Friday, January 29, 2016

Before "STAR WARS": There Was Edgar Rice Burroughs

Known to most as the creator of  "Tarzan of the Apes" in 1912. There was more to Edgar Rice Burrough's creativity than John Clayton, Lord Greystoke and Jane Porter later Jane Porter Clayton, Lady Greystoke. His other works ranged from three books about an ex-Prize Fighter "The Mucker" series, four Westerns with titles like "The Bandit of Hell's Bend", historical novels such as "I Am a Barbarian" about a slave during Caligula's reign and science fiction that includes five complete series and four single novels.

As this is a motion picture blog I will be looking at the filmed versions of three of Edgar Rice Burroughs science fiction works: the lost continent of Caprona, the inner Earth world of Pellicudar and the planet Barsoom known to us as Mars, but first a short biography of the writer.

Image result for edgar rice burroughsImage result for edgar rice burroughs

Image result for edgar rice burroughsImage result for edgar rice burroughs

Image result for edgar rice burroughs

Image result for edgar rice burroughsImage result for edgar rice burroughs

Anyone familiar with the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles County knows the city of Tarzana which is located on the site of Burroughs' once sprawling ranch.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 1, 1875.

After graduation from the Michigan Military Academy he applied to West Point, but failed the entrance exam. Burroughs than became an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army located at Fort Grant, Arizona in 1895. He received a medical discharge two years later, because of a heart problem. Burroughs would go from job to job and in 1899 he found himself working on his father's farm. In January of 1900 Edgar Rice Burroughs married his childhood sweetheart Emma Centennia Hulbert. They would stay married until their divorce in 1934. The two would have three children Joan, Hulbert and John.

While working for his brother's stationary company in 1911 Edgar Rice Burroughs began work upon two different stories. In February 1912 what would become his first novel was serialized in the weekly "All Story Magazine" that is now known as "Argosy". The author was named Norman Bean a ploy to keep Burroughs' reputation untouched. The story was titled "Under the Moons of Mars" and became the first of the Barsoom series. I will discuss the work and its film  version later. In the October issues of "All Story Magazine" the serialized second story appeared. It title "Tarzan of the Apes". Edgar Rice Burroughs' probably couldn't realize the impact on his career that story would have and that it would be followed by 25 others, They included a crossover to one of the science fiction series I am writing about "Pellucidar". With those first two works a literary career was truly launched.

On March 7, 1919 Edgar Rice Burroughs income from his writing had reached a point were he was able to purchase the estate of  the late General  Harrison Gray Otis who had served in both the Civil War and Spanish American War and owned the Los Angeles Daily Times. This link is to an interesting biography of the General.

Burroughs changed the name the estate had been known by since 1882 Miraflores to "Tarzana".

The following comes from the website "" the official Edgar Rice Burroughs on line magazine.

The estate, which comprises approximately 540 acres, lies along the south side of the Ventura Boulevard (State highway), west of Encino Acres its center faces the newly paved Reseda avenue, and the property extends back to the sky line of the Santa Monica range of mountains.
A magnificent dwelling of the most modern hollow tile and concrete construction is built on a commanding knoll a half mile back from the highway, from which one of the finest and most comprehensive views of the entire valley is had. This residence was built by General Otis and was occupied by him as a home at the time of his death.
Rare trees and shrubbery have been set out on a fifteen-acre plot around the house, which, when they attain their full growth, will make a veritable elysian paradise of the place.
Acquired with the purchase were a large number of thoroughbreds and registered goats, which the new owner will utilize on the hill lands and canyons of the estate.
Mr. Burroughs has also decided to engage extensively in the pig industry, and is making plans for building up a herd of the finest Berkshire stock that he can secure.

This link will take my reader to the complete article which is very interesting reading:

During the 1920's Burroughs became a pilot and encouraged his family to all learn to fly.

On October 8, 1922 Edgar Rice Burroughs entered the world of real estate by putting up some of his land to become a subdivision of private homes. The following is part of an advertisement Burroughs' ran and a map of the subdivision mentioned by him. These sales became the creation of the city of Tarzana.
For four years I have lived on my ranch which stretches from Ventura Boulevard to the top of the Santa Monica Mountains -- some 550 acres lying within the city limits of Los Angeles. It is a beautiful site and I love my home which stands on a low hill just half a mile from the Los Angeles-San Francisco highway.

Now I want others to enjoy this glorious country with me, so I have selected about 100 acres, rolling from my home to the highway, which I have divided into acre residential sites -- each one as large as six ordinary city lots -- and it is in this favored place that I invite you to choose your home site and become my neighbors.
The new town is called TARZANA, and a number of fine business lots stretch along the highway, where all the conveniences and necessities may be purchased. If you are more interested in the business possibilities than in a home. I want you to come out and study the situation here.

TARZANA will be a town where we will each live our own life in our own way -- the way we have always WANTED to live it -- free from conventionalities and restrictions of cities, yet with all the comforts and luxuries to which we have been accustomed.

After his 1934 divorce from Emma. Burroughs remarried ex-actress and divorcee with two children Florence Gilbert Dearholt. She was 28 years his junior.

Florence Gilbert The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg

Their marriage would last only until 1942 after according to his wife Burroughs started drinking heavily and started to verbally abusive her son, but remained kind to her daughter, According to Florence he also began "treating her coldly".

Edgar Rice Burroughs was 60 years of age on December 7, 1941 when he was vacationing alone in Honolulu, Hawaii. Despite his age he was able to become a war correspondent assigned to the Army.

After the war ended in 1946 Burroughs returned home, He died of a Heart Attack on March 19, 1950.


