Category Archives: Sci-Fi
If you’re a classic Doctor Who fan, then Koch Media’s series of Myth Makers compilations are a must-see, offering candid memories from the actors and crew members who worked on the cult BBC sci-fi series. The latest release, The Doctors: Villains!, is a two-disc DVD collection of interviews with five fan-favourite actors whose screen villain performances have become as iconic as the show itself, plus there’s poignant tribute to one of my childhood heroes, Roger Delgado.
Recorded between 2006 and 2018, these interviews are vital historical record about what went on behind-the-scenes, and feature personal testimonies and life stories that will be of huge interest to fans of the show.
Following a new from Nicholas Briggs and Keith Barnfather, the first feature on the disc one is a 1997 tribute to Roger Delgado (1 March 1918-18 June 1973), who was the original Master (and, in my view, the definitive one). Between 1971 and 1973, the East London-born character actor featured as the primary nemesis to Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor, a fellow renegade Time Lord whose nefarious schemes spanned eight adventures and 37 episodes.
However, his untimely death – in a terrible car accident in Turkey, while filming the fourth episode of a Franco/German TV series (La Cloche tibétaine) – meant his character’s final story (which was planned to end with a big bang) had to be scrapped and resulted in Jon Pertwee’s decision to bow out of the series.
This affectionate feature includes archive interviews from fellow actors Nicholas Courtney (aka Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (aka Sgt John Benton) and Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), producer Barry Letts, director Paul Bernard, head of serials Shaun Sutton, and writer Terrance Dicks, and well as two interviews with Pertwee. There’s also some behind-the-scenes footage from the location shoot in Aldbourne, Wiltshire from The Daemons which I’ve never seen before (very exciting).
Next up is with Ian Collier (25 January 1943-1 October 2008), who played Omega (MK2) in the 1983 Peter Davison serial Arc of Infinity, and later in the Big Finish Productions audio drama Omega. Recorded in 2006, Collier, who also appeared in the 1972 Jon Pertwee adventure The Time Monster, looks back over his life and career and talks candidly about his HIV diagnosis and its negative effect on his career (and thanks Big Finish for saving it). Collier, who ends the interview with a lovely message: ‘being content and at peace with who you are is close to the secret of happiness’, passed away two years after this interview was recorded, aged 65.
Disc one concludes with an interview – recorded at an Ipswich Who convention in 2006 – with Bernard Archard (20 August 1916-1 May 2008), who had two notable roles in Doctor Who: the now missing Patrick Troughton serial The Power of the Daleks, and (one of my all-time fave episodes) as the possessed Marcus Scarman in the Tom Baker story Pyramids of Mars. This wonderful character actor, who appeared in lots of other classic British TV series and features (like 1961’s Village of the Damned), died in 2008 at the ripe age of 91.
Disc two’s first feature is on David Gooderson (b. 24 February 1941), who was the second actor to play Davros in the 1979 Tom Baker adventure Destiny of the Daleks. Beginning with a quick visit to Winspit Quarry (one of the locations used in Destiny of the Daleks, Gooderson who chats with interviewer Richard Dick about growing up in India, his memories of becoming an actor and writer (and working with the future Monty Python team), and his time on Doctor Who. Check out David’s website here: http://david-gooderson.co.uk/
Up next is an interview from 2005 with actor Peter Miles (29 August 1928-26 February 2018), who appeared in three serials, The Silurians (1970), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974) and Genesis of the Daleks (1975), in which he famlusly played Davros’ henchman, Nyder. He has a neat story about working with Brian Blessed, but did you know he was also an accomplished jazz and soul singer, and a childhood friend of Dusty Springfield?
Finally we have the esteemed Julian Glover (b 27 March 1935), who played Richard the Lionheart in the 1965 William Hartnell serial The Crusade and ended up in the City of Death in the 1979 Tom Baker adventure. He’s been in everything from The Avengers to Game of Thrones, and a luminary of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond and Harry Potter franchises.
If, like me, you enjoy listening to the personal memories of actors who have given us so such enjoyment playing some our favourite villainous roles, then this latest release from Koch Media is a must-have.
From the golden age of TV sci-fi comes Irwin Allen’s The Time Tunnel, starring James Darren and Robert Colbert in sparkling HD
‘Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America’s greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time…’
The control of time is potentially the most valuable treasure that man will ever find. Or so believe the scientists of Project Tic-Toc. Located deep beneath the Arizona desert, the 10-year project’s focus is the feasibility of time travel.
