Posts Tagged ‘Ray Harryhausen’

On the occasion of his 103rd birthday, we revisit this profile written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website.

Displaying a rare commitment to SF and fantasy, George Pal (1908-80) produced, and sometimes directed, a dozen feature films that had a profound impact on the genre.  Most of his works had their origins in literature, and perhaps his greatest achievement was his adaptations of two classic novels by H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1953) and The Time Machine (1960).

Born Marincsák György to Hungarian stage parents, unemployed architect Pal was hired by Budapest’s Hunnia studio as an apprentice animator.  Marrying and moving to Berlin, he rose to the top of the UFA studio’s cartoon department until the Nazis’ rise to power drove him out of Germany, and then lived and worked in various European countries before emigrating to the U.S.

During the 1940s, Pal directed, photographed and/or produced dozens of animated shorts, combining puppets and stop-motion in his famous Puppetoons.  He earned an honorary Academy Award for developing the techniques used in the Puppetoons, and seven consecutive nominations for the best animated short subject, from Rhythm in the Ranks (1941) to Tubby the Tuba (1947).

Unlike other forms of stop-motion, the Puppetoons used replacement animation, which substitutes a series of figures in various poses or emotions, instead of manipulating one model.  Animator Ray Harryhausen got his start in the Puppetoons, but after working under Frank Capra in the Army’s Special Service Division during World War II, he declined an offer to rejoin Pal.

Harryhausen told me in our Filmfax interview, “George…was a very easy man to work with, and I was one of the first animators he hired….It was great experience, although it wasn’t the type of animation I was really delighted to do, because…[Pal] had twenty-four separate figures to make one step, and that meant substituting a new figure for each movement, which wasn’t really my cup of tea.”

Pal’s debut feature, The Great Rupert (aka A Christmas Wish, 1950), was among the first to combine stop-motion and live-action footage, as the eponymous animated squirrel aids Jimmy Durante’s down-on-its-luck family.  After this transitional effort, directed by actor Irving Pichel, Pal focused solely on live-action projects, although animation still featured in many of his films.

Also directed by Pichel, Destination Moon (1950) was adapted by genre giant Robert A. Heinlein from his own young adult novel Rocket Ship Galileo, and indeed the script, written with Rip Van Ronkel and James O’Hanlon, lacks sophistication.  But Pal’s breakthrough project set a cinematic standard rarely equaled, dramatizing a lunar flight with scrupulous scientific accuracy.

Based on the novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, Rudolph Maté’s When Worlds Collide (1951) was the first of five films Pal made for Paramount, including the biopic Houdini (1953).  As two planets approach the Earth, one passes close enough to create mass destruction, also allowing forty colonists to travel there before the larger heavenly body demolishes our own.

Barré Lyndon’s updated script made The War of the Worlds more immediate, a precedent set by Orson Welles in his famous 1938 radio broadcast.  Pal’s initial collaboration with director and special-effects expert Byron Haskin, the film featured modern Martian war machines that are extremely impressive (albeit a far cry from Wells’s tripods) as they besiege the world’s capitals.

Although not strictly SF, The Naked Jungle (1954) nonetheless gave Haskin and Pal the opportunity to dazzle audiences with spectacular scenes of destruction, interwoven with human drama.  Adapted by Philip Yordan and Ranald MacDougall from Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen vs. the Ants,” it starred Charlton Heston as a man trying to protect his plantation from army ants.

Haskin’s Conquest of Space (1955) marked Pal’s swan song for Paramount, undone by a melodramatic O’Hanlon screenplay.  Adapted by Yordan, Lyndon, and George Worthing Yates from a nonfiction book by astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell (a frequent Pal collaborator) and Willy Ley, it depicted a Mars mission jeopardized by a religious fanatic in conflict with his son.

With the fantasy tom thumb (1958), Pal moved to MGM, where he would remain for the next decade, and assumed directorial duties, as he would on his next four films.  A showcase for the acrobatic Russ Tamblyn in the title role, it featured Puppetoon sequences, songs, and rising star Peter Sellers as the henchman of Terry-Thomas’s villain, who tries to exploit the tiny hero.

The Time Machine won an Oscar for its special effects, as had Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide, The War of the Worlds, and tom thumb.  The script was by David Duncan, while Rod Taylor played the intrepid time traveler who journeys far into the future, when evolution has divided the human race into the passive Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks, who feed on them.

