Rewind: ‘Land of the Giants’ revisited

Posted Filed under

What was it about?

From Irwin Allen’s notorious stable of endearingly shabby television sci-fi shows and disaster movies, Land of the Giants originally ran for two seasons from 1968 to 1970.

Chronicling the adventures of space travellers on a sub-orbital flight from Los Angeles to London in what was the near future of 1983, the ship’s crew and passengers found themselves thrown by a storm onto another planet, where they were the size of insects and gigantic humans were constantly trying to hunt them down.

A lighthearted mixture of camp action, surreal scenes and glaring continuity errors, this short-lived but fondly remembered cult classic was amongst the most enjoyable (not to mention ridiculous) sixties shows.


Who was in it?

Essentially a mash-up of Allen’s earlier show, Lost in Space, and Gulliver’s Travels, Land of the Giants’ casting borrowed heavily from the Lost in Space template.

Chisel-jawed Gary Conway took the role of Captain Steve Burton, not dissimilar to the all-American Dr Robinson, while Kurt Kasznar took the Doctor Zachary Smith role of outrageously camp anti-hero Alexander Fitzhugh, a cowardly bank robber.

The show wasn’t a star-making piece like, say, The Prisoner, but the cast were good, deadpan, value for money and Kasznar was great, gurning fun as Fitzhugh.

By far the most impressive name in the personnel list was composer Johnny Williams, better known nowadays as John Williams, a name you may just recognize from scoring such little-known movies as Star Wars, Jaws and Indiana Jones.


Best moment?

At the time, Allen’s show held the record as the most expensive TV production (it reputedly cost $250, 000 per episode), and, though heavily dated now, provided some brilliantly overblown sets involving giant hands, oversized toys and, erm, massive pencils.

Despite this, Land of the Giants‘ real strength was its imaginative ideas, when it allowed the most absurd scenes to take shape. Hitting its stride early on, the second broadcast episode, Ghost Town, featured a scientist’s daughter tormenting the littl’uns in a weird toy-town torture device.


Last seen?

The show ended in 1970 but had repeated worldwide airings throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties.

With the episodes falling victim to that time-honoured tradition of being aired in a weird, non-consecutive order, and that other tradition of being cancelled at short notice, there was no conclusion filmed, so who knows if the group ever get home? The final episode, Graveyard of Fools, was just a regular standalone adventure on the other side of the planet with no resolution.

2010 saw a reprint of the five-issue comic book adaptation, but other than that and some late sixties novelizations, spin-offs have been sparse.

A limited edition Complete Collection boxset, featuring all 51 episodes over 14 discs, was released last month, while the surviving cast members regularly appear at comic and sci-fi conventions in both the US and UK.


The future?

Future prospects are about as tiny as the show’s mini-stars. The remaining cast are almost all long retired nowadays, so there’s no chance of a remake featuring the original cast, though, as ever, there are the usual internet rumours about a Battlestar Galactica-style reboot.

If a one-off film were to be made, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine Sam Worthington as the stoic lead, or Megan Fox taking the Deanna Lund role of spunky sex symbol. Likewise, Monk star Tony Shalhoub would make a brilliant Fitzhugh, if producers didn’t go for the overly serious route.

Still, most of these threads have come from fanboys rather than studio execs (and of course, the names above are pure speculation), so don’t hold your breath.


> Buy the Complete Collection boxset on Amazon.

Watch the trailer…

What are your memories of Land of the Giants? Let us know below…