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."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Post Star Wars Sci-Fi Invasion


In Issue 9 (October 1977) of Starlog there was an article about the invasion of Sci-fi films touched off by the release of Star Wars. The article mentions quite a few movies and TV shows, some made it, some didn’t. All release dates are for the US.

A sequel to Star Wars – Empire Strikes Back (May 1980)

When World Collide – As I discussed in this article a number of writers and directors were attached to this over the years but it never materialized.

H.G. Wells’ In the Days of the Comet – Never made

The Return of the Time Machine – Never made

Return From Witch Mountain – Released March 1978

The Cat From Outer Space – Released June 1978

Space Probe – Released December 1979 as The Black Hole

The Thing From Another World – Released in June 1982 as The Thing

Buck Rogers TV Series – Premiered September 1979

Comedy remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man – Although this didn’t get made, it might have become the 1981 comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman.

The Predictor – Not made

Childhood’s End – A couple attempts were made to bring the Arthur C. Clarke classic to the screen, but it still hasn’t happened.

Magna I – I did find a mention of this, with the full title Magna I – Beyond the Barrier Reef, in the May 30th, 1974 issue of The Wilmington Star News but it appears this was never made.

Meteor – Released October 1979

Timescape – Not Made. You can read more about this one in my blog post about it.

Capricorn One – Released June 1978

The Late Great Plant Earth – Released January 1979

End of the World – Release August 1977. You can actually watch this one over at

Spawn Of the Slithis –  Released July 1978

Alien Encounter – Released October 1977 as Starship Invasions in the US.

Gift From a Red Planet – Released May 1978 as The Alpha Incident in the US.

The Incredible Adventure - Unknown

Rocket Ship X Flies Again - Unknown

Skywatch - Unknown

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Thing

In issue 14 (June 1978) of Starlog is this article about a remake of The Thing:

William F. Nolan, co-author of Logan's Run, award winning script writer of Burnt Offerings, has been signed by Universal to script a "remake" of the old Howard Hawkes horror-classic, The Thing. "This won't be just a rehash," Nolan said. "I'm going back to the original story, Who Goes There? by Campbell to utilize many values which were ignored the first time around." Nolan's thing won't be a walking talking carrot!

The Things remake eventually did happen, but not until 1982 under the direction of John Carpenter. The William F. Nolan screenplay was not used, instead it was written by Bill Lancaster, the son of actor Burt Lancaster. It interesting to note that his only other writing credits are for the Bad News Bears movies and TV show.

If you are interested in reading the Nolan screenplay it has been published in a book along with John W. Campell’s novella “Who Goes There?” which is the basis for both the original The Thing and the 1982 remake. According to this message board post from the publisher, the Nolan version of the screenplay emphasized the paranoia elements of the story and downplayed the creature/horror elements. I could definitely see a movie like this being very compelling, but I also think the bizarre and sometimes disturbing creature effects used in the remake really make it a great movie.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back Rumors


In issue 31 of Starlog (Feb 1980) there was an article summarizing the various rumors that were floating around about The Empire Strikes Back. Lets take a look at how accurate they were.

What was right

  • Obi-Wan will be in Empire.
  • Obi-Wan will appear as an ephemeral shape that one can faintly see through.
  • On the ice planet Hoth the Rebels are attacked by Stormtroopers.
  • There will be a new character named Lando Calrissian who might be good or might be bad.
  • Lando is an old friend of Han and actually sold him the Falcon. (He didn’t sell it, but close enough)
  • New bad guy named Boba Fett who is a bounty hunter.
  • Boba Fett will be played by one actor and voiced by another.
  • The Emperor will make an appearance.
  • The movie concludes with a fierce light saber duel between Luke and Vader.
  • Vader is Luke’s father. (Spoiler!)
  • We will see Vader without his mask. (Sort of, from behind)
  • Stop motion animation will be used more extensively in Empire.

