog, but it's the only one I can think of that actually fits in this case), which is a shame, since the production had a huge budget, an experienced director, and a fine Jerry Goldsmith score.

Interestingly (well, I think it's interesting), I always assumed that Filmations' Ark II - both the show and it's titular vehicle - were inspired by Damnation Alley, but Ark II actually came first, debuting more than a year before the 20th Century Fox movie was released!

Coming Attractions: DEATHSPORT (1978)

Ah, yes... Deathsport. Possibly the most "perfect" drive-in sci-fi guilty pleasure of the entire 1970s - and another fine Joe Dante-cut trailer from the legendary Roger Corman's New World Studios.

It's not a good movie, by any means, but I actually have a warm spot in my heart (and soft spot in my head, obviously) for Corman and David Carradine's psuedo-follow-up to Death Race 2000. I first saw this movie on the CBS Late Movie, probably around 79 or 80, and hey, as a sci-fi kid, I dug the cool laser guns (I still really like the animated disintegration effects) and shiny plastic swords, not to mention the sexy Claudia Jennings (even if the network cut her nude scenes). When I picked up the New Concorde DVD about ten years ago, I discovered that I still dug the movie as an adult.

Carradine and Jennings both appear to be completely stoned during the entire film (and, from what I've heard of the production, they probably were) and the dialogue is stunningly ludicrous/pretentious - but there's some genuinely great motorcycle stuntwork in the movie, tons of huge explosions, and it's fun to see the familiar Vasquez Rocks/Bronson Canyon/Fox Ranch locations once again representing a post-Apocalyptic milieu. I like the whole "Range Guides" concept (including the plastic swords!), the motorcycle Death Machines are admittedly clunky but still kinda cool (and they sound like TIE Fighters!), and unlike Death Race 2000 (which is by far the superior movie), Deathsport has ray guns!

Richard Lynch is in his usual fine, fiendish form as the renegade Range Guide Ankar Moor, and, let's be honest, the late B-movie queen Jennings just plain looked incredible naked.

This is another of the "Roger Corman Cult Classics" that Shout! Factory has coming up next month on a double-feature DVD (paired with Battletruck, which I've never seen, but sure sounds like a good companion feature), and I'm actually looking forward to upgrading from my old disc. I'm hoping that Shout! will have access to a better print and will correctly matte it to its theatrical widescreen aspect ratio. It's supposed to street on August 3rd, and can be preordered from Amazon here: Death Sport / Battle Truck (Roger Corman's Cult Classics).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Space: 1970 Super-Scribe: ALAN DEAN FOSTER

If you go by sheer volume, then Alan Dean Foster was probably my favorite author when I was growing up (from say, ages 11 to 17). Sure, I read the works of Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury, Burroughs (Edgar Rice, not William) and dozens of other science fiction scribes, but it was Foster - and his novelizations of the movies and television shows that I loved - that I probably read the most. In those ancient, pre-cable, pre-home video days, novelizations were the only way to re-experience those adventures, and Foster was the novelization man.

Oh, I had all the James Blish Star Trek adaptations, and dug 'em, but Foster's volumes based on the animated version of the show were more rewarding. Instead of taking hour-long scripts and turning them into short stories, as Blish was doing, Foster took half-hour scripts and expanded them into novellas... and eventually, full-length novels. And he nailed those characters and their voices, too, bringing them to life on the printed page more vividly than the talented but workmanlike (at least on Trek) Blish.

And then there was Star Wars. The book was credited to George Lucas, but we all know now that Foster also penned the Star Wars novelization, and maybe that's why it was so compulsively re-readable.

I wore out at least three paperback copies of that thing (the photo section in the middle kept falling out), and when Foster's original Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye - the first authorized continuation outside of the Marvel comics - was released, it was a huge deal. I bought that book as soon as it was available, and friggin' devoured it. I don't know how many times I read that story as a kid, marveling at the very existence of a new Luke Skywalker adventure (remember when the franchise was "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker?").

I was too young for the R-rated movie, but his novel of Alien gripped my teenage mind and squeezed it in a sharp-clawed grip. I didn't actually see Ridley Scott's film until a few years later on VHS, and I thought then that the book was scarier - though I've come to appreciate the movie since. I remember when Aliens was released in '86 how college-aged me - and several of my geekier friends - were actually almost more excited about getting Foster's tie-in novel than we were about seeing the movie!

