The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen

Last week 20th Century Fox released their impressive Land of the Giants – The Full Series (The Giant Collection) (1968) DVD box set and it will undoubtedly be one of the best DVD sets to come out this year. With a list price of $229.00 (currently available from Amazon for $169.99) it’s a very pricey release, but besides getting all 51 episodes of the television show, you also get lots of DVD extras and even reproductions of the original Land of the Giants comic books, plus a booklet with cast interviews and photos, a set of Land of the Giants trading cards, a key chain and an iron-on patch, which are all contained in an impressively designed carrying case.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this DVD release! Irwin Allen has been one of my favorite television show creators since I was a kid and the Land of the Giants is undoubtedly one of his grooviest shows. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford this new DVD set myself but if I had the extra money I would snatch it up in a second. At least I can now finally see all the episodes of this terrific show and I’m really happy about that. Hopefully DVD rental places won’t shy away from the high price and make the show available to those of us who can’t afford to buy it right away.

When I was growing up in the seventies I would catch random episodes of Irwin Allen’s shows like Lost in Space (1965), The Time Tunnel (1966), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964) and Land of the Giants (1968) playing on TV and I always loved them. Thanks to the recent DVD releases of Irwin Allen’s television shows from 20th century Fox I’ve been able to finally see all the episodes I’ve missed and enjoy them without commercials.


The casts of Lost in Space and Land of the Giants

This year I’ve watched the entire Time Tunnel series and I’ve recently started watching Voyage to the Bottom of Sea but I’ve only managed to get through season one so far. I really enjoyed The Time Tunnel series since I find the concept of the show fascinating and it stars one time teen idol James “Moondoggie” Darrin. Like many red-blooded American girls, I had a crush on James Darrin when I was a kid and enjoyed watching him in all the Gidget movies. In The Time Tunnel series James Darrin plays a scientist named Tony Newman who helps run a billion dollar government time travel project deep beneath the Arizona desert with fellow scientists Dr. Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) and Dr. Ann MacGregor (Lee Meriwether). Together they’ve invented a “time tunnel” that allows people to travel through time and space, but while testing the tunnel Dr. Newman and Dr. Phillips become trapped in time. They find themselves landing in the middle of important historic events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the bombing of Pearl Harbor but they also end up encountering space aliens and unusual characters like Merlin the Magician.

If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction from the sixties I can’t recommend The Time Tunnel series enough. It’s really entertaining and just an all-around fun all-ages show. If you’re looking for high-minded serious drama, look elsewhere. Unfortunately like Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel series was canceled before a final episode was shot which makes the show a little disappointing to watch in the end.


On the set of The Time Tunnel

Land of the Giants is a fascinating show and even a little subversive. It involves a group of travelers who crash land on an alternative version of planet earth that is run by giant humans and controlled by a totalitarian government. Our little heroes spend most of the series trying to avoid being captured or killed. I haven’t seen the show in years but I thought the cast was good and I especially liked the two female leads, Deanna Lund and Heather Young, as well as the handsome actor Don Marshall. I’m really looking forward to finally seeing all the episodes of Land of the Giants and getting more familiar with the show.

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A few of Irwin Allen’s creative creatures

Today Irwin Allen is mostly remembered as being “The Master of Disaster” after making numerous disaster films in the seventies such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Towering Inferno (1974), but I think he was really a master at making great low-budget science fiction and fantasy shows. He worked with some talented people who really gave their all to his productions such as composer John Williams, costume designer Paul Zastupnevich, cinematographer Winton C. Hoch, makeup supervisor Ben Nye, art director Jack Martin Smith and talented special effects experts like L.B. Abbott and Art Cruickshank among others. Allen also shamelessly used stock footage from other films, shot episodes on forgotten 20th Century Fox sets, and reused similar props and costumes in many of his productions, but his shows often contained enough imagination, excitement and humor to still keep them interesting and entertaining.

He may have won the infamous Razzie Award for “Worst Career Achievement” in 1984, but I think modern independent filmmakers interested in making fantasy and science fiction films today could probably learn a lot from the amazing Irwin Allen (pictured above directing a monster on the set of The Time Tunnel).

