Land Of The Giants (1968-70)

land of the giants

Gary Conway is Captain Steve Burton and Don Marshall is his co-pilot Dan Erickson. They fly the Spindrift, a spaceship that does commercial flights. On a trip from New York to London they pass through a cloud and end up on a Earth type planet where the natives are seventy-two feet tall. To save on special effects the inhabitants look just like humans.

Opening episode: September 22,1968 – “The Crash” – June 12,1983. The Spindrift runs into a storm. They try for reentry but get pulled into a cloud. Once they get through and have control of the ship again there’s a city below. Sure doesn’t look like London. Steve goes out to take a look and almost gets run over by a giant car. Footsteps. Back inside he tries to take off. A giant has a hold on the ship. Steve and Dan manage to get the ship out of there only to put down again in a jungle.

Heading outside is Alexander Fitzhugh (Kurt Kasznar) and the annoying kid passenger Barry Lockridge (Stefan Arngrim) and his dog Chipper. Barry thinks Fitzhugh is some kind of secret agent since he’s wearing a uniform. He’s really a thief who stole a million dollars. No wonder he won’t let his briefcase out of his sight. Neither one sees the plastic dinosaur.

Steve heads out and he notices giant spiders. They could care less about him. The next monster on stage is a giant cat. Chipper doesn’t even bark. The cat has fun with the ship for a while but the hot engines don’t agree with him. Everybody back inside.

Steve goes out again. He told her not to but heiress Valerie Scott (Deanna Lund) has a mind of her own and joins him anyway. Time for a rescue mission since Steve’s radio conked out. Fitzhugh has a pistol. Barry drops a dime on him and now everyone knows. He threatens to shoot Dan unless he flies them out of there. He’s mad because he swung his briefcase at the cat and some money spilled out. Dan reminds him no one else can fly the ship except him. Now he gets it.

Steve tells Valerie not to go into that structure. Once again she doesn’t listen. It’s a trap. A giant scientist carries them back to his lab. This gives a chance for more giant props to be used as he probes Valerie with a pencil and Steve with a scalpel. They tried escaping using a giant spool of thread and a needle but clumsy Valerie knocked over a beaker.

In the jungle the rescue party, which includes passenger Mark Wilson (Don Matheson) who is an engineer and stewardess Betty Hamilton (Heather Young) hear Valerie screaming. Chipper still doesn’t bark.

They come across the lab and Dan tells Mark to cause a distraction. He creates a gas explosion which allows Dan to cut Steve and Valerie loose. The coughing scientist grabs a butterfly net. He gets Dan. Fitzhugh puts a bullet in his knee and Dan escapes. They all head into a pipe. The scientist reaches in. Fitzhugh gives him two bullets in the hand.

The pipe leads to a garbage dump. No one thanks Fitzhugh for getting them out of trouble. The girls and Barry climb into an empty egg carton as a giant dog approaches. He barks. Chipper….nothing phases this mutt. Steve manages to get the guard dog to take off. He makes Fitzhugh realize they’re trapped in this world.

The episode is not a bad opener. The problem with it and the rest of the show is the Will Robinson-Dr.Smith riff from the characters Barry and Fitzhugh. Without that this would have been much better.

Gary Conway was Detective Tim Tilson on “Burke’s Law” (1963-65).


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Meet Boston Blackie (1941)

meet boston blackie 1941

There were nine silent films in the series. This is the first of the fourteen Chester Morris movies. The last was 1949’s “Boston Blackie’s Chinese Venture.” Series regulars were Richard Lane as Inspector Faraday and Frank Sully as Detective Sgt.Matthews. Blackie’s pal The Runt was played by George E. Stone and later Sid Tomack. In this first entry the part was played by Charles Wagenheim. Frank Sully isn’t in this one. A good start to the series. Later films put more emphasis on comedy.

Blackie and The Runt are just back from Europe and are docking in New York. Blackie spots a blonde passenger named Marilyn being threatened and interferes. She says thanks and isn’t interested in any more conversation. Blackie goes after her and runs into Inspector Faraday.

Faraday thinks he went to Amsterdam to fence pearls from the Mansfield robbery. He takes his landing pass and puts him under arrest. Blackie tells him he wants to go to his cabin but will be available. Faraday agrees.  Back in his cabin Blackie discovers the body of the man who was threatening Marilyn. He takes the man’s landing pass and gets off the boat. He leaves a note on the mirror for Faraday.

