Tuesday, March 17, 2015

RIP Ib J. Melchior (1917-2015)

A name to conjure with! Ib J. Melchior was the writer-director of THE ANGRY RED PLANET and THE TIME TRAVELERS, screenwriter of JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, REPTILICUS, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and author of the source story of DEATH RACE 2000, among many other accomplishments - including the writing of an original project, SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, a concept overridden by Irwin Allen's LOST IN SPACE series. It was announced today that he died last Friday, March 13, at his home at the grand old age of 97 - less than half a year after the passing of Cleo Baldon, his wife of many decades, last October.

The son of the great opera tenor Lauritz Melchior, and a world-renowned historian and author of several volumes of history in his own right, Ib signed just a handful of films, but they each had impact and were enough for him to assert himself in a time of great competition as one of the movies' most distinctive men of imagination (prompting the title of Robert Skotak's fine biography IB MELCHIOR - MAN OF IMAGINATION). He also wrote episodes of MEN INTO SPACE and THE OUTER LIMITS ("The Premonition").

On October 10, 1993, I had the privilege of spending a marvelous hour with Ib in his magnificent, cluttered home near the Chateau Marmont, off the Sunset Strip, interviewing him for MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. Ib had archived his own career meticulously in a series of scrapbooks, in one of which he shared with me the only letter I've seen to date written by Bava. Shortly after sending him a complimentary copy, he sent back a postcard praising the book lavishly, but he he had some disagreements with my interpretation of Bava's remarks about their working relationship on PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, which he later discussed in the 2009 book SIX CULT FILMS OF THE SIXTIES, co-authored with Skotak. I remember him laughing heartily when I produced from my handbag my long-treasured paperback of REPTILICUS for him to sign. We also talked a bit about the actress Greta Thyssen, who had appeared in the films he made with producer-director Sid Pink, who described her in his autobiography SO YOU WANT TO MAKE MOVIES as being a walking illusion, with fake hair, fake chest, etc. Ib gallantly contested this, telling me that he had dated Greta and that she was "all real."

As I'm glad I was able to express to him, he was a very important figure in 1960s science-fantasy, and I still consider THE TIME TRAVELERS - a film made entirely with theatrical and in-camera special effects - one of the few American science fiction movies that can truly be termed a triumph of the imagination. My condolences to Robert Skotak and others in my circle, whom I know have lost a dear and irreplaceable friend.

Here is something not previously shared with the public, a postcard we received from Ib shortly after he received his copy of MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. Needless to say, an honored keepsake.

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