Thursday, June 30, 2011

THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977) Theme Music

To further spark childhood memories, here is the opening theme song to The Last Dinosaur, composed by Maury Laws, lyrics by Jules Bass, performed by Nancy Wilson.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


One of my fondest sci-fi TV memories from my childhood was an ABC television movie-of-the-week called The Last Dinosaur (1977). Now, thanks to the crew at Warner Archives, I've been able to revisit that experience on DVD.

An Antarctic oil survey financed by billionaire industrialist and big game hunter Masten Thrust (Richard Boone,) discovers a pocket of prehistoric flora and fauna in the crater of a dormant volcano, surrounded by mountains of ice and inaccessible by land. Using a drill-equipped vehicle called the "Polar Borer," Thrust personally leads a scientific expedition through the crust of the Earth itself into the time-lost land, accompanied by a plucky girl reporter (TV veteran Joan Van Ark), a Japanese scientist (Tetsu Nakamura), a geologist (Steven Keats, Hanger 18) and his African "hunting guide," Bunta (Luther Rackley). After a disastrous encounter with a vicious Tyrannosaurus Rex, the group finds themselves stranded in the prehistoric jungle and must find a way to survive its myriad perils, including a tribe of savage proto-humans and the ever-present threat of the hungry T-Rex.

The Last Dinosaur made its U.S. premiere on prime time network television, but this co-production between Rankin-Bass Productions (best known for their stop-motion holiday specials) and Japan's Tsuburaya Productions (creators of Ultraman), was released theatrically pretty much everywhere else in the world, and this new DVD from Warner Archives makes that extended theatrical version available in the U.S. for the first time.

Written by comic book veteran William Overgard, The Last Dinosaur is an entertaining lost world adventure with compelling characters, plenty of prehistoric thrills, and lots of dino-action. It's not particularly original, with elements borrowed from genre favorites like At The Earth's Core and The Land Unknown, but it hits all the right adventure beats, and even manages some decently-sketched characterizations and effective moments of drama.

Despite an awful toupee and ill-fitting dentures (I swear he adjusts them on screen more than once) Richard Boone is great as the egomaniacal Thrust, who, it seems, is the true "Last Dinosaur" of the title; an archetypical Alpha-male, unapologetic chauvinist and hunter, who despite his material wealth and success, seems out of step with modern society. As the token female, Joan Van Ark is attractive, tough and appealing.

The special effects are delightfully Old School, with wonderful man-in-suit dinosaurs, gorgeous matte paintings, and miniature sets/vehicles. They're not realistic or even remotely convincing, but they are damned charming and entertaining. My personal favorite effects sequence is the battle between the T-Rex and a Triceratops in a "dinosaur graveyard" surrounded by dino skeletons! I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the wonderfully corny theme song, a decidedly 70s-styled ballad by composer Maury Laws, sung by Nancy Wilson.

The Manufacture-On-Demand DVD from Warner Archive sports a very decent, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby 2.0 Mono audio. The source print used - the extended International theatrical cut - is in reasonably good shape, with only minimal evidence of age-related wear. Picture quality is surprisingly good, except during some of the special effects process shots, but that's inherent in the old-school techniques used in the film and not any sort of deficiency in the transfer. There are no extras included.

The Last Dinosaur is a product of its time, and unlikely to impress those who demand the slick CGI and lightning pace of modern fantasy films. But, if you're looking for an old fashioned adventure tale, it's a terrific flick, along the lines of The Land That Time Forgot & The People That Time Forgot, and a lot of fun. Recommended.

You can buy it direct from Warner Archive or through Amazon:  The Last Dinosaur

Monday, June 27, 2011

SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (1976) Kenner "Maskatron" Commercial

And now, a word from our sponsor....

BUCK ROGERS (1980) Pinball Machine Flyer

Here's the 4-page flyer sent out to arcades in 1980 touting the Gottlieb company's new Buck Rogers pinball machine. I was never very good at pinball, but I was often seduced into dropping my quarters into various machines by the backglass artwork. Can't say I think much of the likenesses of Buck and Ardala (no Wilma!?), but I love the comic strip style of the Buck art.