Blackie and The Runt see Marilyn getting into a cab. They trace her to a Coney Island carnival. He tells the Runt to have Faraday meet him in his apartment while Blackie goes after Marilyn. The two go into the Tunnel Of Horrors and are followed by two men. One throws a dart into Marilyn’s back. Before she dies she gives a few clues to Blackie. They involve the Mechanical Man at one of the shows.

Blackie confronts the Mechanical Man in his dressing room. The killers show up and Blackie escapes. He jumps into a car driven by Cecelia Bradley (Rochelle Hudson). She gets involved in the investigation. Blackie figures out a code being given out by a carnival barker. He disguises himself as a blind man. He doesn’t fool Faraday who wants to arrest him. Blackie knocks him out and escapes along with Cecilia.

They’re on the trail of a spy ring that wants to take a Navy bomb sight out of the country. Blackie has to stay a step ahead of Faraday and Cecilia refuses to leave so Blackie traps her in a Murphy bed. The movie is only an hour and comes to a quick ending. It is worth checking out. Chester Morris is a lot of fun.

Character actor Byron Foulger is the “blind” man Blackie pays to give him his disguise.

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The Solaris Book Of New Science Fiction Volume Three-Edited by George Mann (2009)

george mann-the solaris book of new science fiction volume three

Fifteen good stories all from 2009. Favorites:

“Fixation” – Alastair Reynolds – A two thousand year old mechanical device is discovered underwater. It’s now in a museum and is being cleaned and put together by a scientist who likes to work alone. In another part of the museum a lecture is being given on the device. The theory is that it’s getting restored thanks to leaks from alternate universes.

“Providence” – Paul De Fillipo – The Earth is populated by machines that were created by what they call carnals. They were humans who have all disappeared. Reddy K. is a big fan of vinyl 45’s and LP’s. He heads from Manhattan to Providence, Rhode Island to pick up a warehouse full.

“Carnival Night” – Warren Hammond – A homicide detective on a grungy world is investigating the murder of an off worlder whose wife hates the planet where her husband wanted to try and open a business and can’t wait to leave. She thinks a jealous citizen killed him. The last line is great.

“Long Stay” – Ian Watson – There’s a twenty-six mile parking lot between airports. Back from a trip a man can’t find his car. He discovers a small population that gave up looking for their cars and now live there.

Other authors: Jack Stillingstead, Stephen Baxter, John Meaney, Scott Edelman, Paul Cornell, Adam Roberts, Jennifer Pelland, Daniel Abraham, Tim Akers and Ken MacLeod.

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Hercules Against The Moon Men (1964)

hercules against the moon men 1964

Sword and Sandal meets SF with the expected results. Some decent laughs along the way.

The Moon Men have landed. They’re inside Mt.Samara outside the village of Samara ruled by Queen Samara. That makes it easy. Every full moon the village’s young people are led to the mountain to be sacrificed. Since the Moon men have been there forever it’s strange the village hasn’t run out of people. Then again, you don’t watch this stuff for logic.

Gladius is the adviser to the Queen. He’s had it up to here with the goings on. He tells the Queen he knows someone who can take care of business. She wants nothing to do with that. She’s got her own agenda. Now she gets word that Gladius sent for Hercules anyway.

On her orders soldiers waylay Hercules (Sergio Ciani aka/Alan Steel) outside of town. Bad mistake. Even though he looks like he missed a few months at the gym he dispatches them without breaking a sweat or even losing some oil.  Gladius’ daughter Agar shows Hercules how to get into the village. Later Agar and Gladius are overheard by the Queen plotting to stop the sacrifices, She has them followed as they head to meet Hercules and the conspirators.

Gladius and Hercules go through a secret passage. It’s not so secret and Gladius is killed and Hercules is dropped into a pit that fills with water. Agar is somewhere way behind. Having had enough of a bath Hercules breaks out only to run into..whatever it is. He makes quick work of it.