Disappointing on all counts, Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) was hampered by Daniel Mainwaring’s unusually outlandish script, adapted from a play by Sir Gerald Hargreaves.  Greek fisherman Anthony Hall rescues a princess and travels by submarine to her home, Atlantis, but it is dominated by mad scientists and destroyed by a volcano just after Hall has effected his escape.

Co-directed with Henry Levin, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) told the story of the brothers and dramatized three of their fairy tales:  “The Dancing Princess,” “The Cobbler and the Elves,” and “The Singing Bone.”  It featured an all-star cast and a screenplay by David P. Harmon, famed genre author and screenwriter Charles Beaumont, and William Roberts.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) was adapted by Beaumont from Charles G. Finney’s novel The Circus of Dr. Lao, with Tony Randall as Lao, who enlightens people by showing them their true selves while in various guises (e.g., Merlin, Pan, Medusa, the Abominable Snowman).  William Tuttle’s makeup earned an honorary Oscar; Jim Danforth’s special effects were also nominated.

Even a reunion with Haskin could not save The Power (1968) from tensions between Pal and MGM’s régime du jour, which dumped the film with little promotion.  Based on the book by Frank M. Robinson, it starred George Hamilton as a man on the run from an unknown assassin, a telekinetic superman who is eliminating his colleagues—and any evidence of his own existence.

Pal’s many abortive projects over the years included an adaptation of Wylie and Balmer’s sequel, After Worlds Collide, and a follow-up to The Time Machine.  One of the most devastating was his attempt to film William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s SF novel Logan’s Run, which after a long period of development was taken out of Pal’s hands and given to Saul David.

“Poor George was stymied one time after another while he generated new enthusiasm,” Johnson told me in a separate interview.  “Each new regime that came in would throw out all the old projects and say no to almost everything….[He] was linked to the deal for the longest period of time, during which he managed to teeter on there at MGM, trying to get one thing and another together…”

Pal’s final film, Doc Savage—The Man of Bronze (1975), showed how sadly out of step he had fallen with current public tastes.  Released by Warner Brothers, and directed by Michael Anderson, it sought unsuccessfully to recapture the spirit of the old serials, with Ron Ely (better known onscreen as Tarzan) playing the hero of Kenneth Robeson’s lengthy series of pulp novels.

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Concluding our look at genre films on New York’s three independent stations (WNEW, WPIX, and WOR) during my youth.

With its crudely animated but absolutely unforgettable six-fingered-hand title sequence, WPIX’s Chiller Theatre competed with WNEW’s Creature Features, although I don’t think they overlapped 100%; as I recall, Chiller started at 8:00, and I faced a crisis of conscience every Saturday at 8:30:  stay on channel 11 or, more often, switch to 5?  Two films I’m pretty sure I remember seeing on there were Mario Bava’s What (which I always imagined giving rise to any number of who’s-on-first jokes along the lines of, “You saw What?”) and The Crawling Eye, although the latter appears to have migrated to WOR at some point.  In fact, WPIX was an excellent source for Bava’s early works—Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, The Evil Eye—some of them still in glorious black and white.

WPIX showed the fewest genre films of the three and, perhaps as a result, seemed to have the least clearly defined identity in that capacity, despite the presence of a number of heavyweights.  Toho, for example, was well represented with Godzilla, King of the Monsters and several of its sequels, as well as Atragon and The Mysterians.  My records also indicate a boatload of Hammer films (The Brides of Dracula, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, The Curse of the Werewolf, Demons of the Mind, The Devil’s Bride, Fear in the Night, Five Million Years to Earth, The Nanny, The Phantom of the Opera, Plague of the Zombies, The Reptile, Taste the Blood of Dracula), although I think many of those only debuted on WPIX in later years.

The Anglo-American oeuvre of producer Herman Cohen (Horrors of the Black Museum, How to Make a Monster, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, Konga) straddled the Atlantic, while British-born Harry Alan Towers was an early master of international co-productions such as Against All Odds, The Brides of Fu Manchu, and Circus of Fear.  WPIX also offered films produced by Italy (Castle of the Living Dead, The Cat o’Nine Tails, Snow Devils), Spain (Cauldron of Blood, Dr. Orloff’s Monster, Graveyard of Horror), or both (Horror, Terror in the Crypt).  Sid Pink shot Journey to the Seventh Planet and Reptilicus in Denmark, while Gammera the Invincible and its sequels demonstrated that Toho did not have an exclusive on the kaiju eiga (giant monster) subgenre.

