Land of the Giants is an hour-long American science fiction television program lasting two seasons beginning on September 22, 1968, and ending on March 22, 1970. The show was created and produced by Irwin Allen. Land of the Giants was the fourth of Allen's science fiction TV series. The show was aired on ABC and released by 20th Century Fox Television. The series was filmed entirely in color and ran for 51 episodes. The show starred Gary Conway and special guest star Kurt Kasznar.
Set fifteen years in the future, in the year 1983, the series tells the tale of the crew and passengers of a sub-orbital transport ship named Spindrift. In the pilot episode, the Spindrift is en route from Los Angeles to London, on an ultra fast sub-orbital flight. Just beyond Earth's boundary with space, the Spindrift encounters a magnetic space storm, and is dragged through a space warp to a mysterious planet where everything is twelve times larger than on Earth, whose inhabitants the Earthlings nickname "the Giants." The Spindrift crash-lands, and the damage renders it inoperable.
Very little is known about the home planet of the Giants. This is partially because the Spindrift crew very seldom leave the area where their spaceship crashes in the opening episode. Only two other (unidentified) giant societies are ever seen, in the episodes "The Land of the Lost" and "The Secret City of Limbo."
No name is ever established for the mysterious planet, but the inhabitants seem to know of Earth, Venus and Mars, referring to them by name in one episode. Exactly where the planet is located is also never made clear. In the episode "On a Clear Night You Can See Earth," Captain Steve Burton (Gary Conway) claims to have seen Earth through a set of infrared goggles invented by the giants, implying that the two planets are indeed separate worlds, but near enough to be able to see one from the other. The only established method by which Earth people may reach the giants' planet is high-altitude flight, passing through what one giant calls a "dimension lock" (a term whose meaning is obscure).
Although various episodes establish that at least six other flights have landed on the planet, no episode confirms anyone ever returning to Earth. The first mention of other visitors from Earth was in episode 2, "Ghost Town," in which another ship was said to have crashed long ago without any survivors. In episode 4, "Underground," another Earth ship is described as crashing three years previously, again with no survivors.
Several episodes show crews surviving the initial crash, only to be killed later. The episode "Brainwash" has a crew of little people surviving long enough to build a radio station that can communicate with Earth. They are killed shortly after that. The episodes "Golden Cage" and "The Lost Ones" show there have been a few survivors of other crashes. Only the Spindrift crew seems to have survived for long with its party intact.
One continent, or hemisphere, is dominated by an authoritarian government which tolerates full freedoms within a capitalist system, but it does not tolerate any effort to effect political change. Exactly what the political situation is on other continents is not known, although at least one overseas land has a despotic ruler. The Air Traffic Control tells those who venture out to sea that they should turn back, that nothing beyond that sea has been explored nor is there current contact; whether this is an official government line or the truth is not known.
Culturally, the Giant society closely resembles the contemporary United States of 1968 (in various episodes it has a police force, private hospitals, prisons, a State Governor, radio and television services, a zoo, jazz clubs, even a racetrack - and the Giants speak English, drive American cars, attend Vaudeville-style theatres, and even play chess). The Earth people find themselves able to cope, and their efforts to get around are facilitated by the ubiquity of large drains leading directly from interior rooms to the pavement, in an outside wall of most buildings. The Giant government has offered a reward for the capture of the small Earth people (whom the Giants call the little people).
In spite of the authoritarianism, there are several dissident movements at work that either help other dissenters (such as the Earth people) or are actively working to unseat the ruling party. The government has established the SID, Special Investigations Department, to deal with assorted dissidents but it also takes the lead in dealing with the Earth people. The Giant technology mostly resembles mid-20th century Earth, but inconsistently: significantly more advanced in some episodes (e.g. cloning, cybernetics, force fields, magnetic stunners, androids, and teleporters) and slightly behind in others (no microelectronics, hearing aids, or manned space flight).
The little people's objectives are: (1) survival, by obtaining food and avoiding capture by the Giants or attacks from animals, such as cats and dogs; and (2) repair of their spacecraft, so they can attempt to return to Earth. They largely manage to survive by the help of sympathizers and stealth, making the most of their small size, plus their ingenuity in using their technology where it's superior to that of the Giants.
They do not achieve the second objective, as the primary systems of the craft are severely damaged, although in some episodes (including "The Flight Plan") Burton implies it is only a lack of fuel which prevents the ship lifting off. The secondary systems are insufficient to enable them to achieve the sub-orbital flight required. They are unable to use Giant technology, as it is bulky and less advanced; in one episode an experimental nuclear reactor, provided by an engineering student, produces dangerous side effects and is prone to overloading. They also cannot trust the Giants, who in another episode ("Target: Earth") offer the little people a ride home in exchange for technical assistance with their space program, but then double-cross them.