What was sort of right

  • Chewie is taken prisoner on Hoth and Han must rescue him. Another variation of the rumors says Han is is taken prisoner. (The taken prisoner part was right, they just got the details wrong)
  • Han has a light saber duel with Vader towards the end of the movie. (They just got the character wrong)
  • Boba is a remnant of the old Imperial Shocktroopers. (This isn’t to far off, but we don’t learn this in Empire)
  • Boba was not a Shocktrooper but merely adopted their uniform. (Also sort of true, but again we don’t learn this in Empire).
  • Boba Fett works for which ever side pays him he most and he plays both sides when he can get away with it. (Definitely in character for Boba but this doesn’t happen in Empire)
  • Ben killed Luke’s father. (True, from a certain point of view)
  • “Princess Leia is captured by Stormtroopers and delivered to Darth Vader who, by use of the Force, seduces her into betraying Luke and Han.” (Leia is captured and used to lure Luke, so this isn’t completely wrong)

What was wrong

  • Only Obi-Wan’s disembodied voice will be in Empire.
  • Han Solo is killed.
  • Mark Hamill doesn’t want to be in Star Wars 3 (Jedi) so Luke is killed.
  • Obi-Wan will appear in flashbacks.
  • The Emperor will be played by Orson Wells or Christopher Lee.
  • Ben is Luke’s father.
  • We learn in Empire why Vader wears a mask.
  • “On a jungle planet, where Luke and Han are seeking allies against the Empire, the two enlist a race of winged aliens called the Quarrels.”
  • “The Rebels visit three different planets in Empire, and there are different races of intelligent creatures on each one.” or “The Rebels visit three different planets, but none have indigenous sentient life.” (They did visit three planets, Hoth, Bespin and Dagobah but neither of these descriptions is accurate.)
  • “Through the use of the Force, Luke persuades Darth Vader of the error of his ways and convinces him to enlist with the Rebels against the Empire.”

What was just plain out there

  • “Luke and C-3PO are captured by a horrendous alien (stop-motion animated, the story goes) who dumps them into a tank-like prison filled with a breathable liquid. The only way the alien can be killed (shades of Dracula) is to drive a metal stake through his heart. The only metal around, unfortunately, is C-3PO; and Luke melts the 'droid down to fabricate the weapon.”
  • “The Millennium Falcon falls into a black hole—with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and Darth Vader aboard—and travels through time.”
  • “The special-effects team at Industrial Light and Magic, near San Francisco, have been working on an experimental process that uses holography and makes it possible for an image of the Millennium Falcon to fly off the screen and up the projection beam.”
  • “In their travels, Luke, Leia and Han en-counter a female villain, a sort of ‘Queen of Outer Space’ “
  • “Relating vaguely to that black hole rumor, it is said that Han Solo and Chewie land on a desert planet where they meet time travelers from Earth's 13th century who are trying to fight off Stormtroopers with catapults and crossbows.” (Of course the “fight off Stormtroopers with catapults and crossbows” sort of came true in Jedi)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013



From Issue 3 (January 1977) comes this piece of news:


Saul David— who brought us Logan's Run— is hard at work on a new film, Timescape, which is being scripted by David and Simon Wincelberg— to be filmed here and in England (if early plans pan out) in 1977. The story is "a contemporary adventure drama dealing with the dimensions of time as it relates to events of the past and future." Saul David said the movie will contain some of the elements of Logan's Run but will be "farther out, intellectually."

A quote from Shimon Wincelbreg (Shimon is his real name, but he did sometimes write under the name Simon) in this article by John Kenneth Muir confirmed that this project never went anywhere:

"Saul [David] and I were working on an MGM project that never got made, Timescape. He asked me to write for Logan's Run, so I came up with a story."

It’s a shame nothing ever came of this because Shimon was a fairly prolific TV writer, and wrote for quite a few sci-fi series including Lost in Space, the original Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and the Logan’s Run TV series.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Film Fantasy Calendar December 1988


At some point in the 80’s Starlog added a monthly column called the “Film Fantasy Calendar” which gave the anticipated release date for upcoming sci-fi and fantasy movies. I am not sure why they called it the “Film Fantasy” calendar, maybe because a lot of the dates and some of the movies turned out to be a fantasy! Let’s see how they did with this one. The dates after the movie title are the actual release dates. The calendar only provided titles, so it can be a little difficult to figure out some of these.