The Black Hole, Dark Star, Outland... great adaptations all, and these books eventually led me to his original science fiction works, like the Humanx Commonwealth stories and the Icerigger trilogy. I haven't read everything he's written in the past thirty years (the man's been too damned prolific), but I do take some pride in the fact that I introduced my nephew to Foster's Flinx & Pip series several years ago, and he's still a rabid fan of the author.

Hmmm... I think I need to dig through some boxes and pull out some of these books. I'm thinking it'll be a lot of fun to re-read some of those old classics on these hot Summer weekend afternoons....

(By the way, this is Space: 1970's 100th post.)

Space Babe: Robyn Douglass

The lovely Robyn Douglass as Jaime Hamilton on Galactica 1980. The show may not have been all that good (okay, it was awful) but I always felt that the cast gave it their best shot, despite some of the worst scripts ever written for a science fiction series and an extremely rushed production schedule. In particular, I thought that Douglass really manged to bring some humanity, humor and intelligence to her role as the "ballsy" girl reporter who was virtually the only person on Earth aware of the existence of the battlestar Galactica and its crew.

A beautiful brunette model - and I've always had a particular attraction to beautiful brunettes - Douglass also appeared in a 1979 TV movie called The Clone Master and guest starred on various television show in the 80s, including some Mike Hammers. According to the IMDb, she now helps run a bed & breakfast in California.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Frazetta BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TV Guide Ads (1978)

Back in the early days of this blog, I posted an article about the paintings that the late, great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta painted for ABC/Universal to promote the original Battlestar Galactica series in TV Guide magazine back in 1978. I had forgotten, though, that along with his paintings for "Saga of a Star World" (pilot), and "Lost Planet of the Gods" Parts I & II, he also contributed another dramatic painting for the mid-season two-parter, "War of the Gods," which guest starred the great Patrick MacNee as the diabolical Count Iblis. (Of course, as all good Galacticans already know, Macnee also provided the opening narration and the voice of the Imperious Leader for the series, as well.)

It appears that Frazetta may have actually seen a few episodes by the time he painted this later piece, as the costuming is closer to the actual Colonial uniforms seen on the show. Of course, his Iblis looks more like an evil wizard off a sword & sorcery paperback cover, but there's no denying the stratospherically high coolness factor of the piece.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Space Odyssey

Obviously, there's been a burst of activity here over the last few days, both in the posting of articles and in traffic. I doubt I'll be maintaining this pace - I have a very full plate this Summer with freelance writing assignments and my weekly DVD reviewing gig - but I'll try to keep things coming here fairly regularly.

The reason for the small flood of posts recently is that I've been struggling with a comic book script rewrite (actually, a literal rewrite, as the original file was somehow lost, along with its backup), and with the heatwave we've been having here in non-air-conditioned Central Maine, it's been rough going. So, the other night, frustrated beyond tolerance, I took a break from that assignment and ended up looking at the great number of Space: 1970 articles that I had started and/or planned over the last few months but hadn't yet finished.

Some of these, like the "Favorite Episodes" post about Buck Rogers (which I started writing back in March!) was pretty far along, others were just images or videos in my files that I'd stumbled across and thought would be interesting to share with the readers of this blog, but hadn't gotten around to posting yet.

So, in an effort to give my mind a break from the project that was so stressing it, I decided to see how many of those articles I could finish up quickly, and get them published to the site. Apparently, it was quite a few, and I have several more completed (including July's belated "Space Babe") and pre-loaded to post over the next week.

I also (not coincidentally) found many of my old 1970s spaceship models over at my folks' place, and plan to photograph them this weekend for eventual display on the site. I have no idea how interesting that'll be for you guys, but I'm amazed that these kits I assembled with my 15-and-16 year-old hands still exist - and some are even intact - after thirty years! I just celebrated my 45th birthday, and it pleases me that something I spent so much time and energy on when I was a kid is still here for me to enjoy and share with my blog pals.

When I started this blog last Autumn, I didn't expect much from it and didn't think I'd be updating it very often. I have several other other blogs with small followings, and they're great diversions/creative outlets, and I still try to keep them going. But I guess Space: 1970 is the one that I get the most satisfaction out of, and from the traffic and the list of followers, it appears that you people get something out of it, too.

So, hang around. Some months may be a little slow, but I don't foresee ever running out of stuff to write about here. I've only barely touched on all the comics and books and magazines that I read back in my space-obsessed childhood, and there are plenty of movies (Battle Beyond The Stars, The Black Hole), TV shows (Space: 1999, Quark), TV specials (The Martian Chronicles), and franchises (Planet of the Apes) that I've hardly even mentioned or not touched on at all yet.