Rudolphis,the leader of The Moon men appears before the Queen and warns her to get her act together is she wants to rules what’s left of the Earth after the Moon closes in and ruins almost everything. She has twenty-four hours to get her half sister Billis to the Mountain Of Death. The Moon’s Queen Selene is out of it and needs a transfusion. Since they could be twins Billis has to be the lucky one to provide blood. Nobody told Billis.

Billis has her own agenda. She wants to marry Samara’s cousin, Prince Darix. The Queen seems agreeable but first…Darix has to go on a mission for peace talks. He doesn’t know it’s all fake to get him out of town and make sure he doesn’t come back. Naive Billis doesn’t have a clue. Hercules finds out and heads out of town to rescue him.

Hercules doesn’t get to him before Darix gets an arrow in the shoulder. He manages to defeat another small army and get him back to tavern owner Tirteo’s place to heal up. Meanwhile Agar and Hercules are giving each other “The Look.”

Of course Hercules is captured by the bad guys and Samara invites Agar to watch him die in a scene that takes forever. Now he has to face his deadliest foe yet…Samara’s love potion. There’s trouble now as Hercules recommends the death penalty for Darix and Agar.

The movie comes to a slam bang ending but it’s a boring ride getting there. There’s fifteen minutes of sleep worthy film and then it finally steps up. If nothing else this movie will awaken your inner comedian.

One note. In the original Italian-French production the character was called Meciste. That name was used in other movies for the son of Hercules. They thought American audiences wouldn’t have a clue about the name and decided to go with Hercules.

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Outside The Law (1930)

outside the law 1930

Really bad movie directed by Tod Browning and starring Edward G.Robinson before “Little Caesar.”

Cobra Collins (Edward G.Robinson) spots thief Fingers O’Dell doing a mechanical man act in the window of a bank. He knows he’s planning a robbery. Later in his office Cobra tells him he’ll have to do a fifty-fifty split if he wants to do a robbery in his town.

Connie Madden (Mary Nolan) pulls a stunt in order to meet Cobra. She works in a joint called The Palace Of Fine Arts. It’s just a peep show where girls strike poses from famous paintings. Cobra doesn’t know she’s in cahoots with Fingers….or does he?

Fingers hides in a locker in the bank’s bathroom. Cobra has a man watching him. It doesn’t matter. He hands a half million out the window to Connie who posing as an old woman.They hole up in an apartment across from a widower who is a cop and has a three year old Fingers likes to call Duke.

Connie can’t stand the way he plays with the kid and Fingers tells her he wants her to have a kid just like him. There’s a loooooong sequence in the apartment with Fingers, Connie and the kid that bogs the movie down beyond repair.

Edward G.Robinson is almost a parody of his future gangster roles and Mary Nolan is beyond terrible. Louise Beavers is good in her role as Judy the maid who looks after the kid while Dad is at work.

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Hanging By A Thread-Edited by Joan Kahn

joan kahn(editor) -hanging by a thread

A mixture of fact and fiction with thirty-six stories and articles mostly from 1932,35,42,47,49,50,57,61,63,65,66,67. This is Kahn’s usual good collection.

Fiction favorites:

“The Mysterious Occurrence In Lambeth” – G.P.R.James – An old woman is found murdered in her house which is all locked up. Her niece is the only one who gets along with her. Inside her luggage police discover her aunt’s emerald necklace. She’s arrested for murder. A lawyer isn’t so sure and investigates.

“The Blue Hotel” (1899) – Stephen Crane – A cowboy, an Easterner and a Swede all stay at the Palace Hotel in Fort Romper, Nebraska. The Swede thinks someone is going to kill him. Hotel owner Pat Scully brings out the booze and they laugh it up. Then Pat’s son John is accused by the Swede of cheating at cards. They go out in the snow to battle it out. The Swede gets the best of him and then makes his way to a bar. He doesn’t endear himself to the locals.

“The Hashish Man” – Lord Dunsany – An Oriental city disappears. A man wants to find out why and is told the only way is to eat some hash. He does and takes the trip. A good mixture of Horror and Fantasy.

“A Marriage Tragedy” (1858 novelette) – Wilkie Collins – William the Butler tells the story of the tragic happenings at Darrock Hall. William is upset at what happens to the mistress of the house. She married a thief who also turned out to be a bigamist. One day the husband says he’s getting on his yacht and leaving. William and Mr.Dark, the clerk at his lawyer’s office join forces to find him. That later leads to the mistress of the house being charged with murder.

