Thursday, October 24, 2013


In January of 1979, Adam West and Burt Ward returned to the television roles that they had made famous in 1966 - DC Comics super-heroes Batman & Robin - for a prime time comedy special - The Challenge Of The Superheroes! This live-action NBC "event," produced by Hanna-Barbara Productions (producers of the Saturday morning animated series, Super Friends, for ABC), pitted eight DC heroes against seven super villains, and was the first (and in some cases, only) live-action appearances of many of them.

Aside from West and Ward, the cast included Garrett Craig as Captain Marvel, Howard Murphy as the Green Lantern, Bill Nuckols as Hawkman, Barbara Joyce as The Huntress, Rod Haase as The Flash, Alfie Wise as The Atom, Danuta Rylko Soderman as the Black Canary, and William Schallert as "Scarlet Cyclone/Retired Man." Superman was unavailble to the producers as he was currently headlining his own theatrical film series. Likewise, Wonder Woman was not included as she was starring in her own series for rival network CBS at the time.

This special was followed soon thereafter with a parody of the Dean Martin Roasts, called (logically enough) The Superhero Roast, and featured the same cast. Collectively, these two programs are known as The Legends Of The Superheroes, and for decades, were popular bootleg videos at comic book conventions. These days, they're legally available on MOD DVD from Warner Archive.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Obit: Lou Scheimer R.I.P.

Sad news - Lou Scheimer, the man who (with his partners Norm Prescott and Hal Sutherland) brought 70s Star Kids such Saturday morning favorites as the Emmy Award-winning Star Trek - The Animated Series, Ark II, Space Academy, Jason Of Star Command, Shazam!, Isis, Blackstar, and the best screen adaptation of Flash Gordon ever, has passed away at age 84.

I can't begin to express how much those Filmation shows impacted me as a kid and influenced the person I've become. It was clear that Scheimer personally loved science fiction and fantasy, and his studio seemed to always have a genre show on the air on one network or another throughout the 70s.

Not only did he produce the shows, but he provided narration and character voices to almost every show he made. Sure, it was partly a cost-saving measure (Filmation was notorious for their low budgets), but there was clearly a lot of enthusiasm in his voice work. You can't listen to his vocal performance as Ark II's chimpanzee Adam, for instance, without hearing the fun he's having in his voice.

One of these days, I'm going to have to write up a Hall Of Fame post for the guy - he was that influential. 

Rest in peace, Lou.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New BUCK ROGERS (1979) Soundtrack From Intrada

I haven't seen (or heard) this myself, but I understand that Intrada has recently issued a 3-CD Special Edition soundtrack containing the majority of music cues from the first season of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, composed by Stu Phillips, Johnny Harris, Les Baxter and others. According to the company:
3-CD world premiere release of soundtrack music from Season One of cult sci-fi TV series starring Gil Gerard. Generous set features primary episode composer Johnny Harris, who also arranged & conducted numerous versions of Glen A. Larson theme music, plus episode scores from Les Baxter, Richard LaSalle, Stu Phillips. Styles of music emphasize exciting symphonic splendor and colorful sci-fi atmosphere, but listeners will also find some rollicking outer space pop sensibilitiy to balance. While show was broadcast only in mono, Universal fortunately elected to record in 1/2" three-channel stereo format with vivid, punchy dynamics. Engineers recorded with mono in mind but happily ensured stereo mixes were possible for internal needs. All rolls of tape were vaulted in pristine condition
It retails for a hefty $35 bucks - which is why I don't have it. But I really want it. And I'll want the Season Two set they're promising, too. Sigh...

It doesn't seem to be currently available from Amazon, but it can apparently be ordered directly from the Intrada website (where you can find a complete track listing, as well).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Space: 1970 Hall Of Fame: Mark Lenard

For some time, I've been toying with creating a new Space: 1970 "feature," the Hall Of Fame.

The idea is to spotlight figures of great influence over the science fiction films and television shows of the Space: 1970 era - writers, directors, artists, producers and actors. I thought I'd kick that feature off today with a remembrance of the great character actor Mark Lenard, born on this day in 1924.

Even if he had just portrayed the noble Romulan Commander in Star Trek's first season episode "Balance of Terror," he would have made an indelible mark on the memories of the generation's Star Kids, but he also unforgettably played Spock's father Sarek (despite only being about 5 years older than Leonard Nimoy) in "Journey to Babel" (and the Animated Series, two Trek feature films and a couple episodes of The Next Generation) giving us all greater insight into our favorite Vulcan First Officer's personal history and psyche.

