Sunday, April 26, 2015

Planet of Horrors

I found this picture in issue 46 (May 1981) of Starlog attached to an article about Roger Corman’s Planet of Horrors (released in the US as Galaxy of Terror.) Bob Skotak went on to do effects work on such big budget films as Aliens, X-Men 2 and Titanic. Not sure what ever happened to the other guy.
Capture

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Alien

 Alien_movie_poster

Alien movie poster by Bill Gold

 

Thanks to the Retroist.com I just learned about a fantastic archive of behind the scenes photos from the 1979 sci-fi/horror movie Alien. When I was growing up I was at the same time fascinated and terrified by this movie. I never saw it in the theaters but eventually did see it on cable, and it continues to be one of my favorite sci-fi films.

The first mention of Alien comes in Starlog Issue 10 (December 1977):

20th Century-Fox plans to take a bit more time in the production of Alien, which is to be filmed in England as well. Directed by Walter Hill and scripted by Dan O'Bannon, the film tells the tale of an alien creature, being transported on a spaceship, who begins to metamorphose into different forms and attacks the crew. O'Bannon, who did the special effects for Dark Star, will handle the SPFX for this film as well.

An article previewing the movie came in Issue 20 (March 1979). This was followed up by a variety of articles over the next few months:

Issue 22 (May 1979): Veronica Cartwright’s Alien Encounters

Issue 23 (June 1979): Special Preview: Alien. It is interesting to note that a couple of the photos in this article have inaccurate captions. A photo of three characters in spacesuits on the planet’s surface is captioned: “Crewmembers Dallas, Ripley and Kane on an exploratory mission that will bring one of them face to face with the greatest of cosmic horrors”. It’s actually Lambert not Ripley in this scene. Another photo is captioned “Engineering Technician Brett makes repairs while Captain Dallas and Navigator Ripley look on. None are yet aware of the unsightly stowaway”. This caption has a couple mistakes. First it shows Lambert not Ripley (although it does correctly state that she is the navigator), second, Brett is not making repairs but is demonstrating a cattle prod to be used to capture the alien, and third, they are aware of the stowaway.

Issue 24 (July 1979): Walter Hill Co-Producer of Alien

Issue 25 (August 1979): The Alien Image

Issue 26 (September 1979): Ridley Scott: Directing ‘Alien’ Through an Artist’s Eyes

Issue 26 (September 1979): H.R. Giger: Behind the Alien Forms

Issue 27 (October 1979): SFX Part XXI: The Special Effects Supervisor: Brian Johnson and Nick Allder on Alien.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Knights of Eden

 

In the wake of the huge success of Star Wars, Disney released the big budget sci-fi film The Black Hole in 1979. The movie had a modest box office and mixed reviews, but it appears Disney was looking at another big budget sci-fi film in the early 80’s The Knights of Eden.

The first mention comes in Starlog Issue 32 (March 1980):

“The Knights of Eden, an SF adventure set in 40th-century Earth, is budgeted at $12 million.”

Next it is mentioned in Starlog Issue 36 (July 1980):

“Another Disney release, Knights of Eden, will not go into production until next year. The story is reportedly Disney's most ambitious special-effects picture since Black Hole. In this science-fantasy epic, the hero is summoned by an alien wizard to help battle a powerful and sinister alien king. Based on the book by Westbrook Claridge, the screenplay was written by Robert Malcolm Young and will be directed by Jerry Courthand. “

The final mention in Starlog is in Issue 44 (March 1981):

“Status: Pre-production. Still some preliminary work to be done on the script. No other information available.”

There is also a mention of this film in Ares Magazine Issue 4 (September 1980):

“Knights of Eden will begin work in 1981. Directed by Jerry Courthand with the screenplay by Robert Malcolm Young, the film is based on Westbrook Claridge's book about a hero summoned by an alien wizard to battle an evil alien king. The special effects will be given heavy priority.”

The book that Westbrook (Wes) Claridge wrote was not something that was ever published but there was a copyright registration in 1969 according to the Copyright Encyclopedia. He did not have any writing credits at this point, but did go on to write for Airwolf and TekWar.

Robert Malcolm Young was primarily a TV writer but he did write the screenplay for another Disney Sci-Fi file, Escape from Witch Mountain as well as the made for TV sequel Beyond Witch Mountain.

The director on the project is referred to as Jerry Courthand in the articles, but I believe the correct name is actually Jerome Courtland who directed a lot of TV episodes around that time including some episodes of Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

I cannot find any mention of this movie after the March 1981 issues of Starlog so it appears that it died in development.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Beyond Westworld

 

westworld

In 1973 the movie Westworld was released on the big screen. Written and directed by Michael Crichton it deals with a theme common to a lot of his books and movies, technology run amok. In this case it is a western themed amusement park populated by life-like robots. You can guess where this goes. This is quite a good movie, especially Yul Brynner’s robot gunslinger character. In 1976 the movie was followed up with the much weaker sequel, Futureworld.

