Land of the Lost was 70s Claymation Sci-Fi Heaven
It snuck up on me all of a sudden. You see I’m a special case because I’m one of those “eccentric” types and I’ve always been a jumbled quirky mess.
I practically exited the womb as a grumbly curmudgeon (with a heart of gold, of course). So in some ways, I’ve always been old before my time.
But earlier this week I fell into full-on, “back in my day” nostalgia mode, and I’m not sure there’s any going back now.
At the moment I’m blaming the transition into old geezer on the hubby. You know ‘cause you’ve gotta blame someone, right?
Get off my lawn!
A couple of weeks back the husband took his own dive into “get off my lawn!” mode when he discovered that all of the episodes of one of his all-time favorite TV shows from childhood were available online. He’s German so I’m not familiar with his show, a cartoon called “Captain Future,” but it was incredibly popular in Germany when he was a kid.
He has been watching at least one episode every evening since he rediscovered it. The iconic theme music is now forever etched into my own brain, but I truthfully have no clue what’s going on it since I don’t speak German. I only pick up an occasional phrase here or there and the fact that for some strange reason they say his name (which they say A LOT) in English.
It was in this state of nostalgia by proxy that my tumble into old began.
Through a podcast, I had just learned about a prolific lunchbox illustrator who had been responsible for the art on probably every single lunchbox I had ever owned as a kid. So, on a whim, I decided to take a look for vintage lunchboxes on eBay and Etsy.
And that’s when I saw it. It was a “Land of the Lost” lunchbox.
Land of the Lost was THE Saturday morning shiz
To say that I loved “Land of the Lost”—or as folks in the know (you know, the cool kids) call it LOTL—would be putting it mildly. The show, filled with amazing Claymation prehistoric creatures and costumed aliens, made a huge impression on me as a child. I’ve never forgotten the terrifying Sleestaks, the awe-inspiring dinosaurs, or even the tiny little life-raft in the opening credits.
In fact, years ago in a coffee and nostalgia-fueled moment I scoured YouTube for some LOTL clips, and remember coming up mostly empty. But holy heck, since then some kind soul appears to have uploaded ALL of the episodes. I know this because as soon as I spotted that lunchbox I was on the hunt for anything and everything “Land of the Lost.”
In my hunt, I learned a bunch of random and fascinating facts about the show, and the cast, that I never had any clue about since I was so young at the time. Such as the fact that Sleestaks—who to this day inform my vision of what an unfriendly and cruel invading alien race would look like—were played by UCLA basketball players.
The Sleestaks were super-tall imposing creatures, so recruiting basketball players to play them was a stroke of genius.
After all, this WAS the 70s
I also learned that Wesley Eure, who played Will Marshall on the show (in an open shirt with a gold chain of course – after all this WAS the 70s), was also on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” at the same time. And that he dated Will Chamberlain, sang the theme song of the show, and is embarrassed by his billing as simply “WESLEY” in the opening credits for the first two seasons (apparently a publicity stunt dreamed up by his managers).
Also, he’s from New Orleans and had such a thick accent that he had to work with a dialogue coach to get rid of it before he could act on stage. And the cast was pretty much screwed out of any kickbacks from the merchandising because it was pre-union days (but he doesn’t seem bitter).
Kathy Coleman, who played the adorable Holly Marshall on the show, has two grown sons and is no longer acting. But she penned an autobiography “Lost Girl: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth, So Help Me Kathleen” that details her experiences in the industry (apparently she looks back fondly on her LOTL years), as well as her two abusive marriages. I might have to pick up a copy of that.
Phillip Paley, who played the prehistoric caveboy Cha-Ka was just 10 when he was cast for the show. He got the role after having been seen on “The Tonight Show” with Chuck Norris because he had earned his black belt in karate at age 9. Paley is now a litigation support project manager at a law firm in LA.
I also learned that in 2004 Wesley and Kathleen did a commentary track for a DVD release of the series. Unfortunately, that commentary wasn’t included in the 2009 DVD, so it looks like I need to hit eBay again.
A couple of screenshots for your viewing enjoyment…
Because, come on, Claymation… dinosaurs!
I always credit my father for my love of science fiction. After all, he introduced me to “Lost in Space,” “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone.“ But when I rediscovered LOTL I realized this Saturday morning treasure—a treasure that I discovered on my own—had a heck of a lot to do with it too.
Sure the acting is more than a little wooden. And Claymation has gone the way of the dinosaurs (a darn shame because, come on, Claymation dinosaurs!). But that’s a big part of what makes LOTL charming. Besides it was 1974 and LOTL was some pretty darn terrific sci-fi for its time.
In fact it sported an impressive who’s who of writers including Walter Koenig (one of its creators and a god of children’s programming), Larry Niven (sci-fi writer known for Ringworld), DC Fontana (she wrote for “Star Trek”), and David Gerrold (he wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode of “Star Trek”!!!)
Now while the husband is watching “Captain Future” before heading off to LaLa Land I’m watching LOTL … two old farts doing what old farts do.
No matter if you are an old LOTL fan, or if you’ve never even heard of the show before, you owe it to yourself to settle in for an episode. If you don’t have time right now bookmark this sucker, I promise you it’s worth it.
I present LOTL Season 1, Episode 1
Bonus… Season 3, Episode 1 so you can see how the show matured…
August 28, 2015 / Alice Wessendorf / 0
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