Land of the Lost 1.3 – Dopey

After two child-terrifying lessons in world-building, the pace of this show slowed to a merciful crawl for a comparatively inconsequential romp for episode three, giving the audience a short break. Margaret Armen, who wrote this one, was another veteran of TV science fiction. David Gerrold, who was story editor for the first season, brought on board several people who had written along with him for Star Trek, both the original show and the Filmation cartoon version, people who thought things through in a big picture sense that most Hollywood writers of the time simply didn’t, and so there’s a level of competency here that’s fun to watch.

Things have consequences that come back later, and elements are introduced in one episode that we’ll see again, like the strange gold obelisk thing that was seen very briefly in episode one, and which will later become extremely important. I was very pleased when Marie mentioned tonight that somebody had written “BEWARE OF SLEESTAK” on a pillar in the previous episode.

I couldn’t quite get the image to freeze on the very brief shot – repeated during the end credits – of Holly riding on Dopey without blurring. That’s a remarkable special effect for its time. The green screen / chromakey effects of the show are undeniably primitive, but Sid and Marty Krofft’s crew, who’d been working with the technology since Lidsville in 1970, had come up with some amazing imagery within the limited resources.

Sure, you can tell the joins between the actors and the stop-motion photography, but look at that shot and notice how Kathy Coleman is balanced on a blue sawhorse or whatever and keyed on top of the little stop motion model of Dopey. But the model is moving, and the actress appears to be moving in sync with it. I know that Coleman is stationary and waving her arm and it’s the live action camera that’s moving, but it’s moving at just the right speed to create the illusion of movement that matches the motion of the model, perfectly. What I’m getting at is that the special effects crew on this show had the most amazing challenges on American television at the time, and if I were in their company, I would have had an absolute blast trying to figure out how to make these sequences work.

Speaking of which, Daniel concluded that he only liked the ending of this episode, before admitting that he also liked the middle, and the beginning. Another one for the win column!

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