Friday, November 30, 2012

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #31: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

On the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey with director Stanley Kubrick. And to all the helpful folks who feel obligated to e-mail me, comment and tweet whenever I post something that didn't come out strictly in the calendar decade of the 1970s: yes, 2001 came out in 1968, but as I've stated numerous times, I consider the 70s era of sci-fi to basically begin in '68 (with 2001 and Planet Of The Apes) and end in '83 (with Return Of The Jedi). It's my blog. Deal with it.

Sorry... I'm grumpy tonight.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Captain's bLog: 1129.12

•   Thanks to a couple of generous Star Kids who donated to the Space: 1970 fund, I've finally picked up the Universal DVD of 1972's Silent Running and scored a complete set of Project U.F.O. episodes. It's hard to believe that I didn't already have a copy of Silent Running in my vast video collection... but that oversight has now been rectified. One of these days, I'll get around to writing an article/review.

The unauthorized Project U.F.O. discs I have acquired are sourced from 80's Australian television airings (on the TV1 network), and all carry the original title. While a commenter has promised to send me screen captures to prove that the show did air as Project Blue Book in its second season in England... I'm still waiting. And that U.K. exception wouldn't explain why North American viewers remember it under that alternate title.  After watching nearly the whole series again, I'm convinced that people are simply misremembering - the characters in the show use the phrase "Project Blue Book" extensively, and I suspect that constant verbal reinforcement is what imprinted on young viewers' minds.

As for the show itself, the multi-generational bootleg copies I have look terrible - which is unfortunate because I can't really enjoy Brick Price's terrific spaceship miniatures - but the stories are far more engaging than I expected. I prefer first season lead William Jordan over the second season's Edward Winter - I think it's because I can't shake the image of Winter's M*A*S*H character, Colonel Flagg out of my head. I just find him "insincere." Jordan, on the other hand, is both warm and authoritative, and very convincing as an open-minded but rational investigator. Second lead Caskey Swaim is all Southern good 'ol boy charm, and it's a shame he didn't have much of a film/television career.

The writing is formulaic, typically dry Jack Webb-styled stuff, and the production is often remarkably sloppy, with bad editorial match-up of live-action and effects footage, and some of the worst day-for-night photography ever seen. There's a lot of terrific guest stars, though, including Space: 1970 vets Anne Lockhart (Battlestar Galactica), Jared Martin (The Fantastic Journey), Malachi Throne, Booth Coleman (Planet Of The Apes TV series), Barbara Luna (Star Trek, Buck Rogers), Eric Braeden (Escape From The Planet Of The Apes), Morgan Woodward (Battle Beyond The Stars), Craig Stevens (The Invisible Man), Tiiu Leek (Starship Invasions), James Olsen (Moon Zero Two) Pamelyn Ferdin (Star Trek, Space Academy) and many more, including Richard O'Brien (Rocky Horror, Flash Gordon) & Angus Scrimm (Phantasm) as faux MIBs!

•  Other Projects Of Interest: Aside from blogging about old TV shows and movies, I occasionally write comic books. For a number of years now, one of the comic book projects I've been trying to get off the ground is a space opera graphic novel called Perils On Planet X.

While it owes a great deal to the interplanetary swashbucklers of Edgar Rice Burroughs (specifically, the John Carter of Mars stories) and his imitators (like Lin Carter, Otis Adelbert Kline, et al) it also incorporates plenty of influences from the sci-fi shows and movies of the Space: 1970 era, especially Flash Gordon (animated series and feature film), Blackstar, Buck Rogers, etc. The artist of Perils On Planet X is the very talented Gene Gonzales.

It is been in the works for a long time (several years, in fact), and it's roughly half finished. The current plan is to serialize it online in 2013 and perhaps try a Kickstarter campaign to finance a print edition. It's an action-packed adventure with rayguns, jetpacks, sexy space princesses, sexy alien pirate queens, and monstrous reptilian monsters. When it's ready to launch, I'll be sure to post the news here on the blog.

