Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Celebrate responsibly!

And I hope you'll join us here in the Seventies throughout the new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's Fun To Read As You Hear!

For those of us who remember the Power Records comic book & 45 RPM record sets (and if you don't, go here or here), there was some cheesy charm - especially in those days before home video and the internet - to having new adventures of the Star Trek or Space: 1999 crews available at your fingertips. Sure, the voice actors didn't sound anything like the TV casts, and the stories were juvenile, but hey - it was the 70s. You took what you could get. And the artwork was pretty cool, too, if occasionally strangely inaccurate (Uhura as a blonde Caucasian?).

If you've never experienced the Power Records, um, experience, and you're not sure you want to download any MP3s or PDF files, someone on YouTube has approximated the joys of Power in video form.

So, here's the Power Records adaptation of Space: 1999's "Breakaway" in two parts. Nice art. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Space Babe: Persis Khambatta

Persis Khambatta as Ilia in Star Trek The Motion Picture. Thirty years ago this month, Gene Roddenberry's iconic science fiction television series made its highly-touted transition to feature film status, bringing along with it several new characters, including this exotic beauty from the "sexually advanced" planet Delta - navigator Lieutenant Ilia.

The former Miss India may not have been a particularly good actress, but she was striking woman who managed to make a shaved head look damned sexy. And she did appear in a few other genre films, including 1982's MegaForce and 83's Warrior of the Lost World.

Sadly, the lovely Khambatta passed away in 1998 from a heart attack at the too-young age of 49.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Season's Greetings from R2-D2, C-3PO and all of us at Space: 1970. Regular posting will resume shortly.

Christmas In The Stars.

Monday, December 14, 2009

...From the Disco To The Outer Limits...

I was looking at some of my old Famous Monsters magazines this evening, and saw this ad. Man, when I was 15 I desperately wanted one of these jackets, but there was no way in hell I could have got my hands on the money to buy one. It's interesting, though, that the advertisement nowhere mentions the television show Battlestar Galactica, despite the artwork and the fact that the design is exactly like the jackets on the show. I wonder... was this an unauthorized product, maybe?

I love how the ad copy keeps repeating that the Warrior's Battle Jacket is suitable for wear to the local disco!

Did anyone ever actually buy one of these?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Space Babe: Maren Jensen

Maren Jensen as Battlestar Galactica's Lieutenant Athena. Personally, I was always disappointed that the producers of Galactica didn't do more with Commander Adama's gorgeous daughter. She should have been out flying reconnaissance missions alongside Apollo and Boomer, not stuck behind a computer console and playing Betty to Casseiopia's Veronica. And what the frak was wrong with Starbuck anyway? I mean Lauerette Spang was an attractive woman, I guess, but Maren Jensen was smokin' hot, with those smoldering eyes, exotic beauty and cascading dark hair!

A popular fashion model, the half-Hawaiian Jensen's acting career only lasted about three or four years, from 1978 through '81. Aside from Galactica, she also appeared on producer Glen Larson's The Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew Mysteries and in the Wes Craven horror film Deadly Blessing. Unfortunately, she was struck by illness in the early 80s and retired from show business. According to the IMDb, she eventually recovered, but never returned to performing.

When I was fifteen, I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen - and, you know, I still do.


Uber-low budget sci-fi schlock saved solely by some stunning stop-motion animated prehistoric beasts, Planet of Dinosaurs chronicles the adventures of a group of starship crash survivors on an uncharted world populated by, well, dinosaurs. As they struggle to survive on the hostile planet, they find themselves plagued by the attentions of a ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex, and soon come to the conclusion that if they are to have any future at all, the savage carnosaur has to go.

The acting is terrible, about on par with porno films of the same vintage (seriously, these folks are horrible!) -I mean, c'mon, the only "name" in the cast is James Whitworth (The Hills Have Eyes)! - and the story is paper-thin. Even the locations - mostly Vasquez Rocks and its environs - are overly familiar from TV shows and B-Westerns. But the stop-motion effects are great, and many of the people who worked on them went on to bigger productions, like Jason of Star Command and The Empire Strikes Back.

Retromedia’s 30th Anniversary Edition (although it says "20th" on the DVD cover) presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, sourced from both 16mm and 35mm elements. Some parts of the film show serious damage, while the rest looks great. There’s a commentary track with director James Shea and effects artists Doug Beswick and Steve Czerkas, as well as a couple of vintage TV spots and two silent stop-motion shorts by King Kong’s effects genius, Willlis O’Brien.