In the November 1979 (Issue 28) or Starlog there is an article about the just completed pilot for a TV spinoff of these movies called Beyond Westworld. The series would follow the story of the Security Chief of the company who created the robots as he peruses an evil scientist who want to use the robots to take over the world. This project actually made it to the screen, but didn’t last long, it ended after only five episodes had been produced. For anyone who is interested you can watch four of the episodes on Youtube.

Episode 1: Westworld Destroyed

Episode2: My Brother’s Keeper

Episode 3: Sound of Terror

Episode 5: Takeover

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Primevals

 

Normally when I run across a movie in Starlog that never made it to the screen, there is very little information to be found on it, but this is not the case with The Primevals.

In the early issues of Starlog there was a series of columns about special effects. The article in the April 1979 (Number 21) issue talked about stop motion animation and featured an interview with animator David Allen. Inspired by stop motion animation great Ray Harryhausen, David started doing work for commercials and then worked on movies like When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and Flesh Gordon in the early 70’s. In 1967, with the help of SFX greats Dennis Muren and Jim Danforth, David conceived the fantasy epic Raiders of the Stone Ring. The movie was eventually pitched the Hammer Films but the project didn’t go anywhere.

David interest in this pet project persisted and he continued to refine the script and it eventually turned into The Primevals. He kept trying to get the film made while continuing his stop motion animation career on movies such as Willow, Ghostbusters II and the Puppetmaster movies. In the early 1990’s he finally got backing to produce the film and did live action filming between 1994 and 1999. Sadly he passed away in August of 1999 at the age of 54, his film never having been completed.

Since the film did get pretty far in it’s development there is a good bit of information on the net about it. First there is a page on the site for David Mosher FX about the film that has pictures of some of the stop motion animation models produced for the film. There is also some good information including concept posters on the Tomb of the Unproduced Horror Movie blog. On YouTube you can find some early footage of the film, the live action portion appear to be of questionable quality, but the stop motion work is quite impressive. Finally, there is even a Facebook Page for the film.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

NASA to Salvage Skylab?

 

image

In Issue #14 (June 1978) of Starlog there was an article about the possibility of salvaging the NASA Skylab Space Station.

“NASA, however, may step in and save the day. The organization is currently studying plans to return to this "Flying Dutchman" of space and attach a rocket stage to the craft for propulsion. The hundred-ton satellite will either be deliberately plunged, kamikaze-like, into the empty south Indian Ocean, or will be boosted back up into a more stable orbit for ultimate repair and re-use. The idea of salvaging Skylab is an exciting prospect for NASA. Coupled with the upcoming Space Shuttle program, Skylab offers the opportunity for long duration space exploration; as well, it could become a valuable space resource which NASA's tight budget could otherwise ill afford. “

“Current plans call for the fifth Space Shuttle flight, early in 1980, to rendezvous with the Skylab. Holding a position several hundred yards away from the derelict craft, the  astronauts will guide a self-propelled robot stage up to the main docking port. Once fastened to the docking area, the rocket stage can be fired either forwards or backwards, depending on the planned fate of the satellite. “

NASA did study the possibility of re-using Skylab and developed a plan that would have used several shuttle flights to re-furbish that station. Unfortunately the 1980 date for the fifth shuttle flight proved to be overly optimistic. The first shuttle didn’t launch until April of 1981 and the 5th flight didn’t happen until November of 1982. The un-controlled re-entry of the station happened on July 11, 1979. Pieces of the station impacted land in western Australia.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Empire Strikes Back: What’s in a Name

In Issue 18 (December 1978) of Starlog there is an interview with Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz that talks about The Empire Strikes Back. I thought this section of the article was rather amusing:

Going along with this long-range concept, the producer refuses to taint the new production with the usual Hollywood sequel slang. The film, for instance, is never referred to in Lucas-Kurtz circles as Star Wars II. "I would never call it that," Kurtz winces. "Our working title is The Empire Strikes Back. And as I said, it's part of a plan that George and I had from the inception of the original film. What we wanted to do was to relate every subsequent Star Wars adventure as an episode of a continuing story, like the old movie serials used to do. We were going to call this movie Star Wars Episode Two: The Empire Strikes Back, but we ran into some problems. You see, although this story is a direct sequel to the first movie, we have three more stories that we eventually want to film that actually occur before the point where the first Star Wars begins.

"So we've been toying with the idea of ignoring the numbers completely. Instead, we'll give each movie episode a unique title. I mean, if we had to give each film its true number in the series, this movie would be called Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back. The first film would be called Episode Four! Can you imagine how complicated it would get? If we released a story like that publicly through a press release,  thousands of people would be totally con-  fused. Everyone would want to know what happened to the other three movies."