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At a cost of over $250,000 per episode, "Land of the Giants" was the
most expensive show of its time.(As well as the highest rated
when it premiered in October of 1968). That money was well spent on impressive visual effects, camera tricks, and enormous realistic props that had the audience believing they were watching 7 space travellers accidentally stranded on a world where everything was twelve times the size of the equivalent things on earth. This show remains visually quite impressive and is well remembered by those of us old enough to have seen it during its first run. Gary Conway and Don Marshall lead the cast as the pilot and co-pilot of the ill-fated 'Spindrift' spacecraft and
and Kevin Hagen is extremely effective in several episodes as the government agent of the giant world with the assigned task of hunting the earthmen down.
As a child growing up in England in the late 60s, my favourite TV show was "Lost in Space", but "Land of the Giants", which replaced it from time to time in the schedules, was only slightly less intriguing. It didn't boast a character quite so camply magnificent as Dr Zachary Smith (my lifelong hero!), but its parallel-world scenario struck me as deeply haunting and thought-provoking. All of the reviewers who berate LIS and LOTG for their creaky plots and primitive special effects are missing the point; these shows relied on a willing suspension of disbelief, and the imaginative collaboration of their audience (for the most part, children). I pity rather than envy the present generation of children, whose dreams are delivered to them ready made.
Clearly someone knew what they were doing with this thing, but when it
messes up, it really messes up.
But I think the pros greatly outweigh the cons.
Problems consist of the attempt to get Lost In Space's success with Jonathan Harris and Billy Mumy with Kurt Kaznar and Stefan Arngrim. That was a miss. Arngrim looks unhappy the entire time he was on this show. And Kaznar was too hammy.
It seems at one time the realization was that Deanna Lund was more appealing visually, so there would be attempts to make a trio of troublemakers, but that seemed to be the wrong direction as well. I think Valerie could have done it but with one of the other characters, acting wise. She just wasn't clicking with Kaznar or Arngrim.
The second glitch seems to be was it earth or not Earth, if not Earth then why did so much of it look like Earth. This led to much confusion as well.
Problem 3 was unavoidable. Our flight attendant Betty became pregnant in real life. By the time she returned to the show and was able to go with the plots rather than being hindered by her pregnancy, it seems it was too late and the show was tanking.
Betty actually worked better with Kaznar than Valerie did.
The truly amazing thing about seeing this show for the first time just a few years ago is that none of the main cast went on to do anything, so they were all brand new for me.
Oh, there are recognizable guest stars like Jack Albertson, Jesse White, John Carradine, Susan Howard, Bruce Dern and Yvonne Craig, but none of the regulars ever did anything else.
Stefan Arngrim's sister, Allison, went on to portray Nellie Oleson on Little House and she had much more life than her older brother did here.
The saving grace for this show is plots. Some of these plots here are worthy of the original Star Trek. Off the top of my head, standouts are the clone episode with much greater comprehension of how to do twin portayals and the final episode with Dern and Craig is phenomenal to watch.
These shows are hardly an insult to the intelligence.
It seems Land of the Giants aired in the UK and outside of America more than it did within the states after it had been cancelled, as I never saw this show before or even heard of it.
It is deep, that's for sure. Pity there couldn't have been a conclusion episode where the passengers and crew returned to 1983 (!) but the final episode is an intriguing finale in and of itself.
Having just read all the comments I had an idea of why this show made
such a strong impression on so many.
It seems many of the people that were fans were kids when this first aired (I was six, probably became truly imprinted on my neural circuits in early syndication). I believe this show connected so much with its audience because as young children we all felt in some way that we were living in a Land of the Giants and so we identified very much with all the characters.
Anyway, sorry for the cheesy pop psychiatry, but that's my theory and I'm sticking with it.
Now if I can only figure out why I loved so many other 60's/70's TV sci-fi (Star Trek, Lost In Space, UFO, Space 1999, etc)
After "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," along with "Lost in Space" had
made their four-year and three-year runs, respectively, Irwin Allen
returned to television with this ambitious show about seven travelers
(eight, if you count the dog) lost on a world wherein they are "six
inch oddities" amongst giant EVERYTHING. The pilot episode,
appropriately entitled "The Crash" was, by far, the best of the entire
two-year life of the show. Featuring spectacular set pieces, a
brilliant John Williams' score, and good (for the budget and the era)
special optical effects, though the giant spider didn't work so well.