But when the government reconsiders the project, the scientists, led by Lt General Heywood Kirk (Whit Bissell), have only 24 hours to prove their untested Time Tunnel will actually work. Determined to save the project, Dr Tony Newman (James Darren) and Dr Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) go through the tunnel – and quickly find themselves catapulted from one historical event to another (from the sinking of the Titantic to the attack on Pearl Habor), barely escaping with their lives as their colleagues race to figure out a way to bring them back home in one piece…
The BBC only showed 13 episodes of Irwin Allen’s third sci-fi series in 1968 as broadcasts were stopped to make way of the Olympics (held between 12-27 October 1968), and the show never returned to the BBC. Some ITV regions picked up the series in subsequent years, but other areas only got to see the full series when it was broadcast in the early 1990’s on ITV.
This new release, which features all 30 episodes presented in the original broadcast order, is produced from HD digital restoration masters created from the original negatives to ensure the best visual experience available. The seven-disc collector’s Blu-ray edition comes packed with special features and a brand new 5.1 surround sound mix, alongside the original mono audio.
• Original Unaired Pilot Episode (HD Version)
• 2002 Unaired TV Pilot
• Time Travelers TV Movie
• Cast Interviews
• Irwin Allen’s Behind-The-Scenes Home Movies – UK Edit (No Audio)
• Promotional TV & Radio Spots
• Visual Effects
• Camera Test (No Audio)
• Stills Galleries
• New 5.1 surround sound mix and original mono audio
Koch Media/Revelation Films presents The Time Tunnel on seven-disc Blu-ray from 5 November
ORDER HERE: https://amzn.to/2vv8CoV
2001: A Space Odyssey | Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece gets a first-time 4K Ultra High Definition UK release
With 2001: A Space Odyssey, director Stanley Kubrick redefined the limits of film-making and cemented his legacy as one of the most revolutionary and influential film directors of all time.
This groundbreaking sci-fi from 1968 (co-written by Kubrick and sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke) first visits mankind’s prehistoric ape-ancestry past, then leaps millennia (via one of the most mind-blowing jump cuts ever) into colonised space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) into uncharted space, perhaps even into immortality. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”
Following this summer’s theatrical run of the unrestored 70mm print of the film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has now released Kubrick’s masterpiece on 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) Blu-ray. For the first time since the original release, new 70mm prints were struck from pristine printing elements made from the original camera negative, with award-winning director, writer and producer Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy) working closely with the team at Warner Bros.
Building on the work done for the new 70mm prints, the 4K UHD with High Dynamic Range (HDR) presentation was mastered from the 65mm original camera negative, with the 4K UHD also including both a remixed and restored 5.1 DTS-HD master audio track, as well as the original 1968 6-track theatrical audio mix (formatted for 5.1 DTS-HD master audio).
“2001 to me is the most cinematic film that has ever been made and it has been an honour and a privilege to be able to share the film with a new generation,” say Nolan. “4K UHD allows the closest recreation of viewing the original film print in your own home. Kubrick’s masterpiece was originally presented on large format film and the deeper colour palette and superior resolution comes closest to matching the original analogue presentation.”
The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment UHD presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey includes the feature film in 4K with (HDR), a remastered Blu-ray disc with the feature film in hi-definition, a Blu-ray disc with the special features in hi-definition, and a Digital version of the feature film. The premium packaging also includes a collectible booklet and art cards featuring iconic images from the film. Sci-fi fans can also own 2001: A Space Odyssey in 4K UHD via purchase from select digital retailers including iTunes, and Rakuten TV.
4K UHD BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
• 4K UHD Blu-ray™ with Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• Remastered Blu-ray™ with Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• The Making of a Myth
• Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001
• Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001
• 2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future
• What Is Out There?
• 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork
• Look: Stanley Kubrick!
• 11/27/66 Interview with Stanley Kubrick [Audio Only]
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Premium Booklet
• Art Cards
From Eureka Entertainment comes director Fred Dekker’s jokey 1980s sci-fi comedy Night of the Creeps, in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition as part of the Eureka Classics range.
When an alien experiment goes awry, it crashes to Earth in 1959 and infects a college student. 27 years later, his freeze-dried body is unwittingly revived by nerds Chris (Jason Lively) and JC (Steve Marshall), which releases alien slugs that turn their fellow campus students into brain-hungry zombies. Chris, CJ and Chris’ new girlfriend Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) must then team up with a troubled detective (Tom Atkins) to find a way to defeat the zombie horde…
Presented for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK, this deluxe edition of Night of the Creeps features the original director’s cut and the following special features…
DUAL FORMAT SPECIAL FEATURES
• High-definition remaster of the director’s cut
• Original stereo soundtrack and 5.1 surround audio options, presented in PCM and DTS-HD MA respectively on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary by writer/director Fred Dekker
• Audio commentary by actors Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow
• Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps: an hour-long series of video pieces on the making of the film featuring new interviews with cast and crew
• Tom Atkins: Man of Action featurette
• Video Interview with Fred Dekker
• Deleted Scenes
• Original theatrical ending (which I rather prefer)
• Trivia track subtitles
• Theatrical trailer
• Limited-edition booklet featuring a new essay by critic Craig Ian Mann
• Limited Edition O-Card slipcase
Blake’s Seven: 7 Stars Liberated from the Classic TV Series! | Be prepared for six hours of Maximum Power!
