Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cover Gallery: DYNAMITE Sci Fi

Back in the distant mists of prehistory - the 1970s - grade school kids across America were first exposed to the concept of "pop culture magazines" with the monthly publication called Dynamite. Sort of an Entertainment Weekly for pre-adolescents, the colorful magazine showcased the hottest stars, TV shows, and movies of the day.

If your school participated in the Scholastic Book Club, you'd get an order form for your parents to order an assortment of children's paperback books. Some were pretty cool: I still have a few of my old Scholastic purchases, including a really cool time travel adventure by Lester Del Rey and a Martian sci-fi adventure by Robert Silverberg. The order form also offered Dynamite, and as far as I know, it was only available through Scholastic's club. Because of the order form, you always knew in advance who or what was going to be on the cover, and there were tons of cool games, puzzles, comics, articles and Shaun Cassidy posters in every issue.

I guess the magazine - and club - lasted into the early 80s. I remember that Marvel had their own Dynamite clone, called Pizzazz, and I vaguely recall another similar magazine called Bananas, but I never read either of those. I did get Dynamite every month, though, and except for those Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers issues (I was too old for the club by then, having moved on to Junior High), I'm pretty sure I had all of the other ones shown above. I specifically - and vividly - remember the Space: 1999 and Logan's Run covers.

STARCRASH (1978) Movie Art

In anticipation of its forthcoming new DVD and Blu-Ray(!) releases from Shout! Factory, here's some more advertising art from Luigi Cozzi's Starcrash - the original painting used for the U.S. one-sheet by John Solie, and a foreign (German) VHS package that is spectacularly shameless with its Star Wars "homage." Still, it looks like it's well-painted. I know there are even more Starcrash poster variants out there, and I'll continue to keep hunting them down.

Just two more weeks until I can get my hands on Starcrash in HD! I've already pulled some old stuff to trade; can't wait for the 14th....

Pre-order it here: Starcrash (Roger Corman Cult Classics) [Blu-ray]

Monday, August 30, 2010

SPACE: 1970 on Facebook

Just a head's up: if you're on Facebook - and who isn't these days? - I've set up a fan page for the Space: 1970 site. It's just another way to get the word out, and for those of you who already follow this blog, it's another way to keep up with updates and new posts.

Also, I want to let you folks know that if you want to help keep this blog going, I'm always looking for cool stuff to write about and post here - especially rare images like publicity photos, behind-the-scenes shots, magazine and newspaper advertisements, and pictures of toys and other memorabilia. If you've got something in your collection that you'd like to contribute, just send it along, and if I use it, I'll be sure to credit the source. I'm particularly interested in material relating to shows like The Fantastic Journey, Logan's Run, Quark, Planet of the Apes and the 70s Roddenberry pilots.

If you're so inclined, you can also use the Paypal link in the sidebar to make donations - I'm still trying to scrape up money for a few DVDs and such to review on the site. Specifically, I want to get my hands on the Genesis II, Planet Earth, Strange New World and Man From Atlantis discs from Warner Archive and the Message From Space disc that I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

Also, I'm not opposed to "Guest Posts" - if anyone wants to submit short articles about their own 70s sci-fi memories, I'd be happy to consider running them on the site.

Thanks to everyone who follows this blog, and especially to those who have written about it and linked to it on their own sites. I just realized that I've been doing this for ten months already. On the first of November, it will have been a full year....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August's Space Babe: Jenny Agutter

The elfin Jenny Agutter as Jessica Six in the 1976 feature film, Logan's Run. It's a couple days early, but September's Space Babe is one of my all time favorites. Beautiful and sexy with a charming innocence, Agutter's layered portrayal of Jessica Six is forever seared into my adolescent brain. Doesn't hurt that she had a couple of tantalizing nude scenes... and that dress!

Born on December 20, 1952, in Taunton, Somerset, England, UK, Agutter was the daughter of an army officer and spent her childhood traveling and living in different countries. Her film career began at the age of 12!

Agutter is an accomplished and prolific English actress with substantial television, film and stage credits. Her genre credits are slim, aside from her iconic role in Logan's Run, but she did appear in episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, and is well-known for her co-starring role in 1981's An America Werewolf In London.

Friday, August 27, 2010

LAND OF THE LOST (1974-6) Episode-by-Episode Commentary

My internet pal Michael May has been writing a series of episode-by-episode commentaries and analyses of the mid-70s Sid & Marty Krofft Saturday morning sci-fi adventure series, Land of the Lost.

