Tag Archives: shane rimmer

RIP Shane Rimmer, 1929-2019

I was sad to read that the actor Shane Rimmer has passed away at the age of 89. A list of his credits is a eyepopping exercise in “I didn’t know he was in that!” He had small roles in two Doctor Who episodes, the first three Superman films, Star Wars, two of the Doug McClure dinosaur movies, one of the good Harry Palmer movies, Batman Beyond, a Dennis Potter serial, and two James Bond films for starters. In 1986, he starred in the original unsold pilot for Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct; Ted Shackleford took the part when the series was made a decade later.

But Rimmer could have had only one acting job and we’d salute him today, because he was the iconic voice of Scott Tracy in the original Thunderbirds series and films. He did voiceovers in all sorts of things, often uncredited (that’s the case with Billion Dollar Brain), but his awesome voice was so distinctive that you can recognize him instantly. Our condolences to Rimmer’s family and friends.

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Warlords of Atlantis (1978)

I remember watching Warlords of Atlantis about a hundred times when I was a kid, but I don’t quite remember all the endless walking, walking, walking around. It’s the fourth and final collaboration between director Kevin Connor and actor Doug McClure. Every summer from 1975-78, McClure flew to Europe and made another movie with rubber monsters, character actors, and lots of explosions. We’ve watched the other three for our blog already. Warlords of Atlantis is oddly not easily available in Region 1, but I picked up StudioCanal’s British DVD pretty cheap a while back.

Of the four, Warlords of Atlantis is a whole lot better than the previous year’s People That Time Forgot, but it’s not a particularly original piece of cinema. The screenplay by Brian Hayles has some interesting ideas – Martians have been living underwater for centuries and periodically kidnap the most intelligent humans they can find to further their goals of advancing our civilization through technology used in war – but the long core of the film is the heroes being captured, sitting around a cell until they realize a cruel and ignoble fate awaits them, and then escaping and going on a long, long road back home.

In the meantime, there are giant monsters, and some of them are pretty amusing. I do love the way that Connor and his visual effects team nearly perfected the art of a great big rubber claw to menace the actors while the rest of the beast is rear-projected into the background. Other effects, including a bit where stagehands fling some “flying fish” at our heroes, are a little less effective.

Shane Rimmer, who was left to twiddle his thumbs for most of People, has a meatier role in this story as the skipper of the Texas Rose. He’s been hired to bring this scientific expedition to the Bermuda Triangle in 1896 – of course they had to come to the Bermuda Triangle, it was the seventies – but when McClure and Peter Gilmore bring up a huge statue made from solid gold, he’ll have a mutiny on his hands from his greedy crew. John Ratzenberger, who would later find fame as Cliff in Cheers, is one of the evildoers.

Speaking of television, there’s even a wink at Doug McClure’s old series Barbary Coast, which I still think we might check out one of these days.

Our son has picked up an annoying habit of under-his-breath commentary, but he enjoyed the movie quite a lot, as he should. It’s certainly geared to the six-to-eleven bracket. When one of our heroes meets a gruesome end, he grumbled that the monster wasn’t eating fast enough and there was only room in its mouth for one person at a time. There are explosions and gunfights and desperate bids for freedom, and not one but two attacks from a super-intelligent mutant octopus, but the main thing our kid was worried about was whether Shane Rimmer’s cute Siamese cat would make it out okay.

Of all things, that reminded me of another movie from 1978, Jennifer, the horror film about the psychic snake-handling girl. The cat in that movie doesn’t make it out okay. I think we’ll skip that one…

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The People That Time Forgot (1977)

There’s a bit about fifty minutes into The People That Time Forgot where the heroes are being led on horseback toward a fairly good matte composite of what’s clearly a drawing of a city that looks like a bunch of giant skulls. Now, up to that point, this has been a perfectly good adventure film with dinosaurs and cavemen, with lots of great location filming in Spain. Then they go into the drawing and it’s all a laughably obvious set at Pinewood, with a volcano that’s not so much “lava” as it is “lava lamp,” and for the final twenty minutes, the ground keeps exploding and makes little Rick Wakeman keyboard noises along with the booming. Few films fall so far, so fast, as this one.

It’s not so much a sequel to The Land That Time Forgot as it is its inverse. That film starts with a half-hour of power struggles about the U-boat before it gets to the mysterious continent of Caprona. This one begins in the icy waters of that huge island, and within six minutes, the “amphib” seaplane bringing our four heroes inland is getting divebombed by a pterodactyl. And it’s a good pterodactyl, too. The winged dinosaur in the original film was probably that movie’s weakest part, a big inanimate prop swung around on a crane with huge, thick wires. This one is a proper puppet with a moving jaw. It’s Kevin Connor and Amicus Productions letting us know they’ve learned from some of that movie’s mistakes. Shame the company folded once the picture was finished; after twenty years as the chief British rival to Hammer in the world of horror and science fiction, they closed down and The People That Time Forgot was released through American International and MGM.

Dinosaurs are a much smaller part of the action in this one. It’s set a few years after the original. Doug McClure’s character, Beau Tyler, had last been seen throwing a “message in a bottle” into the seas of Caprona containing specimens and a detailed account of events. So a childhood buddy, played by Patrick Wayne, comes to the rescue, financed by a British newspaper. The niece of the paper’s owner is played by Sarah Douglas, best known as Ursa in Superman II. Also along, a scientist played by Thorley Walters and a mechanic, Shane Rimmer. And they’re all eclipsed by blues singer Dana Gillespie and her barely-there cavegirl costume.