It was 40 years ago this year that Terry Nation’s ‘Robin Hood meets The Dirty Dozen‘ sci-fi series Blake’s 7 blasted onto our telly screens and went on to achieve cult status after four series and 52 episodes.
Two years ago, the show’s star Gareth Thomas, who played the titular commander of the rag-tag group of rebels battling the totalitarian Terran Federation, headed off into the cosmos aged 71, and, this week, tributes are pouring in for Jacqueline Pearce (aka the glamorous evil Supreme Commander Servalan), who has also left us, aged 74, after a long battle with cancer.
So it’s weirdly timely that Koch Media have released this 2-disc DVD set compilation from the Doctor Who-centric Myth Makers series of cult TV interviews featuring six cast members, alongside visual effects consultant Mat Irvine.
Recorded over several years, these interviews were conducted by Nicholas Briggs (best known for voicing the Daleks in Doctor Who and heading up Big Finish Productions) and shot in some of the locations used in the series.
Talking about their acting careers, their time on the show and what happened after the series ended are the late Gareth Thomas (shot at Gatton Park and Betchworth Quarry, Surrey in 2003), Jan ‘Cally’ Chappell (filmed at Quex Park, Kent in 2005, which appeared in Bounty), Michael ‘Vila’ Keating (recorded this year at Windspit Quarry in Dorset, which appeared in Games, and was also used in the Doctor Who episode Destiny of the Daleks), Stephen ‘Travis No1’ Greif (shot at the location for Jewel in the New Forest in 2000) and Peter Tuddenham (who voiced Zen, ORAC and Slave), which was recorded in 2003 in Brighton, four years before Peter’s passing in 2007 aged 88.
Although they all are hugely enjoyable (particularly so Pete Tuddenham’s piece, in which he’s interviewed by ORAC, and Mat Irvine’s interview, whose outhouse contains loads of boxes filled with his handmade props from Doctor Who and Blake’s 7), the most entralling offering must be the interview with Jacqueline Pearce.
She holds nothing back as she discusses her highs (sex and drugs) and lows (mental illness), reflects on her time at RADA and in the US, her admiration for Rudolph Nureyev, and reveals what she really felt about Blake’s 7 and sci-fi in general.
Filmed in 2000, this interview captures Jacqueline at her best – exuding the glamour, warmth and vivid charm that made her such a colourful character and won her legions of fans (including myself). Her fascinating recollections would later be included in her unflinching 2012 autobiography From Byfleet to the Bush (which I highly recommend).
Are you ready for six hours of ‘Maximum Power!’?
Blake’s Seven: 7 Stars Liberated from the Classic TV Series! Out of 2-disc DVD now! Available from Amazon
When his profits are stolen following a delivery of genetically modified pigs, maverick space trucker John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) takes a profitable, no-questions-asked cargo to Earth, accompanied by apprentice trucker Mike (Stephen Dorff) and hitchhiker Cindy (Debi Mazar). But when they are captured by pirates, led by Captain Macanudo (Charles Dance), they discover the secret cargo is an army of androids that capitalist corp chief EJ Saggs (Shane Rimmer) plans to use to takeover the Earth…
I cannot believe I have never seen Space Truckers – and its by one of my fave genre directors too – Stuart Gordon (aka Mr Re-Animator), who got this gig on the back of success of 1992’s Fortress starring Christopher Lambert (whatever happened to him, btw?). So why did I miss this first time round? Well that’s because it never got a theatrical release, only HBO TV screening. But now Second Sight has brought out this must-get Blu-ray so that sci-fi fans can pay a much over-do revisit.
Gordon’s cast is a most excellent one and everyone plays it serious, especially scenery chewer Hopper, who plays a likeable hero this time round. Stephen Dorff and Debi Mazar provide the eye candy, especially when they step out of their cybergoth-meets-Starlight Express costumes and get all naked and sweaty. Cheers star George Wendt fame sneaks in a bizarre cameo before being sucked out into space, and its great to see Shane Rimmer in anything.
Charles Dance, meanwhile, steals the show as the disfigured half-man, half-machine ‘sonofabitch gimp rapist murderer’, who looks like a leather daddy steampunk version of Long John Silver, with a metal claw. He also gets some great lines like ‘If I had an anus, I’d probably soil myself’. Also making some excellent cameos are fanboy favourites Vernon Wells, Barbara Crampton and Sandra Dickinson.
