Sunday, January 04, 2015

Outré Intro: Lost in Space (1965)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Irwin Allen's Lost in Space (1965 - 1968).

I'll be conducting a year-long retrospective (with episode reviews), but I'll begin today with a look at the series' first opening or introductory montage.  

This montage is lensed in crisp black-and-white to John "Johnny" William's theme song, and feels oddly whimsical. 

I say "oddly because of the tone of the series in its first year. Although it is easy to forget it -- given Lost in Space's enduring reputation as "campy" -- the first season episodes are all very action-oriented, and seriously reckon with a pioneer family of the future space age.  

This introduction, which is gorgeous and steeped in sixties futurism, seems a bit too light-hearted for the nature of the drama in the first year. Instead, the introduction is very abstract, very fun, very "pop" in a sense, in keeping with the Zeitgeist of the time (post-James Bond, and just barely pre-Batman)

The first images we see include white squares against a black backdrop, indicative of the flashing lights of a "futuristic" computer.  These squares (or "lights") proliferate, as if the computer is overheating or malfunctioning. They resolve into an image of a flying saucer, our stand-in for the Robinsons' craft, the Jupiter 2.

The square lights disappear and the ship then rockets away from us, into deep space. It is now small in the frame.

Following the spaceship's trajectory are the words comprising the series title: Lost in Space.

Again, the lettering of the title suggests a kind of jaunty, light program.  And that doesn't seem to fit entirely with the first season.

Around the title, we next see the Jupiter 2's trajectory, and to call it erratic is an under-statement.  The trajectory ping-pongs all over the place, writing and re-writing a course.  In other words, we see that the ship is hopelessly directionless, hopelessly lost. This is the premise of the series, and the crazy trajectory indicates that.

The trajectory of the craft becomes, next, a tether, dragging along our main characters (and the actors who portray them).  

We promptly meet Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright and Jonathan Harris.  

Once more, it's fair to say that the characters are "drawn" in this intro as whimsical in appearance and demeanor, a suggestion, perhaps, for parents, that the show isn't going to be too "scienc-y" or difficult to follow.  Still, this opener stands as a stark contrast to the seriousness of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's intro, by comparison.

Next, we're back to the square computer lights and read-outs, which resolve into a title card for series creator and producer: Irwin Allen.

This introduction has a fun, free-wheeling vibe, and yet seems more appropriate to the later seasons of the series, given the narrative's change in tone for the second and third year.  

Still, there's something magical or appropriate about this intro that bears mentioning. There's an intimacy or informality to it.  Look a those human figures being drawn, pulled, and tugged across the screen, sometimes helplessly, sometimes waving, sometimes cutting-up. 

The idea portrayed here is that the future -- space itself -- is now the purview of the American family, children and all. 

And that notion clearly does get to the heart of the series.

My review of the first episode of Lost in Space, "The Reluctant Stowaway" will be posted later this morning.

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