•  Blatant Cross-Promotion: And here's my usual shameless plug: anyone who enjoys my writing and the DVD reviews on this blog  should check out my DVD Late Show site, where I have been reviewing B-movies, cult films and genre television shows on DVD and Blu-ray disc since 2005. Among the over 700 reviews on the site are plenty of Space: 1970-era favorites, like Battle Beyond The Stars, Damnation Alley, Starcrash, The Starlost, the Space: 1999 Blu-rays, and many more.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

THE BLACK HOLE (1979) Radio-Controled V.I.N.CENT Robot

Courtesy of the the archivists at Megomuseum, here's a toy fair presentation film (not an on-air commercial) for a proposed radio-controlled V.I.N.CENT robot toy intended for their Black Hole toy line.

As it turned out, the 'bot never got past the prototype stage and never went into production, being deemed too expensive to produce. Too bad, it looks like it would have been really cool... even if it didn't levitate!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Just when I figured I'd dug up just about all there was worth sharing about the 1979 Canadian-made space opera, The Shape Of Things To Come, I stumbled across this Thai theatrical one-sheet for the flick on eBay. It's similar to the North American posters, but sports completely re-painted art, and it wins my heart by spotlighting the lovely Anne-Marie Martin (a/k/a Eddie Benton) in the composition.

If any movie I've written about on this site qualifies (even in my sci-fi addled mind) as a "guilty pleasure," it's probably this one, as I've watched the Blue Underground DVD edition* of this movie far more often than its cinematic quality warrants.

But what can I say? The very existence of this blog itself illustrates just what a sucker I am for anything with miniature spaceship effects, robots, and pretty girls in spandex... and The Shape Of Things To Come has them all, cheap and derivative as the film may be.

* Buy The DVD From Amazon: The Shape of Things to Come

Monday, November 26, 2012

DR. STRANGE (1978) TV Movie

One of the more creatively successful attempts by CBS to adapt Marvel Comics characters to television was the Philip DeGuerre TV pilot, Dr. Strange, starring Peter Hooten as Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme. While comics fans nitpicked the change in costume and some story details, I thought it was a pretty fair translation of the four-color source material with some surprisingly elaborate special effects sequences (including a creepy, stop-motion demon). Stan Lee was reportedly pretty pleased with it, and comics artist Frank Brunner contributed designs for the project (including that revised costume).

Sure, the whole thing - especially Hooten's mustache - is terribly dated when viewed with modern eyes, but for a 70's TV production it was pretty well done.

Admittedly, Hooten was fairly unmemorable in the lead, but I liked the casting of Jessica Walter (as Morgana LeFay), Clyde Kusatsu as Dr. Strange's Asian manservant, and Anne-Marie Martin (The Shape Of Things To Come) as his apprentice, Clea.

Although produced as a pilot film, CBS aired it as TV movie, and passed on a Dr. Strange series. The movie is not on DVD, but was released on VHS tape in the 1980s.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

News: THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN Season 3 DVDs Coming in February

As reported over on the indispensable TV Shows On DVD site yesterday, Universal will be releasing the standalone DVD set of the classic middle season of The Six Million Dollar Man to retail outlets on February 19th, 2013. For fans like me, who couldn't afford the exclusive Complete Series megaset from Time-Life, and have been patiently (and often impatiently) waiting for the individual seasons to be released, this is great news!

Season Three features the classic return/resurrection of Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers (and the set includes the relevant Bionic Woman episodes) and the introduction of Steve Austin's most iconic adversary: the Bionic Bigfoor (Andre the Giant)!

Bonus features in this set include audio commentaries by producer Kenneth Johnson on those fan-favorite episodes. The 6-DVD set is priced at $39.98 SRP, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon at a discounted price here:The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 3

I'll try and stay on top of this eagerly-anticipated DVD release; Season Two was available several months before its official release date as a Best Buy exclusive. If that turns out to be the case with this 3rd Season package, I'll try to give Space: 1970 readers a head's up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

BUCK ROGERS (1979) Syndication Ads

This industry trade magazine ad from MCA-TV, circa 1983, boasts of the popularity of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century in syndication, specifically in weekday daily airings (known in syndication as "stripping"). While I'm sure that the series did do well in some markets, the "Is a cult developing?" line seems more like wishful thinking on the part of MCA's marketing department.