Famed conceptual artist Hajime Sorayama created the designs for the space vehicles and the fantastic sleek and sexy six-foot robots. Interestingly, having just watched the Netflix reboot of Lost in Space, I couldn’t help notice how similar its robot design was to Sorayama’s – as was a key story element, when the Hub is breached and our heroes need to find a way to escape.
Space Truckers is all about fun and lots and lots of colour… in fact, there’s so much of it on display, its almost eye-watering. But it all works to highlight the film’s overall retro feel – making it a great companion piece to Flash Gordon and TV’s Buck Rogers, but also Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror follow-up Shock Treatment.
If you like your sci-fi colourful, camp and with an extra dose of cheese, then you are going to love Space Truckers. Oh! And watch out for the old lady in the cubicle – she’s a scream!
Out now on Blu-ray in the UK from Second Sight, with a host of special extras…
• Space Trucking with Stuart Gordon: A new interview with director Stuart Gordon
• Scoring Space Truckers: A new interview with composer Colin Towns (its a great score BTW!)
• The Art of Space Truckers: A new interview with art director Simon Lamont
• Cover art by Rich Davies
• English subtitles
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981) | The Technicolor comic-strip adventure blasts off in HD
The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes.
In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and its pilot, Captain William Buck Rogers,
are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life-support systems,
and returns Buck Rogers to Earth, 500 years later…
Following the success of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, US TV producer Glen A Larson turned his attention to the iconic American comic-strip character Buck Rogers, which he developed into a big-budget TV series for Universal.
Actor Gil Gerard was handpicked by Larson to play Buck (now an astronaut instead of a World War One dirigible pilot), but Gerard only accepted the role after changes were made to make the character more human than hero, but with a witty sense of humour (which Gerard often improvised).
Assisting the hairy-chested Bond-esque hero in his ‘Dynasty meets The Love Boat in space’ adventures were Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gary), her boss Dr Elias Huer (Tim O’Connor), friendly robot Twiki (played by Felix Silla and voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc), and sentient computer, Dr Theopolis (voiced by Eric Server).
The show ran for two seasons from 1979-1981, earning itself a legion of fans and even caused the ratings for Doctor Who in the UK to plummet.
The first season saw Buck assisting Earth’s Defence Directorate with a range of external threats, which saw a host of guest stars (including a few from the 1960s Batman series) playing either that week’s villain or someone in need of Buck’s help (see them all below).
The second season found Buck, Wilma and Twiki joining an intergalactic mission to seek out the lost ‘tribes’ of humanity. Set aboard The Destroyer, they were joined by Admiral Efram Asimov (Jay Garner), scientist Dr Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White), alien Hawk (Thom Christopher) and prissy robot Crichton (voiced by Jeff David).
Following a stunning HD ‘Twiki’, the Technicolor disco-era sci-fi adventure is back and it looks and sounds better than ever. Boasting impressive sets and special effects (the spaceships, matt paintings and stargates all echoing the show’s comic book origins), and lots of big-hair, slinky outfits and sparkling lipgloss, as well as a great theme tune, this is one cult TV series that deserves a revisit. Let the adventures begin anew…
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is available on Blu-ray in the UK from Fabulous Films
DISC-BY-DISC EPISODE GUIDE
• Awakening: Awoken in the year 2491, Buck goes on trial, accused by being in league with Draconian Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and her henchman Kane (Henry Silva). The feature-length opener was helmed by Daniel Haller, the former art director of the Corman-Price-Poe films.
• Planet of the Slave Girls: Jack Palance chews the scenery as a Messianic slave trader plotting to invade the Earth. This feature-length episode also has Buster Crabbe (aka the original Buck Rogers from the 1930s serials) making a cameo, as well as Roddy (Batman‘s Bookworm) McDowall and McDonald Carey (These Are The Damned).
• Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Theatrical version of the pilot episode in Standard Definition.
• Vegas in Space: A notorious smuggler (Cesar Romero, aka Batman‘s The Joker) seeks help in rescuing his ‘daughter’ from a crime boss (Richard Lynch).
• The Plot to Kill a City: Frank Gorshin (Batman‘s The Riddler) guests as the leader of a group of terrorists with unique abilities trying to sabotage New Chicago’s anti-matter power plant. Watch out for Anthony James (aka The Chauffeur in Burnt Offerings) as the deformed Varek.
• The Return of the Fighting 69th: A gang of oldies (led by Peter Graves) set out to stop the vengeful Corliss (Robert Quarry) from releasing a nerve gas.
