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"Money Shots" -
The Films of IRWIN ALLEN  (1916 - 1991)

Born: New York City, NY - June 12, 1916
Died: Santa Monica, California - November 2, 1991
Resting Place: Mt. Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery


1986 Outrage (TV movie)
1985 Alice in Wonderland (TV movie)
1983 Cave In! (TV movie)
1983 The Night the Bridge Fell Down (TV movie)
1982 Aliens from Another Planet (TV movie)
1981 Code Red (TV series)
1980 The Memory of Eva Ryker (TV movie)
1980 When Time Ran Out...
1979 Beyond the Poseidon Adventure
1979 Hanging by a Thread (TV movie)
1978 The Swarm
1978 The Amazing Captain Nemo (TV movie)
1977 Viva Knievel! (uncredited)
1977 Fire! (TV movie)
1976 Flood! (TV movie) (producer - uncredited)
1976 Time Travelers (TV movie)
1975-1976 Swiss Family Robinson (TV series)
1975 Adventures of the Queen (TV movie)
1974 The Towering Inferno
1972 The Poseidon Adventure
1971 City Beneath the Sea (TV movie)

   Allen on THE SWARM ...
1968-1970 Land of the Giants (TV series)
1969 City Beneath the Sea (TV movie)
1964-'68 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV)
1965-1968 Lost in Space (TV series)
1968 The Man from the 25th Century (TV short)
1966-1967 The Time Tunnel (TV series)
1962 Five Weeks in a Balloon
1961 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
1960 The Lost World
1959 The Big Circus
1957 The Story of Mankind
1956 The Animal World (documentary)
1954 Dangerous Mission
1953 The Sea Around Us (documentary)
1952 A Girl in Every Port
1951 Double Dynamite (producer - uncredited)
1950 Where Danger Lives (associate producer)

... on the (upside down) hull of the S.S. POSEIDON

Bill Mumy and James Darren on Irwin Allen's THE TIME TUNNEL


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 Suite: "THE TIME TUNNEL End Title Theme" / "THE TOWERING INFERNO Main Title" (J. Williams)

* Born in June, 1916, Irwin Allen was a voracious reader from childhood.  He'd pursue his passion for writing by entering Columbia University in 1938 as a journalism major. But after relocating to LA (and a short stint as a magazine editor), an expanding interest in other forms of journalism media landed him a gig producing an hour long radio show for KLAC.

* After leaving KLAC, he'd go on to write, produce and host his own radio show - one of the first celebrity interview programs ever, entitled "Hollywood Merry-Go-Round".  In the early days of television "Merry-Go-Round" would evolve into a TV interview show.  Having fallen in love with the craft of film making (and film writing in particular), Allen would establish his own literary agency, managing talents such as Ben Hecht (HIS GIRL FRIDAY, GUNGA DIN, GONE WITH THE WIND, SPELLBOUND), Fanny Hurst (IMITATION OF LIFE) and P.G. Woodhouse (THE BLANDINGS CASTLE, ANYTHING GOES). 

* Allen went from Tinseltown literary agent to film producer, within 3 years, releasing a trio of features back to back: the noir thriller WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) starring Robert Mitchum and Claude Raines; the comic caper DOUBLE DYNAMITE (1951) with Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx; and A GIRL IN EVERY PORT (1952) with Marx, Marie Wilson and William Bendix.  Having become friends with his childhood idol Marx (Allen would even appear on the comedian's show YOU BET YOUR LIFE), the duo would work together again on Allen's star studded extravaganza THE STORY OF MANKIND (1957). 

* The premise of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's pilot episode - "Encounter At Farpoint" (UPN  - 9/28/87), wherein the apparently omnipotent "Q" places the crew of the Enterprise on trial for the crimes of humanity, is an homage to Allen's THE STORY OF MANKIND.  In MANKIND, a "Council of Elders of Outer Space" deliberates whether the human race, in light of it's invention of the "Super H-Bomb", should be allowed to survive or be destroyed.  An Angel ("The Spirit of Man" - portrayed by Ronald Coleman), and a devil ("Scratch" - Vincent Price) act as defense and prosecutor at the trial, where episodes from mankind's past are offered as evidence. 

* The cast of THE STORY OF MANKIND also included Hedy Lamarr, Virginia Mayo, Peter Lorre, Charles Coburn, Cesar Romero, Dennis Hopper (as Napolean!), and John Carradine.  It was the last film in which the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Harpo, and Chico) appeared on screen together.  

* After "A GIRL IN EVERY PORT" Allen produced a pair of critically acclaimed documentaries: 1953's Oscar-winning oceanography feature THE SEA AROUND US (yes, Allen is an Academy Award-wining film maker!), and THE ANIMAL WORLD (1956) - notable for featuring stop motion animation by the legendary Ray Harryhausen (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD) in the film's dinosaur sequence. 

* A great fan of old school high action yarns, Allen would then spearhead a series of his own, in rapid succession cranking out four popular family friendly adventures including THE BIG CIRCUS (1959), as well as a contemporary version of Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD (1960) starring Michael Rennie, Claude Rains, David Hedison, Jill St. John and Fernando Lamas; VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961) and FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON (1962). 