Friday, June 24, 2011

BATTLE OF GALACTICA @ Universal Studios

In 1980, Universal Studios added a Battlestar Galactica attraction, "Battle Of Galactica," to their famous Hollywood studio tour. This lasted through 1992(!), and featured an elaborate (for the time) laser light show combined with animatronic Cylons, several Ovions (from the Galactica pilot) and the Imperious Leader, along with an actor costumed as a Colonial Warrior. Patrick Macnee recorded an original audio track for the attraction, and Gary Owens provided the Cylon voices (as he would again in Galactica: 1980's "The Return of Starbuck.").

As you can see from the video above, the scenario was thus: your tour tram would be forced by Cylon "tanks" into a landing craft, where you would be threatened by the Imperious Leader. Suddenly, an unnamed Warrior would arrive, and engage the Cylons in battle while your tram driver got you out of there. Corny? Sure. But I would have loved to experienced it personally.

The "Battle of Galactica" attraction actually showed up on-screen in an early episode of The A-Team (leading to that great clip of Dirk Benedict's character smirking at a Cylon) and in the 1980 Get Smart feature film, The Nude Bomb. That flick had an entire action sequence (i.e. commercial) set on the Universal lot, including having Don Adams' Maxwell Smart engage in a shoot-out with a bad guy inside the Galactica attraction.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #1: SPACE: 1999

One of Brian Johnson's effects team (or perhaps Johnson himself - obviously being very careful where he steps) on the miniature set representing planet Psychon's starship junkyard, from the Space: 1999 Season 2 premiere episode, "The Metamorph." A lot of previously-seen spaceship miniatures built by Martin Bower are lurking there in the dry ice fog....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

STAR TREK (1979-80) Marvel Comics Cover Gallery - Part 1

Bob Larkin
Steve Leialoha

Dave Cockrum/Klaus Janson
Bob Wiacek
Dave Cockrum/Klaus Janson
Frank Miller/Klaus Janson
Dave Cockrum/Klaus Janson
With the release of Star Trek - The Motion Picture, Marvel Comics got their hands on the license to produce Trek comics. Their agreement with Paramount only allowed them to use elements that appeared in the first movie (or so they believed), so there were no overt references to events or incidental characters from the original television series.

After the three-issue movie adaptation (also sold as a collected edition in the Marvel Super Special magazine format), they moved onto original adventures.  The artist of the first few issues, Dave Cockrum, was a big Trek fan, and managed a pretty fair job of rendering the familiar cast and settings in a "Marvel" manner, although later artists weren't quite as successful at finding the right balance between appropriately Star Trek-like storytelling and the company's standard super-hero aesthetic.

Here's a gallery of the covers to the first six issues, plus Bob Larkin's cover to Marvel Super Special #15. I'll post the remaining covers soon.

My Enterprise Incident

Back in 1976 or so, when I was 11 years-old, my family took a vacation trip to Washington D.C. with a side trip to the Amish country of Pennsylvania. I was particularly excited to visit the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum because I knew that the original U.S.S. Enterprise model, used in the filming of Star Trek, was on display there. Everything else about that trip was pretty much of secondary importance to me. What really mattered was getting to see that fabulous starship with my own eyes.

Upon our arrival at the Air & Space Museum, I dragged my family right past the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright Bros. plane - though I did stop briefly to examine the Apollo capsule they had on display - and headed for the "Life In The Universe?" exhibit, where, suspended from the ceiling, was the Enterprise in all her glory. With my little Kodak camera, I took almost a dozen photos of the starship, from just as many different angles, and marveled at being in the ship's presence. Eventually, my parents dragged me away, and I enjoyed the rest of my visit to the museum.

Unfortunately, when I had my film developed after our trip, I discovered that the camera had jammed, leaving me with a single print - of a dozen superimposed images of the Enterprise from a dozen angles. Oddly, the camera worked fine before and after I tried to shoot the model. Hmmm....

Anyway, that's why this post is illustrated with pix I found online.

 The Enterprise is still on display at the Air & Space Museum, although it's been repainted a few times and moved to the Gift Shop. One of these days, I hope to get back there and visit the great lady again....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE (1978) Cover Art by Ralph McQuarrie

It would be difficult for anyone who wasn't there to understand what a huge friggin' deal it was when Ballantine / Del Rey Books published the very first Star Wars original novel in 1978. Splinter Of The Mind's Eye, by Space: 1970's favorite author, Alan Dean Foster, was not just a movie tie-in paperback, but a genuine event.

