Friday, November 21, 2014

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #50: PLANET OF THE APES

Who says apes and humans can't get along? Here are a couple of gorillas playing cards with their usual prey between takes on the set of 1968's seminal anthropoid epic, Planet Of The Apes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happy (Belated) Life Day!

Yesterday marked the 36th (!) anniversary of the much-derided Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired on CBS in 1978. Sure, I've kicked the bizarre variety special around some myself over the years, but I admit that I was watching it that night, sitting on the floor about two feet from the tube, and fourteen year-old me enjoyed the hell out of it. And if truth be told, whenever I pop in my bootleg DVD to torture the wife each holiday season, I still enjoy it.

Well, parts of it, anyway.

That awesomely strange cartoon, of course, introducing to the universe the intriguing Boba Fett. Some (very little, admittedly) of the domestic wookiee stuff. (And the Stan Winston wookie suits are fantastic and full of character.) Mark Hamill's heavy makeup. Harrison Ford, trying to stay in character and keep a straight face amid the nonsense. And I genuinely enjoy Bea Arthur's musical number - and whoever thought I'd admit that?

The less said about Carrie Fisher's singing, on the other hand, the better.

When the only Star Wars was Star Wars, (and the Marvel comics) even this bizarro Seventies artifact was something to look forward to and even celebrate. Have yourselves a happy (belated) Life Day and may the Force be with you, Star Kids!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Obit: Glen A. Larson, R.I.P.

Television producer Glen A. Larson, who created the original Battlestar Galactica and developed Buck Rogers for the small screen, passed away Friday night of esophageal cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. Larson was 77.

An extremely successful producer - although not always a respected one - Larson was responsible for a ton of Seventies and Eighties television, including such hits as Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., B.J. And The Bear, The Fall Guy, Switch, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Alias Smith And Jones, Manimal, Quincy M.E., and more. He produced the second and third Six Million Dollar Man telefilms, and brought the 90's comic book hero NightMan to television.

But for Star Kids, it was Galactica that stands as his shining achievement, an epic-scaled space opera with groundbreaking, theatrical-quality special effects and production design, and themes inspired by Larson's Mormon faith. It debuted in the Fall of 1978 as a Top Ten show, and finished the season as the 25th most popular show on television, only failing to get renewed because of its extravagant million dollar (plus) weekly budget. Despite its abbreviated run, it lived on in novels, comic books and a brief 1980 revival series, eventually being retooled and resurrected in 2004 for the Sci-Fi Channel.

He also worked with Leslie Stevens (The Outer Limits) to update the classic comic strip hero Buck Rogers for Universal and NBC in 1979. The pilot film so pleased the studio that it received a theatrical release in the Summer of 1979, before going on to a two-season run on television.

Although Larson was notorious for ripping off popular movies with his shows (he was even sued by 20th Century Fox and George Lucas over Galactica's similarities to Star Wars), his programs were undeniably entertaining, filled with action, humor and glamor, aimed solidly at family audiences.

I count more than a few of Larson's shows (Magnum P.I., The Fall Guy, Knight Rider) among my all-time favorites, and would rather watch most of them even now than much of what currently airs on TV. If Glen Larson was a hack (as his detractors insist), he was a successful one, and he'll  be missed.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Adventures Of Lando Calrissian

Following the success of Brian Daley's trilogy of Han Solo novels in 1979-80, Del Rey Books released a three-volume cycle of Star Wars universe novels by L. Neil Smith, featuring the Millennium Falcon's previous captain, the roguish Lando Calrissian in 1981. The titles were:  Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon and Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka. (My spellchecker's having a stroke.)

Like Daley's Han Solo books, these novels took place well before the events of the original Star Wars films, and were set off in corners of the galaxy that seemed to have little connection with the Imperial settings of the films. Unlike the Solo novels, though, the Calrissian adventure were just plain weird. Even when Lucasfilm was building and putting considerable effort into reconciling its "Expanded Universe," the events, characters and planets in these books were essentially ignored. Still, at the time of their release, there was damned little new Star Wars adventures to be had, and offbeat as they were, they were eagerly snapped up by young fans.

Still: they had great cover paintings by Williams Schmidt.

The Mindharp Of Sharu
The Flamewind of Oseon
The Starcave of ThonBoka

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November's Space Babe: Eddie Benton

Our latest Space Babe is Eddie Benton (a/k/a Anne-Marie Martin), who starred in the 1979 Canadian-made space opera, The Shape Of Things To Come, as the resourceful roboticist Kim. She also memorably guest starred in the first season Buck Rogers In the 25th Century episode, "Twiki is Missing!" as a telekinetic troubleshooter named Stella.

Born as Edmonda Benton in Ontario in 1957, the comely actress with astoundingly sexy legs appeared in a number of TV shows and films of interest to Space: 1970 fans during the late 70s and early 80s, including guest roles on Wonder Woman and The Powers Of Matthew Star. In 1978, she played Clea in the Dr. Strange TV movie. Apparently, she was one of the many young actresses that auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars, too. In '81, she changed her name to Anne-Marie Martin, and retired from acting only a few years later.

From  1987 to 2002, she was married to best-selling novelist Michael Crichton. When the couple split up, she reportedly received a 31 million dollar settlement. Needless to say, she now lives a life of leisure, devoting much of her time to keeping and riding horses.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SILENT RUNNING (1972) Poster Art

During one of my recent Google image safaris, I stumbled across this text-free scan of George Akimoto's painting for the the American one-sheet for Douglas Trumbull's 1972 sci-fi parable, Silent Running, and thought it was too nice not to share here.

