The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Martin Landau

Comments from the Alphacon 2012 convention, Los Angeles, September 2012.

Alphacon 2012 convention

I think the first year we did some more interesting work, and I thought the set, even though it was vast and big and took more time to shoot, because it was harder to light. And then we condensed that. But I did think that first set, with the opening doors, there was something very theatrical about it, the set itself. It didn't look like anything else. The next Main Mission, as such, became much more conventional, I felt. Though we did some interesting shows, the show with Billie Whitelaw. In the beginning when I first got there, the director, Charles Crichton - Barbara and I were outsiders, he was a bit stand-offish at first. I'm pretty tactile, I like to shake hands and stuff, so I would say hello and shake his hand, and at night before I left I'd shake his hand. Until one day he exploded. He said, "mwwaa.. mwaaa. .. you're not going to India for God's sakes, I'll see you tomorrow morning!" About six months after the series, he would come to put his arm around me, and stick his hand out, so I Americanised him. Charlie, Ray Austin, we had good directors.

We shot a great deal on block L and M, near Black Park. We had our dressing rooms upstairs, we had a secretary, and we could take care of things that needed attention too. Though the pace is slower, or was slower, I'm not sure about now, in Britain than it was here [Los Angeles]. When I did Mission Impossible, we were the only show shooting for 7 days, because we had 50 to 70 more setups than usual. Every other hour show was 6 days. That's gone up to 8 days here, I don't know why, they use more cameras, I don't know why. We worked 10 days on an episode of Space. So that was in itself longer. I had a lot of dialogue to learn every night. When I wasn't in front of the camera I was going over stuff in my head. I had to get the numbers right. "Nuclear generating area 2. I want you to close Nuclear generating area 1 and open Nuclear generating area 2 and put Eagle 1 on launch pad 3". Just getting the numbers straight in your head, because the last thing in the world you want to see is I'm saying the wrong numbers. Then once in a while we'd be going to a window, in the first year we could look out, and we'd be horrified at what was approaching us. And we'd go to the dailies, and the spaceship that was coming our way looked like a flower. I said, that's terrible, we look like idiots. We're reacting to something that looked like the beginning of the Smothers Brothers. I said, that's got to be changed, and Brian over at Bray would make things a touch more ferocious.

Sometimes we would do a shot when the doorbell would ring, and I would pick up a commlock to see who was there. And you'd see the face, and cut to the door and the person would walk in. There was no such thing as a remote of that kind. I had a cable this thick going up my arm. The second year there was one pre-emptive strike written into a script, and I went to Freddie Freiberger and I said, "This is out of the question. Koenig would not attack first, unless he knew he had to. He has and never will do this, and this script is based on that false premise." He said, "Well, no." I said, "What are you talking about? The people who watch this show watch it every week, they know more about my character than I do. This is terrible." And I refused to do it. This had to have a rewrite whereby we are threatened in a way that we have to do it. And that change was made to some degree, not as well as I would have liked it. But those kinds of bumps would come up from time to time, with someone saying "no-one's going to notice that". I wanted to throttle him.

The writing, in some instances, was very very good, and in some instances wasn't very good, but it's tough to do a movie every week and make it Gone With The Wind.

Christopher Penfold: I learned more about script writing and script editing from Martin and Barbara in their house than I've ever learned since. It was a huge contribution that was made to the show, not only in front of the screen, but in the scripts as well.

Alphacon 2012

Nick Tate: I want to take Martin to task on something he said. He said there was no procreating on Moonbase Alpha. Jesus, I was trying my damnest.

Landau: Why didn't Carter have lines like this? That's a regret. We could have used some of our personalities on the show a little bit.

Prentis Hancock: The show I did before Space was called Spy Trap, and we had the same problem. We're weren't allowed to smile. And yet Julian Glover's cousin or something worked for MI6, the secret service in London, and he said it's so serious working on this sort of material, that we just laughed all the time. Given the circumstances in the Moonbase it's quite possible we would have broken up quite frequently.

Landau: We did off camera. Otherwise we were working in the Mount Rushmore School of Theatre.

Landau: Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, is a friend of mine. And he mentions the fact that a lot of people he knows were addicted to Space 1999. He watched it. And John Glenn. I learned this years later. It's kinda flattering really, these are the real guys. And Neil Armstrong watched it. We had an interesting audience out there. There is a degree of romance in being blown out of orbit. [Laughter]

Nick Tate: Martin and Barbara and I were all in spacesuits together. During the time it was the hottest summer in England in history.

