Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SPACE: 1999 (1976) Year Two TV Spot

One of the Year Two syndication TV promos for Space: 1999, with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain introducing the stunning Catherine Schell as "Maya, the wonder woman of science fiction." Enjoy!


From one 1970's H.G. Wells "adaptation" to another... in 1978, NBC aired a TV movie based on Wells' novel, The Time Machine. It was framed as a Classics Illustrated special for the whole family. It starred John Beck (Rollerball) as a mustachioed computer scientist in a leisure suit named Neil Perry, whose misadventures in time nearly get him burned at the stake (along with his clunky, "computerized" time machine) by Puritans and engaging in Old West gunfights, before finally putting his invention in gear and visiting the far future, where he inevitably finds the novels' Eloi and Morlocks. Add in an early vignette about a Soviet spy satellite crashing uncontrollably to Earth, and the suggestion that the TV movie deviates from Wells' novel is... a bit of an understatement.

Prsiscilla Barnes (of Three's Company) portrayed the Eloi maiden, Weena, and familiar character actor Whit Bissell, who had had a supporting role in the 1960 feature version, co-starred in the 1978 TV film.

I remember watching this movie when it aired in November of '78 (and that's when I clipped this ad out of TV Guide, too), but I don't remember much about it. In preparing this post, I discovered that the entire movie is on YouTube, but honestly, even I'm reluctant to revisit it...

Monday, July 30, 2012


In response to 1974's smash-hit ABC sci-fi adventure series, The Six Million Dollar Man - which chronicled the adventures of a former-astronaut with cybernetic (i.e. bionic) limbs working for the U.S. government as a secret agent - competing network NBC turned to the same creators and studio (Universal) and set out to duplicate the magic formula.

This time, instead of an ex-astronaut with experimental robot parts, the creators looked to Victorian author H.G. Wells, and came up with a scientist turned permanently invisible in an experiment gone wrong. Unfortunately, The Invisible Man (1975) wasn't the success the network hoped for, lasting a mere 13 episodes.

In the pilot film, we're introduced to Dr. Daniel Westin (David McCallum, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) an idealistic physicist working for a private scientific think-tank called KLAE. His assistant is his wife, Kate (Melinda O. Fee), and his overbearing boss is KLAE administrator Walter Carlson (Jackie Cooper of Superman: The Movie, in the pilot, Craig Stevens in the series). In the long tradition of film and TV scientists, Westin tests his new invisibility ray machine on himself, only to find that he's been permanently rendered un-seeable. A friend of his makes him an extraordinarily life-like rubber mask and pair of gloves so he can still function in society, and while he works on a cure for his condition, his employers exploit his condition by marketing him as "the KLAE Resource," renting him out to conduct various missions for government agencies and corporate clients.

(Also Rudy Wells' West Coast OSI laboratory....)
In 1975, the show was considered innovative for its use of blue-screen special effects, which were shot on video and then cut into the traditionally filmed episodes. Those video inserts really stand out today, and the "peeling off the mask to reveal... nothing!" shots look more than a little hokey to modern eyes. Most of the other effects - floating objects and such - were handled exactly the same way that Universal handled them in their 30s and 40s Invisible Man black & white movies - with often all-too-visible wires. Still, in context of the time (and bearing in mind lower-resolution 70s television screens) the effects serve the stories effectively enough.

Unfortunately, it's in the stories that the show really falls flat. At first thought, invisibility seems the perfect power for a secret agent, but in execution, it's actually got very limited applications. Also, it's - and this should be obvious - not very visual. What you end up with is lots of tracking shots through hallways and sets, supposedly following the titular invisible man... but that gets boring fast. At least on the "bionic" shows, the heroes could punch people, knock down doors/walls, pick up and throw people and heavy objects... an invisible guy, on the other hand, can't really do anything, much. Even talented writers and producers like Steven Bochco and Harve Bennett (Six Million Dollar Man, Star Trek II) seem to struggle with the concept, and you very quickly end up with such obvious plots as Westin and his wife using his invisibility to cheat in a crooked casino or foil the schemes of a fake psychic by messing up his rigged seances.