Last but not least, WOR was notable in a number of ways, including sheer quantity, with about as many genre offerings as the other two put together, a steady stream of which appeared on Fright Night and their Saturday-afternoon Science Fiction Theater.  The former aired at 1:00 on Saturday night or Sunday morning, depending on your point of view, and was all too often joined “already in progress”—to my intense and enduring rage—due to sports (mostly Mets games, as I recall).  They also showed plenty of movies during the week, and their library included such BOF favorites as Colossus: The Forbin Project, Count Dracula, The Day of the Triffids, Horror Hotel, The Last Man on Earth, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Psycho, The Thing, and Village of the Damned.

WOR had a lock on the Universal classics from Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, and their many sequels to Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (the screenwriting debut of You-Know-Who) and the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy.  They also showcased Bela Lugosi’s work for lesser studios in The Ape Man, The Devil Bat, The Invisible Ghost, Scared to Death, Voodoo Man, White Zombie, and Zombies on Broadway.  And WOR’s parent company owned RKO, ensuring Thanksgiving Day screenings of King Kong, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young, as well as access to the Val Lewton canon (The Body Snatcher, Cat People, The Curse of the Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, Isle of the Dead).

The early black-and-white work of master stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth) and Bava’s later work in color (Baron Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Lisa and the Devil) both aired on WOR.  So did that of Paul Naschy, the “Spanish Christopher Lee,” who starred in Assignment Terror, The Fury of the Wolfman, Horror Rises from the Tomb, The Mummy’s Revenge, and Night of the Howling Beast.  Further cementing the station’s international credentials, it showcased a myriad of offerings from Toho, including The Human Vapor, King Kong Escapes, The Last War, Varan the Unbelievable, Yog—Monster from Space, and innumerable entries in their long-running Godzilla series.

Globally, in fact, WOR had no peer, with genre films from Germany (Creature with the Blue Hand), Italy (Battle of the Worlds, The Cursed Medallion, Lightning Bolt, Mission Stardust, The Murder Clinic, Next!, Screamers, The Secret of Dorian Gray, The She-Beast, War of the Planets, Yeti), Japan (The Evil Brain from Outer Space), Mexico (Attack of the Mayan Mummy, The Brainiac, The Curse of the Doll People, The Curse of the Stone Hand), the Philippines (Beast of the Dead, The Island of Living Horror, Tomb of the Living Dead, Vampire People), and Spain (A Bell from Hell, Fangs of the Living Dead, Horror Express, The House That Screamed, Marta, Murder Mansion, Night of the Sorcerers, Ship of Zombies, Witches Mountain).

Domestic output was hardly overlooked, including 1950s SF epics from producer George Pal (Conquest of Space, When Worlds Collide).  AIP cut a wide swath with films by Roger Corman (Creature from the Haunted Sea, Day the World Ended, It Conquered the World, Teenage Caveman), Bert I. Gordon (Beginning of the End, War of the Colossal Beast), Herman Cohen (I Was a Teenage Werewolf), and Edward L. Cahn (Invasion of the Saucer Men).  Meanwhile, the mother country weighed in with smatterings from both Hammer (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, The Revenge of Frankenstein) and Amicus (Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., The Terrornauts, Torture Garden, The Mind of Mr. Soames).

But quantity does not always equate with quality, and another of WOR’s hallmarks was its high sleaze factor, which made me envision their headquarters as some squalid den of iniquity.  They featured bottom-of-the-barrel films by Al Adamson (Beyond the Living, The Creature’s Revenge, Man with the Synthetic Brain, Vampire Men of the Lost Planet), Larry Buchanan (Curse of the Swamp Creature, The Eye Creatures, In the Year 2889), and Del Tenney (Zombies).  And there were a few entries whose memories still give me the willies with their gore, grim atmospheres and/or grimy milieuxChildren Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Don’t Look in the Basement, The House of the Seven Corpses, Kiss of the Tarantula, and Silent Night, Bloody Night.

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Ray Harryhausen

On the occasion of his 90th birthday, we revisit this profile written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website.

