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

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Steven Burton (Gary Conway) vs a giant gopher
LAND OF THE GIANTS Season One (1968). 26 hour-long color episodes. Produced by Irwin Allen.

In the future a spacecraft [these have replaced airliners] called Spindrift bursts through some sort of warp and winds up landing on a planet where everything -- people and animals alike -- are of gigantic stature. The country they landed in also happens to be in a totalitarian state; the government has encountered "little people" before and wants to capture them as spies. The giants also are afraid of Earth's technological superiority. The earthlings forge some alliances, mostly with those who hate the oppressive regime, and try to survive against attacks of both humans and beasts, snares of anxious hunters, as well as assorted plans to trap and cage them. Gary Conway [Burke's Law] stars as Captain Steve Burton and Kurt Kasznar is Fitzhugh, who has a suitcase full of money with him [although this sub-plot is eventually dropped] and is a good guy or a bad one depending on the requirements of the storyline.

Land of the Giants seems to have been formulated strictly as a fairly mindless kiddie show. During the entire first season not one of the stranded humans ever talks about their life or loved ones back on earth, nor expresses anything more than a momentary irksomeness instead of abject horror and despair. While it is hardly classic television, there were some superior episodes, especially the exciting pilot. Other notable episodes include "Ghost Town," in which the little gang are trapped in a toy-size town presided over by Percy Helton and his mean, obnoxious granddaughter; "Manhunt" a suspenseful piece in which a convict runs off with the Spindrift and winds up trapped in quicksand; "The Creed," in which a giant doctor helps the gang when Barry (Stefan Arngrim), the little boy in the group, gets appendicitis and needs to be operated on; "Weird World," in which Glenn Corbett plays a major who's been stranded on the planet for years and warns of a hideous trap inside a tunnel [Fitzhugh is so odious in this episode that it might have been meant for earlier broadcast]; "The Lost Ones," another suspenseful story with Zalman King as an earthling leader of some motorcycle punks who also crash-landed on the planet; and "Brainwash," with Warren Stevens, in a story of a normal-sized communications center found inside of a drain pipe. Also, "Deadly Lodestone," which introduces Kevin Hagen as Inspector Kobick; and "Rescue," in which the little people help out when two giant children are trapped in a deep well, and which has especially good sets, props and convincing special effects. Besides the pilot, the best episode is probably "Target: Earth," in which Arthur Franz [who had starred in World of Giants] plays a scientist with a Lady Macbeth-type wife who hopes to make a deal with the earthlings so they can help him with his space travel research.

John Williams contributed a fairly catchy theme, although the rest of the music for the series wasn't very helpful. Neither was the often slow direction of many episodes, almost as if a half hour's worth of story was padded out to an hour. Other regular cast members include Don Matheson [passenger], Don Marshall [co-pilot], Deanna Lund [passenger], and Heather Young [stewardess], all of whom are more than adequate. The show returned for a second season.

Verdict: Taken with a large grain of salt, this has an intriguing premise and moderate entertainment value. **1/2.

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