Tag Archives: Goliath Awaits

[Stop Button Lists] The Lost Worlds of Kevin Connor

Kevin Connor, partial filmography, 1975-1981

I have heard of Arabian Adventure, I had forgotten I knew about it when I was thinking about doing this list. Kevin Connor’s career–which has gone from British fantasy films to American television to direct-to-video to the Hallmark channel–reminds of someone like Jack Arnold, who went from Creature from the Black Lagoon to “Gilligan’s Island.” I’m sure a lot of guys who directed “The Brady Bunch” had made some decent pictures in the forties and fifties.

But I wanted to do a list about Connor after watching The People That Time Forgot again for “Stop Button Favorites.” It’s a weird series of fantasy films, most starring Doug McClure, three adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs, a few starring Peter Cushing, a few starring John Ratzenberger!

Land That Time Forgot had been my dinosaur movie as a kid, it and Planet of the Dinosaurs. Even after Jurassic Park came out, because Jurassic Park was “real” not movie fantasy. It did all the imagining for you.

Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are bewildered Victorians in AT THE EARTH'S CORE, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are bewildered Victorians in AT THE EARTH’S CORE, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

Of the films on the list, I’d say Land That Time Forgot is easily the most “respectable.” It lacks the constant sexuality of People and it’s nowhere near as stupid as At the Earth’s Core. Now, Earth’s Core had Caroline Munro but she was sort of forgotten in the late eighties and early nineties. A mythic siren of PG-sexiness my generation didn’t grow up with.

And Warlords of the Deep didn’t have much U.S. distribution on home video. I’m not even sure it’s out now; I rented it (on R2) from Nicheflix the moment I could but I had never even come across it on VHS at that point and I was always on the lookout. As for Arabian Adventure, like I said, I sort of forgot about it even existing. I know I saw the seventies Sinbad movies but not much after I was seven or eight.

Goliath Awaits, the only entry on the film not a theatrical release (Goliath was a syndicated prime time miniseries), is there because it is such a perfect postscript to Connor’s other fantasy films.

John Dark produced all of Connor’s fantasy films–not Goliath–and they had a lot of similarities between them. They were period pieces. Land and People take place in the late 1910s, At the Earth’s Core is set in the Victorian era, Warlords is early 20th century (nothing too specific) and Arabian Adventure is, you know, some kind of fantasy era of Arabia. It’s not supposed to be very good; I know I have to see it now but I’m not looking forward to it.

They mixed American actors down on their luck with British actors who were just doing another gig to pay the bills. They launched no careers–unless they helped Sarah Douglas along to Superman II or Ratzenberger to “Cheers”–yet they are incredibly memorable films. Kino Lorber even got Connor to do commentary on their recent Land That Time Forgot blu-ray. It’s not a cult classic, but only because it the eighties weren’t long enough for it to catch on enough before Jurassic Park. It’s a quasi-cult classic.

Thorley Walters, Sarah Douglas, and Patrick Wayne star in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Thorley Walters, Sarah Douglas, and Patrick Wayne star in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

And they aren’t good. Well, People That Time Forgot is good. I’d love to hear a commentary on that film to see if Connor was being stylistic or they just didn’t have the money. But the other films aren’t good. Earth’s Core and Warlords are both awful. Back when I got them all (well, I owned Land and People) and watched them one week, my friend Jim was worried I had lost my mind. “What are you doing to yourself?” he said. Later, after I saw Goliath Awaits–I had first heard about it in high school, but had not found the full length version until 2007 or so–I mailed Jim a copy immediately. Such lunacy most be shared.

Over the years, even before the site, I have reexamined the interests of my youth, or even just the films people said were good when I was a youth, and tried to be as objective as possible. Good and enjoyable aren’t the same thing. A well-made movie can be entirely unrewarding (or partially unrewarding). Navigating nostalgia and how it interacts with the viewing experience of a film is simultaneously frustrating and fun. Critical thinking can be fun. Much like talking about these Kevin Connor films.

What’s upsetting about the films, listed chronologically, is how they don’t inform one another. Connor leapfrogged. Okay Land, bad Earth’s Core, good People, bad Warlords, haven’t seen Arabian but heard it’s even worse than the bad, then underwhelming TV mini series Goliath. It’s inconsistent to say the least. It does seem, however, even though there was so much cast and crew crossover, People and Land were their own franchise. Connor and Dark and McClure’s collaboration wasn’t the franchise.

