June 11, 2016

LAND OF THE LOST (1974)

LAND OF THE LOST (1974)
(NBC, September 7, 1974-December 4, 1976)


Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions

MAIN CAST:
Spencer Milligan – Rick Marshall (season 1-2)
Wesley Eure – Will Marshall
Kathy Coleman – Holly Marshall
Ron Harper – Jack Marshall (season 3)
Phillip Paley – Cha-Ka
Sharon Baird – Sa (season 1-2)
Joe Giamalva (season 1) & Scutter McKay (season 2) – Ta
Jon Locke – Sleestak leader (season 3), Tapa

As the 1970s began, a shift in television programming began to take hold.

ABC's 1974 Saturday ad.

The push for more pro-social and educational programming on television meant networks had to ensure they featured programs that fulfilled those requirements. The industry had also decided to cut down on the number of commercials per hour on Saturday mornings, leaving producers with an extra 1-2 minutes of airtime to fill each half hour. Since it was easier and more cost-effective to fill those minutes with live-action as opposed to animation, a new wave of live-action programs began to be created over the traditional cartoons. At the same time, the high ratings garnered by reruns of Star Trek caused networks to revisit the science-fiction genre for their upcoming schedules.

CBS' 1974 Saturday ad.

CBS, having found success in their partnership with 20th Century Fox in bringing M*A*S*H to television sought to duplicate it and cash in on the renewed sci-fi craze by adapting the Planet of the Apes series. Everyone believed that the Apes program would be a hit, and the networks began work on similar programs immediately in order to successfully compete against it. ABC contracted Hanna-Barbera to produce the live-action Korg: 70,000 B.C. which would incorporate modern solutions to prehistoric problems. Meanwhile, CBS doubled-down on their time-bending sci-fi by having Hanna-Barbera create Valley of the Dinosaurs; which had a modern family being shunted back to the Stone Age.

NBC's 1974 Saturday morning ad.

Not to be left out, NBC’s vice president in charge of children’s programs Joe Taritero approached Sid and Marty Krofft for their foray into the world of Saturday morning science fiction. Although the Kroffts were largely known for their work in the genres of comedy and fantasy, they had been incorporating pro-social and educational elements into their programs since before the FCC mandated it.

When dinosaurs attack!

In order to produce the best show possible, the Kroffts sought out the best people to bring it to life. They hired David Gerrold as the series’ story editor. Gerrold had previously worked on both the original and animated version of Trek. With him came other Trek veterans including Margaret Armen, Norman Spinrad, Joyce Perry, D.C. Fontana, Larry Niven and Walter Koenig, who had also played Ensign Chekov on the original show (Koenig was left out of the animated version due to budgetary restrictions). Trek make-up artist and costume designer Michael Westmore also joined the show, along with Trek art director Herman Zimmerman. Together with their frequent collaborator Allan Foshko, the Kroffts, Gerrold and Taritero hashed out what would become The Land of the Lost.

Rick, Holly and Will Marshall.

The show centered on the Marshall family—park ranger Rick (Spencer Milligan), his son Will (Wesley Eure) and daughter Holly (who would proceed to name various dinosaurs, played by Kathy Coleman)—as their camping trip led to their being thrust through a time/dimensional vortex into a valley of prehistoric creatures. The Marshalls used their limited supplies and skills to set up a home in a cave and forage for survival until they could find a way home. Within the jungle are various kinds of dinosaurs, primitive-like people called the Paku and the humanoid lizard-like Sleestaks.

The Sleestaks.

In an unusual move for a children’s show, the details of the series were gradually revealed over the course of its episodes rather than spelled out entirely in the first episode. The Marshalls had not journeyed into the past, but rather into the future of a planet called Altrusia. Altusia had once been the home of an advanced civilization that was able to manipulate time and weather through the use of colored crystals and pylons. Somehow, that technology had gotten out of control, isolating the planet into a dimension accessible only by time portals and devolving the Altrusians into the Sleestaks who savagely react to the first sign of advanced technology. To play the extremely tall Sleestaks, the Kroffts recruited several members of the University of Southern California basketball team including Dave Greenwood, Bill Laimbeer, John Lambert, Cleveland Porter, Jack Tingley, Scott Fullerton, Mike Westra, Bill Boyd, David Harris and Clarke Roberts. Because there were a limited number of suits, usually only three Sleestaks were seen at a given time.

Enik over the colored crystals.

