Movie/TV director/producer Irwin Allen is best known for his beloved '60s sci-fi/fantasy TV shows as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants. During the '70s, he became known as "the Master of Disaster" for such blockbuster movies as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Allen knew the importance of music in carrying over some of the fun, outlandish premises of his projects. He enlisted such top talents as John Williams, Alexander Courage, Joseph Mullendore (aka Mullendore), Jerry Goldsmith, Leith Stevens, Herman Stein, Richard LaSalle, Hans J. Salter, and 20th Century Fox arranger/conductor/musical supervisor Lionel Newman. Executive produced by Kevin Burns and released by GNP Crescendo, The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen is a six-CD box set which includes the great TV soundtracks of Allen's shows as well as a bonus disc of star interviews and sound effects. The title is also shared by a DVD and a TV special that originally aired on cable channel Sci-Fi. The volumes were released individually as: The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen: Lost in Space, Vol. 1, The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen: Lost in Space, Vol. 2, The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen, Vol. 3: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen, Vol. 4: the Time Tunnel, and The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen, Vol. 5: Land of the Giants.
Because of the success of the box set, a seventh volume was released in November 1999, Lost in Space, Vol. 3. It's a much welcomed addition to the CD series as it includes some of the most engaging music of Allen's TV shows. Some of the long sought-after favorites are Herman Stein's beautiful "Family" (heard when Will Robinson and his dad would have heart to heart talks), and the soundtrack to one of the series' best episodes, John Williams' outstanding score for My Friend Mr. Nobody.
Born June 12, 1916, in New York City, Allen developed a love of reading as a child, engrossing himself in various adventure books, particularly those of Jules Verne. During his teen years, he began to write columns for his high school newspaper. Later, he studied advertising and journalism at Columbia University. Moving to Los Angeles, he began hosting a very popular celebrity-focused interview program on KLAC Radio and writing a nationally syndicated column, Hollywood-Merry-Go-Round, which later became a celebrity-paneled TV show. He became a literary agent, arranging deals for numerous writers. Becoming a movie producer for RKO and Warner Bros., his films include the Oscar-winning documentary The Sea Around Us and The Animal World. Switching to fictional films, he produced The Big Circus, Double Dynamite, Where Danger Lives, A Girl in Every Port, and The Story of Mankind (the latter two with Groucho Marx who would later be a frequent investor in Allen's projects).
Allen began his long relationship with 20th Century Fox with the 1960 film The Lost World, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book. The following year, he directed, co-wrote, and produced Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which later was the basis of a same-named Emmy-winning ABC-TV series. Another hit movie for Allen was Five Weeks in a Balloon. In 1965, the creator/producer's second hit series premiered Lost in Space on CBS-TV. It's said that CBS turned down Star Trek in favor of this series. Lost in Space's three-year run endeared it to fans who appreciated its family-oriented theme. In 1967, The Time Tunnel (said to be Allen's favorite) began a one-season run on ABC. The same year, Allen began production on Land of the Giants which began airing in Voyage's time slot in 1968. It should be pointed out that around this time, Allen was producing three shows at the same time; quite an impressive feat. His other TV series were Swiss Family Robinson and Code Red.
The '70s saw Allen returning to the movies, earning the title "the Master of Disaster" with big hit movies, The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974). Curiously, the movies almost didn't happen. 20th Century Fox, who'd had several flop movies at the time, balked at Allen's budget for "Poseidon." Upset and tearful, the producer went from his office on the Fox lot, directly across the street to a country club and asked some of his friends to invest in the movie. They agreed on the spot. The Poseidon Adventure became a multi-million dollar worldwide blockbuster. The soundtrack spawned a number one pop hit in the Al Kasha/Joel Hirschhorn song "The Morning After," performed by Maureen McGovern. The movie was the subject of a fall 2000 segment of cable channel AMC's behind-the-scenes documentary series, Backstory. Both movies brought attention to fire and maritime safety issues, which led to Allen being honored in the U.S. and other countries. Other Allen movies are The Swarm, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, and When Time Ran Out. Allen brought his disaster movie concept to the small screen with the TV movies: Hanging By a Thread, Cave-In, Fire!, and The Night the Bridge Fell Down. He also produced the TV movies Alice in Wonderland and Outrage.
In the mid-'80s, Allen was planning a grand-scale theme park as well as a possible Lost in Space movie (spearheaded in part by series star Bill Mumy). Irwin Allen died from a heart attack on November 2, 1991, (just a few days after Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry). While the 1998 Lost in Space movie wasn't a huge hit, there was still Hollywood talk as the 21st century began about adapting Allen's other properties to the big screen. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi