Dino De Laurentiis, R.I.P.

Mann Village TheaterDino De Laurentiis (Agostino de Laurentiis), larger-than-life Italian film producer, passed away yesterday, November 10th, 2010 in California. He was 91.
De Laurentiis produce quite a number of science fiction, horror and fantasy-related films> His first notable one was ULYSSES (1954), adapting Homer’s tale of the indomitable leader and his travails, including encouter with mythical creature such as the Cyclops. The international production starred Kirk Douglas, Silvana Mangano (whom he would marry) and Anthony Quinn.
In 1961 he executive produced the peplum GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES, in `64 the comedy, THE FLYING SAUCER. 1968 saw the comic book-based DANGER:DIABOLIK and the lavish BARBARELLA, starring Jane Fonda and and international cast.
In 1976 he produced the controvesial remake of KING KONG, 1980 brought the campy FLASH GORDON feature, now considered by some a cult classic.
He was involved with CONAN THE BARBARIAN and CONAN THE DESTROYER with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He financed and produced David Lynch’s odd vision of the Frank Herbert epic SF novel DUNE.
 Several Steven King properties included THE DEAD ZONE, CAT’S EYE, SILVER BULLET, and MAXIUM OVERDRIVE.
He let Sam Raimi bring ARMY OF DARKNESS to life.
He brought Hannibal Lecter to the screen in MANHUNTER, HANIBAL, and RED DRAGON.
I met him briefly in New York at a FLASH GORDON screening. A small statured man with a big personality and a love of filmmaking—and probably the last of the old-school movie moguls.

FLASH GORDON 2 – What Could Have Been

3223bIn honor of the 30th anniversary of the Sci-Fi classic FLASH GORDON, totalscifionline sat down with director Mike Hodges, where it was revealed – dun dun duuuunnnn! – that there was supposed to be a second installment! Why didn’t it happen? Mr. Hodges explains how differences between Producer Dino De Laurentiis and star Sam J. Jones did in the follow up film:

”I was very fond of Sam but here’s what happened: we did the main shooting up until Christmas and then we stopped for the break. After Christmas I came back and did all of the second unit stuff too. For instance, I had to do the shots with the flying men and that sort of thing—what passed as special effects back then (laughs). So I also had to shoot a whole bunch of other stuff with a stunt double for Sam and I had to re-voice the occasional line of dialogue too. Not much but some—and I got somebody to impersonate Sam’s voice. You would never know it wasn’t him.
But Sam found out and I think that was one factor that led to him being upset. And Dino and he just did not see eye to eye for a while. So when you lose your main star there can’t really be a sequel.”


A sad day for fan boys everywhere, no doubt. But take heart – we most likely haven’t seen the death of this cult sensation!

New 'Flash Gordon' – Same Old Thing

FG_BUSC_WAirlock Alpha reports that director Breck Eisner (THE CRAZIES) is still working on his FLASH GORDON project. and hoping for a ‘franchise’.
Though the article mentions that Eisner doesn’t plan to retread old ground, it sounds like he plans to do exactly that. The film’s to be yet another origin story.
Eisner is quoted as saying that the film will be an origin story and goes on to say the following:

“The comic from 1930s was made into serials in the ’50s and ’70s, then the director’s version in the ’80s. It was campy and the effects were not so good —this version is in no way a remake.  Our version goes back to strips from ’30s and we will update those and shoot the movie as if the strips were drawn today. It will be an action and adventure sci-fi.”

The `30’s Flash Gordon strips were adapted with a surprising degree of faithfulness in the three Universal Studios serials from 1936 to 1940, starring Buster Crabbe.
FGTVColorThere were no serials (in the sense of chapterplays) in the 1950’s or 70’s, unless he’s referring to the 1950’s FLASH GORDON television series that starried Steve Holland (pictured, with Irene Champlin as Dale Arden). This series set Flash & Co. as intergalactic government agents in the far future.
Filmation’s NEW ADVENTURES OF FLASH GORDON cartoon series aired from 1979 to 1980, and was intially based on the 30’s strips, though it eventually wandered off into more whimsical kiddie fare.
The campy 80’s FLASH GORDON with Sam Jones was an attempt to update the same Mongo story, as was the recent low-budget SyFy series.
While it’s commendable to want to be true to the original Alex Raymond strips, Flash Gordon has a wide and galaxy-spanning 70 plus year history of diverse adventures. It’s not limited the story of Mongo, Ming the Merciless and the attendant souped-up historical costume melodrama of the early years of the strip done over and over again.
It was like a mix of John Carter of Mars and Prince Valiant, with a touch of Ruritanian romance and sprinklings of Robin Hood in the early years. In later days, the comic strip went off more in the direction of space opera, with more space travel and science fiction concepts. 
I’d like to see a film that did not attempt go back to the well and try to carry the same recycled water in a fancier jug.

Al Williamson, Himan Brown – RIP

– FLASH GORDON Has Lost Two ‘Fathers’-

JUNE’s been a rough month for Flash Gordon. Two men important to his legend and legacy have passed on.

AlWilliamson_flash_crop

On June 12th, Alfonso “Al” Williamson , talented comic strip and book artist, passed away at 79. Williamson worked on many adventure and science fiction/fantasy features, most notably King Feature’s 1960’s FLASH GORDON comic book.
Long a fan of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon strip, Al Williamson would draw Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9 for several years,  and later Flash— using a style that suggested the richly detailed and realistically rendered look of Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday strips, resulting in some outstanding comic book work.
In the ’50s Williamson worked for EC Comics on titles that included Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, sometimes collaborating with artists such as Frank Frazetta and Wally Wood. He also contributed to Warren Publishing’s Creepy and Eeerie magazines.
In the 1980’s Al Williamson become George Lucas’s favored STAR WARS artist, working on both comic books and the newspaper strip.
He also worked, mainly as an inker, for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics. In 1995, he did a special two-issue Flash Gordon comic for Marvel.
Al Williamson was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2000.

*****

Earlier this month, on June 4th, famed radio creator-director-producer Himan Brown passed away, just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday. Brown contibuted to something in the area of 30,000 radio episodes in a 70-year career.
Flash-Gordon_Comic
In April of 1935, Brown launched The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, a 26-episode weekly radio serial for the Mutal Brodcasting system. Transcribed in New York, this version of Flash Gordon stayed very close to the Sunday strip for most episodes. 
The actor playing Flash was a young Gale Gordon, who later moved to California and became known as a crusty comic foil on radio and televison, familar to most as Mr. Wilson on TV’s DENNIS THE MENACE and Mr. Mooney on THE LUCY SHOW.
A longer-running Further Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon had its own independent storylines, bringing Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov into a war in Atlantis, as a syndicated series that ran through 1936.
Producing for both syndication services and major radio networks, Brown would work with talents such as Orson Welles, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and others.  His comic strip and genre-related shows included Bulldog Drummond, Dick Tracy, The Gumps, and Terry and the Pirates.
Perhaps his most memorable and influential show he did was Inner Sanctum, which dealt with mysteries, horror, and science fiction themes, hosted by the sardonic narrator, Raymond (Raymond Everrett Johnson, also Radio’s Mandrake the Magician). THE TWILIGHT ZONE and similar programs owe more than a little to this series. Brown  also produced the ’50s INNER SANCTUM TV show.
In later years, Himan Brown produced the CBS Radio Mystery Theater from 1974 to 1984.
FLASH GORDON remains in active delevopement as a feature film from Sony/Columbia Pictures, to be directed by Breck Eisner (THE CRAZIES).