A lot of the history of the planet was divulged through the introduction of Enik (initially “Eneg” in honor of Gene Roddenberry but changed by Gerrold into a reverse of the Greek word for “cinema”, played by Walker Edmiston). Enik was an Altrusian from the past who traveled through time to learn about his ancestors, but instead ended up in his future and learned about the fate of his people. Enik possessed the ability to send the Marshall’s home but was too preoccupied with returning to his own time to save his people from their future; although, being a creature of honor he would help out the Marshalls from time to time. Edmiston would help design the Sleestak outfits and his own costume, as well as helped the writers mold Enik into the character he’d become. Edmiston would also play prospector Jefferson Davis Cole who had come to be stranded in the land some time ago.

The world of Altrusia.

To create the grand world of Altrusia, the set was built on a modular soundstage at General Service Studios in Hollywood. Various trees and props could be moved around to create the illusion of a vast, sprawling jungle as needs dictated. Additional scenery was produced though the use of chroma key and minatures. Creatures on the show were created through the use of people in rubber suits or in make-up, stop motion animation, rear projection film effects and hand puppets for close-ups. With such a demand on special effects Krofft Productions had to enlist the aid of an outside animation/special effects firm, turning to Excelsior Animated Moving Pictures manned by Gene Warren, Jr., Peter Kleinow and Harry Walton. Warren, Sr. served as an associate producer for Land’s first season, while his partner, Wah Chang, handled the fully rendered dinosaur model designs. Many of the effects were often reused as stock footage, and later intercut into various episodes. The effects, while not holding up to today’s standards, were some of the best on television at the time.

The Marshalls feast with the Paku.

To increase the educational value of the show, Taritero envisioned a new language for the Paku that the audience could learn over the course of the episodes. For this, he enlisted noted linguist Victoria Fromkin, Ph.D to create the 300-word Pakuni language. Upon the completion of each script, they would be turned over to Fromkin so that she could translate the Paku speech into Pakuni. The scripts were in turn turned over to NBC censors to ensure she didn’t slip any hidden expletives into the text. The primary Paku depicted on the series was leader Ta (Joe Giamalva & Scutter McKay), the female Sa (Sharon Baird), and Cha-Ka (Philip Paley), who was most eager to befriend the Marshalls.

Holly looks through a time doorway.

Land of the Lost debuted on NBC on September 7, 1974. The opening theme was composed by Linda Laurie and played over an opening showing how the Marshalls arrived in the strange land. The rest of the series’ music was composed by Jimmie Haskell. Historically, networks were reluctant to commission more than 17 episodes of a children’s show. Knowing this, the final episode, “Circle”, was scripted by Gerrold and Nevin with the notion that the Marshalls and Enik were on the verge of returning home, but first had to pass through a time loop and relive the entire season all over again. This was designed to segue into an endless cycle of reruns and entice people to watch the show over again. The dialogue in the episode also had a sense of finality to it. However, those provisions proved to be unnecessary as Land became a major success and the Kroffts’ biggest hit since H.R. Pufnstuf. The show easily outperformed the two Hanna-Barbera programs it aired opposite of: Valley of the Dinosaurs and Devlin.

The Lost City.

Land underwent several changes both in front of and behind the cameras. Gerrold and Zimmerman left the show, replaced by Dick Morgan (who wrote a couple of first season episodes) and Elayne Cedar, respectively. Under Morgan, the second season maintained the high quality standards that the series had become known for, although many plot inconsistencies slowly began creeping into the scripts and Morgan had some difficulty in making grand stories work within the scope of the series’ budget like Gerrold had. Line producer and director Dennis Steinmetz also left, with the Kroffts themselves taking up his duties, and Gordon Wiles came on board as a new director. Meanwhile, the personalities of Ta, Sa and Cha-Ka were further distinguished and defined. Ta developed delusions of grandeur while Cha-Ka became more confident. However, the Paku’s physical actions began to become less-distinctive from modern humans. The Sleestaks were also made more buffoonish, accompanied by amusing background music, and the animation gradually became less convincing.

The Zarn.

Enik was joined by new recurring character, The Zarn (Van Snowden body, Marvin Miller voice). The Zarn was a humanoid composed of light that became stranded on the planet while his ship was traveling through hyperspace. The Zarn was a researcher who convinced of his own superior knowledge and acted arrogant and overconfident because of it. He also possessed psionic abilities that granted him telepathy and mad him susceptible to angry emotions. To compensate for his delicate senses, the Zarn often employed android assistants and a combat robot named Fred, which resembled a bipedal armless dinosaur.

Uncle Jack joins the Land of the Lost.

The series continued to perform well and was renewed for a third season; however, sweeping changes were made all around. Behind the scenes, Morgan was replaced by Sam Roeca, who served as story editor on the competing Valley of the Dinosaurs. Joe Scanlan and Rick Bennewitz were the new series’ directors, ousting Wiles and Bob Lally, who had been with the show since the beginning. Jon Kubichan assumed the Kroffts’ role as line producers, reducing their roles to executive producers. The writing staff also changed to include Roeca, Kubichan, Greg Strangis, John Cutts, Tom Swale, Peter Germano and Ian Martin.