Doug McClure and John McEnery star in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Doug McClure and John McEnery star in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

While we were recording “Alan Smithee,” Matt and I would often decide–talking about the bad movie of the episode–the story of its making would probably more interesting than the resulting film itself. We never did any of the Kevin Connor movies for an episode; we probably should have at least done one. Is there some great story behind the scenes of these films? Maybe, but I think not.

But for at least ten years, in the seventies and eighties, many of these films filled children’s minds with imagined lands and some inappropriate thoughts about cave girls. They aren’t insignificant, they shouldn’t be forgotten. I’m just not entirely sure they’re worth seeing. Other than People That Time Forgot. I think I wanted, as Matt and I were discussing what to do with “Alan Smithee” (we ended up closing it down), to try to get an interview with Sarah Douglas about her fantasy and sci-fi work as she’s now awesome on Twitter.

What do these films of Connor’s deserve now? A good book. I wish I had the time and resources to write it. I’ll have to hope to read it instead.

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Goliath Awaits (1981, Kevin Connor)

Goliath Awaits stars Mark Harmon as Doug McClure. Well, sort of. Harmon plays the Doug McClure role if Goliath was one of director Kevin Connor’s American International lost world pictures. And Goliath really is nothing but those four films rolled into one and modernized and given a budget (for a mini-series) far beyond whatever Connor had on the Time Forgot films. At the beginning, McClure would have been a real improvement over Harmon, who sports a mustache… oh, he was thirty? He seems like he was twenty-three… Anyway, Harmon can’t handle the lead in the teaser (since it’s a mini-series, the teaser runs about a half hour) and I was getting ready for a dreadful two and a half hours, then Robert Forster shows up as the other lead and Harmon moves over to a supporting position and he’s fine. Forster’s great, of course.

The film is oddly never slow. At three hours, it ought to be slow, but it’s really only two hours and fifteen minutes because it starts when Harmon and Forster (along with Connor mainstay–and mustache-free here–John Ratzenberger) get down to the sunken luxury liner and discover the lost world of the film (the Awaits part of the title makes little sense to me). I can’t get in to how the sunken ship has survivors and whatnot, but Christopher Lee is in charge and Frank Gorshin is his sidekick. Lee’s great in Goliath and Gorshin–doing a Lucky the Leprechaun impression–is terrible. Gorshin does Goliath more disservice than imaginable (I mean, Eddie Albert looks good by comparison). I kept wondering if, without Gorshin, it’d have been better.

Because, as a TV mini-series, Goliath follows a format–even if it is a lost world movie, it has a lot disaster movie elements–and that format means the story comes second to the cast and their likability. This aspect is why TV mini-series and TV movies are so different from theatricals… like a TV show, one is tuning in for the characters more than the events and one can change channels (unless he or she is a Christian) a lot easier than getting up and leaving a movie theater. So Harmon working out is important. His romance with Emma Samms–who I don’t think I’ve ever seen in anything before, but she’s very likable in Goliath–is important. The infrequent John Carradine performances… important (Carradine’s a hoot).

Besides Gorshin, the worst performance is Alex Cord, who’s playing an English doctor with a Texas accent. He’s awful and silly and wears around a grey sweatshirt all the time. Makes no sense. Otherwise, the performances are good (Duncan Regehr deserving a named recognition).

But, as far as directing goes, Connor doesn’t have much to do with Goliath. He sets a tone, sure, and the budget allows the submerged ship to look good… If I didn’t know about his other movies, I wouldn’t know I should be noticing comparisons. It’s very competent and solid, but it’s unspectacular.

Still, all things considered, it’s rather successful. (Especially given its excellent final act, so well-done, not even Gorshin can ruin it).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Connor; screenplay by Richard M. Bluel and Pat Fielder, based on a story by Bluel, Fielder and Hugh Benson; director of photography, Al Francis; edited by Donald Douglas and J. Terry Williams; music by George Duning; production designer, Ross Bellah; produced by Benson; aired by Operation Prime Time.

Starring Eddie Albert (Admiral Wiley Sloan), John Carradine (Ronald Bentley), Alex Cord (Dr. Sam Marlowe), Robert Forster (Comdr. Jeff Selkirk), Frank Gorshin (Dan Wesker), Mark Harmon (Peter Cabot), Christopher Lee (John McKenzie), Jean Marsh (Dr. Goldman), John McIntire (Senator Oliver Bartholomew), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Bartholomew), Duncan Regehr (Paul Ryker), Emma Samms (Lea McKenzie), Alan Fudge (Lew Bascomb), Lori Lethin (Maria) and John Ratzenberger (Bill Sweeney).


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