Saturday, April 22, 2006

SATURDAY MORNING CULT TV BLOGGING: Land of the Lost: "Album"

"Album" (directed by Bob Lally and written by Dick Morgan) is the seventh episode of Land of the Lost's first season (which aired thirty-two years ago, in 1974). This story finds a strange, hypnotic wind passing through the land, mysteriously drawing Holly and Will to a grotto in the lost city of the Sleestak.

There, in what appears to be a misty time door (beyond a matrix table), Holly and Will spy their dead Mother, as she beckons them. "Come home..." the beautiful, long-haired woman says. "Come tomorrow, don't tell..."

Will and Holly do return - almost against their will - but the whole enterprise is a lure by the Sleestak to capture the Marshalls. Rick finally figures it out, right before the kids can be sacrificed to the God of the Pit...

Several years back, I had the honor of interviewing director Bob Lally, and we discussed "Album" a little, particularly the importance of featuring Holly and Will's mother...a character who had passed away long before the family was thrown into this pocket universe.

Here's what Mr. Lally recalled about shooting this episode and the emotional scene:

We were doing a show ("Album") that involved Will and Holly walking into a grotto and seeing their dead mother. They were supposed to have gone to this strange world and they miss her mother, and since they're children, they're supposed to be very emotional. We shot it once and it wasn't working. So we decided to play a little game with them. We worked really fast in those days, and I didn't have time to do a lot of fancy internalizing and so forth, but I took the two of them aside, behind the set, and we talked for quite a while.


What I said to Kathy, who was really having trouble with it, was 'You have to think of something in your past that was a very sad thing. Ever have a dog or a cat?' She said she did, so I asked her to visualize the animal being struck by a car.

As you can imagine, Kathy was quite upset, but I assured her the pet was fine. Then I said I wanted her to understand how she felt when I told her about her cat dying. Then I told her that when she walked into that room, that was the emotion I wanted to see on her face. Well, we went back inside, everyone was quiet, and I called action. The take was absolutely brilliant, on both of their parts. When we finished shooting, we went behind the set and hugged each other..."

I rather enjoyed this episode of Land of the Lost, though I didn't quite buy the Sleestak plan. After all, why not just take each Marshall one-at-a-time, rather than trying to get them all together? Still, the story works better as a mood piece. It's eerie, strange and has a melancholy, almost depressing aura. There's a very ominous atmosphere here, and I don't know how many kid shows, frankly, would feature an episode dealing with a dead parent. "It can't be real. Mom's dead," Holly notes at one point. "She wasn't always," Will reminds her, and this a rather blunt conversation for a Saturday morning series. But I guess that's why Land of the Lost holds up despite the aged special effects and occasionally childish acting: there were things for adults to latch onto.

Finally, I enjoyed how this episode skillfully tackled the idea of contrasting "traps." At home in the cave, Holly attempts to trap an unwanted pest who's been getting into the Marshalls' food by night; Of course, Holly and Will are walking into a Sleestak trap too. That's a nice little dramatic trick, and handled with enough subtlety to admire.

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