Landau: 1976.

Nick Tate: 1976. And the air-conditioning broke down on stage L, that we were working on. And everyone was walking around wearing shorts and T-shirts, but Martin, Barbara and I had to wear these bloody suits which were like being in Swiss sleeping bags. In fact, I think they made them out of Swiss sleeping bags. You had to put the whole thing on, but half the time we were only being shot from here up. So what we did, we just had the tops on, we were sitting there in our bare legs, I think I had little more than underpants on, there we are in the Eagle with our bare legs.

Landau: There was an episode with two planets, and we intervened, and that came out of something Henry Kissinger was doing at the time between two countries that were about to war. We were passing through these two warring planets, and we tried to fix it. That came out of the newspapers. It's easier to put a message into a science fiction piece than the Streets of San Francisco.

We wanted to go on network, we never did. We were syndicated. Norman Lear picked up our thread, and put Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman into syndication when the networks turned that down, and we inspired him. We started our own network in a sense, and that was ground-breaking.

We were the only show in Britain at the time shooting film. Everything else was on tape. This gave a lot of work not only to actors but technicians, cameramen...

Nick Tate: Our crew was over 60 people, wasn't it? We had a full feature film crew. Unheard of for television.

Landau: And we had a pub on the premises, and we had a dolly grip who visited the pub and never had lunch. [Laughter]

Nick Tate: We also had a director who did a lot of that too. [Laughter]

Landau: I once saw Charlie at a party at Pinewood, on the second floor. I saw him in the doorway, teetering. There was a marble staircase in that big building. Charlie had fallen down the staircase and landed on his feet, and was waddling away. If he hadn't been drunk, he would have been dead.

Nick Tate: He used to have a Volvo that he would drive. Charlie would get absolutely tanked every night after the show, and then drive this Volvo home. He was so drunk he couldn't stand up, I don't know how in God's name he got home.

Landau: His license was taken away twice during our show. DUIs, as we call them here, driving under the influence.

Anton Phillips: Charlie was about, 70 years old.

Landau: Oh, easily. But he was wonderful.

Nick Tate: He was a great director, you couldn't fault that.

Landau: He was awesome, I liked him. To work a couple of years together and never really have an altercation. We had individual problems here and there, but as a bunch of actors tossed together who never knew each other before the series, it was amazing.

Prentis Hancock: It was a source of some wonder at Pinewood that in the restaurant that we still shared a table for lunch at the end of 15 months.

Landau: That's true. We actually got along and respected each other. It was like a family.

Nick Tate: They didn't want me in the show originally because of my Australian accent. Sylvia said nobody would understand it. So I had to pull it back. I met Abe Mandell when I went to New York, and he said "I have to confess, Nick, I really didn't want you in the show. Because I couldn't understand anything you were saying. But you're talking to me now and I understand everything that you're saying. Why don't you talk like that on the show?" I said because Fred Freiberger wants me to be more Australian. I became much more Australian in the second series, singing all those silly songs that Fred wrote for me, that he thought all Australians did.

Nick Tate: (of Zienia): She was the little mother on the show for all of us.

Landau: She really was. She was like Earth Mother, but little.

Nick Tate: She remembered all our birthdays, and cared about stuff that was going on. She was the sweetheart of the show.

Landau: Barry was a cockney, he was born in the East End of London, within the sound of Bow Bells. Which means he didn't speak English. His brother came on the set, he was a copper. I've never heard anyone more guttural in my life than his brother. And Barry came up to me at that time and said, Martin, I used to talk like that. The first time I ever saw Barry was in downtown Los Angeles, when he played the caretaker in the part that Pinter actually wrote for Donald Pleasance. And Barry was wonderful in it. I think that was before The Fugitive. I was never happy about Freddie changing that idea. Though Catherine was a wonderful girl, the metamorph, some of that was not my favourite stuff. I thought Professor Bergman was a terrific sounding board for Koenig, to have that kind of guy who doesn't necessarily agree with the choices he makes, that could have gone further. I think the second year was not as good as the first year, for a lot of reasons. The family was breaking up, for no decent reason. And I think that it hurt the show. I always felt that if we kept that first year going in the way that it was going, we would have had a third year.

Nick Tate: Yes, for sure.

Landau: It was being tampered with for the wrong reasons. Too many cooks, and not enough palatable food.