I suppose it does have a cult following now (and if so, I'm certainly a part of it), but in '83? A mere two years after it ended its network run? I love the show, but Star Trek it ain't.

Thanks to Star Kid Peter Noble, for sharing this ad on the Space: 1970 Facebook page. Here are a few more MCA trade ads, also courtesy of Master Noble:

Monday, November 19, 2012

THE BIONIC WOMAN (1977) Charlton Comics Cover Gallery

Jack Sparling
Jack Sparling
Jack Sparling
Jack Sparling
Jack Sparling
It's been a while since I last compiled one of these comic book cover galleries, but I thought it was time to showcase the 5-issue, bi-monthly Bionic Woman series published by Charlton Comics back in 1977-78.

Because Charlton comics had spotty distribution in my area in the 70s, I never saw any of these issues on the stands - and, to be honest, I probably wouldn't have bought them if I had. I enjoyed the show on TV, but I don't think I would have wanted to carry a Bionic Woman comic up to the counter of my local general store. I took enough crap from people about buying comics as it was; I sure didn't need to be accused of buying a girl's comic on top of everything else.

It wasn't easy being a geeky kid in the 1970s....

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Coming Attractions: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) Theatrical Trailer

Hope you're all having a great weekend. For your nostalgic viewing pleasure, here's the original theatrical trailer for the other big science fiction classic of 1977, Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

I haven't posted nearly enough about this fantastic sci-fi film on the blog over the last three years. It was highly influential on me back in '77, and its commercial and critical success re-ignited public interest in Unidentified Flying Objects, inspiring everything from Ed Hunt's low-budget Starship Invasions to Jack Webb & NBC's Project U.F.O.

Looking back on it 35 years later, the trailer is surprisingly dry & serious, with Columbia clearly determined to make sure that CE3K is not dismissed by audiences as mere "entertainment," but as a serious piece of cinema. Of course, it's both - terrifically entertaining and a great movie.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Happy Life Day!

"This holiday is yours, where we all share with you the hope that this day brings us closer to freedom and to harmony and to peace. No matter how different we appear, we're all the same in our struggle against the powers of evil and darkness. I hope that this day will always be a day of joy, in which we can reconfirm our dedication and our courage. And more than anything else, our love for one another. This is the promise of the Tree of Life." 

The Star Wars Holiday Special aired 34 years ago today. Whatever else that can be said about it - and there's a lot that can be said - it's hard to argue with the sentiment. Happy Life Day, Star Kids!

German PLANET OF THE APES Paperback Covers

Man The Fugitive
Escape To Tomorrow
Journey Into Terror
A while back, I shared the covers of a couple of George Alex Effinger's Planet Of The Apes novelizations based on the 1974 CBS television series. While the U.S. editions sported unimaginative cover photos of the TV cast (Ron Harper, James Naughton and Roddy McDowell), these German editions feature appealingly lurid paintings where the gorilla soldiers appear to be wearing post-Civil War Union cavalry uniforms... huh?

Anyway, I got a kick out of seeing these covers, and thought you might, too. Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Welcome back to "Fave Five" - a very irregularly-posted feature wherein your humble blogger counts down his own top five favorite whatevers from the Space: 1970 era; i.e. favorite spaceships, favorite captains, favorite novelizations, favorite cartoons, favorite Space Babes, etc. Most bloggers do Top Ten lists, but honestly folks, that just seems like way too much work!

This time out, I've picked my favorite "token aliens" of 70s sci-fi television. Ever since the ever-logical, half-human/half-Vulcan Mr. Spock strode onto the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise and became the breakout character of the original Star Trek, producers of outer space-set television adventure series (especially those trying to directly imitate Trek; I'm looking at you, Frieberger and Mantley), have often felt the need to include at least one extraterrestrial among the cast.

