Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


A giant scientist goes after Seaview in "Leviathan"

The second season of the popular science fiction-adventure show was shot in living color. The character of Curley -- Henry Kulky had passed away -- was replaced by Chief Sharkey (Terry Becker), and the second episode marked the debut of the flying sub, which was destroyed more than once on subsequent episodes. Cute crewman Riley (Allan Hunt) was given a lot more to do. The show was set in the "future" with episode tags declaring that the date of the story was 1976 or 1978. The first episode had new, inferior theme music, but the original theme was brought back for the very next episode [the new theme -- stately, dark, but less exciting -- was used in the background of some episodes]. While perhaps not as good overall as the first season, the second season still had its share of memorable episodes. The suspenseful "Left-Handed Man" wondered if a potential secretary of state posed a danger, while "Leviathan" -- which introduced a new opening for the show -- featured a fissure that caused gigantism in animals. "The Machines Strike Back" had drones with bombs attacking the U.S. under the direction of an unknown individual. Alfred Ryder was the ghost of a Nazi U-boat captain in "The Phantom Strikes" [wherein the show entered supernatural territory, not really a good fit for it]  and "The Sky's on Fire" was basically a mini-adaptation of Irwin Allen's original motion picture. "Graveyard of Fear" featured Robert Loggia as a scientist with a 200-year-old assistant (Marian Moses) and threw in a giant Man-of-War for good measure. "The Shape of Doom" [directed by Nathan Juran] involves a whale that comes dangerously close to a presidential carrier from which crazy scientist Kevin Hagen hopes to extract important scientific equipment. The three best episodes were the opener, "Jonah and the Whale," with Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) and Gia Scala inside a diving bell that is swallowed by a whale; "The Death Ship," a highly-suspenseful "Ten Little Indians"-type plot that takes place aboard the Seaview with an unknown killer decimating other important passengers; and  "... And Five of Us Are Left," about WW 2 sailors trapped in a cave for 28 years!. Basehart and David Hedison still play their roles with conviction, although sometimes it seems as if their relationship changes to support the contortions of the storyline. The show would occasionally aspire to be a spy series, with generally dismal results, and more stock footage from Allen's The Lost World showed up in "Terror on Dinosaur Island."

Verdict: Slipping, but still a lot of fun. ***.

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