The Fantasy Worlds Of Irwin Allen

The Fantasy Worlds Of Irwin Allen (1995)
Image Entertainment
Extras: Featurettes

’The Fantasy Worlds Of Irwin Allen, ’ recently released by Image Entertainment, pays tribute to one of the last (if not the last) Hollywood ’showman.’ With ’Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ about to surface on DVD, the documentary about the Seaview’s creator makes an interesting follow-up.

Originally aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, the 95 minute homage documents the man responsible for such ’60s sci-fi TV fare as ’Lost In Space,’ ’Time Tunnel,’ ’Land of the Giants,’ and such disaster films as ’The Poseidon Adventure’ and ’The Towering Inferno.’ ’Space’ alumni June Lockhart and Bill Mumy guide us through generous servings of clips, behind the scenes footage, and reminiscences to paint the portrait of a moviemaker that loved turning dreams into celluloid reality. The list of interviewees read like a ’who’s who’ of baby boomer television addiction: Barbara Eden, David Hedison (Captain Crane from TV’s ’Voyage’ and the only one as far as I’m concerned), Lee Meriwether, Roddy McDowell, James Darren and Robert Wagner, among others. Part of the fun is seeing how Allen (apparently notorious for watching his bottom line) ransacked stock footage to help infuse his shows with high production values or how his high-tech special effects were sometimes nothing more than a model pushed past the camera lens.

The full-frame transfer exhibits good image quality for the shot-on-video interviews and wrap-arounds by Mumy and Lockhart. The archival sources look clean with surprisingly strong color fidelity and detail. As many of his theatrical ventures were widescreen, the clips and trailers in the documentary are similarly letterboxed.

On par for its small screen origins, the Dolby Digital mono audio provides ample levels for clean playback. A welcome touch in the documentary is the use of music cues from Allen’s TV shows and movies, adding a well-produced feel to the proceedings.

Extras include TV show concept featurettes for ’Land of the Giants,’ ’The Man From the 25th Century’ and ’City Beneath The Sea. ’ (Only ’Land’ made it to air.) A promotional reel for ’The Towering Inferno’ shows Allen in a ’typical’ day at the studio, planning his next blockbuster. With an opening menu incorporating John Williams’ zippy theme to ’Lost in Space’ and cursor graphics of the submarine Seaview, the spaceship Jupiter 2, and the capsized S.S. Poseidon, Image has made a fun, polished DVD. Allen would be proud.

’The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen’ focuses on his zeal for imaginative themes and material. It’s an amiable nostalgic journey for those who remember when television was a window to the fantastic and not a washing machine for dirty laundry.