As a storytelling device, the token alien has multiple uses. For one, it gives the writers a mouthpiece to make observations on human behavior from the point-of-view of a friendly non-human (androids and robots work well in that capacity, too - but that's a different list), and second, since these characters are almost always given abilities and powers that poor Earthlings don't possess, they can also be useful plot devices when things get too tight for our heroes... thanks to a last-minute mind-meld or surprise metamorphosis.

Jason Of Star Command
"I'll tell you this: your capturing me was a bad idea, and you'll regret it."

Discovered in suspended animation within a derelict spaceship by the titular Jason of Star Command, the amnesiac Samantha (Tamara Dobson) quickly became a valued partner-in-adventure for brash rogue Jason and his Star Command allies. With a variety of vaguely-defined powers, including superhuman strength and assorted psi abilities, the striking Samantha may have been unable to remember where she came from - all she recalled was that her people were conquered by the armies of arch-fiend, Dragos - but she soon made a home for herself aboard the Space Academy, and figured prominently in Dragos' final defeat.

I admired the strength of character that Dobson brought to the role, a mix of compassion and toughness reminiscent of her cinematic character Cleopatra Jones... but without the kung fu, Corvette and machine guns.

NUMBER FOUR: Ficus Pandorata
"There are no good or evil plants. There are only plants."

A member of the crew of a United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol cruiser under the command of Cmdr. Adam Quark, science officer Ficus Pandorata (Richard Kelton) was a Vegeton; although outwardly human-looking in every aspect, he was, in fact, a plant. Being a plant, he needed to monitor his moisture levels and reproduced asexually, by means of pollination. Always rational and logical, Ficus was frequently baffled by the actions of his human (and transmute, and clone) crew mates. Indeed, when the crew met their alternate universe evil twins, there was no discernible difference between Ficus and his other-dimensional duplicate.

Although a parody of Star Trek's Mr. Spock, Richard Kelton really made Ficus an interesting character in his (its?) own right, deftly deriving considerable humor from his unemotional character, and slyly skewering the self-delusions of his captain and crew mates.

Space: 1999
"You mean, people killed people, just because they were different from each other? That's disgusting."

The last survivor of the doomed planet Psychon, possessing the power of "molecular transformation," the exotic Maya found a home - and camaraderie - with the human inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha as it soared aimlessly through the universe. I've always had mixed feelings about the shape-shifting Maya. On one hand, her introduction to the Space: 1999 universe by second-season producer Fred Frieberger was another obvious instance of the wholesale Trek-ifying of the franchise and a harbinger of the show's overall decline in quality. But, on the other, actress Catherine Schell imbued the otherwise-contrived character with such a warm, appealing personality and ingenious blend of confidence, sexuality, competence and vulnerability, that ultimately, she won me over.

Too bad they romantically paired up with the walking cliché that was Tony Verdeschi. I also never understood why an alien beauty from Psychon would have such a penchant for using her ability of "molecular transformation" to shape-shift into distinctly Terran creatures like lions....

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century
"I shall kill them all. All humans who cross my path. And I shall keep killing them, until they have killed me."

Native of the planet Throm, Hawk (Thom Christopher) is the last survivor of a colony of humanoids that evolved from birds (and originally migrated from Earth, according to Dr. Goodfellow, but his speculation is based on virtually no solid evidence whatsoever. Dr. Goodfellow is a very bad scientist, really.). After his tribe and mate are massacred by human renegades, Hawk swears vengeance upon the entire human race, vowing to kill every puny human who crosses his path. This rampage brings him into conflict with Captain Buck Rogers of the Earth starship Searcher.

Of course, brave Buck soon won the avian alien's respect and loyalty, and Hawk joined the Searcher crew. Although the addition of Hawk ended up taking too much screen time away from Erin Gray's Wilma Deering (and that's hard to forgive), the talented Christopher imbued his birdman (ludicrous as the concept might have been) with a strong sense of nobility and a bushido-like code of honor that really spoke to the teenaged me. Besides, that feather toupee looked cool.
Star Trek

TV's original "token alien," and still the best. Star Trek's Commander Spock, dual Science Officer and First Officer of the Federation starship Enterprise, was a brilliant television creation, a perfect union of character and actor that became - and remains, more than four-and-a-half decades later - a universal pop culture icon. Half-human and half-alien, Leonard Nimoy's Spock was in perpetual internal conflict, a man struggling to reconcile his emotional human half with his Vulcan father's devotion to pure logic. That alone would make the character memorable, but he was also a brilliant scientist, a loyal friend & officer, and a slyly humorous conversationalist with a devastating wit (just ask Dr. McCoy!).