Incidentally, before this movie, I knew Gillespie best as part of David Bowie’s glam-era retinue. She was part of the gang that appeared on the John Peel show in ’71 to promote Hunky Dory, and she sung a downright terrific rendition of “Andy Warhol.” So see, I’m not nearly as focused on her breasts as this movie’s cinematographer was.

So anyway, this chugs along as a perfectly good seventies adventure film, punctuated by better special effects and an ongoing competition between Wayne and Rimmer to see who can say “hell” and “damn” the most. Gillespie’s cavegirl character, Ajur, leads the heroes to the tribe called the Nargas that had abducted Tyler a few months before. The Nargas are wearing quasi-samurai armor for some reason. I was rolling around some kind of explanation – maybe a Japanese ship crashed here in the 1600s or something – and then we get to the drawing of Skull City and things get interminable.

The Nargas leader is played by the huge Milton Reid, who was usually holding axes and standing next to big gongs without his shirt on in lots of these sorts of movies. There’s a volcano god and of course the ladies have to be sacrificed, because this is, in fact, this sort of movie. The menfolk, including Doug McClure, who finally shows up without saying either “hell” or “damn,” rescue everybody, get out of the Pinewood set and back to Spain and have the big climactic gunfight while the ground explodes making “peee-sssshewww!” noises. Climax achieved, the film still has twenty minutes to go.

Marie’s theory is that the production company brought all the explosives they could carry to Spain, and by golly, they weren’t going to finish this movie until they’d set off every one of them. At one point they get cornered in a cave by a small four-legged dinosaur with a rocky, armored carapace and the camera keeps showing us the trembling roof and stalactites. An eternity later, one of them finally falls and impales the beast. Then there are more explosions and Shane Rimmer yells at the airplane’s engine to start. Apparently Caprona is alive and, unhappy that the wrong body fell into its volcano – well, given the choice of Reid or Gillespie, who can blame it? – it’s trying to keep them all from leaving. Nevertheless, it is all astonishingly fast-forwardable.

So, over to our five year-old critic, who was very excited by all the action, babbled at the evilness of the bad guys, and hid his head under his blanket during an unintentionally hilarious bit where the heroes are trying to rush through a narrow tunnel with monster heads lunging from the walls at them. I kept imagining the monsters on the other side of the wall standing at awkward angles trying to fit their necks through the hole, somehow figuring that this was a sensible way to find food. Anyway, he said that the best part of the movie was the airplane having the dogfight with the pterodactyl. I actually agree with that almost completely. That was the best part of the movie that didn’t have Dana Gillespie almost naked in it.

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The Secret Service 1.6 – Hole in One

Two episodes ago, the problem was that only a small child couldn’t figure out how secrets were being leaked to the enemy. Evidently, that was still too tricky, and so in this episode, they show us in the pre-credits scene that golf balls have tiny tape recorders inside them, and “the opposition” have rented a house near the 15th hole of a private course, and rigged up a series of chutes to collect the balls so that they can collect information that a general discusses on the course.

The story’s by Anderson veteran Shane Rimmer, and it’s a cute idea, but once you give that sort of thing away in the first minute and leave another twenty-three for the puppets to figure it out, you’re leaving a lot of room for five year-olds who don’t understand golf plenty of opportunities to ask what in the world is happening and “was that a hole in one?” There were, at least, a couple of explosions to keep him interested.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 2 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

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Captain Scarlet 1.32 – Inferno

We finished up Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons today with another episode that Daniel really enjoyed because it’s just packed with explosions and destruction as the bad guys get a decisive victory in their war of nerves. This time, the Spectrum Angels blow an Aztec temple to rubble in a desperate attempt to destroy a hidden transmitter that’s bringing an inbound rocket to Earth at top speed; in the valley beneath the old temple, there’s some gigantic factory that the baddies want destroyed. They blast the temple all right, but too late to alter the rocket from its doomed course; everything gets blown to smithereens this week.

I wasn’t counting, but it seemed like the Mysterons succeeded about a quarter of the time, which is really an astonishingly high percentage of the time for a kids’ show, with a fierce amount of collateral damage and civilian deaths even when they did lose. Plus, the villains killed off two of the Spectrum captains, Brown and Indigo. Compared to most kidvid antagonists, that’s pretty amazingly successful. Cobra Commander and the Decepticons just wish they were as good at being bad as the Mysterons.

I’m not incredibly clear on the chronology, but I think that the team at Century 21 did not get a very long break at all after the 32nd episode was filmed, and were soon back at work designing and getting ready for their next Supermarionation series, which was called Joe 90. Many of the writers from Scarlet, including this episode’s scriptwriters Tony Barwick and Shane Rimmer, worked on Joe 90, which also used many of this show’s puppets.

Joe 90 is available on Region 1 DVD, but I have never cared for the show at all and so we won’t be watching it. (You’re welcome to give it a try yourself if you like, though!) The program that Anderson made after Joe 90 was called The Secret Service, and I really like that one. It’s not available in Region 1 yet, so it’s just as well I bought a new player this month. Fingers crossed that we’ll come back to The Secret Service in a few months, but next up in our rotation is something a little more recent…

One final note: the voice of Captain Scarlet, Francis Matthews, went on to star in the BBC’s really successful detective series Paul Temple, which ran for four series in the early 1970s and which sounds like a must-see for people who enjoy British TV from that era. It was produced by Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, who had just finished up the black-and-white years of Doctor Who and featured all sorts of recognizable talent behind and in front of the cameras. I would love to enjoy that show, just as I’m presently enjoying Jason King, made in the same era, after Daniel goes to bed. Unfortunately, of the 52 episodes they made, only sixteen still exist, because of the BBC’s old policy of junking and deleting old tapes. More on that subject down the road as well.

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