Many fiction authors have written about discovering living dinosaurs in modern times. Probably the most famous work was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World" published in 1912. Authors have also written about strange islands and lands. One of those is French author Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island" published in 1874, but no author had written about a land were the normal evolutionary process is twisted in on itself. At least not until Edgar Rice Burroughs' three part story in "Blue Book Magazine" appeared. "Blue Book Magazine" came out every other month to allow readers to enjoy their stories. The first part was in the August 1918 issue with the title "The :Land That Time Forgot", "The People That Time Forgot" followed in "Blue Book Magazine's issue for October 1918 and the final part concluded in the issue for December 1918 titled "Out of Times Abyss".

The three stories would be combined in 1924 as one novel under the first part's title.

In 1963 "Ace Books" would break the work back down into the original three separate parts. Which is the way most readers are familiar with these stories.

The People That Time Forgot.jpg

Out of Times Abyss.jpg

The novel's story starts with a manuscript that has been placed in a thermos bottle washing up on a shore in Greenland. The time of the story is during World War One and the writer is one Bowen J, Tyler. He claims to have been a passenger upon a ship that was torpedoed in 1916 by the German Submarine U-33 while within the English Channel. With the information provided by Bowen the event took place two years before the wars end and this story was published. The effect here is to make the reader believe they are actually reading a true story.

Image result for images of a world war one german u-boat

Bowen states he was rescued by a British Tug Boat and on board is a young women Lys La Rue who becomes his love interest. Before the tub can reach port it is also sunk by the U-33, but Bowen and the tug's crew are able to capture the U-33 when it surfaces. The problem is that British ships believe the sub is an enemy and won't believe the messages sent out for rescue are true.

A saboteur caused the U-33 to go off course and instead of heading for England. Bowen and the tug's crew find themselves heading out into the South Atlantic. The German crew attempts to retake the submarine and this succeeds for a short time, but Bowen and the British retake it. However, by this time the U-33 is almost entirely out of fuel and is in Antarctic waters.

A truce is made between the British and German's because of their situation. As the U-33 now mostly drifts in a strong current a large landmass is discovered.

The German Submarine Captain Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts turns out to be an expert on lost continents and identifies this as the legendary Caprona. The submarine enters Caprona through a subterranean passage in the hopes of getting fresh water. When the U-33 comes out the passage it is immediately attacked by a prehistoric creature in the river. As submarine travels upstream it is noted that the landscape keeps changing from a Jurassic Age environment to a more modern. Something is strange in the evolutionary process for the foliage and wildlife. The U-33 finally enters a thermal lake at one end of the river and the crew goes ashore. They set up a base camp named "Fort Dinosaur" from the creatures they have witnessed.

A series of adventures occur including the discovery of very crude oil, but an attempt is made to refine it to a level the U-33's engines will tolerate. One of the crewmen from the tugboat Bradley starts exploring the area around the base camp. A neanderthal man named Ahm is discovered and after finding a way to communicate with him. Von Schoenvorts and Bowen discover the Caprona is known as Caspak. The name this three part series is known by.

During one of Bradley's expeditions the Germans take control of the U-33 and leave. The girl Lys La Rue disappears during another night. Bowen rescues her from a group of  "hatchet men" called the "Sto-lu". Von Schoenvorts previously had discussed with Bowen the different groups of primitive people's they have been seeing in different parts of Caspak. He believes the normal evolutionary process does not exist on Caprona and that a person seems to start as a neanderthal or Bo-lu like Ahm and at some point evolves into the next stage of evolutionary life the "Sto-lu" Then he, or she eventually becomes a Cro-Magnon or Band-lu. However, the German Captain believes there may be an area on the continent with modern man, or perhaps even beyond in a high evolutionary form.

Lys once more disappears and Bowen goes in search of her. He discovers the bodies of two of the men from Bradley's current exploration, but not Bradley. Bowen finds himself alone and lost from the rest of the group. Not knowing which way to go another problem caused by the strange Caprona. He finds shelter in the cliffs overlooking the sea in the hope of spotting a ship to signal. Improbably Lys la Rue shows up at Tyler Bowen's camp and they set up a home to survive. Bowen Tyler than writes the manuscript and tosses the thermos into the sea. End of part one.

In 1975 the British film company "Amicus Productions" made the motion picture version of "The Land that Time Fotgot" and as this poster shows it was pure old fashion fun. Note the top left corner of this poster "From the Creator of TARZAN". That little sentence became very critical with the failure of another motion picture version of an Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel I will discuss later.

Originally Amicus wanted Doug McClure to star as Bowen Tyler, but he refused and they turned to Stewart Whitman. However one Samuel Z. Arkoff from American International Pictures came on board with more funds McClure was convinced to star. British actor John McEnery makes an impressive von Shoenvorts, but his voice that sounded too British was later dubbed by Anton Diffring a actor who appeared in several Hammer productions and Susan Penhaligon was cast not as Lys La Rue, but Lisa Clayton.

Image result for images of 1975 movie the land that time forgotImage result for images of 1975 movie the land that time forgot

Rather than stop motion the dinosaurs are marionettes and hand puppets, but it just adds to the fun of Burroghs' story.

Image result for images of 1975 movie the land that time forgotImage result for images of 1975 movie the land that time forgot

Image result for images of 1975 movie the land that time forgotImage result for images of 1975 movie the land that time forgot

The film opens with Bowen Tyler throwing a bottle with his manuscript into the water and than he begins to narrate the events. Instead of the British tugboat the other captives comes from the merchant ship sunk by the U-33, Otherwise the movie follows Burroughs' novel very faithfully. Another slight change for narrative continuity is that the changes made to the people of Caprona such as Ahm take place as they move progressively north.

In 2009 the production company "The Asylum"  made a straight to DVD version of the novel. The tile was either "The Land That Time Forgot", "Edgar Rice Burrough's The Land That Time Forgot", a great publicity move even if they changed his last name from Burroughs to Burrough's, or in foreign countries as "Dinosaur Island".

The film takes place in 2009 as two honeymooning couples on a chartered boat in the Bermuda Triangle get caught in a storm and when it ends find themselves at Caprona. One of the couples are Frost Michaels played by C. Thomas Howell and his wife Karen played by Anya Benton. Timothy Bottoms plays the charter boat captain appropriately named Captain Burroughs.

