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Recommended Irwin Allen Films

Irwin Allen produced and directed a lot of films, and television as well of course. What I’ve tried to do here is to list some familiar and popular theatrical features along with one of his more obscure made-for-TV productions. Hopefully this gives an accurate representation of the many pleasures his works have to offer.


City Beneath the Sea
Dir. Irwin Allen
A failed 1969 TV pilot served as the basis for this TV movie about an experimental underwater community called Pacifica. As all of the gold in Fort Knox is being moved in to storage there, along with a volatile new element can only be stabilized by the gold, a group of citizens plots to destroy Pacifica to steal it all. Oh, and an asteroid is on course to wipe them all out.

This is ridiculous and a lot of fun for Allen fans. Robert Colbert, James Darren, and Whit Bissell from The Time Tunnel are in it. Richard Basehart and Robert Dowdell were in the TV series of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Also there’s Robert Wagner (who later appeared in The Towering Inferno and the always-welcome Joseph Cotton. Plenty of other Allen irregulars show up as well, including Sheila Allen as a woman who wants to take her dress-making dummy in the evacuation of Pacifica.

98 min., color, 1971
G

 


The Poseidon Adventure
Dir. Ronald Neame and Irwin Allen
Based on Paul Gallico’s book, this movie follows a group of survivors trying to escape from a capsized luxury liner. It won an Oscar for Best Music: Original Song (“The Morning After”) and made a big enough splash that it spawned a delayed sequel, 1979’s Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, directed by Irwin Allen.

Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowall, Leslie Nielsen — if this cast doesn’t grab your attention, how about all of them wading through water tank sets?

117 min., color, 1972
PG

 


The Swarm
Dir. Irwin Allen
In 1957, Africanized honey bees escaped in Brazil. The aggressive strain began to kill their natural rivals and make their way north, reaching North America in 1985. Based on the book Arthur Herzog, this film depicts a swarm of the killer bees destroying a town in Texas.

This one is endearingly overwrought and ridiculous. The bees manage to wreck a train, and when a school is attacked the carnage is reduced to bees crawling on a giant lollipop.

116 min., color, 1978
PG

 


The Towering Inferno
Dir. John Guillermin
Based on novels by Richard Martin Stern, Thomas N. Scortia, and Frank M. Robinson, this film about a skyscraper burning won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Song (“We May Never Love Like This Again”). Paul Newman and Steve McQueen head the all-star cast.

Flames, fire hoses, collapsed staircases… this is the big one, the classic. If you’ve seen only one Irwin Allen production I’m willing to bet it was this one.

165 min., color, 1974
PG

 


Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Dir. Irwin Allen
The cutting edge submarine Seaview, designed by Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon), must stop global warming — by blowing up the Van Allen Belt! Bad science, lots of action, global catastrophe, and sabotage, in the film that inspired Irwin Allen’s longest running show.

Nothing in this makes a lick of sense, but it doesn’t need to with a supporting cast that includes Joan Fontaine, Peter Lorre, Barbara Eden, Michael Ansara, and Frankie Avalon!

105 min., color, 1961
PG

Recommended Films About Island Experiments

The Island Experiments theme is all about mad science, just in a specific remote location. But what turns ordinary, ill-advised science mad? The movies I’ve selected all feature monsters created by scientists. Their motivations may differ — and in one case the creature was even an accident — but in every case it is the scientist who built the beast!

The five films I’ve selected vary in quality and tone. I wanted to pick movies that I love that aren’t necessarily well-known to casual viewers. Hence, an older classic and some interesting ones from a bit more recently.

Genre fans have likely heard about most of these, if not seen them already. You may have other preferences (obscure or popular), and I invite you to share them! Add them in the comments, and let everyone know what other Island Experiments films they should check out!


The Flesh Eaters
Dir. Jack Curtis

A fun under-seen creature-features from the early 1960s. Martin Kosleck plays a Nazi scientist, living on a remote island to carry on experiments to weaponize flesh-eating microbes. When a small plane is forced to land due to mechanical problems, a pounding rainstorm is the least of their problems.

Lo-fi special effects, but surprisingly gory in parts. Lots of spousal arguing. Watch it for Kosleck and the microbes’ final attack.

87 min., b&w, 1964
No MPAA rating

 


Island of Lost Souls
Dir. Erle C. Kenton

When you think of 1930s horror, Universal’s monster movies are inescapable. But it was Paramount that produced this moody adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau (the first film version with sound). Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi anchor the cast as Moreau and his Sayer of the Law, and Kathleen Burke’s Panther Woman is nearly as iconic as Dracula and Frankenstein.

Though there are some light prosthetics and hair applications, this is not really a movie about effects. It’s driven by character and mood.

70 min., b&w, 1932
Not Rated

 


Island of Terror
Dir. Terence Fisher

An accident in a research lab creates a bone-eating monster that splits every few hours. In no time the island is swarming with them, forcing the locals to seek shelter in a church. Co-star Peter Cushing and legendary Hammer director Terence Fisher bring class to the independent production.

The creatures are a bit silly but get the job done. The mounting tension leading to a siege is where it’s at.

89 min., color, 1966
No MPAA rating

 


Jurassic Park III
Dir. Joe Johnston

After The Lost World: Jurassic Park ripped off King Kong, this sequel proved that the franchise could still deliver by ripping off the first film. Sam O’Neill leads a team to one of the park’s research islands to help William H. Macy and Téa Leone find their son. It’s a rousing adventure that, while not providing anything new, gives more of what we liked about the original.

The dinosaurs aren’t the surprise they were in Jurassic Park, but it’s still solid work. Expect some moderate gore.

92 min., color, 2001
PG-13

 


Shock Waves
Dir. Ken Wiederhorn

I’m in a minority here, but I really like this one. John Carradine takes a boatload of tourists to a remote island where Peter Cushing is watching over his cache of Nazi zombies. It’s a bit on the tedious side, to be honest, but I love the ending. Wiederhorn’s biggest film would be Return of the Living Dead II, which should lower your expectations appropriately.

There’s very little going on effects-wise, but the zombies are creepy and there are a couple of effective shots of them.

85 min., color, 1977
PG