McCallum is fine as Westin, although he occasionally seems bored (and why not, since his performance is so often just a voice-over). Melinda Fee, on the other hand, is delightful and charming as Westin's long-suffering wife and partner in adventure. And, as she's actually on-screen more than her unseen hubby, it really falls on her to carry most episodes. Fortunately, she's up to the task, bringing a warm humor to her role, regardless of the quality of the stories themselves. Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn), is slightly smarmy as their manipulative boss, but that's more the nature of the role as written than any failing on the actor's part. 

Canadian label VEI brings to The Invisible Man to Region 1 DVD under license from Universal, in an acceptable, if unremarkable, four-disc set. The episodes, which do show their age with intermittent specks, minor wear and fluctuating colors, are presented in the 4x3, 1.33:1 "full-frame" format of their original airings. Despite the noted minor print imperfections, the overall presentation is reasonably solid, although the shot-on-video effects sequences, are of noticeably lesser resolution and quality. The 2.0 mono audio is equally serviceable. There are no extras provided.

(VEI has also offered the show on Blu-ray, but that edition is a disaster, with all 13 episodes crammed onto a single disc, and the image stretched to fill a 16x9 aspect ratio.)

I was a big fan of The Invisible Man when I was ten, and was eager to get my hands on this DVD set. I'm still glad I did, but I can now see why it had such a short run.

By far, the best part of the show is the portrayal of the Westins as equal-partners in both science and adventure, and the adult chemistry between McCallum and Fee almost makes up for the show's other shortcomings.

If you remember and enjoy the series from its original run (or later, Sci-Fi Channel reruns in the 90s) and want to add it to your collection, the VEI DVDs aren't bad - although I'd suggest avoiding the disastrous Blu-ray release altogether.  

BUYThe Invisible Man (Complete Series)

Sunday, July 29, 2012


There wasn't a lot of variations to Columbia Pictures' ad campaign for Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Basically, the night time road into the glowing hills and/or the Devil's Tower silhouette featured in pretty much in all of the advertising in the U.S. and abroad. But why not? They're striking, memorable images, and have become iconic in the minds of those of us who grew up in the late 70s. (Actually, I'm not 100% certain that second poster was actually used in theaters; I can't help but think that it looks like a consumer poster. Anyone know for sure?)

When the 1980 Special Edition came around, Columbia went for something a little less iconic, but certainly effective...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #23: THE STARLOST

Not the most exciting or dramatic of Behind-The-Scenes photos, I admit, but considering it's from the 1973 Canadian series, The Starlost, I was amazed to find it. I believe this is from the "Space Precinct" episode, and the cramped set really shows what limited resources the low budget production had at its disposal.

I've admitted before that I actually enjoy The Starlost for what it is. Sure, it's not the show it should have or could have been; Harlan Ellison's concept (while not especially original) had tons of potential for a thoughtful, episodic science fiction series. Unfortunately, the bitter reality of economics left that potential unfulfilled, though I'm not sure that any TV production company in '73 could have really pulled it off to Ellison's satisfaction. It is a shame that the Canadian producers couldn't find more writers with actual experience in sci-fi, or secure a bigger budget - but as nonsensical and cheap as it may be, I still enjoy watching episodes on DVD every once in a while.

Bob Larkin's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978) Art

Here's a nice - if unfortunately small - scan of artist Bob Larkin's original painting for the wraparound cover of Marvel Super Special #8, featuring the comics adaptation of the Battlestar Galactica premiere film, "Saga Of A Star World." The colors here are much nicer than they appeared on the magazine cover, where there was an overly pastel tint to everything (at least on my copy and on the scans I found online). If anyone finds a bigger scan of this original painting, send it my way, okay?