On the show itself, the most jarring change came when Milligan left the show over a salary dispute. His character was written off the show as having been sucked into a time doorway (portrayed by a crew member in a wig resembling Milligan’s hair) conveniently at the same time Rick’s engineer brother Jack (Ron Harper) came through while searching for his missing relatives. The season opened with the Marshall’s cave home ending up destroyed in an earthquake that also killed Ta and Sa. The Marshalls moved into an abandoned temple near the Lost City as a result. Cha-Ka remained, but was now able to speak perfect English. The Sleestaks also gained the ability to speak English through their new leader (John Locke). The earthquake also opened access to previously unexplored parts of the planet and new dinosaurs to roam through. Eure, who had a budding music career, was allowed by the Kroffts to perform at the end of several episodes on a jerry-rigged guitar made out of found materials. Enik was degraded into a virtual clone of Trek’s Mr. Spock, uttering the phrase “most illogical” quite often as well as gaining a new skin color. The third season also relied heavily on guest-stars coming and going effortlessly through the time doorways, whereas they were sparser in the previous seasons and served a purpose in the overall story.

Guest-stars kept coming and going throughout season 3.

The overall quality of the show gradually diminished as the third season progressed. The pro-social messages once delivered subtly through the stories were no force-fed to the audience. The dinosaur animation remained impressive, but the editing had gotten sloppy to the point where in one episode scenes were clearly assembled out of order, mismatched stock-footage clips were used to arbitrarily insert a dinosaur into a scene, and at points the wrong puppets were used for the close-ups of various creatures. The ratings plummeted not only because of the creative shift, but in part to being scheduled opposite the Krofft Supershow on ABC. NBC moved Land around on its schedule before allowing it to quietly end its run on December 4, 1976.

The infinite time loop known as "reruns".

 Land returned to the airwaves 2 years later in 1978 before it was absorbed into the daily syndicated rerun package Krofft Super Stars. In 1985, CBS had to fill some airtime and decided to air select episodes of Land from June to December. The reruns garnered incredible ratings and prompted CBS to rerun it again from June to September if 1987, getting even higher ratings the second time around. This prompted ABC to enter into negotiations with the Kroffts to bring Land back to television with an all-new series in 1991.

Land of the Lost: the board game.

The original Land had its fair share of merchandising, part of which contributed to Milligan’s leaving the show as he felt the actors deserved to be compensated for their images to appear on the various products. Amongst them were a lunchbox by Aladdin, View-Master slides, Whitman coloring books, puzzles and a magic slate, a Little Golden Book, a board game by Milton Bradley, various toys by Larami, and costumes by Ben Cooper. Newer merchandise included Sleestak and Cha-ka PVC figures and Nodniks, and a Sleestak bobblehead by Funko, and Sleestak vinyl figures by Keir’s Eye.

A smörgåsbord of Krofft goodness.

Rhino Entertainment released several VHS volumes with two episodes each beginning in 1999. In 2002, the “Skylons” episode was included on the compilation The World of Sid & Marty Krofft. From 2004-05, they released all three seasons and the complete series to DVD. They also released the pilot as part of Saturday Morning with Sid & Marty Krofft and four episodes on The World of Sid & Marty Krofft: Land of the Lost ‘Stak Attack! In 2009, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the complete series in both original packaging and a Land lunchbox. Later that year, Universal released all three seasons individually. The complete series was also made available as part of the The World of Sid and Marty Krofft-Complete Series by Beyond Home Entertainment Australia. The series’ theme was included on the compilation CD H.R. Pufnstuf and Other Sid & Marty Krofft Favorites.

EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“Cha-Ka” (9/7/74) – The Marshalls help a wounded Cha-Ka, but his companions Sa and Ta are wary of the strange humans.

“The Sleestak God” (9/14/74) – The Marshalls come across the Lost City where they encounter the Sleestak.

“Dopey” (9/21/74) – The Marshalls find themselves with a new “pet” brontosaurus.

“Downstream” (9/28/74) – A trip down the river leads the Marshalls to an old prospector armed with a Civil War cannon.

“Tag Team” (10/5/74) – A life-or-death clash between Grumpy and Big Alice puts aside Will and Holly’s arguing over gathering vegetables.

“The Stranger” (10/12/74) – The Marshalls encounter Enik who has the ability to send them home but is too absorbed in his own quest to do so.

“Album” (10/19/74) – The Sleestak use mind control on Will and Holly by making them think they see their deceased mother.