Updates have been infrequent of late, but I do plan on having some more substantial articles posted here soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

News: AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976) Hitting Blu-ray in January

Good news for fans of the John Dark/Kevin Connor lost world epics of the Seventies: Kino Video and Scorpion Releasing have announced that they will be bringing to Blu-ray the Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation At the Earth's Core (1976), starring stalwart Doug McClure, Star Wars' Peter Cushing, and the stunning Caroline Munro. The disc is scheduled to be released on January 13, 2015.

Here's what Kino has to say about their upcoming release:
There's more than lava at the Earth's core. There's also Pellucidar: an underground empire where gargantuan pterodactyls torture and enslave all humanoids - including the lovely Dia (Munro). But all that could change when a surface-dwelling scientist (Cushing) and an American businessman (McClure) drive their powerful "Iron Mole" straight into Pellucidar...stirring up a great deal more than dirt, rocks and lava!

Special Features:

    Reversible cover art work
    Brand New on camera interview with star Caroline Munro
    Brand New on camera with Director Kevin Connor
    Audio commentary with Kevin Connor
    Original Trailer
Sounds like an essential purchase! Here's hoping that this does well, so that Kino might also score the rights to Warlords Of Atlantis (which still doesn't have an authorized U.S. release) and the Time Forgot flicks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Trek Into Space History

On this day in 1976, NASA's prototype space shuttle Enterprise was rolled out of its assembly facility in Southern California and displayed before a crowd of several thousand. Among those in attendance were most of the officers of Star Trek's starship NCC-1701, including Leonard Nimoy, future Internet superstar George Takei, an apparently sleepy DeForest Kelly, and a gloriously bearded Jimmy Doohan.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gerry Anderson Posters By Eric Chu

I don't often spotlight new products on this site, but this one is pretty damned irresistible, especially since there's virtually no vintage merchandise to tie in with the 1975 Gerry Anderson telefilm, The Day After Tomorrow - Into Infinity. Big thanks to Star Kid Mike Lynch for bringing this poster, painted by the amazing Eric Chu and offered by the official Gerry Anderson website, to my attention.

Of course, I poked around the site a bit, and discovered that the talented Chu had also created posters for various other Anderson properties, and was especially taken by his two paintings for Space: 1999, representing both seasons of that epic series. Gorgeous, gorgeous work.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion: PERILS ON PLANET X Webcomic - The End Is Nigh

Because I've mentioned it here on the site before, I wanted to note that after a year and a half of regular weekly Friday updates, the first (and hopefully, not last) Perils On Planet X online graphic novel, "Hawke of Terra," is nearly completed (just two pages/weeks to go). This project has been in the works so long (almost 15 years!) that I can hardly believe it's almost finished.

As the writer, I'm pretty proud of the story, which is my take on classic interplanetary swashbucklers like John Carter of Mars and Flash Gordon, and am especially pleased with the visual storytelling of my artistic collaborator and partner, the amazing Gene Gonzales. The importance of our colorist, Ian Sokoliwski's,  Technicolor hues cannot be underestimated, either. I've been very fortunate to have such talented collaborators.

If you haven't kept up with Perils On Planet X - or worse, haven't read it at all! - you can still read it from the beginning, for free on the site. That link will take you right to the first page. Our future plans are still up in the air, so this might be a good time to take a few minutes and catch up... and maybe post your thoughts on the book.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Look-In Bionic Gallery

Hope you're all having a great Monday. To kick off the week, here's a gallery of Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman cover paintings for the British kid's magazine, Look-In. I'm pretty sure that all of these were painted by regular Look-In cover artist Arnaldo Putzu, and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm mistaken. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hall of Fame: John Saxon

Today marks the 79th birthday of actor John Saxon, who has had a long association with science fiction roles, both on television and in feature films, dating back to, at least, 1965's Blood Beast From Outer Space! In that decade, he also appeared in the creepy space horror flick Queen of Blood and an episode of Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel, but it's his forays into Seventies sci-fi that we celebrate here.

In 1974, Saxon portrayed a very Jim Kirk-ish, heroic Dylan Hunt in Gene Roddenberry's unsuccessful television pilot, Planet Earth. A year later, he played a similar role, Captain Anthony Vico, in Warner Brothers' equally-unsuccessful follow-up, Strange New World. In both films, he was a very Roddenberry sci-fi hero, tough but brainy, quick with his fists and his wits.

He appeared a couple of times on Universal's The Six Million Dollar Man (and Bionic Woman); first, as a lethal android that gave Steve Austin a helluva fight (and inspired Mattel's "Maskatron" action figure), and then a season or two later as an evil alien using the legendary Bionic Bigfoot in his malevolent schemes!  On Wonder Woman, he played a Nazi, and also showed up as an extradimensional tyrant on The Fantastic Journey in '77!

In 1981, he starred as the tyrannical Sador, the smoothly sinister galactic baddie of Roger Corman's space opera epic, Battle Beyond The Stars. He rounded out the Space: 1970-era with another villainous role in the 1983 Richard Hatch vehicle, Prisoners Of The Lost Universe.

Of course, while we focus here on his science fiction accomplishments, in his sixty-year career, the actor has played a couple hundred roles in every genre imaginable. Equally adept at playing tough guy heroes and despicable villains, Saxon has had - and continues to have - a career to be admired (and no doubt, envied, by other actors).

Happy birthday, sir!