And then, to make it a perfect Trek hat trick, he also portrayed a Klingon captain - the first Klingon we ever saw with the famous ridged forhead - in 1979's Star Trek - The Motion Picture!

So, just within the confines of a single franchise, Lenard was a notable presence in the Space: 1970 firmament. But, as they say in late night infomercials, "wait - there's more!"

When Planet Of The Apes came to television as a weekly series in 1974, Lenard was cast as General Urko, the gorilla officer tasked with hunting down the fugitive human astronauts Burke and Virdon.

In 1979, he was the evil Emperor Thorval of the Cliffhangers serial, The Secret Empire, where he ruled the aforementioned subterranean locale as absolute dictator with ambitions of ruling the surface world as well. He also had a memorable role as an alien ambassador - and former flame of Wilma Deering! - in the second season Buck Rogers episode, "Journey To Oasis."

Additionally, Lenard appeared in the third season episode of The Incredible Hulk, "Captive Night." Surprisingly, he never guested on either of the "bionic" shows...

With nearly 60 film and television credits (mostly TV, where he was a reliable episodic guest star on many shows), Lenard was a familiar face and voice to audiences of the 60s and 70s, and to science fiction fans in particular. I remember how the theater erupted in applause when he made his dramatic entrance in Star Trek III - The Search For Spock.

Mark Lenard passed away on November 22nd, 1996.
A Tip of The Space Helmet: While it is true that I had been thinking about this sort of feature for the last couple years, and even called it the "Hall of Fame" in conversations with my wife, the kick in the backside that finally started me putting it together came from friend of the blog Jason Shepherd. Earlier this year, he suggested the same "Hall of Fame" idea to me in an e-mail, and even suggested some people that would be worthy of honoring. So, thanks, Jason!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #45: ARK II

Hollywood sci-fi legend Robby The Robot awaits his cue on location during filming of Filmation's 1976 post-Apocalyptic adventure series, Ark II. In the episode, Robby portrayed Alpha-One, a robot created by Ark II crewmember Samuel (José Flores), who nobly sacrifices himself to save his organic comrades. 

A much in-demand automaton, Robby guested on a number of Space: 1970 favorites, including Project U.F.O., Space Academy, Wonder Woman and Mork & Mindy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976) Lobby Cards

Of all the John Dark/Kevin Connor/Doug McLure adventure fantasies of the Seventies, I think At The Earth's Core is my favorite. Mostly because of the presence of Caroline Munro, I admit, although I'm also grateful for Peter Cushing's inclusion in the cast.

I also enjoy the bizarro man-in-suit creatures created by the filmmakers to stand-in for the prehistoric beasties of Edgar Rice Burroughs' original novel. Their fanciful designs frankly delight me. I can only assume that the producer/director team of Dark and Connor chose not to use dinosaurs in Core order to differentiate this flick from their Time Forgot films.

Friday, October 4, 2013


A year or more back, I shared a rare TV spot for 1979's Kenneth Johnson-produced NBC genre oddity, Cliffhangers!, but that vid has since been removed from YouTube (and thus this site, as well). Fortunately, I stumbled across a different, one-minute network promo today, and here it is - for as long as it stays available.

Cliffhangers! was a modern "take" on the theatrical movie serials of the 30s and 40s, composed of three, 15-minute chapters of three different ongoing stories in each episode.

The one that most fit in with the Space: 1970 aesthetic was "The Secret Empire," an update/rip-off of the 1935 Gene Autry vehicle, The Phantom Empire. Both dealt with cowboys battling the inhabitants of secret underground scientific super-cities. In the Cliffhangers! version, the leader of the villains was portrayed by none other than Mark Lenard of Star Trek and the Planet Of the Apes television series, and the cowboy hero didn't sing a song in each installment.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SPACE STARS (1981) DVD Art Revealed

As noted back in July, the manufacture-on-demand wing of Warner Home Video, Warner Archive, plans to bring the 1981 Hanna-Barbara Saturday-morning animated series, Space Stars, to DVD this Fall. The DVD key art above has recently appeared online, so I thought I'd share it here.

With this show, Hanna-Barbara and NBC jumped on the post-Star Wars boom by reviving and repackaging the studio's 60s outer space heroes Space Ghost and The Herculoids (mixing both classic episodes and newly-made installments) with two other space-themed cartoons - The Teen Force and Astro (from The Jetsons) & The Space Mutts - for an hour-long programming block.

Hmmm. I wonder why The Galaxy Trio didn't make the roster?

UPDATE: According to TV Shows On DVD, Space Stars will be released next Tuesday, on October 8th. Warner Archive is accepting pre-orders on the set now through their site. Price is $29.95.