Scrooged – 11/23/1988

Oliver & Company – 11/13/1988

Vengeance: The Demon – 1/13/1989 (as Pumpkinhead)

The Land Before Time – 11/18/1988

Watchers – 12/2/1988

Cocoon: The Return – 11/23/1988

Hellhound: Hellraiser II – 12/23/1988


My Stepmother is an Alien – 12/9/1988

Winter/Spring 1989

Second Sight – 11/3/1989

Millennium – 8/25/1989

The Fly II – 2/10/1989

The Punisher – 10/5/1989

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – 3/10/1989

SpiderMan – The only thing I can find related to Spiderman at that time is a fan film called Viva Spider-Man.

Warlock – 1/11/1991

Nightbreed – 2/16/1990

Witch Hunt – Not sure what this is. Maybe it was a working title for Warlock and they did realize it was the same movie.

Parents – 1/27/1989

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure – 2/17/1989

Summer 1989

Ghostbusters II – 6/16/1989

Back to the' Future II – 11/22/1989

Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade – 5/24/1989

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – 6/9/1989

Batman – 6/23/1989

The Abyss – 8/9/1989

License Revoked – 7/14/1989 (as License to Kill)

Grounded  - This could be Tremors which was released in January of 1990. The title Grounded sort of fits that movie.

Leviathan – 3/17/1989

Sgt. Rock – Arnold Schwarzenegger had planned to play the title role in this film but it never materialized.

Winter 1989

The Little Mermaid – 11/17/1989

Strat – See my post about this movie.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Battleground: Earth

I have talked about a few movies that were mentioned in Starlog but never materialized, and I am sure I will cover quite a few more of these. There are also projects mentioned in Starlog that took a long time to become a reality. One of example of this comes from Issue 7 (August 1977). In the Star Trek Report column it talks about some of the other projects that Gene Roddenberry had in the works including this one:

Another possible Roddenberry project is a pilot for CBS television called Battleground: Earth. Set in Earth's immediate future, the series deals with subversive infiltration of this planet by a superior alien race. The pilot script is by Brian McKay (McCabe & Mrs. Miller), based on a story by Gene Roddenberry. We are presently awaiting word from Twentieth Century-Fox on a beginning production date.

This project became a reality 20 years later (and six years after Roddenbery’s death) under the guidance of Majel Barret-Roddenberry, in the form of the syndicated series Earth: Final Conflict. Gene Roddenberry was given the writing credit on the actual pilot episode of the series, but you can read Brian McKay’s original script here. Anyone familiar with the show will find a lot of familiar things in the original script including a lot of the names and the general setup for the story. One of the big differences in the original script (spoiler alert) is that the audience and Boone find out that the Taelons have a clearly nefarious purpose in coming to Earth. The series kept the Taelons intentions a mystery for quite some time and in the end they turn out to not actually be here to conquer the Earth.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mars Exploration


Starlog’s primary focus was sci-fi and fantasy, but they also did articles on science fact, especially about the space program. Just like the fiction news, some times that fact news didn’t come about as expected either.

In issue 6 (June 1977) there was an article about what we would see from NASA as a follow up to the successful Mars Viking mission, he is an excerpt:

The mission that NASA is now working on is the one that many space scientists would have preferred as the initial investigation. It calls for landing a pair of Mars Rovers ("Vikings on Wheels") on that planet's surface in the early 1980's. The Rovers would gather scientific data from several wide-ranging areas and send it to their mother Orbiter for relay to Earth. It is projected that these mission-controlled vehicles could travel up to three  miles a day and help one another as needed.