“Skylons” (10/26/74) – Holly and Will accidentally use a weather-manipulating device that creates a bad storm.

“The Hole” (11/2/74) – When Rick and a Sleestak are left to die in a bit, they must overcome their animosity towards each other and work together to escape.

“The Paku who Came to Dinner” (11/9/74) – Holly’s perfume causes her to be captured by the Paku and attracts the land’s ruling tyrannosaur.

“The Search” (11/16/74) – Will has to convince Enik to save Rick after he’s electrocuted by crystals.

“The Possession” (11/23/74) – A being looking to empower one of the pylons enslaves Cha-Ka and Holly.

“Follow that Dinosaur” (11/30/74) – Will and Holly discover a diary that may contain the secret to escaping the land.

“Stone Soup” (12/7/74) – A drought causes conflict between the Paku and the Marshalls over food.

“Elsewhen” (12/14/74) – A mysterious woman helps Holly overcome her fears so she can rescue her family from the Sleestak.

“Hurricane” (12/21/74) – Will causes a pylon to open a time door that brings over an astronaut from Earth while also creating a hurricane.

“Circle” (12/28/74) – The Marshalls and Enik discover a way home, but first they must go through a time loop and relive their entire time in the land before they can use it.

Season 2:
“The Pit” (9/6/75) – The Marshalls work to rescue Dopey from a tar pit.

“The Zarn” (9/13/75) – The Marshalls encounter a powerful alien being and a woman from Rick’s hometown.

“Fair Trade” (9/20/75) – Will and Holly go to Enik for help rescuing Rick from the Sleestaks.

“One of Our Pylons is Missing” (9/27/75) – Cha-Ka discovers a black hole that sucks things in to maintain the power source of the land.

“The Test” (10/4/75) – Will and Holly help Cha-Ka undergo the Paku rite of passage.

“Gravity Storm” (10/11/75) – The Zarn’s ship’s gravity drive causes gravity to go out of control in the land.

“The Longest Day” (10/18/75) – The Marshalls head to the Lost City to try and figure out why time seems to be standing still.

“The Pylon Express” (10/25/75) – Strange things happen when the moons begin to align, and Holly is taken on a time trip through one of the pylons.

“A Nice Day” (11/1/75) – When Holly is seemingly poisoned by a plant, the Marshalls turn to witch doctor Ta for help.

“Baby Sitter” (11/8/75) – Cha-Ka is left in charge of Holly while Rick and Will explore, and Holly is determined to prove she’s not a baby by outsmarting The Zarn.

“The Musician” (11/15/75) – Cha-Ka attempts to make music while Holly falls under the spell of The Builder after discovering a ring in the Lost City.

“Split Personality” (11/22/75) – An earthquake leads to the Marshalls encountering mirror images of themselves.

“Blackout” (11/29/75) – Rick and Enik have to find a way to reverse the Sleestak’s pylon tampering which caused it to remain night permanently.

Season 3:
“After-Shock” (9/11/76) – An earthquake destroys the Marshall’s home and sucks Rick through a time doorway, only to have him replaced by his brother Jack.

“Survival Kit” (9/18/76) – Jack has to bargain with the barbarian Malak in order to recover their stolen medicine to heal Holly.

“The Orb” (9/25/76) – A captured Enik convinces a newly-invisible Will to retrieve a sacred orb to exchange it with the Sleestak for his freedom.

“Repairman” (10/2/76) – A British repairman appears and asks the Marshalls to help retrieve a vital crystal the Sleestaks have stolen that controls the sun.

“Medusa” (10/9/76) – A river mishap takes Holly to a strange garden inhabited by a woman who refuses to let her leave.

“Cornered” (10/16/76) – Jack, Holly and Cha-Ka deal with a fire-breathing dimetrodon that poisoned Will.

“Flying Dutchman” (10/23/76) – Sea captain Vladmir helps fend of Malak but his price is Holly.

“Hot-Air Artist” (10/30/76) – The Marshalls help a balloonist that ends up in the land, not knowing he has designs for Cha-Ka.

“Abominable Snowman” (11/6/76) – Holly is given a unicorn for her birthday, but it ends up stolen by the Yeti-like Tapa.

“Timestop” (11/13/76) – A temporal key is found that can send Enik home, but the Marshalls need to use it to save one of their number.

“Ancient Guardian” (11/20/76) – Ancient menace Kona terrorizes the land, and only an equally-ancient Altrusian statue can save it.

“Scarab” (11/27/76) – When a scarab bites Cha-Ka, his personality changes and he frames the Marshalls for a crime.

“Medicine Man” (12/4/76) – The Marshalls convince an Indian and a Cavalry soldier to work together in order to survive in the land.

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