All I ask of you folks is that if you enjoy the blog, please link to it, blog about it, and, most of all, participate in the fun by commenting on the articles. It helps a lot to know that there are other "Star Kids" of my generation out there who remember and love the same stuff I do.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Friday, July 16, 2010

UFO (2011) Movie Website

While I'm thinking about Gerry Anderson productions... this may be old news to most of you, but there's a pretty cool official website for the forthcoming feature film adaptation/remake of Anderson's 1970 television series UFO. Not a lot of information there about the actual film - in fact, I haven't heard anything about the production since it was announced last November (!) that actor Joshua Jackson of Fringe had been cast as Paul Foster in the movie - but the site itself looks cool.

After watching the first season of Fringe, in which Jackson pretty much scowled his way through each episode in a manner not unlike the original series' Michael Billington, I think he's a fine choice to play the role. The much more important casting, though, will be that of Ed Straker, the brilliant, calculating, obsessed defender of humanity and iron-fisted leader of SHADO. My wife and I have tried to think of a single contemporary actor who would not only be right for the role of SHADO's commander, but who would also be someone that a studio would feel comfortable casting in the lead of an expensive movie; i.e. a "box office draw." So far, we haven't thought of a single star worthy of Ed Bishop's white wig.

Who would YOU like to see play Straker in the new UFO film? Bear in mind that your choice should not only be appropriate for the part, but also someone that a studio exec would consider "bankable." Post your choices in the comments.


Into Infinity was a television movie produced by Gerry Anderson between seasons of Space: 1999. It starred Nick Tate and was written and directed by 1999 veterans Johnny Byrne and Charles Crichton, respectively. The effects were handled by Brian Johnson and the 1999 team.

The story chronicled the flight of the Earth spaceship Altares, which was crewed by two families (including children) and was capable of traveling at the speed of light courtesy of its unique photon drive. At the climax, the Altares passes through a black hole to an uncertain - and unrevealed - fate.

The film - sometimes described as a pilot for an unsold series - aired in the U.S. as part of the NBC Special Treat series of irregularly scheduled educational specials, and was designed to dramatize Einstein's theory of relativity for young viewers. I remember watching it when it originally aired and my ten year-old self was utterly fascinated by it, probably because of the excellent miniature work and special effects (evident in the clip below).

It's one of a number of genre obscurities I remember from my childhood that I'd like to see again, but I don't believe it has ever been released on video or even re-run.

ADDENDUM: I have been informed that Into Infinity is available on DVD - exclusively from Fanderson: The Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society, paired with pilot for the producer's 90s series, Space Precinct. The disc appears to be Region 0, so if you live in the States and can afford the shipping, it should play on NTSC/R1 players.


In the Summer of 1983, I had just graduated High School. Okay, technically, I'd dropped out because a single foreign language requirement had threatened to hold me back, but I'd taken and passed my G.E.D. with flying colors and had already been accepted to art school, so let's just say I'd graduated. It's simpler that way. Anyway, I'd already seen Return of the Jedi and had been quite disappointed in it since Han Solo and Darth Vader had been seriously de-balled and the whole Ewok thing just aggravated me.... among other let downs and cop-outs in the script (brother and sister? Really?). So, when my girlfriend and I decided to hit a Saturday matinee, and I saw Spacehunter in 3-D on the marquee, I was hoping for something with a bit more testosterone than Lucas' latest interstellar epic.

The plot of the film is simple: a luxury cruise ship explodes, and three beautiful female passengers just barely manage to escape fiery death in an escape pod. The pod crash lands on Terra IX, a failed colony world that has fallen to plague and civil war, and the girls are quickly captured by the minions of the planet's self-proclaimed ruler, the mutant Overdog. A star pilot named Wolff discovers that there's a reward for their rescue, so he heads for the barren planet, and in the course of attempting to save the women, he meets a young scavenger named Niki who agrees to be his guide. After clashes with nomadic scavengers, mutants and a rival bounty hunter named Washington, Wolff finally reaches Overdog's fortress where the grotesque tyrant is entertaining his subjects by forcing prisoners to run through a fiendish maze of death....