Literally volumes have been written about this character, his role on the show and his impact on society, and I certainly don't have any startlingly new observations to contribute. All I can say is that, well, Spock rules.

As always, these are my favorites. You may disagree with my choices and/or rankings. If so, feel free to share your favorites in the comments.


"This is not a book!" Ahhh... a true artifact of the pre-home video 1970s -- the photo novel (or, in this case, "Photostory." I guess Bantam Books had the "Fotonovel" trademark sewn up). Yep,  fumetti-styled comic adapations of television shows and movies in handy paperback format so fans could kick back, play their soundtrack LPs, and re-experience their favorite flicks, all in the comfort of their own homes.

Here are the front and back covers of Berkley Books' "Photostory" of the Battlestar Galactica pilot film, with illustrated with "more than 700 exciting live-action scenes!"

I don't have this one (CORRECTION: I do now. My wife just bought me a copy off Etsy.), but I do have the first half-dozen or so of the Star Trek "Fotonovels" that Bantam Books published around the same time, which really kicked off this particular vein of sci-fi tie-in. These things were really popular for a few years there at the end of the 70s, but faded fast once VHS home video players came along.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #30: STAR TREK - THE MOTION PICTURE

I really like this terrific photo of William Shatner (as Admiral James T. Kirk) and director Robert Wise on the Enterprise bridge set during the filming of Star Trek - The Motion Picture in 1979. Sure, it's almost certainly a staged studio publicity shot... but I like it.

METEOR (1979) Tie-In Magazines

As I've noted before, American-International's 1979 release, Meteor, had a surprising number of tie-ins and merchandise, especially for what was, in essence, just another all-star disaster flick in the vein of The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. Of course, there wasn't a Marvel Comics adaptation (or Viewmaster reel or pinball machine) done for those films, was there? So what was different about Meteor?


Two years after the box-office double-punch of Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, the kids (namely, us) were still buying the toys, comic books and other memorabilia those films had generated... and Hollywood was paying attention. In 1979, the same year as Meteor, we had Alien, The Black Hole, Star Trek - The Motion Picture, the theatrical version of Universal's Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, and Moonraker. Even James Bond knew that the gold was in outer space.

And while the action in Meteor was almost strictly Earthbound, and there were no robots, laser guns or even any action figure potential (Henry Fonda as The President... with button-pushing action!) it did have a great big rock... from space! Which is no doubt why American-International's PR and marketing division worked so hard to get coverage in fan mags like Starlog and Future Life.

So Meteor got itself an official Warren movie magazine, complete with behind-the-scenes photos, articles and cast interviews (and inevitable Captain Company ads in the back) and a Marvel Comics Super Special adaptation with a Frank Miller (and Peter Ledger) cover. Actually, it's a pretty fair comic book, all things considered, with nice art by Gene Colan & Tom Palmer.

Of course, the movie bombed and took American-International with it.  Maybe they should have put out a Sean Connery "Dr. Paul Bradley" action figure after all...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The third in Warner Brothers' "PAX Trilogy" of unsold 70s sci-fi television pilots, Strange New World was quite different from its predecessors, Genesis II (1973) and Planet Earth (1974). For one thing, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who had developed and created those previous pilots for Warners was not involved in Strange New World, having moved back to his old offices on the Paramount lot, where he was working on a Trek revival.

With Roddenberry gone from the project, Warner Brothers drastically revamped the premise for their third go, retaining from the first two telefilms only the post-Apocalyptic setting, the idea of a cryogenically-preseved hero (in this case, heroes), the name "PAX," and star John Saxon, who had tested well in Planet Earth. His character was renamed, however.