Interestingly, Marvel printed two variant editions of this particular Super Special comic - an oversized tabloid edition, which featured a line-art version of this painting, drawn by Rick Bryant, and the regular, magazine-sized edition, which was graced with this painting. (And the story was reprinted again, in three parts, in the monthly Battlestar Galactica comic.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Post #600 - Same As The First

This marks my 600th post since I started this blog on the first of November, 2009. Since that time, the readership of this site has grown to then-inconceivable size, and I still can't quite believe that anyone cares enough to stop by here regularly to read my silly remembrances and ramblings. But a surprising number of you folks do, and I thank you. To commemorate this (and because I obviously missed recognizing my 500th post), here's... a rerun. The very first post I wrote for this blog, which I guess you can look at as a reaffirmation/re-statement of my intentions with this site.. Here's to the next 600!

The Good Stuff.

If I had been born five or ten years earlier, I most certainly would have been a "Monster Kid," haunting the local newstand for the latest issue of Famous Monsters Of Filmland, scouring the TV Guide listings for Creature Features or Shock Theater showings, and clumsily building Aurora model kits of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and Quasimodo.

As it turned out, I didn't become a "Monster Kid" until I was nearly 30.

I was born in 1965. By the time I was five or six years old, the monster fad of the 60s had mostly faded away. The Groovie Goolies were still rockin' on Saturday morning, but I was more interested in the Star Trek cartoon (from the same studio), and, when I could find them, reruns of the live-action Trek.

By the time I was ten, I had already collected numerous Star Trek books - James Blish and Alan Dean Foster's short story adaptations, The Making of, The Concordance, The New Voyages, The Technical Manual. Then, one of our local stations starting airing Space: 1999. I loved it, and poured over the television listings for more sci-fi. The Planet of the Apes movies, TV series and cartoons, Logan's Run. Then, a year or so later -- Star Wars.

Christmas '78 I received three record albums - my first ever - the Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Battlestar Galactica soundtrack LPs. I started spending my allowance on Starlog and Fantastic Films magazines. I had model kits of all the Star Wars, Galactica and Buck Rogers space ships. I bought the movie novelizations and would use my old cassette recorder to make audio recordings of my favorite sci-fi TV shows.

From the newspaper, I clipped out movie advertisements for Message From Space, The Black Hole and Alien -- and pasted them in a photo album along with TV Guide ads for Galactica (painted by Frank Frazetta!), Quark, and Buck Rogers... and telefilms like The Martian Chronicles and Brave New World.

I was a nut for anything sci-fi, and back then, it wasn't cool. I took massive amounts of abuse from my peers. If I was caught with a Star Trek paperback in school by a my classmates, it was all but guaranteed that it would be shredded by lunch. I was called all sorts of things -- most of them pretty awful.

But I had my magazines and audio cassettes and paperback novelizations and my model kits and comic books... and somehow I survived.

This blog is devoted to those science fiction films and shows that were such a large part of my childhood. I loved those programs, and still do today. In fact, I enjoy them as much now as I ever did, and prefer them over most modern genre product. (Guess which Battlestar I think is the better one?) I still admire the handcrafted model spaceships and stop-motion animated monsters (you won't ever find the word "cheesy"used to describe those effects here!), the gallant space heroes and sizzling space babes, the comic relief robots (Twiki! Peepo!) and the sense of wonder those shows stirred in me.

I don't expect that I'll be posting to this blog often. In fact, many of the initial posts will probably be revised versions of pieces that I've written before that appeared elsewhere. But when I do feel like writing about one of those childhood favorite space operas, I'll be doing it here instead of at one of my other sites.

Journey with me back to when the future was...fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


As I've mentioned before, I enjoy Spacehunter. To me, it's among the last of 70s-styled space opera, and along with Return Of The Jedi, it marks the end of the Space: 1970 era in my mind. Here's a terrific 60 second television spot for the film, trumpeting the 3-D aspect of the presentation. "The first movie that puts you in outer space!"

News: THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (1975) Second Season DVDs Coming in October

For those of us who weren't able to buy (i.e. afford) the "complete" 40-disc Six Million Dollar Man DVD set from Time-Life by mail two years ago, and have had to wait for the individual seasons to trickle out onto retailers' shelves... well, the second season is finally getting a wide release on October 2nd.