NASA did have plans for a Mars rover mission in the late 70’s or early 80’s but they never made it off the drawing board. You can read more about them in these two articles from Wired:

Mars Multi-Rover Mission (1977)

A 1979 Mars Rover Mission (1970)

This timeline turned out to be far to optimistic. After Viking the next successful Mars mission wouldn’t come until 1988 with the Russian Phobos 2 mission,  a rover wouldn’t make it to Mars until the NASA Mars Pathfinder mission in 1996, and the plans for dual rovers on Mars would have to wait until the Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Star Wars: The First Mention


One of the fun parts of reading these old issues of Starlog is finding the first mentions of things that went on to be really big deals. The best example of this is Star Wars. It is first mentioned in Starlog in Issue 2 (November 1976), here is the article:

Twentieth Century-Fox is currently completing the filming of their latest science fiction blockbuster, Star Wars. Without any parts of he film even previewed yet, some critics have already heralded Star Wars as, "... everything in science fiction you've always wanted to see on the screen but knew no one would ever put there."

Star Wars is written and directed by George Lucas, the man responsible for THX 1138 and American Graffiti. Producer Gary Kurtz, working with an $8,000,000 budget, has taken Star Wars on location to both Tunisia and London.

Star Wars is about a galaxy-wide civil war set in the distant future when Earth and its past have been entirely forgotten. Sir Alec Guinness plays an old renegade who was a great general in the first Galactic Wars. Mark Hamill plays the film's starring role, Luke Starkiller young adventurer.

Stuart Freeman, the man who designed the spectacular ape costumes for 2001: A Space Odyssey, has created several alien designs and makeups for Star Wars ' large cast. In addition to its basic science-fiction format, Star Wars will also contain elements of fantasy.

Star Wars reportedly won't be ready for release until early 1977, but for those of you who can't wait that long to find out more, Ballantine Books plans to put out a novelization of the movie in bookstores sometime this fall.

Note that there are a couple errors in this article. First, we know Star Wars was set “A Long Time Ago”, not in the future. Next they got Mark Hamill’s character name wrong, although Starkiller was the name used in early drafts of the film. Finally makeup was done by Stuart Freeborn, not Freeman.

In the previous issues there were similar articles about The Man Who Fell to Earth (“..has been gathering rave reviews from all its pre-release showings”), Logan’s Run (“Producer Saul David promises he will deliver an SF extravaganza…”), and Meteor (“… what promises to be a not-to-be-missed special-effect feast..”). Anyone reading these articles at that time would have no reason to think Star Wars was going to be anything more special then these other movies, but we all know how that turned out.

The next mention of Star Wars was in Issue 3 (January 1977):

Twentieth Century-Pox has postponed release dates again for all three of its new sci-fi productions. Originally scheduled for early 1977, Star Wars is now slated for limited release in seventy millimeter format in ten key cities across the country next November, with general release to follow in December. One source did suggest a Memorial Day release. No one is making any promises, though.

The rumor about a November release was totally incorrect. Star Wars was scheduled for a April or May release for quite some time before this issue was published, although it did slip a little bit into it’s final May release date.

I searched through all the Starlog issues from 2 through 51 (I stopped at 51) and there is a mention of Star Wars in every issue with one exception which was ironically the May 1977 issue, the month Star Wars was released. Of course this issue would have been in the works and published long before the release of the movie, but it’s still and interesting piece of trivia. The first issue to provide post release coverage was issue 8 (September 1977).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

David Bowie Movie


I found this in Starlog #2, November 1976:

"Bowie's "The Man Who Fell to Earth" is in current release—and garnering controversial reactions and reviews. Not one to wait for final results to come in, the natural-born alien is hard at work on his second sci-fi entry: Zero Hour, which will be made by British Lion Films.”

I haven’t been able to find any information on this film. Bowie worked on a few more movies in the 70’s but none of them were sci-fi. Based on the title it’s possible that this movie was going to be related to his song Space Oddity. It is interesting to note that British Lion Films was taken over by EMI in 1976 which might have lead to the demise of this project.

Sunday, July 28, 2013



I found this In Issue 136 (November 1988) of Starlog:

“Strat is the newest SF project involving Michael Douglas. It's an $18 million film to be executive produced by Douglas. Lennie Kleinfield scripted the Columbia release, which begins shooting shortly for a Christmas 1989 premiere.”

It also appears in the film calendar in the June 1989 issue still saying it will open in Winter of 1989.

I did some searching and found the author’s web site (note that Starlog had a slight misspelling of the name). I contacted Mr. Klienfeld and he confirmed that this was his screenplay but stated that things didn’t go well during script development. He wasn’t willing to provide more details which I can understand.