Whereas the previous efforts had portrayed the PAX organization as a post-Apocalyptic bastion of science and civilization that dispatched "agents" to help guide the scattered human survivors and their isolated societies toward peaceful, productive futures, Strange New World had its 20th Century protagonists returning to Earth after a cataclysmic asteroid shower forces them to spend nearly 200 years in suspended animation aboard an orbiting space station. While Captain Anthony Vico (Saxon), Dr. Allison Crowley (Kathleen Miller) and Dr. William Scott (Keene Curtis) are all members of the PAX organization, they're not on any noble mission to help the various cultures they encounter, they're simply trying to survive and find the "lost" PAX headquarters, where they hope to find both safety and other surviving PAX scientists preserved in stasis.

Also unlike the two previous PAX pilots, World is broken into two distinct adventures (or episodes). In the first half of the film, our heroes come across one of those decadent sci-fi societies where everyone dresses like they're in a roadshow production of Caligula, with Roman-styled togas and leaves in their hair. They preach pacifism and their leader, Surgeon (James Olsen of Moon Zero Two), claims to have discovered the secret to eternal youth and immortality.

Needless to say, it doesn't take long for a suspicious Captain Vico to uncover the dark secret behind their longevity - they breed clones of themselves, which they then harvest for organs (and, just to make it even more immoral, they also use their clones as slaves)! This segment also guest-stars Hammer Films hottie Martine Beswick and Captain America, himself, Reb Brown (also of Yor fame/infamy).

The second half of the film takes place a few months later, based on our protagonists' now bedraggled appearance and lack of provisions. Searching for water and food, they discover a jungle-like area populated by exotic animals, and ponds with concrete bottoms. They soon deduce that the area was once a zoo, which is now inhabited not only by feral animal predators but also by two warring tribes of barbaric humans. One tribe hunts the animals for food, while the other group, called "The Wardens" and descended from the original zookeepers, worships the beasts and fights to protect them. Allison is captured by the animal-worshipers, while Vico and Scott have a run-in with the hunters. Eventually, with their help, the two tribes warily come to a cease fire, with hopes of a permanent peace.

What is most interesting to me is not how different World is from its two PAX predecessors, so much as its striking similarities to MGM Television's Logan's Run series, which debuted two years later. Both shows are set in a post-Apocalyptic future with a group of three characters - man of action (Logan/Vico), compassionate female (Jessica/Allison) and wise elder (Rem/Scott) - traveling in a clunky land vehicle through desolate landscapes in search of a (perhaps non-existent) promised land (Sanctuary/PAX Headquarters). In both cases, the trio encounters and becomes involved with varied, isolated enclaves of people with their own, twisted societies. While the basic premise is, of course, nothing particularly new for sci-fi, the specifics are rather close, aren't they?

Like its two brethren, Strange New World didn't spawn a series, instead airing - as many unsold pilots did in those days - as a TV movie in the Summer on ABC. In fact, it's the only one of these that I distinctly remember watching on its original airing. (I caught the other two on cable - probably on TBS or WGN - in the early 80s.) It was later released on VHS tape by Unicorn Video.

In the 1990s, since Paramount's Star Trek sequels/spin-offs were doing well in syndication and on cable, Majel Barret-Roddenberry dusted off some of Gene's old notes and sold them to television producers eager to exploit the Roddenberry reputation. Tribune Entertainment bought up the Genesis II/Planet Earth material and handed it to latter-day Trek veteran Robert Hewitt Wolfe to re-imagine as a spacebound adventure series. Pretty much the only Genesis II/Planet Earth elements that survived into the resulting syndicated series, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, were the name "Dylan Hunt," and the suspended animation gimmick that would bring the character forward in time to a unrecognizable future.

As with the first two PAX pilots, Warner Archive offers Strange New World on DVD as a manufactured-on-demand item. The "full frame," 4x3 transfer is pretty decent for its age, but no restoration or remastering appears to have been done. Audio is a perfectly satisfactory Dolby Digital Stereo. There are no extras included.

It can be purchased directly from Warner Archive or through Amazon:  Strange New World