 Season Two includes a number of classic episodes, including the two-part "The Bionic Woman," which introduced viewers to Steve Austin's (Lee Majors) childhood sweetheart, tennis pro Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner).

This season also includes D.C. Fontana's "Straight On 'Till Morning," which chronicles Steve's first encounter with extraterrestrials (if I recall correctly), and "The Return Of The Robot Maker," wherein the deadly Doctor Dolenz (creator of "Maskatron" - yes, I know they didn't actually call John Saxon that on the show, but that's who he was, dammit!) unleashes his latest android assassin - an exact duplicate of Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson)! Majors' wife at the time, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, returns in Year Two as well, though playing a different character than the one she played in the first year's awesome "The Rescue Of Athena One."

According to the invaluable TV Shows On DVD website:
The separate release of The Six Million Dollar Man - Season 2 is a 6-DVD set, which includes the episodes "The Bionic Woman - Part 1" and "Part 2"; these were written by Kenneth Johnson (who was the showrunner on the spin-off show, and is also known for TV versions of The Incredible Hulk, Alien Nation and the original V mini-series). Kenny provides Audio Commentary tracks for these two episodes, and the set's extras also include "Season 2 VIPs" (a celebration of the guest stars in these 22 episodes) and the "Bionic Sound Effects" Featurette.
I've been eagerly awaiting this release, and October seems an awful long way away right now...

UPDATE/ADDENDUM: Apparently this Six Million Dollar Man set is already available at Best Buy, where it is currently an exclusive. Of course, they didn't tell anyone - at least, I never heard about it. As if I need another reason to dislike the chain. Anyway, if you want to check out your local Best Buy location, you may find a copy now. It may also be available through their website.

UFO (1970) Photo-Novel

I'm not entirely certain what this UFO book is exactly; the site where I discovered it had it listed as a French (though it looks - as a couple folks have pointed out - Italian) "Photo-novel, presumably an adaptation of the episode, "A Question Of Priorities." But any piece of UFO artwork that has Straker punching out an alien astronaut on the moon - without a space suit! - is just too friggin' cool not to post here at Space: 1970.

Man, Straker is a badass.

ADDENDUM: According to Space: 1970 reader Roberto Baldassari, ‎18 photo-novelizations from UFO were released in Italy In 1974. Seven of them were also released in France. This appears to be one of the Italian editions. My question is: how much of a badass is Straker on the other covers?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Space: 007 - MOONRAKER (1979)

I am very fond of the James Bond film Moonraker. While it's generally regarded as one of the weaker films in the 007 canon, I find it difficult to find too much fault with it. It's just too important a part of my life-long obsession with science fiction and spy-fi films for me to be too critical of it. And it is notable for showing just how influential the success of Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and other 70s sci-fi were - even Albert R. Broccoli, producer of ten highly profitable spy adventures starring British secret agent James Bond, felt commercially compelled to insert outer space elements into his eleventh cinematic escapade.

I was fifteen when the movie came out in 1979 (the same year as Meteor, The Black Hole and Star Trek - The Motion Picture), already a die-hard fan of science fiction and space-oriented films, and coverage of the movie in my monthly bible, Starlog, truly whetted my appetite. I had also just recently seen my first Bond film, Goldfinger, on HBO, so the prospect of seeing a 007 flick on the big screen was very exciting.

In the weeks leading up to its premiere, I picked up the Warren tie-in magazine, the fold-out poster magazine published by the Starlog folks, and the Jove Books novelization by screenwriter Christopher Wood. I also purchased and built the Moonraker space shuttle model. So when I went to the theater that fateful evening in May of 1979, I was pretty much predisposed to love the film.

For this 15 year-old, Moonraker had everything I could possibly want in a movie: space shuttles, lasers, beautiful women, exciting stunts and special effects, and most of all, a cool, suave, unflappable hero (admittedly, one with a somewhat juvenile wit).

Moonraker was the first James Bond film I saw in the theater, and I haven't missed one since. And while Goldfinger made me a Bond fan, it was Moonraker that made me a spy-fi fanatic. I still love it.

