Tuesday, September 2, 2014

R.I.P. Don Matheson

I hate it when I learn things like this after the fact, from random browsing of the Internet, but actor Don Matheson passed away on June 29, 2014, at the age of 84.

Don Matheson starred in Irwin Allen's LAND OF THE GIANTS (1968-1970), and was pretty much seen in "all things Allen" during that wondrous time of 1960s fantastic television.  

Mark Wilson meets IDAK Alpha-12
Matheson's character on GIANTS, Mark Wilson, served the same basic function as "The Professor" on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, the all-purpose scientific whiz, but often did so with more of an attitude.  Wilson often openly clashed with "Good Ship Spindrift's" captain Steve Burton (Gary Conway) making for an interesting dynamic that differed from that of Professor Robinson and Major West on Allen's LOST IN SPACE.  

They weren't always "pals".

A prime example of this was one of Matheson's finest moments of the series, an episode titled "The Golden Cage" (Air Date: December 29, 1968).  This was the sort-of-famous "Girl in a Bottle" episode, with guest star Celeste Yarnall, the ending of which owed as much to Rod Serling as it did to Irwin Allen. 
Mark Wilson rescues "The Girl in a Bottle".
"The Golden Cage" is a must-see for those with any interest in Don Matheson, LAND OF THE GIANTS, or Irwin Allen's work in general.  I rate it as one of the "Top Five" episodes of the series -- and, depending on my mood, perhaps even THE best. 

 Click to Enlarge all Images.

To digress, a funny thing about my choice for the "Top Five" episodes of LAND OF THE GIANTS...  They would be the FIRST TWO ("The Crash" and "Ghost Town"), the LAST TWO ("Wild Journey" and "Graveyard of Fools" -- the latter of which revealed a large portion of the Giants' planet to be a vast, uninhabitable wasteland - somewhat of a shocker from "our" limited perspective of the little people) -- and, of course, "The Golden Cage".

First Episode:  "The Crash" 
Last Episode: "Graveyard of Fools"
Elsewhere in the Irwin Allen-verse, Don Matheson gave a wonderfully understated, wordless performance as the silent "Alien Father" in the early LOST IN SPACE episode "The Sky is Falling" (November 17, 1965).  A prime example of just how different LOST IN SPACE might have been if BATMAN (1966) hadn't pushed it in the direction of camp.

But, for those who like our "SPACE" extra-campy, there was "Revolt of the Androids" (March 08, 1967), with Matheson as the android-hunting "Instant Destroyer And Killer" IDAK Alpha-12, in which he uttered the immortal and oft-repeated phrase: "Crush! Kill! Destroy!"   

And that was also Don Matheson in costume as the leader of the "Deadly Amphibians" (December 17, 1967), on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. 

Those looking for More-Matheson should look toward The LAND OF THE GIANTS Complete Series DVD set.  Included is a "Presentation Reel" (to pitch the series concept -- with, believe it or not, much stock footage from LOST IN SPACE), narrated by Dick Tufeld and hosted by Don Matheson, the first actor hired for LAND OF THE GIANTS.  

Also contained therein are seven-plus minutes of interview material with Don Matheson, on LAND OF THE GIANTS, filmed in the nineties.  

For a time, Matheson was married to his LAND OF THE GIANTS co-star Deanna Lund. 

Don Matheson's credits, per IMDB, can be found HERE.  

Thank you, Don Matheson, for all the great moments of fantasy, adventure and fun. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Quick, Robin! The Instant Bat-Boot Regenerator!

When we last left our heroes, in a cliffhanger ending at the end of BATMAN '66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET # 1, Batman, Robin, The Green Hornet, and Kato were glued to the top of a fast-moving train headed straight toward a tunnel, and hero-squishville! 

But, if issue # 1 represents "Wednesday", and its typical promise of certain death, issue # 2 brings "Thursday" and its requisite hair-breadth escape.   

The Hornet and Kato find their own way off their "rail car of doom", as (separately) do the Caped Crusaders. 

...Odd that neither team thinks much of rescuing the other, but we'll let that pass for a still greater oddity. 

Via remote-control, Batman employs the Bat-Copter, which had been hovering nearby, to lift himself and the Boy Wonder out of their Bat-boots, which had been affixed to the train by their old enemy Colonel (now General) Gumm.

Up they go, just in time, leaving their boots behind!

Yep, here's a close-up shot of their Bat-Bare-Feet!