Land of the Lost is one of my favorite television shows ever, and I intend to write about it here on the site. The world that the writers - specifically David Gerrold, as first season story editor - created for the show was layered and utterly fantastic. You also couldn't complain about the writing (especially in year one), with noted science fiction scribes like Larry Niven, Norman Spinrad and Ben Bova (among others) contributing scripts. It may have been a kid's show, but it was one of the best genre series of its era.

But, as I haven't gotten around to writing about the show yet, and Michael's been doing such an exhaustive job of it over on his own blog, I thought Space: 1970 readers might like to read his articles for themselves.

Links below:

Season One. Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

Season Two. Part One.

Part Two.

And Michael's just starting on Season Three now.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY (1977)


Lost in the Devil's Triangle, trapped in a dimension with beings from the future and other worlds, a party of adventurers journey through zones of time back to their own time. Varian, a man from the 23rd century, possessing awesome powers; from 1977; Fred, a young doctor just out of medical school; Scott Jordan, the thirteen-year-old son of a famous scientist; Liana, daughter of an Atlantean father and an extraterrestrial mother; and Jonathan Willaway, a rebel scientist from the 1960s. Together they face the frightening unknown on...
The Fantastic Journey.

When I was thirteen, NBC aired ten episodes of this oh-so-70s science fiction fantasy series. Starring Ike Eisenmann between Disney's Witch Mountain flicks, and the always-welcome Roddy McDowell, The Fantastic Journey was tailor-made for kids like me. Hell, just the words "Bermuda Triangle," were enough to get my pulse racing back in '77, and when this show came on, I was glued to the set.

My memories of it were vague through most of my life, as I never saw an episode after the last show aired on June 16, 1977. If it was ever rerun, I never saw it. In fact, no one I ever mentioned it to even remembered it at all, and if not for a few articles in Starlog magazine, I might have convinced myself that I'd dreamed the whole thing. But, in the mid-90s, I was working for Tekno*Comix in Florida as an editor and writer. Tekno was run by the same lawyers who'd created the Sci-Fi Channel, and was actually financed, in part, by having sold the cable channel concept to MCA/Universal a year or two before. Well, one afternoon, I happened to see a VHS tape in a big pile of junk that was being carried down to the dumpster. As I always had to check out any video I came across, I snagged it and discovered that it was a complete episode of The Fantastic Journey!

Not a great episode, and not the pilot, which I was particularly eager to see again, but still.

Anyway, last night I found the tape again, and transferred it to a DVD-R disc. As it burned, I watched it again, and was fascinated by some of the names in the credits. Producers William Cairncross and Leonard Katzman, along with story editor (and Star Trek vet) D. C. Fontana went directly from this show to manage Logan's Run the following season, and creator/executive producer Bruce Lansbury moved on to Wonder Woman, and then, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The cast of The Fantastic Journey was interesting, too. Aside from sci-fi faces Eisenmann and McDowell (whose character was sort of a more restrained - and thus, tolerable - version of Jonathan Harris' "Dr. Smith" from Lost In Space), there was the legitimately otherworldly Jared Martin (who later starred in the late-80s War of the Worlds syndicated series) as futureman Varian, who carried a small sonic device (looked like a glowing tuning fork) that was nearly as versatile as a certain Timelord's screwdriver, and the lovely and mysterious (seriously, I can't find anything about her on the web) Katie Saylor as the half-Atlantean/half-alien Liana. Carl Franklin is also quite good as the young doctor, Fred.

As to the show itself, it was pretty typical 70s TV fare. The episode I have a copy of, "Children of the Gods," is the obligatory "Lord of the Flies" knock-off plot that appeared on Star Trek, The Starlost, etc. and not particularly good. In fact it looks a lot like - and I guess that it's no surprise - the Logan's Run series, with lots of roaming around Griffith Park, running up and down corridors, and very limited effects (a single matte painting of a ruined city over a concrete culvert and one animated raygun blast). But it is professionally crafted and entertaining.

I would love to get my hands on the rest of the series one day. Maybe Columbia will initiate its own "manufacture-on-demand" program like Warners Archive one of these days and make the series available...

My Models: STAR WARS (1977)

Here are the last of my 1970s vintage, built-up spaceship models. Clearly, my Star Wars models haven't held up as well as my Galactica and Buck Rogers ones - but, to be fair, they're the oldest ones I still have left. And unlike my Star Trek, Space: 1999, Message From Space and Moonraker models, at least they still exist.

The MPC X-Wing Fighter above is in bad shape, missing an engine and a couple of wing lasers. The "battle damage" attempts didn't work quite as well as on the Viper, probably because the X-Wing was molded in white instead of gray. You will also note that the only attempt I made to paint anything on this model was the cockpit windows. Not the R2 unit, though - it was too damned small.