• Unchained Woman: Buck springs a female inmate (Jamie Lee Curtis) from a penal colony, only to encounter a malfunctioning android prison guard.
• Planet of the Amazon Women: Jay Robinson (aka Dr Shrinker) guests a slave trader who auctions male prisoners off to the female population of the planet Xantia.
• Cosmic Wiz Kid: Gary ‘What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?’ Coleman plays Hieronymous Fox, a child super-genius who gets kidnapped by Ray ‘Uncle Martin’ Walston.
• Escape from Wedded Bliss: Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and her cronies, Tigerman (HB Haggerty) and Kane (now played by Michael Ansara) return with an alien weapon.
• Cruise Ship to the Stars: A beauty queen (Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten) is targeted by a transmute (Kimberly Beck and Trisha Boble) who is plotting to sell her genetics on the black market. Watch out for Return of the Fly‘s Brett Halsey as the Cruise Ship Captain. Tragically, Stratten was murdered eight months after this episode aired.
• Space Vampire: Buck and Wilma encounter a freighter crew infected by a mysterious virus. This week’s guest stars included Christopher Stone (aka Jaime Somers’ love interest in The Bionic Woman).
• Happy Birthday, Buck: Dr Huer finds an assassin is out to get him, while Buck turns bodyguard for a psychic (Dallas‘ Morgan Brittany). Blackploitation star Tamara ‘Cleopatra’ Dobson also guest stars.
• A Blast for Buck: Theo tries to solve a riddle in this clip show, which sees Gary Coleman back as Hieronymous Fox.
• Ardala Returns: The pesky princess and Kane create a clone of Buck.
• Twiki is Missing: John P Ryan (It’s Alive, Class of 1999) guests as a mining operator who sends out his psychic enforcers (including Dr Strange‘s Eddie Benton) to steal Twiki.
• Olympiad: US soap star Judith Chapman seeks Buck’s help to help her boyfriend defect from his repressive home world. This patriotic episode also guest starred Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ Paul Mantee.
• A Dream of Jennifer: A host of familiar names crop in this episode in which Buck is lured into a trap set by the warring Kovens, including Mary Woronov, Paul Koslo, Anne Lockhart and even Dennis Haysbert (who would go onto play an assortment of roles on the show).
• Space Rockers: Mind-altering music frequencies from popular band Andromeda are used to cause the galaxy’s youth to riot. Broadway star Jerry Orbach is the guest villain, and the funky song causing all the chaos was composed by Johnny Harris.
• Buck’s Duel to the Death: A ruthless warlord with a cybernetic implant (exploitation actor William Smith) challenges Buck.
• Flight of the War Witch: Princess Ardala is forced to help Buck go to the aid of the Pendarans, who are being ruled by an enemy race, the Zaads. Batman’s Julie Newmar is the War Witch, while other guest stars include Sam Jaffe, Vera Miles and Sid Haig. Available in two parts and as a feature-length episode.
• Time of the Hawk: Season Two sees Buck, Wilma and Twiki join the crew of The Searcher and provides a great introduction for new character, Hawk: a part-human/part-bird alien with links to Easter Island.
• Journey to the Oasis: This two-parter sees Star Trek‘s Mark Lenard guest starring as Wilma’s former love interest and an ambassador that The Searcher escorts to a peace conference.
• The Guardians: Buck must fulfill his promise to a dying man in taking a cursed box to its new keeper (Harry Townes). The Outer Limits‘ Control Voice Vic Perrin plays the original Guardian, Star Trek‘s BarBara Luna is Koori and Buck’s mum is The Partridge Family‘s Rosemary DeCamp.
• Mark of the Saurian: Reptilian beings in human form give Buck nightmares. The Leech Woman‘s Kim Hamilton and Coffy‘s Barry Cahill guest star.
• The Golden Man: An alien with molecular-altering powers is sought out in a bid to save the Searcher from being destroyed. Dukes of Hazzard‘s Bruce M Fischer, voice actor Roger Rose and Anthony James guest star.
• The Crystals: Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays a young girl on the planet Philoctetes is discovered to have a genetic link with a marauding mummy.
• The Satyr: Buck starts turning into a mythological creature while searching for lost colonists on the planet Arcadis. This episode scored the show’s only Emmy (for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition) and was directed by Victor French (from Little House on the Prairie fame).
• Shgoratchx! Seven dwarves with telekinetic powers cause trouble and strife for the Searcher crew. Terror of Tiny Town‘s Billy Curtis and future Ewok Tony Cox guest star.
• The Hand of Goral: Buck, Hawk and Wilma find themselves on board a duplicate of the Searcher.
• Testimony of a Traitor: William Sylvester (Devil Doll, 2001: A Space Odyssey) guests as Buck goes on trial for high treason.