“When King Kong fell from the Empire State,” Ray Bradbury recalled in Ronald V. Borst’s Graven Images, “he killed two kids with one slam, me and my pal Ray Harryhausen. Kong changed our lives, only for the good, forever. Because of its fabulous monsters razoring the air with their electric cries, I stayed in touch with ancient beasts and wound up writing the screenplay of Moby Dick [1956] for John Huston. Harryhausen got work with Willis O’Brien, Kong’s animator, on Mighty Joe Young [1949].” Fittingly, Harryhausen’s first solo effort, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), was based on Bradbury’s story (aka “The Fog Horn”).

Born on June 29, 1920, in Los Angeles, Harryhausen supplemented his lifelong interest in dinosaurs and gorillas by studying sculpture and anatomy in high school and night film classes at USC. His first attempts at stop-motion animation, in which a detailed armature is moved incrementally and photographed frame by frame, then composited with live-action footage, were made in his garage. After working on George Pal’s Puppetoon shorts, Harryhausen joined the armed forces in the Signal Corps unit as an assistant cameraman and, on his own, produced the animated short How to Bridge a Gorge.

This was shown to Frank Capra, who had him transferred to his Special Service Division, where Harryhausen worked in various capacities. After the war, he was contacted by his idol, O’Brien (who had told him to study more anatomy when they met in 1939), and ended up doing most of the animation on Mighty Joe Young as his assistant. Retired since the original Clash of the Titans (1981), he is still recognized as the master of the technique, more recently used in Corpse Bride and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (both 2005).

Harryhausen is perhaps the only effects technician whose name commands greater recognition than those of his directors, including Eugène Lourié, Fred F. Sears, Nathan Juran, Don Chaffey, and Gordon Hessler. In an interview for Filmfax, he told this writer, “these type of pictures that we made were not director’s pictures, as they call them in the European sense of the word. The director sometimes comes in after the picture is all laid out and even started in production.”

A twenty-five-year collaboration with producer Charles H. Schneer and Columbia Pictures began with Robert Gordon’s It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), in which budget constraints forced him to animate a six-tentacled octopus attacking the Golden Gate Bridge. “We both had an intense interest in filmmaking, and Charles loved fantasy,” Harryhausen recalled. “We worked well together, although we had many opposing ideas.”

Harryhausen assisted O’Brien on the dinosaur sequences of Irwin Allen’s documentary The Animal World (1956)—which, like Lourié’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, was released by Warner Brothers—and animated machines rather than fauna for Sears that same year. “The challenge on Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, of course, was to see if you could make a mechanical-looking object have some sort of interest to the public for an hour and a half,” he said.

Creations like the Ymir, the alien in Juran’s Twenty Million Miles to Earth (1957), had more personality than rubber-suited monsters or computer-generated effects. “I don’t sit down and analyze it. I try to give it as much character as I can, little nuances and little gestures,” he said, noting that the gorilla in Mighty Joe Young “had an enormous amount of character, and that rubbed off a bit on the Ymir, too, I think, because he was a humanoid figure.”

Dynamation, Harryhausen’s technique of combining live action and animated figures without elaborate miniature sets and elaborate glass paintings, debuted in color in Juran’s The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958). It was the first of four consecutive films scored by Bernard Herrmann, who “seemed to fit our type of film so beautifully,” said Harryhausen. “Miklos Rozsa [who scored The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)] writes a different type of music. His is more romantic in style, and for certain subjects his would be much more preferable.”

Jack Sher’s The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960), based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Cy Endfield’s Mysterious Island (1961), from the novel by Jules Verne, both grew out of existing scripts, with Dynamation written in. Gulliver added only an animated alligator and squirrel, but Mysterious Island was extensively reworked to incorporate animated creatures.

Chaffey’s Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is Harryhausen’s personal favorite, and the climactic battle with an army of skeletons—brilliantly scored with castanets by Herrmann—took four and a half months to animate. “There are bits and pieces in each film that you sort of fall in love with, or you wouldn’t make the film,” he said. “But I think Jason was the most overall complete film, although there are many scenes I would love to do over.”

It was back to classic SF literature with Juran’s First Men in the Moon (1964), adapted from H.G. Wells’s novel by Nigel Kneale and Jan Read (who co-wrote Jason with Beverley Cross). “We adhered very closely to H.G. Wells’s description of the space sphere, and we tried to stick to Wells as close as possible,” Harryhausen recalled. “I shuddered when I had to use children in Selenite suits—which I once vowed I would never do—but being practical I was forced to, otherwise I might still be animating the many lunarians up to the present day!”