I did, however attempt to paint the solar panels on the Darth Vader TIE Fighter (anyone know why MPC never released a standard TIE Fighter? I really wanted one as a kid.), with disastrous results. Otherwise, this one's held up fairly well. The Vader figure that used to be in the cockpit is missing, and the cockpit hatch is unattached, but it's otherwise intact.

I also had that mammoth Millennium Falcon kit, with the grain-of-wheat lightbulbs, but it didn't go together properly, and in a fit of adolescent pique, I smashed it up and - if I recall correctly - set it on fire up in my grandfather's gravel pit. I think I also had the R2-D2 kit (was there a R2-D2 kit?).

Anyway, I don't know if any of you derived much from seeing these pix, but I can still remember the pride I took in putting these kits together, and thought that the fact these things still exist was worth acknowledging....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (1979)

Among the various, internationally-produced space operas that hit cinemas in the wake of Star Wars, the low budget Canadian effort, The Shape Of Things To Come, is among the most derided. Borrowing the title from H.G. Wells' novel in an apparent, desperate bid for some sort of legitimacy, TSOTTC is frequently dismissed as one of the worst science fiction films of its era - if not one of the worst space flicks ever. And there is no question that it's a threadbare affair with a banal script right out of a 1950s comic book.

But....

Okay, we all know that I am way too forgiving when it comes to 1970s space opera - hence, the existence of this blog. But I'm not going to apologize for trying to find entertainment in even the worst of the genre, nor am I going to feel guilty (well, not too guilty) when I actually kinda like a film like TSOTTC.

The plot of The Shape Of Things To Come bears no resemblance whatosever to the Wells novel, nor the 1935 Alex Corda movie classic of the same name. In fact, the plot makes little sense at all....

It's "the tomorrow after tomorrow," and the planet Earth is a wasteland, devastated during the great robot wars. What's left of humanity has colonized the Moon, living in great in domed cities, including New Washington. Presumably due to lingering radiation poisoning from the wars, mankind's continued survival depends on an anti-radiation drug called "Radic Q-2," which is regularly shipped to the moon from its planet of origin, Delta-3. Unfortunately, Delta-3 - evidently in another solar system entirely - has been taken over by Omus (Jack Palance, who played a similar character on Buck Rogers that same year), a nutjob robot scientist who has ursurped the rule of the legitimate governor, a platinum blonde named Nikki (Carol Lynley, The Poseidon Adventure). Omus remotely crashes a delivery ship into the New Washington dome and informs stately Senator Smedley (John Ireland) that there will be more such "attacks" if the lunar citizens don't cater to the would-be tyrant's will.

"Our society has no place for a dictator—not even a benevolent one," proclaims a defiant Doctor John Caball (Barry Morse, Space: 1999), the scientist hero of the piece. Oddly, neither he nor the other citizens of New Washington seem to object to deferring all authority to their master computer, Lomax, though, which dismisses a proposed counterattack on Delta-3 on the grounds that it would be somehow "imprudent" (i.e. "prohibitively expensive").

Undeterred, the noble Doc Caball, his loyal son Jason (Nicholas Campbell), beautiful cyber-tech named Kim (Eddie Benton, a/k/a Anne-Marie Martin), and an odious comic relief robot called "Sparks" set out on Caball's new and untested spaceship, the Starstreak, on an unauthorized mission to Delta-3, intending to stop Omus and rescue the red jumpsuited colonists from his waddling robot army.

Ummmm.... First off, why does Omus crash the supply ship into the dome? Wouldn't it have been more economical and just as effective to simply withhold the drug shipment? (Actually, since it's Palance, I guess he just likes the drama). Second, why live on the moon? Couldn't domed cities be built more easily on Earth and offer the same protection? Or why domed cities at all? Earth still appears to be habitable. For that matter, if Ridic Q-2 is so vital to humanity's survival, why not just move everyone to Delta-3? After all, it looks to have an environment exactly like Earth's.

Okay, here's where I come to the film's defense: a lot has been made about the decidedly non-alien Ontario location work that stands in for both Delta-3 and the post-Apocalyptic Earth. While I do have to wonder why TV hack director George McGowan chose to use what appears to be the same autumnal fields and woods for both planets (don't they at least have rock quarries or gravel pits in Canada?), it's really no different than the mundane Canadian locations we recently saw ad nauseum in the Battlestar Galactica remake. In fact, the city of New Washington in TSOTTC looks a frak of a lot like Caprica on the new BSG.

Anyway, yeah, the script is stupid, and the locations are dull, and the robots are clunky as shit. The direction of the action sequences is flat-out awful. TSOTTC is - inarguably - not a good movie.