And another full-figure shot of them on the ladder, sans shoes.

But, WHAT'S THIS, as they ascend to the safety of the waiting Bat-Copter? 

Their Bat-Boots are BACK! 

...And, before even such miracle workers as they, could possibly have changed into a spare pair! 

Then, safely back on the ground, and reunited with The Green Hornet and Kato, the footwear has faded once again! 


I thought about it for a time (Imagine the luxury of being able to ponder such things!) and I realized that, while it might very well have been an unforgivable error on the part of both the artist and the editor, it might be something else entirely...

It just might be a tremendous and purposeful HOMAGE to those wonderful days of 1960s television, where STOCK FOOTAGE was employed wherever possible to cut costs - and, on occasion, that stock footage didn't quite match the newly filmed scenes. 

Yes, the reason Batman and Robin have boots, in a situation where they couldn't possibly have, is an ingenious nod to the sixties-era use of stock footage - in this case stock footage of the Dynamic Duo climbing the ladder to the Bat-Copter... Boots and all

...Or, it just coulda been a mistake!  You decide! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Holiday Interuptus!

HERE, at this post, I discussed my unexpected enjoyment of the first three episodes of the 1972 Hanna-Barbera animated series THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS on Warner Archives DVD. 

That continued into episode four, “Hero Sandwiched”, the plot of which could easily have passed muster as a FLINTSTONES or a JETSONS.  Gus Holiday becomes an “accidental hero”, and lets it go way-too-far to his head.  Loved the news headline of his meeting with the emperor: “Nero Meets Hero”! 

Brutus is having fun too!  "Laugh! Laugh! Guffaw, even!"

The fun continued into episode five, “Switch is Which”, in which the usual “sit-comedy-of-errors” finds Gus and wife Laurie forced to switch places in order to land a demanding  client for Gus’ boss “Mr. Tycoonius”. 

We’re moving right along, hitting all the familiar beats such a plot would offer, when Gus says something to daughter Precotia that would require a humorous pause before continuing.  Pause-performing Precotia plays her part perfectly, momentarily freezing in place but for an eye-blink or two for effect... 


Normally, I tend to take that last hour-or-so in the evening, after the wife has gone to bed, to enjoy something on DVD, on the big-screen living room TV, as a wind-down before retiring.  And, this night’s wind-down were these two episodes of THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS. 

Now, what this means is that I was TIRED at this point, and didn’t fully realize what had happened. 

Wait for it...

Sure, Precotia had done “the humorous pause thing” – a sure fire laugh getter since Jack Benny, who probably stole it from the REAL Romans – but, through that delightful haze that signals the onset of sleepy-time, I momentarily failed to realize that the disc had FROZEN. 

Could "Mister Freeze" be responsible for this?
And, that it had frozen in such a perfect spot – after the completion of a line of dialogue, and DURING the “pause reaction” that was expected to follow – that the disc-freeze failed to register perceptively, as quickly as it might otherwise have.   

MOVE, darn ya, MOVE!

As I stared at the screen waiting for the action to resume, my ACTUAL thought-reaction was: 
"I know this is a seventies-era Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but shouldn’t SOMEONE have MOVED by now?!”

THEN, it kicked-in!  I ejected the disc and retried it twice more before reaching the unpleasant conclusion that I’d have to return the ROMAN HOLIDAYS set for a replacement. 
Okay!  Something's WRONG, here!

And so, for THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS, “all roads lead [back] to Amazom.com-icus”.  But, before sending Gus and the gang on their (Appian) way, since the issue was with Disc One, I binge-watched Disc Two! 

As Disc Two exhibited no issues, I will simply KEEP my present copy of that disc, and send the defective Disc One back with an unwatched Disc Two.   …No sense risking additional issues with a completely “unwatched” replacement set. 
Back ya go! 
After all, as THIS POST shows, the replacement isn’t always better than the original! 

Okay, Okay, Precotia... We get the gag!  Now, cut it out!
Anyone else do that, when returning a set with one defective disc?   Share that, and any other defective DVD stories you may have, with us in our Comments Section, and make me feel better about my delayed (Roman) Holiday!    

Or, as Brutus the Lion would say:  “Whimper!  Whimper!  Sob!  Sob!” 

...Uh-Oh!  She's back again! 

No, Really!  Stop! It's starting to get CREEPY, now! 
Go away!  Your empire fell!  You're dust!