Spacehunter is - like pretty much all my favorite space operas - a Western with spaceships and blasters. The protagonist, Wolff (played to wry perfection by Peter Strauss) is, like Han Solo in the first Star Wars, a small-time, somewhat shady, independent ship's captain who is deeply in debt and desperate for a big score. Unlike the aforementioned Solo, though, Wolff's choice in traveling companions is more to my tastes - instead of a seven-foot tall walking carpet, he's got a shapely brunette engineer, who also happens to be an android sexbot . Her name's Chalmers (played by the lovely Andrea Marcovicci), and I'm always saddened when she's felled by a stray laser bolt early in the film....

Like Star Wars' Solo, Wolff's very name tells us that he's a loner (if only slightly more subtly). A mercenary, he's got plenty of bravado and and he's quick with his blaster. He's clearly not good at relating to people (even his android finds him irritating) though, so when Niki comes along (and the pre-John Hughes Molly Ringwald's actually pretty endearing in the role when she's not being annoying) he is deliberately brusque and cold toward her. Although he eventually bonds with the teenage girl (and yeah, it is slightly creepy considering that Niki's a fairly nubile young thing) it takes literally to the very end of the film before he's willing to make her a permanent part of his life.

This is all very much in the tradition of the cinematic Western gunslinger.

My biggest complaint with the film is that we're not given enough of Michael Ironside's Overdog. A good hero needs a good adversary, but Overdog doesn't quite measure up. Physically, he's a delightfully nasty creature - a mutated, deformed cyborg, stuck on the end of a crane and brandishing giant metal claws - but aside from a little bit of early expositional dialogue that identifies him as scientist who was once trying to cure the plague that ravaged the planet, we never get to know him or understand his motivations, if any. I suppose it's possible that his mind has simply devolved to the point where all he cares about are primal needs like sex and the thrills of bloodsports, but I never quite understood what power he held over the inhabitants of the planet that allowed him to rule them. Too bad, because Ironside is a marvelous actor who is especially adept at playing heavies with depth; unfortunately the script doesn't give him that opportunity.

Wolff's journey - as all classical hero's journeys - has him encounter a number of interesting menaces, from aquatic amazons to grotesquely obese "bat men." Actually, according to an old Starlog magazine article, the design of these creatures - by Tom Burman's studio - was a mistake based on a typo. The story goes that because of the budget and production schedule, the make-up crew had to build the creatures without the direct supervision of the director or producer, and their mistyped copy of the script identified the mutants as "fat men" and not "bat men." The mistake went undiscovered until the pricey latex suits were delivered to the Utah location, and at that point there was no time or money to have them remade.

That gaffe aside, I actually really like the look of the film. A lot has been made of the film's Road Warrior-esque production design, but considering that the setting is an utterly failed colony world, I'm not sure how else the characters and their environs should have looked. Personally, it all works just fine for me, and from the glimpses we get of the technology beyond Terra IX - like the passenger starliner, Wolff's ship and his "tumbler" vehicle - there seems to be a pretty cool galactic civilization out there. Too bad there weren't any sequels to show us more of it. The Moab, Utah locations are decidedly otherworldly, and the cinematography by Frank Tidy presents those unearthly locations to fine effect.

Also playing into the "Western" nature of the story, Elmer Bernstein - who is probably best-known for his theme to the epic The Magnificent Seven - provides suitably "big" and heroic musical score for the film.

I recently re-watched the Columbia DVD released a decade or so ago, and it's a pretty basic catalog disc, with an adequate transfer from a somewhat worn print. The 2-D presentation is actually preferable to the theatrical 3-D version that I saw in '83 - that one wasn't projected properly and was badly out-of-focus, but no one could tell if it was wrong or just bad 3-D. I got up halfway through the film and went to complain to the manager. He rudely insisted that it looked the way it was supposed to, and that I didn't know what I was talking about. Pissed, I returned to my seat. A few minutes later, the movie snapped into focus and the rest of it played out properly. Never got an apology, though. (Yes, it still chafes my ass.)

The DVD presents the film in both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and, on the flip side, 1.33:1 pan & scan. There are no bonus features beyond some apparently randomly-selected trailers for other Columbia DVDs.

Anyway, if you haven't picked up on it, I like the movie a lot. I liked it in '83 (and my girlfriend did, too!) and I still like it now. I think Strauss and Ringwald both play their characters extremely well, and though Lamont Johnson's direction is rather by-the-numbers and lacks much stylistic flair, it's reasonably well-paced and fun. The action sequences are decent, the photography is good, and the "in-your-face" 3-D moments aren't too obtrusive.

Believe me, I'm not kidding when I say that I wish there had been a couple more Spacehunter adventures....