• The Dorian Secret: A Dorian warship threatens to destroy the Searcher unless a woman hiding a deadly secret be handed over to them. This was the final episode of the series.
• Journey to Oasis: This is the two-part syndicated version of another Daniel Haller-directed episode.
The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen: Volume Two (1961-1964) | Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts and First Men in the Moon
From Indicator/Powerhouse comes three more classic Ray Harryhausen adventures presented with brand new 2K and 4K restorations, and containing a wealth of new and archival extras. Here’s the lowdown…
American Civil War prisoner Captain Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig) escapes in a balloon with other Confederate officers and a war correspondant Gideon Spillet (Gary Merril, aka Bette Davis’s ex) and end up on an unknown island in the Pacific along with shipwrecked aristocrats, Lady Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and her niece Elena (Beth Rogan). Holed up in a cave they nickname the Granite House, the plucky castways encounter strange creatures, pirates, an angry volcano and the charismatic Captain Nemo (beautifully underplayed by a blonde Herbert Lom).
This action-filled adventure, loosely based on Jules Verne’s 1874 novel, provides a field day for special effects man Ray Harryhausen, who conjures up a magnificent menagerie of oversized critters: including a giant crab (whose carapace was bought from Harrods Food Hall), a prehistoric Phorusrhacos (which looks like an oversized cassowary), a hive of bees, and a slumbering multi-tentacled cephalopod.
The picturesque Spanish locations (including Sa Conca Bay in Catalonia, and some others that would later be used in Jason and the Argonauts), evocative production design (especially the Nautilus and its Victorian-futuristic paraphernalia) and atmospheric score from composer Bernard Herrmann are an added delight to Harryhausen’s fantastical-take on a Boy’s Own-styled castaway adventure.
• 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• Mono and 5.1 surround sound audio options
• 2012 audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton (This is thoroughly enjoyable, and I love it when a genuinely surprised Ray keeps commenting on how sharp everything looks in the restoration – especially as he used filters to soften the actor’s faces in the first place. He also reveals many of his camera tricks, including using a cardboard cut-out for the Phorusrhacos)
• Audio commentary with film historians Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joyner and Steven C. Smith (having heard everything from the master himself, I might leave this for a rainy day)
• Archive interview with Ray Harryhausen (featuring many of his storyboards)
• 2017 interview with actor Michael Craig (who talks about the difficulty of trying to act against an invisible crab on a beach filled with onlookers)
• 2017 interview with clapper loader Ray Andrew (who gives an entirely different account of that crab story)
• 2017 interview Kim Newman (on the shared cinematic universe of Jules Verne)
• Mysterious Magic: 2017 interview with visual effects animator Hal Hickel (on the huge impact Harryhausen’s work had on his career)
• Islands of Mystery: vintage black and white featurette (this one really beefs the film up – making you expect more monsters)
• Super 8 version (a cut-down version, in colour, with a narrator to paste over the gaps)
• Back to Mysterious Island: A preview of the 2008 Bluewater Comic that re-imagines the adventure for a younger generation (colourful, but not my cuppa tea, sorry)
• Isolated Bernard Herrmann score (just perfect to listen to over and over)
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Image gallery
With his father’s kingdom in the hands of a tyrant, Jason (Todd Armstrong) sets sail with the bravest men of all of Greece aboard the Argo on a quest for the Golden Fleece. Along the way, they encounter a host of mythical creatures and rescue Medea (Nancy Kovack), the high priestess of Colchis, who soon causes problems for the crew when she falls in love with Jason…
This spectacular mythological adventure marked the pinnacle in the career of Ray Harryhausen. A landmark in the history of movie special effects, it was this film that inspired many a budding young film-maker – from Nick Park to Peter Jackson (who provides one of the commentaries in this Indicator/Powerhouse release) and – on a personal note – fuelled my love for myths, fantasy and ancient history.
Harryhausen’s Dynamation effects are delivered with amazing imagination (and took him almost two years to complete). Jason’s climactic sword fight with a band of resurrected skeletons remains the film’s highlight of course, while the other weird creatures including the giant bronze automaton (Ray’s take on the Colossus of Rhodes), a band of hungry harpies (who torture poor old Patrick Troughton) and the magnificient seven-headed Hydra.
As well as Troughton, a host of other recognisable British actors provide great support, including Laurence Naismith and Nigel Green as Argus and Hercules, Douglas Wimer as Jason’s nemesis Pelias, amd Michael Gwynn and Honor Blackman as Olympians Hermes and Hera. This truly is the greatest mythical adventure film ever made.