The group finds a World War Two German Submarine and its crew and dinosaurs.

Poster of the movie The Land That Time Forgot.jpg

The story takes plot lines from the novel such as finding the crude oil and ends with the submarine taking everyone, but Front Michaels who can't make it to the sub in time. His wife Karen leaves the submarine and joins him. The film concludes with Frost writing a manuscript and throwing it in a bottle into the sea.

The direct sequel to "The Land That Time Forgot" was Burroughs' "The People That Time Forgot" which begins with a rescue mission to save Bowen Tyler and Lys La Rue based upon Bowen's discovered manuscript.

The mission is under the command of Tom Billings who is the secretary of the "Tyler Ship Building Company" and a friend of Bowen's. Caprona is located and the rescue is divided into two parts. One has members of the crew of the rescue ship attempting to climb the cliffs of Caprona while Billings will fly over them in an airplane.

Billings' plane is forced down by some form of flying reptile. He saves a beautiful young women from a group of of ape men. Her name is Ajor and she is a Galu one of the fully human inhabitants of Caspak and as they head for her people. Ajor starts to teach Billings her language.

The two pass through Bo-lu country and the Sto-lu, but in the country of the Band-lu Billings is taken captive, but is rescued by Ajor. After resuming their journey the two are befriended by Tomar a member of the Kro-lu, the bow men, and the three go to his village. The village chief is Du-seen who has his eyes on Ajor. Billings and Ajor manage to escape separately, but Du-seen and some of his warriors go after the girl.

Billings catches an ancestor of the modern horse, tames it, and goes after Ajor. He rescues her from Du-seen but he keeps pursuing them. The two realize that they will soon die at Du-seen's hands and confirm their love. Just as the attack by Du-seen begins the two are rescued by Bowen Tyler, Lys La Rue, the crew of Billings' ship who have climbed the cliffs and members of the Galu. The captain of Billings' ship performs a proper wedding ceremony for Bowen and Lys. Billings and Ajor desire to be married, but they can not. She may not leave Caspak having been born a fully evolved Galu rather than going through the strange evolutionary process and is sacred to her people. Billings decided to remain on Caprona with her as the others return home.

Amicus Pictures made their own version of "The People The Time Forgot" featuring Doug McClure as Bowen Tyler and starring Patrick Wayne not as Ben Billings, but Major Ben MacBride in 1977. In fact this version really is completely rewritten.

Image result for the people that time forgot

MacBride uses an amphibian aircraft to fly over the mountains of Caprona with three others. The rest of the ships crew stay on board. Accompanying Patrick Wayne are photographer Lady Charlotte (Charlie) Cunningham played by the excellent British actress Sarah Douglas, paleontologist played by Thorley Waters and Shane Rimmer as a mechanic and gunner named Hogan.

Image result for the movie the people that time forgotImage result for the movie the people that time forgot

As they cross the mountains into Caspak a pterodactyl hits the plane forcing it to land. After sitting up camp they begin to look for Bowen Tyler and plan how to return to the rescue ship. Here they meet Ajor, played by Dana Gillespie, who speaks fluent English having been taught by Bowen. She knows were he is being held prisoner by a group called the Naga. The Naga are a completely newly created group not found in any of the three novels by Burroughs.

Image result for the movie the people that time forgotImage result for the movie the people that time forgot

The group rescues Bowen and finds out that Susan died. A convenient plot change to allow a larger relationship between Ajor and Bowen. The two women are captured by the Naga to be sacrificed to their God a volcano by the samurai dressed Naga. The women are rescued as the Volcano erupts, but to save the others Bowen now sacrifices his own life.

While not following the original novel the motion picture version of "The People That Time Forgot" is fun and isn't that what going to an adventure film supposed to be?

The third book in the series was never made into a motion picture, but it deserves mention as it answers the question from the first novel what happened to Bradley on his last expedition. The title is Out of Times Abyss" and basically follows his group after they leave "Fort Dinosaur". As they explore the group spots a seemingly flying ghost and one of the men says its a banshee and he knows he will die. The following day the crewman is killed by a T-Rex. The creature reappears and another crewman is killed. During that night Bradley himself disappears and after searching the reminder of the group return to Fort Dinosaur.

Bradley has been taken by a sub-human winged man called a Wieroo. The Wieroo takes Bradley to the island that his people live on and imprisons him. There he finds a Galu women named Co-Tan whom he falls in love with.

The two are finally taken to the chamber of the Wieroo king and in a fight ensues. Bradley eventually using the king's own sword kills him. The Wieroo are confused after this and Bradley uses this confusions to force two of them to fly Co-Tan and himself back to the mainland. There they find Bowen Tyler the rescue party and leave Caprona together.

Amicus Pictures made one other motion picture starring Doug McClure that came out before "The People That Time Forgot". This movie was based upon the first novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar series titled "At The Earth's Core".

At the Earths Core 1922 Dusk Jacket.jpg

Written four years before the Caspak series in 1914, This novel starts as the narrator of the story while traveling in the Sahara Desert meets an American David Innes and a remarkable drilling vehicle. Innes is a heir to a mining company who financed his friend scientist Abner Perry's drilling vehicle. When they start the test run the machine gets stuck in the downward position and according to the instruments drills 500 miles into the Earth crust.

The two discover the inner world of Pellicudar ruled by flying telepathic creatures called the Mahars. This under Earth world contains creatures from all era's of Earth's evolution and some never seen on the surface. The two surface men find are captured by the Sagoth's semi-ape like creatures who work for the Mahars.

David and Abner on their way to the Mahar City of Phutra meet three other captives. They are Grak, "the Hair One" a brave warrior that becomes Innes' friend, Hooja "the sly one" who causes all the problems for David Innes and Dian "the beautiful" of Amoz. Burroughs uses those short worderd descriptions to give the reader a certain impression of his main characters without going into long needless sentences.

