1970, producer Charles Schneer acquired the film
rights to the classic Martian tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. After the sucesses of his films "One Million Years BC" and
then the slightly less sucessful "
Harryhausen was excited by the idea of doing a film with an interplanetary setting, particularly one with a sort of neo-Victorian feel not unlike "First Men in the Moon" had been. As a result, the film with the working title of "Sinbad at the World's end" was put on the shelf.
The script was based on the first three of the Martian novels and included many bizarre characters and exotic settings.
The same Spanish locations were able to be used for much of the principal photography and many members of the same cast originally recruited for Sinbad were employed for the project now titled "Warlord of Mars".
The giant green warrior Tars Tarkas was to be stop-motion animated by Mr. Harryhausen and his crew, with the voice talent provided by character actor Ted Cassidy. Cassidy, who was best known for his role as “Lurch” the butler on the popular “Addams Family” sitcom, was noted for his impressive basso voice, and was a perfect choice for this role.
All of the creatures of the remarkable planet, know to its natives as Barsoom, were created in stop-motion animation by the talented hands of Mr. Harryhausen, from the huge beasts known as zitidars down to fierce banths and calots all the way to the much smaller ulsios. Of all of the films to come out of the Schneer/Harryhausen partnership, this one called for the most minutes of special effects.
production company had its offices in
Post production started smoothly, but fell further and further behind schedule. Finally, production came to a standstill as the technical staff had to be dismissed including director Gordon Hessler. Schneer, had Harryhausen put together a trailer from the completed footage and brought it to film festivals around the world, hopeing to generate some good buzz about the project and hopefully to attract investors. The ploy worked, but the release date still had to be moved far ahead. Harryhausen personally stepped into the director’s chair to complete the film.
In the early summer of 1977, Warlord of Mars was released. No one could have predicted the wild enthusiasm that the film would generate with the public. Somewhat later that same summer, an expensive experiment titled "Star Wars" was released, directed by a fellow who had had moderate success with a movie called American Graffiti. The film was perceived to be derivative of Warlord, and Marlon Brando, cast for his star power alone, gave a lackadaisical performance as the retired Jedi knight. Most critics saw the movie as too “film-buffish”, with over sixty scenes noticeably borrowed from other films. That movie has since been relegated to the realm of late night television. I most recently saw it on “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.
Warlord of Mars, on the other hand became
recognized as an enduring classic. In 1981, a sequel was released, “Under the
Moons of Mars” , which was an amalgam of story ideas from
several other of the Martian novels, including “Thuvia,
Maid of Mars”, “The Chesmen of Mars” and “the
Mastermind of Mars”. One surprise was Peter Cook’s nomination for a supporting