They are aided in the first goal, and at least somewhat hindered in the second, by the leadership of Captain Burton. He behaves as a leader, and as protector to the passengers and crew, and his leadership has rescued them from some difficulties. But Burton also tries to keep the Giants from ever reaching Earth. In the episode "Brainwash," Giant police officer Ashim (Warren Stevens) says "Maybe we can find the home planet of these little people. It may be a very tiny world, but rich beyond our dreams." In several episodes, Burton puts keeping the Giants away from Earth above the need to get his people home. At the end of those episodes, he destroys devices that would get the Spindrift back to Earth but which would probably enable the Giants to journey there too.
Episodes often have the Giants capturing one of the passengers or crew, with the rest having to effect a rescue. The Earth people avoid capture most of the time, because their spaceship is hidden in a wood (in several episodes, described by the Giants as a park) outside the city limits. They also occasionally form alliances with individual Giants for some common beneficial purpose.
The show had no proper conclusion about the humans' attempts to return to Earth, and the final episode, "Graveyard of Fools," was a universal tale that could have taken place anytime in the second season. The penultimate episode, "Wild Journey" (guest starring Bruce Dern), has Steve and Dan using alien technology to travel back in time to Earth just a few hours before their ill-fated flight. In a storyline lifted from the Lost In Space episode "The Time Merchant," they attempt to alter the timeline but only succeed in ensuring that the events of the first episode, "The Crash," take place (footage from the pilot, where Spindrift becomes lost, is included in this episode), creating a Twilight Zone-style twist ending, with the impression of a recurring cycle of inevitable events. This episode would have been more effective as the final episode of the season, mirroring Irwin Allen's earlier series The Time Tunnel, in which the events of the final episode return the characters to their starting point in the pilot episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday"; and Land of the Giants makes more sense with "Wild Journey" switched for "Graveyard of Fools" in reruns.
The first season comprised a regular 26 episodes, but season two was left one episode short, having only 25 episodes, leaving the impression that "Graveyard of Fools" was not originally intended to be the final episode of the Season. The show thus comprises only 51 episodes (or 52 episodes including the unaired pilot).
The show was created by Irwin Allen. With a budget of US$250,000 per episode, Land of the Giants set a new record. The actors had to be physically fit, as they had to do many stunts, such as climbing giant curbs, phone cords and ropes. Don Marshall, who played the part of Dan Ericson, credited his previous football, track and pole vaulting work for helping him with the stunts required.
Elements of Allen's Lost in Space series recur in Land of the Giants, notably the relationship between foolish, greedy, on-the-run bank robber Alexander B. Fitzhugh (Kurt Kasznar) and the young boy Barry Lockridge (Stefan Arngrim), paralleling the relationship on Lost in Space between Doctor Smith and the young Will Robinson. Also, for main cast billing, Kasznar was treated contractually in the same manner as Jonathan Harris had been on Lost In Space: billed in last place on the opening credit sequence, but billed as Special Guest Star (even though he was a series regular). Apart from this, Gary Conway received solo star billing in the opening credits, with the other regulars all receiving also starring billing.
The show was originally intended to premiere as a mid-season replacement in the spring of 1968, and the first 12 episodes were shot in the fall of 1967. This was changed and Giants premiered in September 1968 for a full season. The network screened the episodes in a significantly different order to the production sequence. This caused disconcerting lapses in continuity, since in the first 12 episodes filmed (but not in later episodes) the Giants moved slowly and hardly spoke. For example, "Ghost Town" was the 14th episode filmed (i.e. was not one of the original 12 episodes), but was the second episode aired.
The cost of production was immense, partly because of the special optical effects needed to matte the little people into shots also showing the giants; and partly because of the gigantic mechanical props needed, for the little people to interact with, in shots depicting the giant-sized world they find themselves in; plus the futuristic spacecraft sets that were needed to represent the Spindrift. Because of the enormous cost, it was more efficient and cost-effective to film episodes in pairs using the same sets; so writers were informed about what giant-size props there were available, which they could incorporate into their storylines. These episodes were filmed back-to-back.
To save on production costs, Allen was not above using the same device he had employed on The Time Tunnel: re-using stock footage from 20th Century Fox's film library. For instance, in the episode Collector's Item, footage of Wayne Manor from Batman is recycled as the luxury mansion home of a rich giant.
In the unaired pilot of The Crash, there is no end scene with the giant dog in the garbage dump. Once it had been confirmed that Land of the Giants had been picked up by the network, the pilot was reworked and production began on succeeding episodes. However, a break in production occurred after 12 episodes were in the can (enough for a short run as a mid-season replacement), until the show received the green light on the decision to launch it as a full season the following fall.