Hooja makes advances toward Dian as they are all being led to Phutra and David steps in to defend her. However, unaware of the differences in customs between the upper and inner Earth world's. She thinks he wants her as a slave and not either a friend, or lover. At short time later Hooja escapes and forces Dian to come with him. At this point Grak explains to David the reason for Dian's reaction to his help.

As captives in Phutra David and Abner learn many things about the Mahar's. They are all female and reproduce parthogenetically by means of a closely guarded secret contained in a Mahar Book. The Mahar's also feast on selected human's.

David escapes Phutra, but after several small adventures returns to seek out Abner. He finds him and discovers the scientist had no idea he was gone so long. The two decide that time in Pellucidar with no objective means of measuring is a subjective thing to the individual, or individual's experiencing it.

David becomes obsessive with finding Dian not only for the wrong he has done her, but the fact he is in love with the girl. He manages to escape once more and this time finds her location. She is a prisoner of Jubal "the Ugly One". In a fight David defeats Jubal and saves Dian. After explaining his error in protocol and his love the two wed.

Meanwhile Abner Perry has discovered the Mahar's secret. David and Dian meet with him and along with Grak and other prisoners revolt against the Mahar's freeing all the captives. Abner wants to stay within Phutra, because there is so much to discover. David and Dian decide to go to the surface in the drilling machine. It is only while he is underway that David discovers that Hooja "the sly one" has substituted a drugged Mahar for Dian.

Back on the surface in the Sahara the narrator tells how David showed him the Mahar as proof of his story. He helps Innes resupply the drill machine and watches as he heads back to Pellucidar.

It wouldn't be until 1923 nine years after this first adventure story that the readers of Edgar Rice Burroughs start to learn what happened next in the story of David and Dian. The novel was simply titled "Pellucidar" and would even involve David making a truce with the Mahar's to find out where Dian might be found.

Image result for out of time's abyss

The film moves the story from the United States to Victorian England. Playing David Innes is of course Doug McClure and in perfect casting as Abner Perry is Peter Cushing. Although some reviewers thought Cushing was just recycling his Dr.Who from twelve years before. Playing now "Princess" Dia, not Dian was Caroline Munro. All three Amicus movies were directed by Kevin Connor. This action director did three American television mini-series among other work in this country. He started with "Goliath Awaits" starring Christopher Lee and Mark Harmon about a British Luxury Liner sunk at the outbreak of World War Two with its crew and passengers surviving underwater into 1981. Also the civil war drama "North and South Book Two". He also directed the 2004 mini-series "Frankenstein". Connor's last completed work was in 2014 and he has two projects announced for 2016.

The film starts with David Innes and Abner Perry after some major fan fare entering Perry's invention and proceeding into the ground.

Here is a sketch for the production:

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's core

This is the model after much use.

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's core

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's core

What makes this film a little more interesting is that Amicus attempted to create some of the creatures of Pellucidar as described by Burroughs.

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's core

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's core

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's core

This is how the Sogoth's look in the movie.

Image result for images of the movie at the earth's coreImage result for images of the mahar's from the 1975 movie at the earths core

These are the Mahar's.

Image result for images of the mahar's from the 1975 movie at the earths coreImage result for images of the mahar's from the 1975 movie at the earths core

The motion picture basically follows Burroughs' novel, but for fun here is a review from Roger

David is played by Doug McClure. You remember Doug McClure. Good. I don't. McClure plays a rich young American inventor who has financed the Iron Mole, which is a gigantic steam-powered screw, designed to penetrate to the Earth's core. The Mole has been designed by Cushing, an eccentric British inventor, as who would not be after such an invention. 
McClure and Cushing settle into their seats and push the appropriate levers and the Mole goes berserk. It forgets all about the hill and screws itself right into the very mantle of the planet itself, emerging in Pellucidar, that mysterious land within the Earth. Pellucidar is inhabited by the kinds of characters whose names make me chuckle aloud even as I type them down. There's Dia, the beautiful slave girl with the heaving bodice, and Ra, her boyfriend, and the evil Ghak, not to mention the impenetrable Hooja. All of these people speak English, you understand, except when it comes to the matter of proper names. 
Well, anyway, Doug and the professor step out into this sinister underworld, which is filled with telepathic giant parrots and the next thing you know they're on the chain gang. The chain gang spends all day breaking up rocks. You wouldn't think there would be a rock shortage at the earth's core, but there you are. 
About here, we begin to notice the Captain Video effect. You remember Captain Video. He was a science fiction hero on the old DuPont TV network. He and his trusty sidekick (Bucky? Rocky?) were forever landing on strange planets and sneaking around rocks. After three weeks, you realized that the rocks were always the same. Same here. Doug and the Professor sneak around one strange man-eating vegetable, and there's another one - which is the original vegetable, photographed from a new angle. Meanwhile, the telepathic parrots wander by, opening and closing their beaks by spring action. It's along about here we begin to really zero in on Dia's bodice. Let somebody else break up the rocks and clean up after the parrots.

As Roger has brought up "Captain Video" and for those of my readers who are unfamiliar with this early 1950's television hero, This link will take you to my article about him and others from the same time frame.

The third work in the Pellucidar series has a friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs the fictional Jason Gridley experimenting with a new radio frequency. By its use he picks up a transmission from Abner Perry and learns the story of the book's title character "Tanar of Pellucidar", but it is the fourth in the seven book series that I would like to mention.

This book actually was written as the 13th novel in Burroughs' extremely popular "Tarzan" series and is titled "Tarzan At the Earth's Core" and like everything from the author first published in "The Blue Book Magazine" for January 1930. Making these publications very valuable to the collector of his work like the original issues, some of which I have, of "The Strand Magazine" of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" and other stories.

This work for a long time was unavailable even in so-called complete editions of Tarzan of the Apes. However, recently it has become available in E-Books as an individual work, in some not all, Tarzan collections and part of a complete Pellucidar series entitled "Adventures in Pellucidar".