Aside from the monthly Marvel Comics series (which had only just started moving beyond its movie adaptation), it was the first new adventure in the Star Wars universe - ever - and for all of us who had thrilled at The Adventures of Luke Skywalker in the theaters the Summer before, Foster's entertaining novel was our first opportunity to return to George Lucas' fantastic film universe. Okay, so Han Solo and Chewie weren't in it - and many of its details were contradicted by The Empire Strikes Back a couple years later, but damn, it was a fun book, filled with breathless action, and very well-written by Foster, who had penned the original movie novelization for Lucas. Reportedly Lucas asked Foster to write Splinter as a potential film sequel, just in case Star Wars did well enough at the box office to merit one. But he was also asked to write it so it could be filmed more cheaply than the first, hence its entirely planet-bound plot.

Its cover - by Star Wars conceptual genius, Ralph McQuarrie - was iconic. The looming Vader, the crumbling jungle temple backdrop, the crimson flare of the Kaiburr Crystal, Luke & Leia trapped and helpless before the Sith Lord... great stuff. Simple and dramatic.

Now, of course, there have been five more films, an animated cartoon series, countless comic books, novels, radio plays, video games, etc. - but back in '78, this was all there was.

And, as the saying goes: we loved it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Captain's bLog 0620.11

   Posting will continue to be light here for another week or so, as I am up to my neck in overdue assignments. I do have some interesting stuff in the works for this Summer, though, including reviews of the Warner Archive DVDs of Strange New World, The Last Dinosaur, Thundarr The Barbarian - The Complete Series, and, of course, the Battle Beyond The Stars & Damnation Alley Blu-rays from Shout! Factory, once they're out.

I also have my first couple of  "Fave Five" lists (not "Top Ten" - that seemed like a lot of work, and I'm too lazy... I mean busy), more comic book cover galleries, more 70's sci-fi memories, another Poll, and, yes, another Space: 1970 podcast, in the works.

Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) Theatrical Posters

Without question, the scariest sci-fi film I saw in the 1970s was Phillip Kaufman's remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (I didn't see Alien until a few years later on home video). I had seen the original Fifties version of the film one Halloween on late night TV, and while that classic had definitely unnerved me, it didn't scare me, so I figured I could handle the new version.

Somehow - I really cannot recall how I pulled it off - I persuaded my folks to let me go see the PG-rated thriller in the theater by myself. What a trip. Creepy, suspenseful and chock full of gross alien "pod" effects, several times during that viewing I wondered just what I had gotten myself into -- but then Brooke Adams showed up naked, and then the only thing I was scared of was somebody coming in and dragging me out of the theater. Surely, 14 year-olds weren't allowed to see boobies! (But, in 70s, we were. Isn't that cool?)

Director Phillip Kaufman had been signed to direct the first Star Trek feature film, once Paramount decided they didn't want a new Trek TV series after all. But after months of waiting for Gene Roddenberry to turn in a script that met approval from the studio, Kaufman finally left the project and made Body Snatchers instead - and took Leonard Nimoy with him. Nimoy was great in the movie, as was the aforementioned Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland and Veronica Cartwright (who would have a different kind of Alien encounter the next year, poor thing).

Anyway, here's a selection of some of the campaign art created by United Artists for the film's original theatrical release. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coming Attractions: PLANET OF DINOSAURS (1978) TV Spot

Here's a fun 30 second TV Spot for the 1978 stop-motion sci-fi epic, Planet of Dinosaurs... in "Cosmic Color!" (Was color really still a selling point in '78?)  I actually reviewed the DVD of this movie shortly after launching this blog, back in 2009. Several of the effects artists and technicians on this film went on to work on Jason Of Star Command and The Empire Strikes Back! Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

BUCK ROGERS Comic Art by Frank Bolle

Here's the original art for the cover of Gold Key Comics' Buck Rogers In The 25th Century #4 by artist Frank Bolle. It looks like the artist was given plenty of reference for the spaceships - and Twiki - but not Gil Gerard! Still, it's a beautiful piece of 70s sci-fi art - rayguns, robots and space fighters engaged in cosmic dogfights! How can you not love it?

Bolle is a veteran cartoonist and comics illustrator, with countless credits. He was the first artist on Gold Key's Solar, Man of the Atom, and also drew many adventures of Magnus, Robot Fighter and Flash Gordon. He also illustrated several long-running newspaper comic strips (he's currently the artist on Apartment 3G) and contributed to Boy's Life magazine for many years.