But (and you knew there would be a "but"), in all honesty, I don't hate, or even particularly dislike, the flick. I actually rather dig the costumes and production design - the uniforms and sets are very much in the style of the other space operas of the period, like Buck Rogers or Space: 1999. Maybe a little cheaper, but not terrible. And, yeah, it's amusing that everyone's got Honeywell computers, but then, the original Galactica crew worked with Tectronics equipment - hey, you use what you can get.

Veteran actors Barry Morse and John Ireland both deliver professional - if unenthusiastic - performances, while the always-entertaining Palance chews scenery with his usual aplomb. Nicholas Campbell and the usually-competent Carol Lynley both appear to be stoned - although that could just be bad direction. Anne-Marie Martin (going by "Eddie Benton" here) is as earnest and appealing as always. Of course, I'm prejudiced - I've thought she was a smart and sexy babe since seeing her on Sledge Hammer! in the 80s.

Barry Morse, in an interview around TSOTTC's DVD release, admitted that the cast/crew were facing an losing battle. "It soon became apparent that it was a production that was, shall we say, reaching rather further than its financial facilities might allow," Morse explained. "I don't think anybody could have anticipated that certain effects would be so... unconvincing, I suppose is the kindest word."

Honestly, though, I think the special effects - at least the miniature stuff - are just fine. They're not Star Wars or Galactica quality, but they're about on the level of Space Academy or Space: 1999. The Starstreak is a good looking ship and nicely designed/detailed, the sequence where the New Washington dome is repaired by three little spaceships is kinda cool, and both Omus' base - and Delta-3 itself - blow up real good. It's a shame that they apparently couldn't afford any animated laser beams, though.

There are a some funny bloopers that make it into film, too, most notably, a Styrofoam beam that bounces hilariously off Palance's head during the fiery climax!

I vaguely recall reading in Starlog and/or Future magazines that Sylvia Anderson of UFO and Space: 1999 fame was originally slated to produce the movie in England (which may explain Morse's involvement), but she must have bailed early, leaving the production in the hands of schlockmeister Harry Allan Towers, who seized quickly on Canadian tax shelter laws that subsidized local filmmaking. Between his notoriously "economical" business practices and McGowan's lethargic, TV-movie direction, it's amazing that the film is as watchable as it is.

Well, I find it watchable, anyway. So sue me.

Back in 2004, Blue Underground released The Shape Of Things To Come on DVD with a really solid 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital mono audio in both English and French. They even scraped up a few extras: a French theatrical trailer, an English TV spot, and a poster & still gallery. Although the company has been slowly re-issuing most of its library on Blu-Ray, there's been no announcement of TSOTTC being released in HD as yet.

Anyway, I'm not going to try too too hard to convince anyone else of the film's merits - although I clearly think it has a few - but I do enjoy pulling the DVD off my shelf every once in a while. It's not as much giddy fun as Starcrash, nor as slyly satirical as Battle Beyond The Stars, but I can find some pleasure in it.... and, you know, I don't really feel guilty about it at all.

BUY: The Shape of Things to Come

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

THE SOUNDS OF OUTERSPACE (1979?) Record Album

Here's a cool oddity that I recently discovered: a sound effects LP from Walt Disney Studios/Disneyland Records featuring laser blasts, explosions, spaceship engines, etc. From the appearance of the Black Hole robots on the cover art, I presume this came out around the time of that movie, but the rest of the album artwork is generic space opera stuff.

If you're interested, you can download the album here or here.

Disclaimer: These links aren't mine, I didn't upload this album, and take no responsibility for it. I'm just posting the links for informational purposes.

MAN FROM ATLANTIS (1977) SFX Model

I stumbled across these photos online - auction house pix of the original special effects miniature of the submarine Cetacean from the Man From Atlantis television series. For those that might not remember, the unique, deep water submarine was originally owned by master villain Mister Schubert (Victor Buono) in the pilot film, but it somehow became the property of the Foundation for Oceanic Research in the ongoing series. I always loved this ship, and am quite struck by the evident scale; based on the windows, it looks like it would have been pretty cramped for the crew. I vaguely recall the interior sets being considerably more spacious....

I remember reading back in '77 that the underwater effects featuring the Cetacean were shot "dry," with the water and bubbles and such added in optically - unlike the submarine effects for Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea back in the 60s, which actually submerged the models in a huge water tank.

I'm fascinated by these photos - I've always been a fan and advocate of in-camera special effects work, particularly the use of miniatures. I have considerable admiration for the men and women who constructed, lit and photographed those detailed models, and am saddened that it's pretty much a lost art these days.