The story brings back the character of Jason Gridley who receives an urgent message from Abner Perry, David has been taken prisoner by the Korsars, "the scourge of the internal seas. Gridley organizes a rescue mission using a German made airship to enter Pellucidar by its South Pole entrance. Burroughs is now tying his inner Earth civilization to the alleged warm water entrance to a Hollow Earth, look up the Hollow Earth theory, rumored to have been supposedly discovered by Admiral Richard E. Byrd's first expedition to Antarctica two years prior to this books publication. The reader follows the mission as both Gridley and Tarzan get separated and have their own adventures including, of course, Jason finding a beautiful cave girl and falling in love with her.

Two more works were published before Edgar Rice Burrough's death in 1950. "Back to the Stone Age" in 1937 and "Land of Terror" in 1944. In 1963 "Savage Pellucidar" was released. This was not a novel but four short stories set "At the Earth's Core".

On Saturday May 28, 1977 "Memorial Day" weekend my wife and I got up very early in the morning and by 5:30 AM were in a line to see a movie that wouldn't start until 8:30 AM, Today this is a common, but in 1977 it was unheard of. The theater once stood near the southeast corner of Hollywood and Vine. When we got there, the line was so long we weren't sure we would even get in for the first showing. The two of us just made it, and when we got out from seeing the movie, the line went down Hollywood Boulevard, blocking stores, and around the corner.

The motion picture of course was "Star Wars". Between it's premiere and the release of the second film in the original trilogy "The Empire Strikes Back", on May 17, 1980, creator George Lucas was often asked where did he get the idea for that first motion picture? His reply was consistent, the science fiction works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. That he read growing up, and more specifically "John Carter Of Mars". I will be speaking more of this later, but now I want to look at the first novel in what was actually the "Barsoom" series.

Below, a photo of my wife and myself, opening weekend in 1977, when we saw "Star Wars". Back then, you had to have your own shirt made, as merchandising had yet to catch on for the film, and I went to a shop were you picked out a shirt and have them iron on patches.

The eleven book "Barsoom" series, over the years became known by it's main character John Carter. The first work was initially titled, as I wrote above, "Under the Moons of Mars" when it was serialized in 1912, but when it was released in hardcover in 1917 the name changed to "A Prince of Mars".

Image result for images of a princess of marsImage result for images of a princess of mars

The Civil War has ended and ex-Confederate Officer John Carter is in the Arizona Territory searching for gold. His actions bring the attention of the local Apache tribe and Carter needs to find a hiding place from his pursuers and enters a sacred cave knowing the Indians will not follow.

There is more to this sacred cave than the legends Carter has picked up say. Suddenly John Carter finds himself transported to the planet Mars, or as he will learn once he masters the language "Barsoom". Initially John Carter is a prisoner of the "Tharks"  the "Green" race of Martians who have four arms, but through his imprisonment he learns that language. Carter through a series of circumstances is given the opportunity to prove himself and because of the difference in the atmosphere between Earth and Mars. He now has somewhat super human abilities and earns the friendship of a Thark named Tars Tarkas.

During a battle the Thark's capture Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Hellium. She is a member of the "Red" Martian race of humanoids. The "Red" race have a loose confederation of city states, control the canals of Mars and all its agriculture.  Carter is falling in love with Dejah Thoris and helps her escape the "Green" men and returns her to Hellium.

In Hellium while their love for each other grows John Carter becomes involved with their political problems. This puts him in the position of finding a way to unite the "Red" and "Green" Martians in unity. The solution comes when Carter is able to lead a troop of Tharks against Hellium's enemy city Zodanga.

"John Carter of Mars" has finally won the heart of Dejah Thoris and becomes a Prince of Hellium in the process. The two live happily together for nine years. When it is reported that the plant that maintains what little breathable atmosphere is left on Mars is breaking down. Carter and an engineer enter the plant to repair the damage. However, before their work is completed Carter is overcome by asphyxiation and passes out.

When he comes too he is back in the cave on Earth. Was he really on Barsoom, if so what has happened to Dejah Thoris? So ends "A Princess of Mars" aka: "Under the Moons of Mars".

It would be another two years before the next book "The Gods of Mars" would appear in 1914. That story has an interesting opening with Edgar Rice Burroughs explaining how he obtained the text for this work and implying all of it is true, but before I look at the rest of the series. There were two motion pictures I need to discuss.

On March 7, 2012 in France and March 9, 2012 in the United States a motion picture version of "A Princess of Mars" was released by "Walt Disney Studios". You would have thought the film was a sure fire box office winner. The motion picture was budgeted at $263.7 million dollars and every penny is up on the screen, but in the end the final Worldwide Box Office for that initial release was $284.1 million dollars. The picture was a major financial failure making only a profit of $20.4 million dollars. So what went wrong?

It wasn't the story even if it doesn't really follow Burroughs work. Part of the blame should be placed on the new Head of Marketing MT Carney, but he was in actuality an industry outsider. Carney had run a successful New York City marketing boutique and was just learning the motion picture business.

Strangely the person most responsible for the failure was the Head Screenwriter and Director of the motion picture Andrew Stanton. A fan of the "Barsoom" series since he was a small boy. Stanton assumed, according to reports, dictatorial power on the production. He even ignored suggestions from the studio itself.

In and article in "Entertainment Weekly" for December 1, 2011 Stanton stated:
My joy when I saw the first trailer for Star Wars is I saw a little bit of almost everything in the movie, and I had no idea how it connected, and I had to go see the movie. So the last thing I’m going to do is ruin that little kid’s experience.

So he put together a preview trailer that failed with the audience at a  Science Fiction Convention and ignored the result. He next made the decision to change the film title from the working "John Carter of Mars" to just "John Carter". The working title immediately identifies to those who had read Burroughs work what the motion picture was about. It also indicated to those who were not familiar with the series that this was a science fiction film.

