Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Irwin Allen's Last Frontier: Land of the Giants (1968)

In 1968, Irwin Allen was suddenly finding himself on the outside looking in.

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea had been cancelled by ABC after 4 seasons. CBS drydocked Lost In Space after 3. The Time Tunnel had been cancelled after 1 year, as we previously chronicled. A pilot intended for NBC went unsold. There was one, sold to ABC, that was finally reaching fruition, but after a year's delay.

Land of the Giants had actually been conceived in 1967, but over the course of a year, a couple of the characters were changed before the series hit the air. When Giants finally debuted in 1968, it essentially replaced Voyage on the ABC schedule, even though conceptually it was a spiritual successor to Lost In Space.

Consider for a moment the lone juvenile in the storyline, 11 year old Barry (Stefan Arngrim). He was Land's analogue for Space's Will Robinson (Bill Mumy). Then, there is Alexander Fitzhugh (named in the promo as Peter Dinglehoffer), played by Kurt Kasznar. As Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) had bonded with Will, so did Fitzhugh with Barry. The babe quotient remains the same---2, but adults this time (Deanna Lund & Heather Young), instead of teenagers.

What did Voyage & Space in, of course, was falling into the trap of campier storylines to cater to the same audience as 20th Century Fox stablemate Batman, which also was gone by the time Giants made it to air. Giants was less about camp and more about the cast surviving from week to week. 

The only "name" in the cast was top-billed Gary Conway (ex-Burke's Law). Don Matheson had appeared on Lost In Space, while Don Marshall had made a guest appearance on Star Trek. Sorry to say, but they were hardly heard from again after Land of the Giants was cancelled in 1970.

jlovebirch uploaded the aforementioned promo video, which is narrated by the late Dick Tufeld, voice of the Robot on Space, and has a cameo appearance by Matheson at the end of the clip. As you'll see, there are noticeable differences......

Post-Giants, Kurt Kasznar would land one more series gig, also for ABC, turning up on The Young Rebels, which I believe replaced Giants on the schedule in 1970. Currently, the series is not airing on any cabler in the US, but is available on DVD.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

Land of the Giants was an interesting premise but something about the show just left me cold. I had trouble getting into it. Perhaps something about the execution.

Stefan Arngrim is the brother of Allison Arngrim, who played Nellie on "Little House on the Prairie". Unfortuately, Allison's autobiography details that her brother molested her during her childood. She's since come to terms with the abuse but to suffer such horrors at the hands of your own flesh and blood makes it all the worse.

hobbyfan said...

I was going to bring up the Arngrim family connection, but didn't get around to it. I don't know what possessed Stefan to abuse Alison like that. His acting career was long over by the time she came along with Little House. Perhaps because of that, he was a little, ah, frustrated about certain things?

And people wonder why Stefan was forgotten after all that time?