• 4K restoration from the original camera negatives (despite the odd flashes of grain, this really is the best presentation of Harryhausen’s film we shall ever see)
• English mono and English 5.1 surround sound audio options
• Audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalston (This one is filled with lots of behind-the-scnes anecdotes, some we’ve heard before on the other commentaries, and much of it is also explored in the three books that Ray and Tony have published – which are also a must have)
• Audio commentary with film-maker Peter Jackson and Randy Cook (Also very interesting, as Peter and Randy cover the film’s influence and legacy, although some of their conjecture is cleared up in the Harryhausen commentary)
• Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards
• The Harryhausen Legacy: archival documentary
• Ray Harryhausen interviewed by John Landis
• The Harryhausen Chronicles: archival documentary narrated by Leonard Nimoy
• Original trailers & TV spots
• Previews (Ghostbusters, Close Encounters, 20 Millions Miles to Earth, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 7th Voyage of Sinbad)
• Image gallery
The world is shocked when a team of United Nations astronauts land on the Moon in 1964 only to discover that the Victorian British beat them to it – back in 1899!
In a Dymchurch nursing home, they track down the only survivor of the expedition, 91-year-old Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd)… Bedford then tells the assembled investigators how he travelled to the Moon with his fiancée Kate (Martha Hyer) and inventor Professor Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) in a spaceship which Cavor had coated with a revolutionary anti-gravity paste. And what did they find living beneath the Moon’s surface? Only an insectoid population with advanced technological know-how.
HG Wells’ 1901 science fiction tale gets the Dynamation treatment from Harryhausen and his 20 Million Miles to Earth director Nathan Juran, based on a screenplay by Nigel Kneale, who was best known for his Quatermass series.
This is entertaining yarn finds Lionel Jeffries going full pelt with his cranky inventor act, while the always stalwart Judd provides some energetic heroics. Martha Hyer’s Kate, meanwhile, is a spirited and feisty creation that was not in Wells’ original novel, but proves to be most welcomed here (and not just on account of her looks).
The film’s stand out creature is the giant caterpillar-like ‘moon-bull’, while the Selenites (actually kids in rubber suits) could easily have come out of a classic Doctor Who adventure or even Lost in Space (which Juran would later direct). Boasting great production values in spite of its limited budget, and having a great sense of Victoriania, this is million times better than the 1967 Jules Verne-pastiche Rocket to the Moon and a Harryhausen adventure that I can happily revisit time and again.
• 4K restoration from the original camera negatives (It looks fantastic, especially the sequences involving the lunar surface and the Selenites’ underground city).
• Mono and 5.1 surround sound audio options
• Audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Tony Dalton and Randy Cook (there’s a wealth of information on offer here from the trio, with Harryhausen spending a lot of time chuckling at the film’s more comic elements, like Jeffries’ performance and improbably science. But then Ray does say, ‘you should never over analyse fantasy’. Now that’s something I totally agree with. He also reveals that his major influence for the stairs leading to the Grand Lunar’s throne room was 1935’s She – which was produced by Merian C Cooper, whose King Kong inspired Harryhausen in the first place).
• An introduction by Harryhausen fan Randy Cook
• Tomorrow the Moon: This vintage featurette is my favourite extra as it combines behind-the-scenes footage of the film (featuring producer Charles Schneer, Harryhausen and Juran, and some of the sets, and models) with the real-life US Apollo space project.
• 2017 interviews with special effects assitant Terry Schubert (who reveals how all the effects were created in a small space on a Slough trading estate); production manager Ted Wallis, clapper loader Ray Andrew (who has some great memories of cinematographer Wilkie Cooper) and title designer Sam Suliman (who wasn’t impressed with his titles).
• Isolated score by Laurie Johnson
• Trailer commentary from John Landis (who quickly runs out things to say)
• Image gallery
Read about the First Volume of The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen HERE.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) | Jack Arnold’s big-screen adaptation of the sci-fi classic remains a gripping must-see
Businessman Scott Carey (The Monolith Monsters‘ Grant Williams) and his wife Louise (Randy Stuart) are holidaying on a boat off the Californian coast when Scott is enveloped in a strange mist. Six months later, his body starts shrinking – an inch a week – which confounds the scientific world, turns Scott into a national curiosity, and causes him to lapse into a deep depression.
But when Scott starts shrinking at an ever-increasing rate, he’s soon propelled into a terrifying situation in which he becomes trapped in the basement of his home after narrowly escaping death at the hands of the family cat. Believing him dead, Louise makes plans to move, while Scott must try and find the inner strength to face even more dangers, including one very large, very aggressive spider…
Based on the 1956 novel (The Shrinking Man) by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), with a script adapted by Matheson himself, and directed by 1950s sci-fi king Jack Arnold (Creature from The Black Lagoon), this is one of the finest science-fiction films of all time.