Land of the Giants guest stars included many familiar faces from other 1950s and 1960s sci-fi/fantasy and adventure series (e.g. Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeannie). These popular, well-known character actors included Jack Albertson, Chris Alcaide, Michael Ansara, John Carradine, Yvonne Craig, Charles Drake, Alan Hale, Jr, Jonathan Harris, David Opatoshu, Larry Pennell and Warren Stevens.
Like Allen's previous series Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel, the theme music was composed by John Williams. As with Lost in Space, Williams composed two different themes (in this case one for each season). Williams also scored the pilot episode "The Crash," and was the third composer to be attached to the project - Williams' work replaced a rejected score and theme by Alexander Courage; Joseph Mullendore composed a second theme that was also thrown out. Mullendore later scored five episodes and Courage did one, with other episodes scored by Richard LaSalle (seven episodes), Leith Stevens (five), Harry Geller (four), Irving Gertz, Paul Sawtell and Robert Prince (one each).
GNP Crescendo released an album as part of The Fantasy Worlds Of Irwin Allen, featuring both themes, Williams' replacement score (tracks 2-6) and Courage's thrown-out score (tracks 9 and 10) for "The Crash."
All 51 episodes were released on DVD in Region 1 in a limited-edition 9-disc Complete Series on July 24, 2007 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This includes the un-aired original pilot, which has some differences (extra scenes but not others later added to the aired version) and score music familiar to Lost In Space fans and interviews with cast members.
In Region 2, Revelation Films has released the entire series on DVD in the UK. Season 1 was released on March 28, 2011 and season 2 on June 13, 2011. They also released a complete series set on March 12, 2012.
The pilot episode was the subject of a View-Master reel and booklet set in 1968 (GAF Packet # B494). One notable difference between the aired episode and the reel set is an image of the Spindrift flying through the giant forest in apparent daylight. In the aired episode, the Spindrift arrives on the giants' planet during the night, and its flight through the forest also occurs that same night. Though the following is unconfirmed, either the daylight shot was a special effects sequence cut from the aired pilot, or a special setup for the View Master photographers.
In 1968, Pyramid Books published an extended novel adaptation of the pilot (Land of the Giants, Pyramid Books, X-1846), written by famed author Murray Leinster. Among notable changes or inventions is that the Spindrift is still an operational, flying ship after the initial crash, with enough "atomic power" to last as much as several months. Another invention for the novel is the knowledge that two other ships, the Anne and Marintha, disappeared via the same mysterious phenomenon that sends the Spindrift to the giants' planet. The Spindrift castaways encounter a female survivor of the Anne, named Marjorie, who joins the castaways in this novel. Although the television series featured three episodes with other on-screen survivors from previously lost Earth-flights, the novel's character Marjorie and the ships Anne and Marintha do not appear and are not mentioned in the series.
There were two further novels by Murray Leinster — The Hot Spot and Unknown Danger (Pyramid, 1969). These two Leinster books were reprinted in the United Kingdom by World Distributors, with the latter given a new title, The Trap. World also published two United Kingdom-only novels in 1969, Slingshot for a David and The Mean City; both were credited to James Bradwell, but the style of the two books is so dissimilar the name may have been a shared pen-name.
A hardback novel for children, Flight of Fear by Carl Henry Rathjen (1969), was published in the United States by Whitman.
Also in 1968, Gold Key Comics published a comic book version of Land of the Giants, which ran to five issues. In 2010, all five issues were reprinted together as a hardcover book by Hermes Press.
In 1968, Aurora Plastics Company produced two plastic model kits based on the series: Land of the Giants was the title of a diorama depicting a giant snake attacking characters Steve Burton, Betty Hamilton and Dan Erickson, who uses a giant safety-pin as a spear. The second kit was a model of the Spindrift, released as Land of the Giants Space Ship, instead of using the proper name for the vehicle.
In 1975, Aurora re-issued the kit (now renamed Rocket Transport Spindrift), with new box art and photos of the assembled kit. It had a front top section which could be lifted off, revealing a full interior that had to be constructed by the builder, as well as a working door. Most of the model kit was molded in the same bright red-orange as the ship itself, while the interior was molded in a light green which could be painted.
Deanna Lund (Valerie Scott) co-wrote a series of short stories based on the series, under the collective title "Valerie in Giant Land".
MeTV began airing Land Of The Giants in September 2016 to complement its Saturday night Sci-Fi line-up of other Irwin Allen series: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Lost In Space and The Time Tunnel. Prior to debuting on MeTV, Land Of The Giants had aired only sporadically in syndication in recent years. The Horror Channel in the UK aired the series in full from September 19, 2016, showing one episode a day on weekdays, across ten weeks.
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