Like I said, it's not a good film. But I've also been pretty honest on this blog in admitting that I can put up with a lot of crap in order to enjoy well-crafted, handmade special effects. And the stop-motion sequences in this film - if not quite up to Ray Harryhausen or Jim Danforth standards - are very well done and very enjoyable. The animation models are nicely detailed and move believably, and the animators even throw in a few nice homages to previous stop-motion films. There's a monster in one scene that's a dead ringer for Harryhausen's "Rhedosaur" from The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, for example.

In fact, much of the animation footage from this feature has been cannibalized over the years by other low budget filmmakers (like Retromedia's proprietor Fred Olen Ray, who's used shots from Planet in several of his B-movies, including The Phantom Empire and Wizards of the Demon Sword).

Ultimately, it's only worth hunting down if you're an obsessive fan of 70s sci-fi and stop-motion animation... and I'm both.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Into The Void...

Back at the beginning of November, I was feeling really down. And, as I tend to do when I'm in a funk, I was looking for a diversion, something that would take my mind off of my problems for a little while. And the diversion I chose were my DVDs of Space: 1999.

I've written about my ongoing love affair with 70s science fiction occasionally in my personal blog, and whenever I did, it usually garnered a few positive comments from other nostalgic individuals. It's a subject that's obviously near 'n dear to my heart and it occurred to me as I was rewatching Martin Landau and company's titanic struggles against a hostile universe that it might be fun to gather all my previous writings on the subject, along with some other observations about the genre, in one place. Earlier this year, I started a blog about one of my other pop culture obsessions - Sixties spy-fi - and enjoyed having a dedicated venue to write about the topic, so it seemed a good idea to start one about Seventies sci-fi, too.

Also, I was inspired, in part, by artist/comics blogger Rob Kelly, who maintains a bunch of comics and pop culture blogs of his own, including the great Aquaman Shrine, The Phantom Stranger blog, a Power Records blog and even a site devoted to M*A*S*H (among others!). In fact, it was his blog All in Black & White for 75 Cents that originally inspired my own crime comics blog (which I don't update nearly enough) a couple of years ago.

In any case, Rob manages to juggle all these sites and even refers to them as the "Rob Kelly Family of Blogs." With his unknowing inspiration (so don't blame him), I decided there was no reason for me not to start another blog, and so, I did (and thus was born the "Atomic Pulp Network" of blogs!).

Hence, Space: 1970. Not necessarily the greatest of titles, I admit, but as it was Gerry Anderson's TV epic that triggered the idea, it seemed appropriate and didn't require too much explanation. This blog started with a few posts recycled from my old DVD review columns and my personal blog, but I was pleased with the way the site turned out, and was soon knocking out some new, nostalgic posts.

I must have struck a celestial chord with someone - this blog has picked up readers faster than any of my other online efforts. Apparently you folks miss the days of unabashed, non-ironic interstellar adventures, with their robots, rayguns and square-jawed space cowboys, too.

So anyway, thanks for joining me on my nostalgia trip. I've got a lot more memories to explore and share, and I appreciate the company. And don't hesitate to share your own 70s sci-fi memories in the comments. To paraphrase the publicity material for Space: 1999 back in '76:

"The future was fantastic!"

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Space Babe: Gabrielle Drake

Beautiful Gabrielle Drake as Lieutenant Gay Ellis on Gerry Anderson's UFO. She may have worn a purple wig and a silver miniskirt, but for the first third or so of the series, the sexy astronette commanded the SHADO moonbase, Earth's first line of defense against alien invaders bent on conquest (or at least human organ harvesting).

While the tone of the series was actually pretty grim, the style was pure, late Sixties' "mod," and nowhere was that more evident than in the outfits designed for SHADO's female staff. Sure, they were entrusted with the responsibility of a multi-billion dollar moonbase - not to mention the defense of all mankind - but form-fitting spacesuits and miniskirts were the uniform of the day.

Frankly, I'm not complaining. I even dig the wig.

BUCK ROGERS (1979) Theatrical Posters

In the Summer of 1979, Universal Pictures decided to take the expensive pilot film for NBC's upcoming Buck Rogers in the 25th Century television series and release it directly to movie theaters a couple of months before it was scheduled to debut on TV.

Of course, the Sunday afternoon that I somehow persuaded my mom to take my sister and me to the film (how I managed that, I can't recall; my mother very rarely took us to the theater when we were young, and I never got to choose the film when she did!), I had no way of knowing that it was made for television. All I knew is that I loved it, camp humor and all. I've also always really dug the main poster image - to me, it really captures everything I enjoy about this kind of space opera: rayguns, robots, starships, and scantily-clad space princesses.

I wish I knew the name of the artist. Anyone know?