Thanks to the expertly-designed set-ups in which Scott’s plight becomes more desperate, tense and gruelling, Arnold’s sci-fi is a thrilling ride from start to finish – and it’s all highlighted by the superbly-realised special effects – the best involving Scott going to war with the spider and a scene in which he braves a puddle-turned-maelstrom.
Rare for science fiction films of the era is that Matheson’s profound ending is kept in tact – and it’s all the better for it as we see Scott undergo an existential transformation and becomes resolved to his fate that he will continue to shrink until he is finally at one with the universe… It’s a conclusion that startles, but is also surprisingly uplifting.
Trivia buffs might like to know that the film’s tabby cat, Orangey (also known as Rhubarb) was trained and owned by Lassie and Benji animal trainer Frank Inn, and he also appeared in This Island Earth (1955), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1957) and The Comedy of Terrors (1964); while the trumpet solo heard over the opening credits is by Ray Anthony, the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Arrow Video’s UK Blu-ray debut of The Incredible Shrinking Man features an in-depth documentary on Jack Arnold; an interview with Matheson’s son, author Richard Christian Matheson; audio commentary; new sleeve artwork and a collector’s booklet; as well as a Super-8 presentation of the film.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) | The Jules Verne adventure classic starring James Mason thrills again in 4k
A landmark in Hollywood adventure film-making, 20th Century Fox’s 1959 adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1864 sci-fi novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, thrills again following a glorious 4k restoration.
Five years after playing Captain Nemo in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, James Mason stepped into the shoes of another classic Verne character – geologist Otto Lidenbrok (renamed Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook), who leads a daring mission into the bowels of the Earth after discovering a hidden message from Icelandic pioneeer Arne Saknussemm.
Tagging along is dedicated ‘Scottish’ geology student Alec McEwan (Pat Boone), the widow of Lindenbrook’s late partner, Carla (Arlene Dahl), and local Icelander Hans (Pétur Ronson) and his pet duck Gertrude. Heading down a fissure inside the Snæfellsjökull volcano, the amateur explorers soon find themselves in a world within a world populated by prehistoric creatures and strange natural phenomena. But following close behind is Saknussemm’s murderous descendent (Thayer David), who wants to claim the centre of the Earth for his own…
No matter how many times I have watched this film, I never tire of it. It’s a masterclass in adventure film-making and a big influence on Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (check out the rolling boulder) and Jurassic Park. The colourful subterranean sets are spectacular and work seamlessly with the gorgeously lit scenes shot in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, while composer Bernard Hermann fills the colourful cavernous landscape with a tremendous music score that makes everything seem ominous and outer wordly.
Of the 11 prehistoric animals that appeared in Verne’s novel, only a couple end up on screen – a family of dimetrodons and a giant megalosaurus. And although they are just magnified rhinoceros iguanas with glued-on fins and a painted Tegu lizard, they’re still pretty effective and way better than the ones in Irwin Allen’s The Lost World.
James Mason is a joy to watch playing the ever curious scientist. But he wasn’t the producers original choice. That went to Clifton Webb, who had to drop out after suffering a double hernia. Mason, however, does make a great sparring partner for Arlene Dahl’s plucky widow, and it’s a nice change to see a middle-age romance blossoming before our eyes (you don’t see much of that today on the big screen).
Christian pin-up, singer Pat Boone may not convince as a Scot, but he does make for a fun hero – and also a bit of eye candy as we get to swoon over his lithe surfer bod and deep Californian tan (how very un-Scottish) when he loses his shirt and most of his tartan trousers.
The film’s other star is, of course, Hans’ pet and best friend – Gertrude the Duck. She has so much character (and I love her painted eyes), and provides the film with one of its most memorable (and tearful) scenes. Along with Captain Nemo’s pet sea lion Esmeralda in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gertrude established the tradition of having a loveable critter join its human cast in daring adventures (remember Herbert the Rooster in 1965’s Wargods of the Deep? or Heidi the Dalmatian in 1975’s The Hindenburg?)
Eureka Classics’ 4K restoration really showcases the much-loved adventure’s fantastic production design and sound, making this a must-have in any film collection and one to watch over and over.
- 1080p presentation from a definitive 4K restoration
- Optional stereo PCM soundtrack and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
- Isolated music and effects track (not included on my screener)
- Optional English subtitles
- Audio commentary with actress Diane Baker and film historians Steven C Smith and Nick Redman (not included on my screener so I can’t comment)
- Interview with author Kim Newman (very informative)
- A short clip featuring film’s restoration over the years
- Original theatrical trailer
- Booklet featuring Bosley Crowther’s 1959 New York Times review, archival images and poster gallery, and viewing notes.
Available to purchase here http://amzn.to/2tir1l6