* For THE LOST WORLD, wherein modern explorers enter an Amazonian jungle inhabited by prehistoric creatures, Allen had originally wanted to use Harryhausen-like stop motion animation effects for the dinosaurs.  But budgetary constraints forced the use of optically magnified "monitor lizards" dressed with plastic horns and spikes.

* Directed, produced and co-written by Allen, FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON is loosely based on Jules Verne's 1863 novel of the same name (French title: "Cinq Semaines en Balloon"), which at the time was in the public domain.  At the time, the producing team - the Woolner Brothers (Lawrence, Alfred & David), also had an adaptation in production entitled FLIGHT OF THE LOST BALLOON directed by Nathan Juran (JACK THE GIANT KILLER, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD).  While Allen and Fox couldn't prevent the release of the competing film, they were able to apply legal pressure to get the Woolner's to drop all references to Jules Verne from their version. 

* In Verne's original novel, the name of the experimental balloon in which Professor Fergusson attempts to cross the African continent is named the "Victoria".  In the film it's named "Jupiter".  Years later,  when Allen created his television series LOST IN SPACE, he'd name the Robinson family's exploratory space vessel "Jupiter II". 

* Winning subject matter coupled with Allen's legendary thriftiness (he frequently reused sets and stock footage from film to film) made all of the adventures box office hits.  And by the time his Windsor Productions made 20th Century Fox it's home base of operations, VOYAGE in particular (wherein an experimental submarine battled a deadline and saboteurs to destroy a radiation belt threatening the earth's atmosphere) was such a smash, Allen and the studio adapted it into a popular weekly TV series which ran on ABC from 1964 - 1968).  

* In a January 2011 episode of PBS's PIONEERS OF TELEVISION, Irwin Allen was named "the most successful science fiction producer of the decade" of the 1960s.  And with good reason.  in addition to VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, he would also write, produce, and occasionally direct (
always the all important pilot episode) episodes of other now iconic genre series LOST IN SPACE (CBS / 1965 - '68), THE TIME TUNNEL (ABC / 1966 - '67) and LAND OF THE GIANTS (ABC / 1968 - '70). 

* LOST IN SPACE was originally entitled SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, as it's premise was a sci fi version of the 1812 novel THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON by Johann David Wyss.  At the time that title was already taken by the similarly themed Gold Key publishers comic book, so Allen's show was renamed "LOST IN SPACE".   The original un-aired LOST IN SPACE pilot episode "No Place To Hide" was more serious in tone than the subsequent series.  It did not contain the characters of Dr. Zachary Smith nor the Robot.  They would be added to the re-filmed first episode "The Reluctant Stowaway".  

* Nathan Juran would become one of LOST IN SPACE's most popular directors.  He helmed the Woolner Brothers' competing Jules Verne film FLIGHT OF THE LOST BALLOON, and would also go on to direct numerous episodes of Allen's THE TIME TUNNEL and LAND OF THE GIANTS. 

   Note POSEIDON ADVENTURE's re-release title in selected countries ...  

* In 2003 the WB Network commissioned the filming of a LOST IN SPACE reboot series pilot entitled THE ROBINSONS: LOST IN SPACE.  More serious in tone than the original series, it bore resemblance to the original unused LOST IN SPACE pilot; and like that pilot it did not include the Dr. Smith character.  It did however include a robot.  Directed by action maestro John Woo, the series was never picked up by the WB.  It's sets were purchased by the producers of the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and redesigned as the Battlestar Pegasus.


* Desiring to return to feature films, Allen re-introduced himself as the biggest of big screen power players with the back to back worldwide hits THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)  and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974).  In fact, after POSEIDON, Allen's producer clout was at such an all time high, he was able to convince home studio 20th Century Fox and cross town rival Warner Bros. to set aside competing adaptations of the novels THE TOWER by Richard Martin Stern and THE GLASS INFERNO by Thomas N. Scortia & Frank M. Robinson, in favor of one project on which the companies would share expenses as well as split profits.  This became THE TOWERING INFERNO. 

* Dubbed "the Master of Disaster", Allen would continue his global annihilation of mankind -
one catastrophe at a time, with the follow up (though not as successful) big screen nail biters THE SWARM (1978), BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979) and WHEN TIME RAN OUT ... (1980), as well as the small screen TV movies FLOOD! (1976), FIRE! (1977), THE NIGHT THE BRIDGE FELL DOWN ('83) and CAVE IN! ('83).  In fact his name became so synonymous with the "disaster" genre, he'd often be mistaken as being behind films such as EARTHQUAKE and THE HINDENBURG, in which he had no part. 

* In THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, Shelly Winters gained 35 lbs. to portray the portly Mrs. Belle Rosen.  She also trained with an Olympic swim coach so her character, a former swimming champion in her youth, would come across more realistically in the sustatined underwater sequence where she rescues Gene Hackman's preacher character, Reverend Frank Scott.