Anyway, the image at the top is the "teaser" poster, while the one at the bottom is the British "quad." It's interesting (to me, anyway) that in the U.S., the theatrical version was simply titled Buck Rogers, while the UK version carried the longer, ...25th Century title of the subsequent television series.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Only 23 shopping days...

Don't worry - I won't be doing one of these posts every day until Christmas. I just wanted to share this Wishbook catalog page from 1976, featuring a bunch of cool Space: 1999 toys - including my beloved Eagle Transporter!

I really wish I'd been able to get the laser gun and comlock! (Click on the image for a larger view.)


The third and final of Filmation’s live-action Saturday morning sci-fi kid’s shows (and last live-action show, period) was Jason of Star Command. A more action-oriented spin-off of the studio’s Space Academy, cost-effectively recycling many of the same expensive sets and models, but eschewing the previous show’s "educational" stories in favor of Star Wars-styled space opera, Jason was serialized sci-fi in Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers tradition, complete with cliffhangers, cute robots, and flamboyant villains in sweeping capes.

The gleefully nonsensical adventures pitted the titular hero (Craig Littler, Superbeast), a Han Solo-esque soldier of fortune attached to Star Command (a nebulously-defined organization that apparently ran the Space Academy and used it as their base), against the evil, would-be ruler of the universe, Dragos (the wonderful Sid Haig, Galaxy of Terror, Spider Baby, The Devil’s Rejects). Other cast members included Jimmy Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek –TOS) as Jason’s commanding officer, exotic Tamara Dobson – Cleopatra Jones herself! – in a recurring role as a mysterious alien babe with psi powers, and cute Susan O’Hanlon (All My Children) as a perky Star Command junior officer. Other regulars included Charlie Dell as an absent-minded professor and John Russell as a blue-skinned, hard-nosed Commander.

As mentioned, Jason was intended as more of an action-adventure than its predecessor. Unfortunately, this being 70's network kid's TV, Jason couldn't punch, trip, shoot, or even give a mean look to anybody. "Action" existed primarily in the form of endless running up and down corridors, soaring and swooping model spacecraft, and clearly-identified unmanned "drone" ships blowing up.

Still, there were entertainingly goofy rubber-and-faux-fur alien monster suits by a young John Carl Buechler (Ghoulies, Cellar Dweller) and some decidedly cool, memorable stop-motion monsters from many of the animation wizards who’d worked on the film Planet of Dinosaurs.

In fact, as impressed as I was with the miniatures and effects on Space Academy, the FX work on Jason, by the same team, shows a marked improvement, both in conception and execution. The sheer quantity of and variety of shots is impressive. Pretty amazing, considering their limited resources. For fans of old school special effects (guilty!), these episodes are something of a treasure trove of pre-computerized FX work.

The first season ran as a series of 15-minute segments of the Tarzan & The Super Seven anthology show, but in its second season, it graduated to its own half-hour berth. BCI’s out-of-print three-disc DVD set (Also available as part of the Filmation Sci-Fi box) includes all the episodes from both seasons.

The full-frame transfers are on a par with the Space Academy discs, a little soft, but light-years better than the bootlegs that floated around the comic book conventions for years.

The DVD’s retrospective documentary includes on-screen interviews with Craig Littler and Sid Haig. They're both obviously fond of the show and seem to have had fun making it. Littler is now the Gorton’s Fisherman in TV commercials, while Haig continues to appear in horror films and other supporting roles. Three commentary tracks are included, featuring Littler, Haig, Filmation chief Lou Scheimer and various FX artists. There’s also a special effects demo reel, image galleries, original scripts and promos for BCI’s other Filmation discs.

Filmation president Lou Scheimer was clearly a science fiction fan, and thanks to him, sci-fi addicted kids of the 70s were able to enjoy futuristic fun every weekend for most of the decade. Along with the live-action shows, Filmation also brought to the screen animated versions of Star Trek and Flash Gordon, and original creations like Space Sentinels and Blackstar. Other studios dabbled in the genre, but Filmation seemed to have a real love for it, and I, for one, am grateful. Thanks, Lou!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Only 24 shopping days...

In the mid-70s, Star Trek was enjoying its second life as a syndicated phenomenon. Along with this new success in reruns, came a huge merchandising push aimed at kids who were too young to have seen the show the first time around.

Every holiday season, I - and many other kids of my generation - eagerly awaited the annual Christmas "Wishbook" catalogs from the major chain retailers. These catalogs were full of colorful photographs of all the new toys (and old favorites) that would be in stock for the season.

I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent pouring over those pages, dreaming of getting every single Mego Star Trek and Planet of the Apes action figure under the Christmas tree... not to mention the Enterprise bridge playset! (Never got that, sadly.)

(Click on the image for a larger view.)