Category Archives: Cinema & Television

Collecting robots on postcards – 8

Lost in Space was a television series from Irwin Allen Productions, set in the then future year of 1997. The show first aired in 1965 and ran for three seasons with no less than 83 episodes! This was the first science fiction series that I ever watched (at 10 years old) and my favourite character was, of course, the Robot.

Lost in Space postcard front

I wonder if this was the first Robot to ever have a famous ‘catch phrase’? The Robot saying “Danger Will Robinson” is well known, but apparently that exact phrase was only said once, and not until the third-season episode Deadliest of the Species.

Altoids mints - Danger Will Robinson!The catch phrase was even used to advertise ‘Altoids’ mints. The brand was created in London in the 1780s, but is better known in the USA. What would they have made of the robot B-9 in the UK back in 1780 I wonder!

The Robot was officially known as “B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorising Environmental Control Robot”. If the robot seems familiar, it will come as no surprise to find that it was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Robby the Robot for the film Forbidden Planet.

Thanks to Wikipedia, we have these details of the robots (fictional) capabilities:

1. The Robot possessed powerful computers that allowed him to make complex calculations and to deduce many facts;

2. He had a variety of sensors that detected numerous phenomena and dangers;

3. He was programmed with extensive knowledge on many subjects, including how to operate the Jupiter 2 spaceship;

4. His construction allowed him to function in extreme environments and in the vacuum of space;

5. He was extremely strong, giving him utility both in performing difficult labour and in fighting when necessary. Moreover, his claws could fire laser beams and, most frequently, a powerful “electro-force” that was similar to arcing electricity.

Lost in Space postcard back

One final very interesting piece of trivia is that the open and closing theme music was written by John Williams, the composer behind the Star Wars theme music, who was listed in the credits as “Johnny Williams”.

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Collecting movie stills – 2 – Lois January

Lois January (above with robot friend) was born in Texas in 1912. Her mini biography can be read here on IMDB. Despite the appearance of the above photograph, she was actually uncredited in this production – The Vanishing Shadow (1934) – in which she appears with the robot. Lois played the part of a Secretary to one of the main characters. Interestingly, Lee J. Cobb had his first part in The Vanishing Shadow, also uncredited, appearing as a Roadwork Foreman.

A still frame from episode one

The Vanishing Shadow was a 12-episode serial. The robot in the photograph appears in the first episode (right), and I believe that the entire serial can be viewed on YouTube (episode one appears at the foot of this Blog entry).

At least two more publicity photographs of Lois January from The Vanishing Shadow are available for collectors to find, and eBay is a good starting point.

Lois January’s other roles include that of a manicurist (uncredited) in The Wizard of Oz, heroine of several Western films, and an actress who appeared in many well known American TV series from the 1950s to the 1970s. She died in 2006 at the age of 93.

Collecting movie stills – 1 – Robby with Anne Francis

Signed photograph of Anne Francis and Robby the robotAn interesting and fairly inexpensive collection can be made by purchasing photographs produced by film companies to advertise their movies. I have purchased a few photos on eBay, but I think that most of mine are modern photographs copied from the originals, or printed recently from the original negatives. You have to be careful not to buy modern images which have been printed from scanned computer files because the quality will not be as good as real photographs processed onto photographic paper.

A more expensive collecting area is signed photographs such as the one shown here. Robby, from the movie Forbidden Planet (1956), one of the most famous of the big screen robots, is shown here with Anne Francis (who seems to always be described as “leggy”, and for good reason!).

Poster for the film Forbidden PlanetPRICES
There are a large number of signed photographs of Miss Francis as you will find if you search online, and the price varies enormously. In the lower region, about $10 plus delivery, but you can find signed photos for as high as US$900 – for example, try searching here. Perhaps the signatures are easy to forge, so be careful not to pay too much if you are unsure.

Kodak text on back of photographMy photograph is signed “To Mary at the Roger Smith – Best Anne Francis”, and the handwriting appears to be the same as in other signed photos found online (see gallery below). I realise that this is certainly no guarantee of authenticity, but my purchase price was low – it was a lucky eBay purchase of less than US$10 plus delivery from the USA. The photographic paper itself appears to be old (it could well be 60 years old) and has text printed on the back in a repeating pattern which says “THIS PAPER MANUFACTURED BY KODAK”.

Below is a selection of other signed photographs that I found while searching online.

What better way to end than with the trailer to Forbidden Planet?