I'm not 100% positive, but I believe he was the artist on the comic adaptation of Robert Heinlein's Between Planets that ran in the Scouting magazine back when I was reading it during the mid-70s, too.

THE BIONIC WOMAN (1976) Season 2 DVD Review

The second season of Universal Studio's second "bionic" franchise, The Bionic Woman (1976-77), starring Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson, is now available in a 6-disc DVD set, and despite some annoying audio issues that I'll discuss below, it's a fine presentation of one of the most popular genre shows of the Seventies.

This second season kicks off with an uproarious, glorious - and engagingly ludicrous - Six Million Dollar Man crossover, "The Return of Bigfoot" (guest starring John Saxon and Stephanie Powers) and contains the ultimate (literally, as it was the last) Six Million Dollar Man-Bionic Woman crossover epic, "Kill Oscar," which also introduced the fan favorite "fembots." In between, we have Jaime posing as a female wrestler, a country singer, a policewoman, and a nun. In other episodes she trades darkly humorous quips with Vincent Price and faces off with her own, surgically-altered evil "twin."

It's great entertainment, and holds up surprisingly well - which is a testament to the quality of most of the writing and Wagner's extraordinary talents as an actress. She managed to make even the most outrageous situations believable, and could create palpable chemistry with every actor/actress she performed with. Speaking of which, the great guest stars of Season 2 include Lee Majors, Sandy Duncan, Ted Cassidy, Norman Fell, Hoyt Axton, Julie Newmar, John Houseman, James Hong, and Robert Loggia, among many others.

Universal has brought all 22 episodes of The Bionic Woman's second season - plus two crossover episodes of Six Million Dollar Man - to DVD with remarkably good 1.33:1, "full frame" transfers (oddly, the Man episodes are of noticeably lesser quality, but they're not unwatchable, by any means) and 2.0 mono sound.

On a few episodes, most notably, "Deadly Ringer, Part 1," there are severe audio problems, where the dialogue and music are almost inaudible. These problems are annoying, but intermittent, and as the studio provides English subtitles, the stories can be followed. I understand why a lot of consumers have been upset by the problem, but considering all the hours of entertainment available in the 24 episodes in the set, it really is a minor issue. Extra features include Audio Commentaries on select episodes with Lindsay Wagner and creator Kenneth Johnson, a retrospective featurette, and a still gallery.

Fans of the show shouldn't hesitate to pick this set up, despite the audio problems. I doubt that Universal would find it cost-effective to recall and re-issue the set, and the inconvenience really is minor. The episodes themselves are a great deal of fun, anchored and enhanced by the charming and always-appealing Wagner. Recommended. You can buy the set from Amazon here:  The Bionic Woman: Season Two

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Here's a long (60 second) TV spot from 1972 for Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, my favorite of the later Apes sequels (although I like them all - even Battle). I know I'm just an old curmudgeon, but this still looks vastly better to me than the mo-cap CGI "reimagining" that's due out later this Summer - and I don't think it's just nostalgia. The underlying themes of the original films - especially this one - are so much deeper than Rise's apparent "animal testing is bad" message.

Now, maybe Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes will surprise me, and have more to offer than just a bunch of cartoon gorillas attacking people in a sort of simian take on The Birds - but so far, anyway, the trailers haven't indicated much else. From the trailers to date, it looks mostly like a 50s mad scientist flick crossed with When Animals Attack....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

STARCRASH (1978) AIP Pressbook

Here are a few pages from American International Pictures' pressbook for Luigi Cozzi's Starcrash. The most interesting thing about this is that AIP did not release Starcrash! They did buy U.S. distribution rights for the movie, but once they actually saw it, the studio dropped the film and backed out of the deal. Roger Corman's New World Pictures then snatched up the picture instead, and turned a tidy profit releasing it through his usual channels in the spring of 1979.

The second-most interesting thing about it is that wonderfully hyperbolic promotional copy! "...horsemen of the apocalypse..." "Filmed in Hollywood..."(!)

I particularly like the artwork on the cover. It appears to be one of the pre-production pieces created by Italian artist Niso Ramponi. (Somewhere around here I have more of Ramponi's Starcrash art. I'll have to dig it up soon.)

And just for the hell of it, here's one of the amazing Drew Struzan's pencil comps for a Starcrash (The Adventures of Stella Star) poster done for AIP before they dropped the picture.

He drew several concept sketches like this, and they were included among the bonus features of Shout! Factory's Starcrash Special Edition. Sigh.... what might have been....