To learn more about Allen I recommend watching The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen, which is a lighthearted look at Irwin Allen’s career featuring interviews with the casts and crews of his most popular productions. I watched it myself this weekend and really enjoyed it.

I also recommend visiting the website The Irwin Allen News Network.

If you want to see more images and eye-candy from Irwin Allen’s shows check out the Cinebeats Flickr gallery:
The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen Gallery

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8 thoughts on “The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen

  1. Keith says:

    Wow! This sounds great, Kimberly. I’m a huge fan of Irwin Allen too. I especially loved “Land of Giants” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” His shows were so cool and fascinating. I always loved the awesome looking creatues that appeared on his shows. I do remember the “Time Tunnel.” I had a crush on Lee Meriwether. Plus she was Catwoman in the “Batman” movie. Allen’s shows had some interesting premises and storylines. As a kid and still now as an adult, I love these shows. I would love to get this myself. Not sure I’ll have the dough for it or not, but it would be wonderful to have.

  2. Bob Turnbull says:

    I think you’ve just convinced me to pick up “The Time Tunnel”. It was already on my radar, but you’ve pushed me over the edge.

    I remember “Land Of The Giants” from the occasional Sunday afternoon viewing with my brother in the 70s. I can’t really recall any specifics except that we just sat back and smiled throughout each show.

    Oh, and I love “The Towering Inferno”. No CGI, just miniatures, real fire and the possibility of Allen actually drowning his actors…B-)

  3. Joe Valdez says:

    Terrific article, Kimberly. These shows were over a decade before my time, with the exception of Lost In Space which I ate up in reruns. The plot summaries and photos you ran however seem to hold up really well. If this was low budget TV, what would you call Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Now that was low budget!

  4. Jeremy Richey says:

    I’ve always really admired him and his work from the television stuff I have seen to his films in the seventies. I grew up with “Lost In Space” and still have very warm feelings for it. Great post and that box set is incredible looking….

  5. cinebeats says:

    Keith – Isn’t that Land of the Giants DVD set amazing! I hope you get the chance to get it sometime too. I’m hoping I find it on sale somewhere for 50% off. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery? 😉

    Bob – I hope you’ll enjoy The Time Tunnel series if you get the chance to watch it! I think it’s a lot of fun, but I’m also sure my crush on James Darrin probably clouds my opinion a little so you’ve been warned. In that great Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen doc that I watched, there is some great behind-the-scenes footage of Allen making The Towering Inferno. Steve McQueen seems to be the only actor really enjoying himself on the set.

    Joe – The shows do show their age, but I think they’re really a lot of fun! They always seemed to rerun them randomly in the seventies but I can hardly remember them much being on regularly except for Lost in Space. It’s amazing what Allen could do with the money he had. I assumed he had more money to work with a lot in many of his productions since the shows always look so good but he really had to be extra creative a lot of the time. These days Sigmund and the Sea Monsters would probably qualify as a no-budget show! 😉 I should add that not all of Allen’s shows were low-budget productions as far as sixties television went (Land of the Giants had some of the most expensive sets of its day), but he really knew how to get the most bang for his buck once the money ran out, and he made great use of stock footage and old film sets and props like I mentioned above.

    Jeremy – Allen was a pretty impressive guy. He seems like a real interesting character right out of old Hollywood in many ways. I love the fact that he would carry around a gun and shoot of off on set. Crazy!

  6. Keith says:

    Hey Kimberly! I know I hope I find it somewhere on sale. I would love to win the lottery. This would definitely be something I would be getting. I definitely need a lot more money for all the cool flicks, tunes, etc. that I wanna buy.

  7. Vincent says:

    Beautiful post, Kimberly. I did not know te land of the giant, dont think we get it in France but i was a great fan of Time tunnel when i was a child. Thanks for the memories !

  8. cinebeats says:

    Thanks again for the comments Keith & Vincent!

    I had no idea that any of Irwin Allen’s shows played outside of the US, but in The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen there was a brief mention about how some European countries were very upset when Land of the Giants was canceled. People sent in many letters of protest from around the world which I thought was really interesting.

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