* While the film version of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE is a fairly faithful adaptation of Paul Gallico's 1969 novel of the same name, Allen wanted a family friendly adventure and chose not to film some of the book's more "unsavory" (if realistic) elements including a horrific rape scene which occurs after the vessel is capsized.

* John Guillerman is credited as director of THE TOWERING INFERNO.  But all of the action sequences were helmed by Irwin Allen himself.  In order to get truly startled reactions from his cast, Allen would often fire a gun loaded with blanks into the air during filming.  Of the movie's 57 constructed sets, most were deliberately destroyed with on set pyrotechnic and flooding stunt sequences.  Only 8 remained intact at the completion of filming.  

* Paul Newman did most of his own stunts in THE TOWERING INFERNO, including climbing up and down the bent stair railing, hand over hand, after a gas leak explosion destroys the floor beneath him. 

* THE TOWERING INFERNO was the most critically acclaimed "disaster movie" of the era.  It received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Fred Astaire), and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Jones).  It won three: Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp & Joseph F. Biroc), Best Film Editing (Carl Kress & Harold Kress), and Best Song ("We May Never Love Like This Again" by Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn).  The film currently holds an aggregate 77% Positive rating on   

Throughout the remainder of the 1970s and 80s Allen not only continued to create his "disaster" epics, but spearhead intriguing smaller projects including the TV movie THE TIME TRAVELERS (1976), based on a story by TWILIGHT ZONE's Rod Serling - about two contemporary doctors journeying to Chicago of 1871 to save a cure to a future contagion from the infamous Chicago fire.  THE MEMORY OF EVA RYKER (1980), detailing a young woman's trauma in coming to grips with her mother's shipboard death during WWII.   A star studded TV movie musical version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1985).  The legal drama OUTRAGE (1986) with Robert Preston, Beau Bridges, Burgess Meredith and Mel Ferrer.  And even the fictitious action "bio" VIVA KNIEVEL, starring motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel as himself, in a story about a scam to kill the stunt performer in Mexico, then use his body to transport drugs to the U.S. !!!?

   Michael Caine, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain - THE SWARM (1978)

* Rumors circulated that Allen was planning a big screen version of LOST IN SPACE when he passed away in 1991.  It would come to fruition in the 1998 film LOST IN SPACE, starring William Hurt, Gary Oldman, Mimi Rogers, Matt LeBlanc and Heather Graham. 

*TWO remakes of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE would be produced within one year.  The 2005 TV movie event version starred Adam Baldwin, Rutger Hauer, and Steve Guttenberg.  And Wolfgang Peterson (DAS BOOT, AIR FORCE ONE)'s 2006 IMAX theatrical POSEIDON featured Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss and Emmy Rossum. 

 "LOST IN SPACE" - Season 2 Theme (J. Williams)

LAND OF THE GIANTS (ABC / 1968 - 1970)   


      Detractors (hey, call 'em what they are - "haters") take pleasure in pointing out the "cardboard characterizations" in even the best of Allen's films (VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO), but conveniently fail to mention (or even notice) the deliberate, and yes - slyly subtle, design and execution of mythological / archetypal narrative inherent within them.  In recent years, for example, the subtextual "theological debate" underpinnings of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, along with it's Dante-esque and Homerian philosophical referencing (courtesy Academy Award winning screenwriter Sterling Silliphant  - IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT) have garnered the film an all new tidal wave (couldn't resist - ed.) of critical respect.

     Which is not to say any of Allen's projects are social diatribes in disguise.  Hardly.  And certainly not THE SWARM!  But in addition to their immense entertainment value, now and then his films have managed to permeate society's subconscious to positive effect.  After THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, Allen was made an honorary Sea Captain in over twenty countries for helping raise awareness of maritime safety.  And in the years following THE TOWERING INFERNO, firefighters around the world were so grateful to him for raising fire safety awareness, many ladder companies sent him their helmets (a symbol of respect), and he was made an honorary fire chief in over seventy cities. 

  Allen on THE TIME TUNNEL (ABC / 1966 - 1967)

     Allen's legacy continues to influence film today.  Current "Master of Disaster" - director Roland Emmerich  (INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 2012) cites Allen as a primary influence on his films.  It's been said by some that THE TIME TUNNEL is a perfect example of where later "DR. WHO" adventures might have gone had the series never introduced the Daleks. 

     And pop culture references to the producer have made his name part of the contemporary lexicon.  Among them: in Steven Soderbergh's caper comedy sequel OCEAN'S THIRTEEN (2007), an "Irwin Allen" is the name of a con scam wherein the mark is fooled into believing a fake "natural disaster" is real.  In the 1989 song "Man Vs. Nature" by the rock band KILLDOZER (the group's name taken from a popular 1970's TV movie thriller, by the way), Allen is mentioned as the "master of realism", and his films THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO cited.  And even in an animated 1987 episode of Disney's DUCK TALES, a film maker named "Irwin Mallard" films the destruction of a Hindenburg-like dirigible. 

Irwin Allen died of a heart attack November 2, 1991 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 75.


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