It's a shame, however, that the show didn't live up to the promise of weekly adventure as exhibited in the pilot. It's obvious that Allen was looking for another Will Robinson/Dr. Smith pairing with the characters of Barry and Commander Fitzhugh. Though actors Stefan Arngrim and Kurt Kaszner did their best, the scripts and the interplay between the two was not convincing.
As far as the other characters, they fit the typical stereotypes: the spoiled rich girl (Deanna Lund), the self-centered businessman (Don Matheson), the brave captain (Gary Conway), the dependable stewardess (Heather Young) and the "token" co-captain (Don Marshall). The latter has the distinction of being the sole African-American to star in an Irwin Allen television production; obviously, the producer was buckling, deservedly so, to have a better representation of the real look of America, as well as the world.
Of the four shows produced by Allen during the 60's, "Land of the Giants" possibly is the most difficult to categorize or even to recommend. It's not campy enough to be remembered as fondly as "Lost in Space"; it's not as adventurous as the underwater adventures of the submarine Seaview in "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"; and neither is it as innovative as the time travelers in the shorter-lived "The Time Tunnel" It's just a nice trip down memory lane for those of us that happened to have been around when Sunday nights meant "Lassie," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "Bonanza," and, of course, for two years, "Land of The Giants".
In 1968, when Land of the Giants first aired, I was a 9 year old kid
back home in the Philippines. I do not remember much of the episodes by
story, only bits and pieces of it. Like the giant gun the little guys
used to shoot the giant that was after them. The ax they used made of a
match stick and half a razor blade. Air ducts to escape and of course,
my personal favorite... the Spindrift! I was most fascinated by the
realistic props that were created than the plot of the whole thing. I
focused on the small items that we normally see around the house and
outside our backyards, transformed into colossal objects that can
hardly be moved 5 feet without the help of your friends and a serious
The Spindrift is the reason I became a model maker. I do not know how many times I've made the Spindrift out of cardboard. This was because, in my country at the time, there were no merchandising of any kind for any TV series or movie. And now, thanks to the internet, I just purchased a model of the Spindrift and the entire 51 episodes of the series (as I type this comment out, I'm still waiting for my order to get here). This time I can focus more on the storyline. Of course the impact will not be as great considering there have been tons of Sci-fi movies with way more advanced FX since then like Star Wars. But the memories live on and to me, Land of the Giants will always be the best Sci-fi TV series ever made! I don't care what other people say!
Recently,I got a chance to see some of the episodes on a local cable channel,and this was my favorite Irwin Allen series of them all. Several people including the dog,have crash-landed on earth,but its not the same planet that their ship was from. The special effects here are unforgettable which involved the characters to find themselves in some odd situation after another (especially in one episode where they are in a little girl's room where they take refuge in a doll house,only to be stalked by a giant cat!) Basically everything went just right with this series which didn't last long when it ran on ABC from 1968-1970,but it was a classic worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having watched the whole run, it strikes me that Land of the Giants is
really an elaborate Cold War metaphor. The giants themselves are like
the old Soviet Empire during its heyday. At first blush they seem
imposing, intimidating, seemingly impossible to overcome. Yet the
giants are also clumsy and slow. Their society is like an old Marxist
republic: dull, repressed, technologically backward; its denizens
sullen if not malevolent. The giants are unwieldy and inefficient, like
the bureaucracy of the state itself. The American "little people,"
thwart them time and again with Yankee ingenuity, creativity, and
The passengers and crew of the Spindrift are a disparate group with characteristics of "western decadence," (e.g., a rich, arrogant capitalist, a spoiled, shallow socialite, an opportunistic con artist.) Yet reflecting the ideal of American democracy, everyone pulls together when it counts, though perhaps after heated--and sometimes violent--debate.