“Funny The Way Things Work Out” (1963) – John D.MacDonald – In the back country an elderly man is married to a local shrew twenty years younger. He confesses to his friend the sheriff that he has thoughts of killing her. Then he reveals his past.

“Operation Enticement” – Henry Cecil – Four friends can’t find jobs…not that they really want to anyway. They cook up a plan to get some money. They’ll pretend the wife of one goes to the other couple’s house saying her husband is abusive. That man takes the other to court saying he enticed his wife to do it. They figure they can sell the story to the papers and make some bucks. Funny story.

“The Murder At The Towers” – E.V.Knox – Great send up of Agatha Christie about a man everyone hates. He’s murdered and a detective is called in to solve the case.

Other authors: Dashiell Hammett, Charlotte Armstrong, Albert Camus, Horace McCoy,Robert Borger, Dylan Thomas, Roald Dahl, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Algis Budrys, Maxim Gorky, M.R.James, H.G.Wells, Alan Paton, Ching-pen t’ung-hsu hsiao-shuo, Donn Byrne, Jorge Luis Borges, Marjorie Bowen, Anonymous and Helen Eustis.

Fact: a number of good articles including:

“The Murder Of Arnold Rothstein” (1932) – Russel Crouse – A brief account of the gangster/gambler whose murder remains unsolved. One of his infamous crimes was the fixing of the 1919 World Series.

“The Sandyford Mystery” – William Roughead – A maid has been found murdered, most likely with a meat cleaver. Her corpse had been washed. She worked for a couple whose elderly father was staying at the house while they were away. The suspect is a good friend of the maid. This is a case of justice gone wrong.

“Other Than A Good One” (1947) – Joseph Henry Jackson – Emma LeDoux is a good example of the Scottish expression, “Other than a good one.” From childhood on she was just no good. In 1906 she was charged with getting rid of her latest husband by drugging him and stuffing him in a trunk while he was still alive. It’s amazing how luck played a role in her experiences with the justice system.

“Escape From The Bastille” – Jean Henry Latude – An account of how two men managed to escape the infamous prison in the 1750’s.

“To The South Sea Islands” (1950) – Thor Heyerdahl – Exciting account of the end of the voyage of the raft Kon-Tiki.

There are other articles about people that got away with murder or at least became close but they’re not all that interesting.

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City At Night (1949-1950)

Keith Heatherington-Dorothy Gardiner

Keith Heatherington-Dorothy Gardiner

Awkward magazine show broadcast on KTLA in Los Angeles and hosted by Keith Heatherington and Dorothy Gardiner.

The October 11,1949 episode is of special interest to SF fans. The entire show takes place on the set of the upcoming movie “Destination Moon” set for release in 1950. As crude as this is it’s still interesting to see George Pal and Robert A.Heinlein being interviewed.

The show has a cornball start with Keith and Dorothy coming out of a spaceship and pretending to be scared when four men in spacesuits approach. Then they get down to business and introduce the actors from the movie. Out comes director Irving Pichel who is there for the whole show.

Pichel brings out producer George Pal and he brings in Robert A.Heinlein who everyone calls Bob. He explains what the movie is about and how he wanted the science to be accurate. Others who are working on the movie are introduced including cameramen, the assistant director and the editor. One of the cameramen says he hopes that by 1960 TV will be in color.

Keith and Dorothy have trouble walking around the stages and the various sets and are sometimes off camera. Some people try and keep out of the way but you’ll seeing them trying to duck. The hosts have to keep reminding everyone to face the camera so the audience can see them.

Along with all the movie people test pilot Gene May comes out. He has to be careful not to reveal too many details of his latest flight. Various members of the Navy are on hand to talk about the plane and the movie spaceship with Heinlein.

They all move upstairs to the interior of the ship and there’s a sly reference to Dorothy and a casting couch. Keith ends up laying down on the ship’s couch. Everyone seems ill acquainted with how to act on TV but it’s still interesting to hear what they have to say.

The show closes with a Navy man congratulating Heinlein on making the movie accurate and not just the usual women on the Moon type of movie.

The show drags but it’s still worth checking out to see some of the people behind the movie.


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