Harryhausen worked with screenwriters “very closely, because they had no idea of what you could and could not do with Dynamation. I would make many sketches. For example, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad started out with eight big sketches and a twenty-page outline I made of how to put the thing together, and I took it around Hollywood, and nobody was interested. I even took it to Edward Small, who later saw the success of Seventh Voyage, and then he latched onto Jack the Giant Killer [1961],” which reassembled many Sinbad alumni, but not Harryhausen.

Reunited with Chaffey at England’s Hammer Films, Harryhausen remade One Million B.C. (1940) with stop-motion as One Million Years B.C. (1966), which combined live-action and effects footage spectacularly, also showcasing Raquel Welch in a fur bikini. “They wanted to remake King Kong, but King Kong was such a classic I hesitated to get involved with that. But One Million I felt we could do so much better than crocodiles with rubber fins glued on their backs. So I jumped at the chance,” Harryhausen recalled.

James O’Connolly’s The Valley of Gwangi (1969) was a project O’Brien had been forced to abandon. “I remembered Obie had given me a script of it way back in the ‘40s, which I had in my garage. I dug it out, and we thought we could finally put it on the screen…Unfortunately, Warner Brothers was purchased by a different company by the time we finished the film, and of course the new companies never care for what the old companies did. So they just dumped it on the market with no publicity,” Harryhausen said.

The Sinbad trilogy concluded with Hessler’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sam Wanamaker’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), which Harryhausen co-wrote with Brian Clemens and Cross, respectively; John Phillip Law and Patrick Wayne were the new Sinbads. “Kerwin [Mathews] naturally had aged a bit…but that wasn’t the main reason,” he noted. “We tried to have different approaches. Seventh Voyage had a very garish, storybook quality to it, a stylized type of film, where Golden Voyage had a different approach. We tried to keep the colors very subdued and we tried to make it more realistic, in a sense, than a stylized version such as Seventh Voyage, and then Eye of the Tiger was different again.”

Harryhausen always directed the effects sequences himself. “One has to guide the actors where to look and how to feel,” he noted, but Sinbad’s battle with the six-armed goddess Kali in Golden Voyage presented a unique challenge. “We had to have six arms, so that we could rehearse with the actors. So we strapped three stuntmen together, one behind the other, with a great big belt, which was rather grotesque looking on the set, but…that gave the position that the actors would have to know in order to have their swords in the right place at the right time.”

Cross and Harryhausen returned to Greek mythology with Clash of the Titans. “I had Jim Danforth and Steven Archer help finish the picture, because we had some technical problems that caused us to go way behind schedule.” Of his retirement, Harryhausen observes, “I wanted to get out of being in a dark room for a year after everybody else has gone home and made two or three other pictures…And then the front office seemed to think that you had to have an explosion every five minutes, and you just can’t develop mythology or Arabic things in that way…”

In 1992, Harryhausen received the Gordon E. Sawyer Academy Award for recognition of his technical contributions to the motion picture industry, and New York City’s Museum of Modern Art honored his contributions to fantasy and motion pictures with a 1981 exhibition of his work. He has also seen the palpable effects of his efforts on such fans and future filmmakers as Danforth, John Landis, Dave Allen, and Rick Baker, whose careers he has helped to inspire.

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Irwin Allen

On the occasion of his 94th birthday, we revisit this SF-oriented profile written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website.

“Among those who have kneed science fiction in the groin Irwin Allen must rank high,” wrote John Baxter in Future Tense. Before the blockbusters The Poseidon Adventure (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974) made him the “Master of Disaster,” Allen’s contributions to the SF genre, on the large and small screens, were undeniably profitable, if at times decidedly juvenile.

After working in the magazine, radio, and advertising industries, Allen began producing films in the early 1950s. Among his earliest successes was The Sea Around Us (1952), an Oscar-winning documentary based on Rachel L. Carson’s book, and as a follow-up he decided to make a film about various animal species, The Animal World (1956), which he also wrote and directed.

For its dinosaur sequence, Allen hired the up-and-coming king of stop-motion animation, Ray Harryhausen, and his mentor, Willis O’Brien, who had created the pioneering effects of The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933). After numerous career reversals, O’Brien was elated when Allen then recruited him as the effects technician for his 1960 remake of The Lost World.