Sure, I wince now at Jaws' (Richard Kiel) ridiculous antics and his goofy romance sub-subplot, and Lois Chiles' performance as Dr. Holly Goodhead, NASA astronaut cum CIA agent, is astoundingly robotic... but she is quite lovely. And say what you will about the movie's faults – it looks spectacular (especially on Blu-Ray), with some of Ken Adam's most imaginative sets. Also, director Lewis Gilbert really keeps the film moving at a brisk pace. It's never boring and nearly always entertaining. On top of all that, it has John Barry's best Bond score of the 1970's.

Roger Moore looks great and has a couple of very effective scenes. The centrifuge sequence is a stand-out, and he even manages to give some weight and suspense to the video game climax. And, best of all, are Derek Meddings' remarkable miniature effects, all of them produced in traditional, hand-crafted manner (they didn't even have computerized motion-control cameras at their disposal). Some of the shots - like the Moonraker shuttles in their silos, or villain Hugo Drax's space station in orbit, still look incredibly convincing, even today.

By the time For Your Eyes Only came out two years later, I had seen many more 007 films on ABC TV, and had decided that I liked the more down-to earth, grittier Bond films better than the more fantastic ones. I had also decided that Sean Connery was the superior James Bond. I still believe that. But – you know, I really like Sir Roger, and sometimes I'm just in the mood for the more far out flix.

I still have my Warren tie-in magazine, poster magazine and paperback novelization. In fact, I really like the novel a great deal. Wood follows his own screenplay, of course, but still manages a fair approximation of Ian Fleming's style and characterization. His Spy Who Loved Me novelization is quite good, as well.

My love for spy thrillers continues to this day - in large part because of seeing Moonraker in the theater when I was 15... but I probably wouldn't have been in that theater at all if it wasn't for my devotion to sci-fi and space opera.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

She's A Wonder....

On behalf of Star Kids everywhere, Space: 1970 wishes a very happy birthday to the amazing Amazon - the eternal Lynda Jean Carter (born July 24, 1951) of The New Adventures Of Wonder Woman!

PLANET OF THE APES 80s VHS Collection Poster

I thought this was a cool piece of Planet Of The Apes artwork - an 80s video store poster advertising Playhouse Video's 5-cassette box set of the Apes features. Considering the cost of most studio pre-record VHS tapes of the era, I bet that set cost a pretty penny. I have no idea who the artist was, but he made some odd choices. First, there's that weird expression on Ceasar's face -- and what's with Taylor's hairline?

STAR ENCOUNTERS Magazine (1978)

Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3
"Brains and blobs from outer space!"

Well, I'm finally braving the sordid world of publisher Myron Fass' Stories Layouts and Press Inc., and its many cheapo Starlog rip-offs. The eccentric Fass, who passed away in 2006, was a notorious publisher of low-end magazines and comics, the print equivalent of an exploitation film mogul, publishing anything and everything he thought might make a few bucks, especially if it appealed to the basest of tastes or could ride the coattails of some pre-established moneymaker.

In the mid-70s, that meant the burgeoning genre of sci-fi film fandom and its newsstand herald, Starlog magazine. Fass' Stories Layouts and Press Inc. company published at least five different ongoing genre film mags - including the derivatively-titled Space Wars, Space Trek, Star Warp, Star Battles... and this 3-issue wonder, Star Encounters.

As with the majority of his other titles, it was printed on the cheapest possible newsprint, with little-to-no interior color, and ugly, cluttered layouts. Fass' sci-fi mags were virtually indistinguishable from each other, as they all had the same editors, contributors and production staffs. They even used the same articles quite often (not to mention, recycling quite a number of features from the company's plentiful UFO magazines). His company was also notorious for paying its contributors peanuts... but that didn't stop aspiring writers and artists from taking their chances. It was national newsstand exposure, after all.

