Sunday, July 14, 2013

R.I.P. Victor Lundin.


Victor Lundin in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea "The Menfish"
Victor Lundin in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea "The Lobster Man"
Actor Victor Lundin passed away on June 29, 2013, at the age of 83. 

For an actor with only 30 listed television and film roles to his credit on IMDB (HERE), Victor Lundin spent an unusually high percentage of his screen time performing in roles within my favorite genres – Sci-Fi / Fantasy, Western, and Spy.  
Victor Lundin as "Friday" in "Robinson Crusoe on Mars"
Perhaps that’s why I was so surprised to find a mere 30 such credits for an actor that’s been almost as ubiquitous a presence as THIS GREAT CHARACTER ACTOR – and also THIS GREAT CHARACTER ACTOR. 

You MUST be a great character actor to play a LOBSTER!
As with the others linked above, a walk through Victor Lundin’s credits might as well be a walk through both my DVD collection and my pop-culture roadmap (listed in chronological order): 

Oh, and don't forget to click on the illustrations to enlarge!  Well, most of them, anyway...  

Gunsmoke.
Matt and Miss Kitty sure don't need Victor Lundin around right now!

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Feature film, as “Friday” the alien).
On the other hand, on Mars, Paul Mantee DID need him around!

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (twice: 1966 and 1968, the latter as “The Lobster Man”).

Batman (twice: 1966 and 1968, the former as Penguin’s Henchman “Octopus”)

How many actors get to play a Lobster AND an Octopus?

The Time Tunnel.
Looking for Lundin?  You'll find him on Krakatoa!

Get Smart.
Not now, Vic... I'm trying to call The Chief!

Star Trek TOS (as one of the very first Klingons ever seen)
You never forget your first Klingon!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Lundin Calling?
 
Need I say that his appearances on VOYAGE rank among my favorites?  He was quite good as “Hansjurg”, unwilling assistant to an insanely mad doctor, in “The Menfish”.  But both John Dehner, as the Doctor, and Gary Merrill, assuming the “Guest-Admiral” role in place of the unavailable Richard Basehart (and playing it amazingly like him), stole that show. 
Lundin (left) with John Dehner and David Hedison
Oddly, his chance to “sub-surface shine” would come while costumed as a crustacean, on the later and more famous VOYAGE episode “The Lobster Man”. 

Far from the typical mindlessly rampaging monsters that all too often menaced the Submarine Seaview, Victor Lundin’s “Lobster Man” was a deviously intelligent being from a far-off water-planet who coveted the Earth as an ideal place for the crustacean life-forms of his world to expand on.

An ultra-rare "First Season" Black and White Lobster Man photo?  Yeah, right!
 
As aliens of every stripe are wont to do, the Lobster Man communicated with Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane in perfect English, but a rare attempt was made in this instance to explain why this was possible.  It also figured into the plot’s resolution in a minor way.   
Convincing Nelson and Crane?
And, with as “black-and-white” an approach as VOYAGE tended to take in the matter of good vs. evil, Victor Lundin’s Lobster Man offered up a few shades of grey seldom seen in this series. 

For instance, his saving the life of Kowalski and demonstrating his good faith and value as an ally, WITHOUT the old plot device of his secretly being behind the crewman’s near-fatal predicament, made for a more interesting episode than anything titled “The Lobster Man” had any right to be. 


 I must also note that, as TV alien costumes of the era go, the Lobster Man costume was QUITE GOOD, though it must have been a hot ‘n’ heavy horror for Victor Lundin to wear! 
  

One can actually HEAR Victor Lundin in his own words on the Commentary Track for the Criterion Collection’s Blu-Ray release of “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”.  The track is a compilation of comments from director Byron Haskin, star Paul Mantee (who’s own guest-starring turn on VOYAGE, would directly follow “The Lobster Man”), Victor Lundin, and others. 
How often do you get to hear VOYAGE guest-stars like Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin?
 
Lundin’s contributions begin at the 1:05:55 mark of the 1:49:55 film – coinciding with the first appearance of his “Friday” character.   Lundin offers much about the production of “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” and other personal anecdotes, including being one of the original Klingons – but mentions only ONE other production specifically by name: 

I did a part at FOX, on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA… I actually played an alien who was a Lobster Man.  For those of you who’ve ever seen that, that’s yours truly dressed in the lobster suit with an English accent…”

Interesting that, with no prompting, nor as part of any attempt to list his overall credits, Victor Lundin mentions his 1968 (filmed in ’67) role as the Lobster Man to the exclusion of all else, save his historical standing as a “Charter Member Klingon” (...and that includes his other role on VOYAGE) as part of a film commentary recorded in the age of DVD! 

To his credit, he makes no attempt to deride the (pardon) "Lobster role" (get it?), but appears to look back on it fondly!  For this, and for all those wonderful years that “The Lobster Man” has reverberated through my brain, I hereby dub the great character actor Victor Lundin: “Lobster a la King”!  Rest in peace, Victor Lundin... and thank you, I enjoyed every minute of it!   

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. I remember "Robinson Crusoe on Mars," "The Lobster Man," and the Klingons' first appearance in "Errand of Mercy," but I never made the connection before. Like Paul Mantee, Lundin apparently made a lot of appearances as henchmen and second banana villains. I didn't realize he made that many science fiction appearances, either. If he had been a star, instead of a character actor, his name might be a metaphor for science fiction aliens (like John Wayne for cowboy heroes, Bogart for gangsters, or Karloff for mad scientists). Anyway, he should be remembered for his contributions to some of our favorite shows. And, like a lot of Irwin Allen's guest stars, he probably should have won an Emmy award just for keeping a straight face while playing his part.

Joe Torcivia said...

As you can see from the IMDB link I provide in this post, Victor Lundin’s list of credits is almost deceptive, because of the very high concentration of appearances in things I / we liked, Anon.

Without looking, I would have put him in a category not unlike Warren Stevens and Malachi Throne because, at least to me, he seemed to appear nearly as often.

But, that’s just my perception playing tricks on me, probably because I’ve seen many of those particular things SO MANY times over the course of my life… original network broadcasts, syndication and cable, home-recorded VHS – supplanted by DVD, and with eventual and inevitable downloads not so far down the road.

Another reason that “The Lobster Man” in particular is so synonymous, for me, with Victor Lundin is that perhaps it might have been his longest sustained screen exposure. If not, certainly “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” would have to be – but he’s only in that for about 44 minutes and speaks very little over that time. As “The Lobster Man”, he also doesn’t make the full 50-plus minutes of the show, but he logs considerable screen – AND SPEAKING – time.

In many of his other roles, he is rarely the “lead” guest star.

In VOYAGE’s “Menfish”, as I note, he’s overshadowed by John Dehner and Gary Merrill.

On BATMAN, he is clearly secondary to Burgess Meredith – as was everyone else in the episode.

STAR TREK same to John Colicos and John Abbott.

TIME TUNNEL to Torin Thatcher.

MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. to Madlyn Rhue, Joseph Sirola (whom I had the pleasure of sitting in a “Learning Annex” adult-ed class with once), and another VOYAGE guest-star Perry Lopez.

Indeed, in U.N.C.L.E, I don’t even think he’s seen not wearing a “hood and long robes”, except for when he’s found dead with a knife in his back!

Yet, Victor Lundin clearly made the most of such roles – to where we remember him with great fondness and mourn his passing.