Unfortunately, Twentieth Century-Fox wanted to rush the film into theaters to capitalize on the success of its Jules Verne adaptation Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). This did not allow enough time for the painstaking stop-motion process, so at Allen’s insistence, O’Brien was forced to use Journey’s more economical method of photographically enlarging live lizards.

As Harryhausen told this writer in an interview for Filmfax, “He was flabbergasted that they would go that way, but it was a cheaper way, and unfortunately I don’t think it was as good. The Lost World depended so much on the dinosaur that looks like a dinosaur, and not a lizard with some fins glued on his back. They did that with the first One Million B.C. [1940]…” O’Brien died just two years later.

The film depicts an expedition to a remote Amazonian plateau that Professor Challenger (Claude Rains) claims contains extinct Jurassic dinosaurs. He is joined by big-game hunter Lord Roxton (Michael Rennie) and Jennifer Holmes (Jill St. John), whose father, a newspaper mogul, finances the expedition on the condition that a reporter, Ed Malone (David Hedison), is included.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) was basically an updated version of Verne’s own 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which, like The Lost World, was written by Charles Bennett and Allen, who also directed. Bennett is best known for working with Alfred Hitchcock on six of his best British films, plus Foreign Correspondent (1940), for which he shared an Oscar nomination.

After the Van Allen Belt catches fire, presumably ignited by a meteor, Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon), the inventor of the nuclear submarine Seaview, and Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) concoct a desperate plan. By firing a missile on a precise date and trajectory, they propose to blow the burning belt outward, which they do after many trials and tribulations.

Bennett and Allen at last tackled Verne directly with a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of his Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962), with Voyage veterans Barbara Eden and Peter Lorre joined by Red Buttons and Fabian. Cedric Hardwicke plays Professor Samuel Fergusson, whose balloon, the Jupiter, is pressed into service to scuttle Portuguese slave traders in Western Africa in 1863.

Allen assaulted the airwaves with four fondly remembered SF series, all produced by Fox and often running concurrently: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-8), Lost in Space (1965-8), The Time Tunnel (1966-7), and Land of the Giants (1968-70). All but Lost in Space aired on ABC, with Bennett contributing several scripts to the new Voyage and one to Land of the Giants.

Like Lost in Space, which ran on CBS, Voyage began in black-and-white, with a serious tone, but degenerated in later, color seasons into increasingly outlandish episodes and a repetitive monster-of-the-week format. Richard Basehart, who reportedly displayed a growing disdain for his well-paid work, and The Lost World’s David Hedison were recast as TV’s Nelson and Crane.

As its proposed title, The Space Family Robinson, suggests, Lost in Space was a futuristic version of Johann Wyss’s Swiss Family Robinson, with Guy Williams and June Lockhart as the eponymous Robinson parents. Comic villain Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) threatened to steal the show, and was played more seriously by Gary Oldman in the 1998 feature-film version.

The Time Tunnel thrust its protagonists, Drs. Tony Newman (James Darren) and Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert), into various eras past and present, many of which were created using Fox’s stock footage and standing sets. As with the other Allen series, the episodes became more and more far-fetched as the series progressed, and aliens abounded in a desperate bid for ratings.

Land of the Giants, in which seven Earthlings crash on a planet whose inhabitants dwarf them, rehashed not only Richard Matheson’s classic film The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), but also the recent series World of Giants (1959-60). Once the novelty wore off, it fell into a formula, with one member of the cast (led by Gary Conway) getting captured and requiring rescue by the rest.

Allen’s subsequent small-screen SF efforts included the failed pilots City Beneath the Sea (1971), which began life as a test film with another cast, and The Time Travelers (1976), clearly modeled on The Time Tunnel. He also went back to the Jules Verne well one last time with The Return of Captain Nemo (1978), a miniseries pitting Nemo (José Ferrer) against a mad scientist.

As the cycle of disaster movies petered out, Allen returned to both the big screen and the director’s chair with one of his most notorious flops, The Swarm (1978). Based on the novel by Arthur Herzog, it combined an SF premise of killer bees threatening humankind with the usual mix of stars (e.g., Michael Caine, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda) and scenes of destruction.

Allen’s waning years as a producer included a superfluous sequel, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), and a disastrous disaster movie, When Time Ran Out… (1980). But his record of successes both commercial and critical (The Towering Inferno was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture) and the popularity of his TV cast members at fan conventions speak for themselves.

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