I had a number of Space Wars and Space Trek issues, and I think I had all of these, too.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Other BUCK ROGERS Novels

This past weekend, I finally got my hands on the two books I was missing in Ace's 1981-1983 series of Buck Rogers novels (although the name "Buck Rogers" never appears in any of them). These four books are authorized sequels to the original pulp novels Armageddon 2419 A.D. (1928) and The Airlords Of Han (1929) by Philip Francis Nowlan, and were written by various authors from an outline by SF pros Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle. As in the original stories, the hero's name is Anthony Rogers, and the titles (and authors) were: Mordred by John Eric Holmes, Warrior's Blood and Warrior's World by Richard S. McEnroe, and Rogers' Rangers by John Silbersack.

Although published within a few months of the cancellation of the Buck Rogers In The 25th Century teleseries, there was no connection between the program and these books. In fact, I suspect they didn't use the "Buck" name, in part, to distance them from the show.This is not unlike the Flash Gordon novels published by Tempo Books around the same time - those books had no connection with the recent animated and film versions of Flash, either.

I haven't actually read any of these yet because I wanted to collect all four first. Now that I have them on the shelf, I'm hoping to get to them soon.... and further hoping that they're a lot better than the two awful Buck Rogers TV tie-in paperbacks published a couple of years before by "Addison Steele" (Richard Lupoff).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

BIONIC WOMAN (1976) TV Guide Cover

The lovely Lindsay Wagner as The Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers, runs into our hearts (in slow motion, of course) on this vintage TV Guide cover from May of 1976. I know that there was at least one other Wagner TV Guide cover during the run of the show, but I don't have a copy, and couldn't find a good scan online.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Coming Attractions: METEOR (1979) Theatrical Trailer

One of the final films from venerable B-movie studio American-International Pictures was Meteor, a (reasonably) big-budget attempt to cash-in on both the Irwin Allen all-star disaster thrillers of the early 70s and the late-70s interest in space and science fiction. Loaded with name stars, including Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Brian Kieth, Martin Landau (Space: 1999), and Henry Fonda (among others), directed by Ronald Neame of The Poseidon Adventure, and supported by AIP's largest marketing blitz ever, Meteor ultimately crashed and burned at the box-office, unable to recoup its production and marketing costs; a disappointing reception that contributed significantly to the downfall of the studio.

The movie itself is cheesy, undemanding fun (and I normally don't like to use the adjective "cheesy," but it seems to apply here), with a few particularly enthusiastic (or maybe, "hammy") performances, and a script creaking under the weight of some astoundingly banal dialogue. The miniature effects are especially underwhelming (wobbly, under-detailed models, over-lit and lacking any convincing sense of scale), especially considering this was a post-Star Wars genre movie competing directly with big effects films like Moonraker, The Black Hole and Star Trek - The Motion Picture. That said, some of the scenes of terrestrial destruction aren't too bad, and many of the practical effects (including a climactic flood of mud) are quite well executed.

As mentioned above, Meteor was fairly heavily marketed with a tie-in paperback novel (which I still have around here somewhere, I think), a Warren Collectors' magazine, a Marvel Comics adaptation, an arcade pinball machine, and even a Viewmaster reel! Needless to say, I'll be posting more on this flick one of these days...

Friday, July 20, 2012

FLASH GORDON (1980) Whitman Comics Cover Gallery

Yeah - another comics art post. I am working on some longer articles - including reviews of the recent DVD release of The Invisible Man and the Outland Blu-ray - but it's taking a while. In the meantime, I'll be continuing with these image-centric posts....

In 1980, Whitman Comics published their three-issue adaptation of the Mike Hodges-directed Flash Gordon feature film, retaining the numbering of the ongoing Flash Gordon comic book series. This adaptation by Bruce Jones and the fantastic Al Williamson was also printed in an over-sized, hardcover treasury edition (pictured below) by Golden Books.

For some reason, on the standard comics, the publishers opted for these unfortunate collages of film stills and Williamson backgrounds rather than commissioning original art. Still, they're great comics with amazing art by Williamson, a long-time fan of the character, and if you don't already own them, they're well-worty hunting down.