On the downside, the show often seems to be "Land of the Giant Plot-holes." At a twelfth size, the little people often seem to traverse the city impossibly fast. The Spindrift lights flash day and night, inviting investigation from any passerby. The idea of camouflage doesn't seem to occur to the little people. Maybe a canary yellow blouse and a fire engine red jumpsuit aren't the best fashion choices for avoiding notice. They're constantly hunting for food because grocery stores are hard to break into, yet they have little trouble in pharmacies when there's a need for medicine.
I'll pass no judgment on the special effects; they were the best that TV could produce at the time, and many times hold up pretty well. However, the novelty of giant props like pencils and telephones wears off after a bit. The little people are forever climbing up and down the same table legs, ducking under the same doors, hiding against the same street curbs. It seems in retrospect that whole episodes could have been devoted to the problems of basic survival at a small size. How do they cross a small stream that to little people appears a mighty river? How do they deal with a nearby ant-hill? Instead, the plots are often fantastical and surreal, stretching the belief factor in a show that is pushing that envelope in the premise already.
On the upside, the cast is a pretty good set of actors. Kurt Kaszner seems to have the most fun, and his brilliant panache at playing Fitzhugh is the only thing that makes that character tolerable. Don Matheson gets to have the next most fun as hot-headed Mark Wilson. Matheson shows great aplomb at spewing the techno-babble required of the character. It's also good to see an engineer who isn't portrayed as an awkward nerd. Kudos also to Gary Conaway for his understated hand with Captain Burton. Conaway looks like he came out of the same TV leading man factory that produced Robert Conrad and Christopher George. But I think Conaway was the better actor and it's a wonder he didn't have a more notable career.
The women are good but horribly underwritten. Heather Young as Betty does get to show off her dancing and singing talents in the marionette episode. Otherwise, the character seems a template for a bland future soccer mom. One gets the impression that being a stewardess was just a prelude to catching a handsome pilot and having babies. The writers should have written her as a trained nurse, so at least they could involve her more for medical necessity. Deanna Lund gets to hint at Valerie's inner vixen, but never fully show it. This is a shame; they should have played it up, making her a foil for the dominant Burton and Wilson.
This show is ripe for a reboot/revival. It would be cool to see the Sci-Fi Channel tackle Land of the Giants in the same way they did Battlestar: Galactica.
This has to be one of my favorite shows. Sure, many people see it primarily as a carbon copy of Irwin Allen's other classic "Lost in Space", but this show had a little more depth than its more successful cousin. I say this because this was probably the only Irwin Allen production that dealt with a serious issue, totalitarianism. Even though it rarely was mentioned, the planet of the giants could have passed for the Soviet Union and, ironically, the show debuted a few weeks before Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and crushed the "Prague Spring". In fact, the show was very popular in countries that were behind the Iron Curtain.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What nonsense! But what clever effects!
So far as set-pieces and effects were concerned, someone had really tried. And quite a lot of money must have been stumped-up to produce it - which was brave for such an implausible sci-fi fantasy of 1960's vintage. The big problem (for me) was the fact the the land of the giants looked suspiciously like a normal terrestrial environment with normal human beings. It could as easily have been called 'Land Of The Midgets', but that we were presented the scenario from the midgets' perspective and induced to empathise with them.
The colossal furniture and contrived gadgets were great fun to see and at times there was some genuine drama and tension. But - as usual - with so much investment, the idea was milked for all it was worth and went on far too long. That was a problem with a lot of American 'concept' series, including 'Lost In Space', which it rather resembled, 'The Invaders', 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea', and the seemingly interminable 'Fugitive'.
I was also a little amazed how these 'castaways' always managed to remain so well groomed. Every episode saw them neatly permed and coiffured, clean-shaven, and never a smudge on their faces or a tear in their clothing (until they had an adventure). Their slacks were so tightly creased they might have come fresh off the peg from the local outfitters. Which they probably did. And this despite endlessly scrabbling through drain-pipes, air-ducts, and sundry rat-runs. In the real world these places would be wet, slimy, mouldy, smelly and crawling with unpleasant life-forms on a comparable scale to the giants. Where were all the other life forms? Things seemed a little too hygienic to be believable. Even for 1968.
Still, it was a fun programme for kids, before it overstayed its welcome and turned into a repetitive little-'n'-large soap-opera. With such comely wenches and handsome dudes, one can't help thinking that sooner or later there's have been some hanky-panky in the pipes.
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