It is interesting to note that in the Summer of 1990 Columbia released the movie Flatliners on which Micheal Douglas was one of the producers. Flatliners was written by Peter Filardi , but I still think there is a possibility that Start was an early script for the same movie but it also could have been a totally unrelated project. You can read a interview with Pete Filardi in the June 1990 issue of Starlog.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sword of Shannara


Some of my favorite fantasy books are from Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. I read a number of the books in the series when I was younger and I have recently started to re-read them. On page 16 of Starlog issue 26 (September 1979), there is the following news about the first book Sword of Shannara:

“Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara had been optioned for filming by a new production company called Filme Magicke, Incorporated”

Based on an interview with Brooks in issue 107 of Starlog (June 1986), it appears that this didn’t work out so well.

“The author also has no great desire to see any of his works adapted to the big screen. "I'm scared to death," Brooks admits. "I've seen what they've done to fantasy in other forms and I haven't seen anything that I thought was done well.

'”I sold a movie company an option on The Sword of Shannara and they held it for six years. At the end of that time, they released it  with their last draft of the screenplay and it  was an abortion like you would not have believed. They completely changed the story. Thank God nothing happened. Now, I'm really gun-shy. I think maybe I'm better off if  they don't do anything and let it live out its life the way it was intended, rather than create  Frankenstein on the motion picture screen. I thought the movies butchered Tolkien
[remember this was before Peter Jackson’s movies], and if  they do to my books what they did to Dune, I'll go out and shoot myself."

His attitude towards a movie adaptation must have changed at some point because in 2007, the rights were acquired by Warner Bros. Note that this article is obviously incorrect about the rights never having been optioned before.

But the story doesn’t end there. In 2010 the WB rights expired and in 2012 it was announced that Sonar Entertainment had acquired the rights and plans to develop a TV series based on the books, most likely starting with Elfstones of Shanarra. I just finished re-reading Elfstones and think this is a good place to start a series. As much as I like Sword it follows the Lord of the Rings storyline a little to closely. It will be interesting to see what happens with this project.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

When Worlds Collide

One of the earliest movie rumors I found in Starlog was on page 7 of Issue #1, August 1976.

“With a whopper of a production budget. Universal and Paramount will jointly remake George Pal's classic When Worlds Collide. It has just been announced that Jaws man Stephen Spielberg will direct the film. “

On page 7 of Issue #2, November 1976 there was the following update:

”The script for the new Paramount/Universal remake of When Worlds Collide will be penned by Anthony Burgess, it has just been announced. Producers are Richard D.Zanuck and David Brown. It was previously announced that Jaws director Steven Spielberg would direct Worlds; but now that plans are firmer, John Frankenheimer has been assigned to the task. Production is to begin early in 1977. The film will be based (as was the George Pal version produced in 1951) on the 1932 novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Palmer.”

It was obvious that this remake never happened, but while doing some research I was surprised to learn that Spielberg maintained some interest in this project. In 2005 news surfaced that Spielberg would be producing a When Worlds Collide remake with Stephen Sommers writing and directing. It appears that at some point Spielberg moved to the directors chair, but according to this article the project was put on hold because of Roland Emmerich’s 2012 which has a very similar story. I haven’t found any information that the project is still in the works. It is currently listed with an Unknown status on IMDB.

Starlog Magazine

When I was growing up one of my favorite magazines was Starlog. Published from 1976 until 2009, Starlog was a great source of news about science fiction and fantasy movies and TV shows, especially in the days before the internet.

I have a pretty good collection of Starlog magazines which I still enjoy reading. I recently discovered that has put scans of Starlog online which can be viewed and downloaded in various formats. Their archive currently covers from the first issue in 1976 until March of 1996.

One of the fun parts of reading the old issues is reading the rumors of upcoming movie and TV projects. A lot of these projects came to fruition as described still others took many years to surface and others never saw the light of day.

In this blog I want to take a look at these rumors and see how things actually turned out, or didn’t as the case may be. I will also cover other interesting things I find in the magazine.