Image result for images of the movie john carter

According to the rest of this story the reason Andrew Stanton dropped the "of Mars" was to indicate that this was an origin story and the first of a series. Nice idea, but if somebody has no idea about the source material how can a origin story work? To be fair to Stanton there are two other stories about the title change. One says the former Head of Marketing MT Carney took the blame for the title change without any explanation as to why and a third version says it was the decision of the Studio Heads. The reason here was the failure of "Mars Needs Moms" and they didn't want any word in this films title to make potential audiences associate it with the other failed movie.

Another problem created by Andrew Stanton that I am sure my readers who saw the movie when it came out know. Is that he made the posters vague as to what was within the film. Although some showed Martian creatures you still had no idea what the film was about.  Basically on billboards across the country were:

Image result for images of advertising posters for walt disney's john carterImage result for images of advertising posters for walt disney's john carter

Image result for images of advertising posters for walt disney's john carterImage result for images of advertising posters for walt disney's john carter

Image result for images of advertising posters for walt disney's john carter

Image result for images of advertising posters for walt disney's john carter

My greatest complaint about the advertising for the picture was the lack of using what the above Andrew Stanton's quote mentioned "Star Wars" and George Lucas. For that matter even mentioning the author Edgar Rice Burroughs and his known worldwide creation "Tarzan". I direct my reader back to that advertising poster from Amicus Pictures for "The Land That Time Forgot" and the great tag line "From the Author of Tarzan". The potential viewer knows already what he, or she is in for.

Why make a motion picture that includes the author, borrowed from  "The Gods of Mars", in the plot and not mention his name in the advertising? The potential audience that was missed because of Andrew Stanton's control of the advertising is substantial.

Then there is the "Star Wars" in the title of my article. At the time the Disney Company did not own the rights to the series as they do now, but they had a working relationship with George Lucas, the ride "Star Tours" and were selling merchandise.

As I mentioned above "John Carter of Mars" was a boyhood favorite of George Lucas and admittedly a source material for "Star Wars". George Lucas called "John Carter" the Grandfather of "Star Wars". Talk about an even vaster audience than the readers of Edgar Rice Burroughs' works. Those fans alone would have guaranteed a successful release and the start of a potential series.

The opportunity, which Andrew Stanton must have been aware of, was left untouched in his advertising. A fan of both "John Carter of Mars" and "Star Wars" he must have been blind not to have seen the possibilities here.

My rant, as this is my blog, is finished and now let me actually look at this very nicely done film the Andrew Stanton should be proud to have made.

As I said above Edgar Rice Burroughs himself, portrayed by Daryl Sabara, appears in this motion picture and the opening was taken directly from the second novel "The Gods of Mars" which begins:

TWELVE years had passed since I had laid the body of my great-uncle, Captain John Carter, of Virginia, away from the sight of men in that strange mausoleum in the old cemetery at Richmond.
Often had I pondered on the odd instructions he had left me governing the construction of his mighty tomb, and especially those parts which directed that he be laid in an OPEN casket and that the ponderous mechanism which controlled the bolts of the vault's huge door be accessible ONLY FROM THE INSIDE.
Twelve years had passed since I had read the remarkable manuscript of this remarkable man; this man who remembered no childhood and who could not even offer a vague guess as to his age; who was always young and yet who had dandled my grandfather's great-grandfather upon his knee; this man who had spent ten years upon the planet Mars; who had fought for the green men of Barsoom and fought against them; who had fought for and against the red men and who had won the ever beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, for his wife, and for nearly ten years had been a prince of the house of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
Twelve years had passed since his body had been found upon the bluff before his cottage overlooking the Hudson, and oft-times during these long years I had wondered if John Carter were really dead, or if he again roamed the dead sea bottoms of that dying planet; if he had returned to Barsoom to find that he had opened the frowning portals of the mighty atmosphere plant in time to save the countless millions who were dying of asphyxiation on that far-gone day that had seen him hurtled ruthlessly through forty-eight million miles of space back to Earth once more. I had wondered if he had found his black-haired Princess and the slender son he had dreamed was with her in the royal gardens of Tardos Mors, awaiting his return.
Or, had he found that he had been too late, and thus gone back to a living death upon a dead world? Or was he really dead after all, never to return either to his mother Earth or his beloved Mars?
Image result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carterImage result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carter

After the sudden death of John Carter Edgar Rice Burroughs is given a manuscript to read and the film becomes a flashback of John Carter's story. Set after the Civil War ex-Confederate Officer John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, is now prospecting in the Arizona Territory. He has a run in with Union Officer Colonel Powell portrayed Bryan Cranston who wants his help him to chase down a group of Apache raiders. After John Carter refuses he is placed in a holding cell to reconsider, but escapes now being pursued by Powell and his troops.The Apache Raiders attack and Carter with a badly wounded Powell are chased by the Indians. The two men hold up in a cave they discover which turns out to be the legendary "Spider Cave of Gold" John Carter had been looking for and the Apache's fear to enter.

Image result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carterImage result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carter

After realizing the Apache's will not enter Carter leaves Powell for a moment to explore the cave. When a being called a "Thern" materializes in front of him and by scared reaction shots the the alien dead. The "Thern" has a medallion which John Carter touches and suddenly finds himself on another world. He will discover this is Barsoom, or the planet Mars in Earth terms.

Carter starts to walk in a desert setting and discovers that his weight is lighter now and he is able to jump extremely high. While enjoying this he does not see the green skinned four armed "Tharks" approach and is captured and taken to their city.

Image result for images of the movie john carterImage result for images of the movie john carter

The leader and soon to be Carter's friend is Tars Tarkas portrayed by William Defoe. Tarkas instructs Sola, Samantha Morton, to watch over this strange person. Sola on her own feeds John Carter a liquid that enables him to understand the Martian language.

