Monday, September 17, 2007

A Happy 90th to Ib Melchior

Ib J. Melchior, the Danish gentleman responsible for writing such speculative fantasy treats of the early 1960s as THE ANGRY RED PLANET, JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, THE TIME TRAVELLERS (which he also directed, and very well), REPTILICUS, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and the OUTER LIMITS episode "The Premonition" turns 90 today.
During this general period -- 1960 to 1965 -- Melchior, the son of acclaimed operatic tenor Lauritz Melchior, earned a name for himself as one of America's most distinctively imaginative filmmakers. His was a name I memorized along with all the other recurring names I collected from the movies I liked, and I always filed him away mentally next to the Hungarian emigré George Pal. In general, I liked Pal's movies better but I had to grant that Melchior's work was consistently more imaginative (in concept, if not in execution) as well as slightly darker and more ironic. Both Melchior and Pal seemed to share a similarly pixie-ish sense of humor, and I always thought it was a great loss to cinema history that they never collaborated.
In October 1993, when I was in Los Angeles to co-host a Bava retrospective with Joe Dante at the American Cinematheque Director's Theater, I took advantage of my location to conduct a face-to-face interview with John Phillip Law. Finding myself with some spare time on my hands, I consulted the telephone directory and discovered that Ib Melchior was not only listed, but within walking distance from my hotel. I rang him up, he invited me over, and we had a lively visit together, during which he told me his side of the PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES experience. I was impressed by his home (next door to the notorious Chateau Marmont), which was in the process of having an indoor waterfall added to his living room, and also by the order he had imposed on his past work -- every film had its own bound script and scrapbook. One of those scrapbooks contained the only correspondence written by Mario Bava that I found in more than thirty years of searching. Ib also enjoyed talking about his other films, and I told him how much I had enjoyed his TIME TRAVELLERS; a film that looks ahead to THE TIME TUNNEL, in my opinion, as much as his SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON project looked ahead to LOST IN SPACE. And when our discussion of REPTILICUS got around to acknowledging the existence of the trashy, sexed-up novelization, I proudly produced a copy from my shoulder bag and asked him to sign it. Which he laughingly did.
Robert Skotak has written an excellent book/biography/tribute to the man, impeccably written and researched, entitled IB MELCHIOR: MAN OF IMAGINATION, published by Midnight Marquee Press. I could not find it on the MidMar website, but if you move quickly, you might be able to nab one of the few remaining copies at
He not only gave us Reptilicus, but the Rat-Bat-Spider-Crab! Thank you, Ib -- and Happy Birthday!

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