While this is happening on another part of Barsoom a possible end to a thousand year war between the red humans of Hellium and Zodanga is proposed by the villain of the story Sab Than portrayed by Dominic West. He will marry Dejah Thoris, played by Lynn Collins, the daughter of Hellium's leader Thardos Mors. The problem is Dejiah knows Sab for what he is and runs away in a Hellium ship. Sab in one of his own ships goes after her.

Image result for images of the movie john carter

.Image result for images of the movie john carterImage result for images of the movie john carter

As Tars Tarkas starts to have John Carter demonstrate his incredible jumping ability to his tribe both red Martian ships come into view and the "Tharks" run for cover. Sab starts a battle while attempting to force Dejah Thoris to land her ship. While this is going on her ship has been hit and Carter using his jumping ability saves her, but has to engage and kills some of Sab's men, There is a small first encounter fight between Sab and Carter before Sab Than flees the area with a damaged ship. As a result of saving the "Tharks" Tars Tarkas proclaims John Carter "Dotar Sojat (My Right Arms) and awards Dejah to him as part of the "Tharks" spoils from the fight.

Carter and Dejah Thoris look for a way back to Earth for him, but after entering a sacred temple that Sola attempted to stop them from doing. The three are caught by two of Tars Tarkas' enemies Sarkoja and Tal Haljus who wants to be the tribe's leader. Under the "Thark" code the three are sentenced to death, but Tars Tarkas helps them to escape revealing that Sola is his daughter.

The three travel the sacred river to its end in a hope to discover another way to return Carter to Earth. After obtaining information about the "ninth ray" which explains how the medallion Carter has works. They are attacked by another group of "Tharks" whose leader is working with Sab Than. As John Carter and Dejah Thoris fight them a Hellium ship appears. On board is Thardos Mor and Sab who they are told organized the rescue party. Demoralized by all the events that have taken place a reluctant Dejah Thoris agrees to marry Sab Than to save her people.

Carter is taken to Dejah Thoris' room where he is given his medallion and told to go back to Earth. He is then met by the "Thern" Matai Shang an ally of Sab, but in reality Sab Than's manipulator. As the two walk and Shang keeps changing shapes he explains to Carter how the "Therns" manipulate civilizations to their ways on other planets. This explains the "Thern" Carter encountered in the cave after being chased by the Apaches. Matai Shang also reveals that Sab Than plans to marry Dejah Thoris and then destroy Hellium and rule all of Barsoom from Zodangan.

Image result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carterImage result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carter

Along with Sola, John Carter escapes Hellium and head for her father's tribe. There they find out that Tars Tarkas has been overthrown by Tal Haljus. Tal puts Carter, Sola and Tars Tarkas on trial in a Colosseum in front of the assembled "Tharks". The three are forced to fight to the death the four armed Great Apes of Barsoom,

 Image result for images of movie john carterImage result for images of movie john carter

The apes are defeated and John Carter challenges Tal Haljus and kills him in battle. Carter is now the leader of the "Tharks". He takes his "Thark" army to Hellium to fight Sab Than and his troops. Who have moved into position to destroy the city once Sab is married to Dejah Thoris.

Image result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carter

After the battle and the death of Sab in a fight with John Carter. Carter marries Dejah Thoris and becomes a Prince of Hellium. Carter is tricked by Matai Shang in the form of a Hellium guard into touching the medallion and finds himself back in the Arizona Cave.  Shang has taken the medallion and John Carter has no way back to Barsoom and his wife.

He embarks on a quest to find proof of the "Therns" presence there and discover a way back to his wife. After several years John Carter appears to die and leaves the funeral instructions for Edgar Rice Burroughs described in the above except from "The Gods of Mars". Has he returned to Dejah Thoris?

Image result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carter

Image result for images of daryl sabara as edgar rice burroughs in john carter

The plan was to make this motion picture the first of a trilogy and work had begun upon a script for the second picture based upon "The Gods of Mars", but was stopped after the financial failure of Disney's "John Carter".A motion picture that became the most expensive movie failure to that date.

As I mentioned above with "The Land That Time Forgot". The movie company "The Asylum" is known for making quickie straight to DVD motion pictures and at times they also make their own versions of an upcoming major film production, or at least obviously "borrow" from it .

In 2009 "The Asylum" made "Princes of Mars" based upon the Edgar Rice Burroughs story. A far better title than the one Andrew Stanton used three years later for Disney. In fact prior to the release of the Disney movie with its now known title "The Asylum" re-released their 2009 film on DVD as "John Carter of Mars" and the confusion the production company is known for took place with some of the Disney's movie potential viewers.

Image result for images of 2009 movie princess of mars

In this updated, rewritten version John Carter is an Army sniper in Afghanistan played by Antonio Sabato, Jr.

Image result for images of 2009 movie princess of mars

The casting of Dejah Thoris is interesting as "The Asylum" choose 41 year old actress Traci Lords for the part,

Image result for traci lords in princess of mars

For those who don't know her by name she was for two years 1984 to 1986 one of the Queens of Pornography and a major Federal Investigation over the possibility that she had been under age made worldwide headlines. In 1988 she made the transition to mainstream motion pictures when she appeared in the Beverly Garland role of Nurse Nadine Story in Roger Corman's remake of his "Not of This Earth". Her transition to mainstream respectability continued with a major part in the Johnny Depp movie "Cry Baby" in 1990, As I said an interesting, but very effective choice for the "Princess of Mars".

Here is a very funny review of the film by Matt Pierce on the website IMDb:
John Carter (Antonio Sabato Jr.) is some kind of lone soldier in the middle east who looks at everyone through the scope on his rifle, until one day he gets shot a bunch of times and the government decides to reconstruct him on another planet for some reason. Naked and surrounded by hostile aliens, John Carter must fight for survival as aliens try to kill him and/or make him eat bugs. John Carter does NOT WANT TO EAT BUGS.
STOP and note this line from Matt's review:
and the government decides to reconstruct him on another planet for some reason. 
As I said "The Asylum" has a habit of playing with current feature films and 19 days before "Princess of Mars" appeared on DVD. James Cameron's "Avatar" about a wounded soldier being transported to another planet was released. Some of the promotional art for "Princess of Mars" claimed they inspired parts of "Avatar". I'll let my reader decide that statement for themselves, as versus the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.

"Princess of Mars" has a slight problem with its title as John Carter is transported outside of our Solar System to the planet "Barsoom". However, he has his jumping abilities and does get captured by the "Tarks" who only have two arms.

Image result for images of 2009 movie princess of marsImage result for traci lords in princess of mars

In this story Tar Tarkas is not the leader, but Tal Hajus. One he is captured Carter is taken to the "Tarks" camp were he eventually wins his freedom and saves Dejah Thoris. Not to further confuse you, but at one point Carter faces Sab Than. Who resembles an Afghan mercenary named Sarka who betrayed Carter on Earth. Both played by Malaysian Actor Chacko Vadaketh Than manages to escape and afterwards Carter helps Tarkas kill and overthrow Tal Hajus. Tarkas is now leader bringing peace to the "Tarks".

Image result for images of 2009 movie princess of mars

Meanwhile Dejah Thoris has gone to the air cleaning station state keeps Barsoom habitable to fix a major problem. John Carter and Sarka (Sab Han) fight a duel, but Sarka is killed by an insect. After Carter and Dejah Thoris reactivate the air cleaning station he is returned to Earth.

On Earth John Carter declines to tell his Superiors about Barsoom out of fear they might colonize the planet. He returns to active military duty.

The reason Andrew Stanton and Disney were thinking a trilogy is that the first three novels "A Princess of Mars", "The Gods of Mars" and "The Warlord of Mars" are about John Carter and Dejah Thoris. Starting with the fourth novel "Thuvia, Maid of Mars" the focus changed in this case to John and Dejah's son Carthois, Prince of Hellium and his love for Thuvia, Princess of Ptarth. "Chessman of Mars" is about Tara the daughter of Dejah and John. While the remaining six books focus on others as well. The first ten novels were written and released between 1912 and 1948. The last novel as with the Pellucidar series contains some short stories, but was published after the author's death in this case 1964.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote two other science fiction series which in reality were done to cover up his political views mainly about Soviet Russia.

One series of five books written between 1934 and 1941 is called either the "Venus Series", the "Amador Series" for the name the inhabitants call Venus, or "Carson Napier of Venus". The hero Carson Napier leaves Earth on a solo mission to Mars and miscalculates and finds himself on Venus. Unlike Mars the planet Venus is a water world like Earth. There is of course a girl to be rescued and loved, but in this series Burroughs' goes political by satirizing the Communists and Nazi's. In one of the books he even brings in nuclear fission.

The last series to mention is "The Moon Maid" and was written in three parts. Depending upon who published this work after being serialized. You might have one book, two or three and either the original longer introduction from the magazine serial or the shorter one from the first book publication. Set on the Moon after the story was moved by Burroughs at the request of the magazine publisher. It was originally set in Soviet Russia which the publisher felt made the story too political for his magazine. We now have what is like the "Venus Series" an attack in disguise against the rise of Communism by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

At this point I have covered all of the author's science fiction works and to conclude the article about his filmed novels want to quickly give me reader an overview of just how few there are. When you consider he wrote an estimated 70 novels.

As most of my readers probably know "Tarzan of the Apes' is the most widely filmed work. As of this writing there are 53 Tarzan motion pictures, but the majority are Hollywood created and not versions of the 26 actual novels. Although the first film made in 1918 was "Tarzan of the Apes". Some of the titles were great though such as "Tarzan and the She Devil", "Tarzan and the Valley of Gold" and "Tarzan's Deadly Silence" which actually was from a two part episode of the "Tarzan" television series.

I've covered the filmed versions of "At the Earth's Core", "The Land That Time Forgot" and it's sequel "The People That Time Forgot". Along with two movies based on the first of the "John Carter of Mars" novels "A Princess of Mars". Which like most of the Tarzan movie are not either the original story.

All that remains are two of those great Republic Chapter Serials. The first was titled "Jungle Girl" and based loosely upon Burroughs 1932 novel of that name. This 15 Chapter Serial about Nyoka Meredith played by Francis Gifford. On IMDb Les Adams <> wrote this description of "Jungle Girl":
Dr. John Meredith has been driven from civilization by the criminal activities of his twin brother Bradley Meredith. With his infant daughter, he settles in the African jungle, where his ability to cure the native ills has resulted in his virtual control of the Masamba tribes, who possess vast diamond mines coveted by a gang of crooks. They use Shamba, a witch doctor jealous of Dr. Meredith's influence over the tribe, to further their schemes. They lure Dr. Meredith away from the jungle, and he is murdered by "Slick" Latimer. The natives believe that a sacred amulet is the secret of Dr. Meredith's power, and Shamba attempts to kill Nyoka, Meredith's now-grown-up daughter, to obtain the amulet (which actually contains the secret to the entrance of the Caves of Nakros). Jack Stanton rescues her and assists her in her efforts to recover the amulet. Latimer works with Shamba, and with Bradley Meredith, who poses as his murdered-brother so successfully that even Nyoka does not realize the deception.


 The second serial from 1942 was also based loosely upon the same Burroughs' novel and was titled: "Perils of Nyoka" and this time starred Kay Aldridge. IMDb has this simple general description of the serial:
It's intrepid Nyoka and her friends versus Vultura, Queen of the Desert, on a quest for the Golden Tablets of Hippocrates. 


How to end this article? I think you simply take a little time from your busy life and read one of the adventures written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. His stories may be dated, and take a little to get into, but the worlds he envision make for a great ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Gordon Douglas: The Little Rascals (Our Gang) - Giant Ants - and Francis Albert Sinatra

When asked to name a "Classic Film Director", depending upon how much you're into motion pictures, what's your favorite ge...