The Great Adventurer, Doug McClure!

fulltroyActor. (Newscom TagID: dpphotos060349)				[Photo via Newscom]You may remember Doug McClure from such parodies as The Simpsons . . . the “celebrity” Troy McClure who appears in many “educational” films in The Simpsons was inspired by American actor Doug McClure . . . but did you know that during the 1970’s he was the star of a number of films that fit perfectly into the Steampunk genre?

Douglas Osborne “Doug” McClure (May 11, 1935 – February 5, 1995) was an American actor whose career in film and television extended from the 1950s to the 1990s. He is best known for his role as the cowboy Trampas during the entire run from 1962 to 1971 of the NBC western television series, The Virginian, loosely based on the Owen Wister novel, but between 1975 and 1978 his career led him into several Steampunk cinematic adventures.

For four movies in a row, one each year starting in 1975, British director Kevin Conner led the helm on three Amicus Productions movie adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and a fourth film very much in keeping with the first three.

McClure Earths Core

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land_that_time_forgot2Based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs and scripted by Michael Moorcock, The Land That Time Forgot (1975) is set during World War I. McClure plays Bowen Tyler, a passenger aboard a ship that is torpedoed by a German U-boat. Along with a few surviving British officers, Tyler convinces the other men to take over the surfacing submarine, this being their only chance for survival. After confronting the Germans on the deck, a fight ensues and they seize the German U-boat, but with no radio and low fuel they are forced to take refuge on an uncharted sub-continent called Caprona, a fantastical land of lush vegetation where dinosaurs still roam, co-existing with primitive man. There are also reserves of oil which, if the Germans and British can work together, can be refined and enable their escape from the island.

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at-the-earths-core-posterThe following year saw the release of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s  At the Earth’s Core (1976) with the screenplay written by Amicus Productions co-founder Milton Subotsky. This time McClure plays David Innes, an American financier behind a project to drill to revolutionize mining. Alongside McClure, Peter Cushing (best known for Star Wars and his recurring roles as Van Helsing) plays Dr. Abner Perry, a British Victorian period scientist. During the test run of their Iron Mole drilling machine in a Welsh mountain, they end up in a strange underground labyrinth ruled by a species of giant telepathic flying reptiles, the Mahars, and full of prehistoric monsters and cavemen. They are captured by the Mahars, who keep primitive humans as their slaves through mind control. David falls for the beautiful slave girl Princess Dia (played by Caroline Munro) but when she is chosen as a sacrificial victim in the Mahar city, David and Perry must rally the surviving human slaves to rebel and not only save her but also the freedom of the slaves.

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the-people-that-time-forgotThe People That Time Forgot (1977) is based on the novel The People That Time Forgot and Out of Time’s Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs; the screenplay was written by Patrick Tilley. The film is a direct sequel to The Land That Time Forgot, which initiated the series in 1975. Doug McClure is once more Bowen Tyler, but this time the protagonist is Ben McBride (played by Patrick Wayne) who leads an expedition in search of Tyler. The expedition flies to Caprona, the same fantastic prehistoric land where dinosaurs and barbarian tribes of men coexist, however they are hit by a pterodactyl and crash on this weird land of prehistoric animals. Soon they meet the native Ajor who surprisingly speaks English. They learn that Tyler had taught English to her tribe that evolved from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, but he was captured by a wild tribe. While the pilot fixes the airplane, Ajor joins the group to help them to find Tyler and bring him back to the civilization in a dangerous journey.

heavy_gear_flourishwarlords-of-atlantis-320x240Warlords of Atlantis (1978) (also known as Warlords of the Deep) was from an original script by Brian Hayles, a British screenwriter who had also worked as a writer on Doctor Who from 1966 to 1974, most notably “The Ice Warriors.” At the age of 48, Hayles died five months after the release of Warlords of Atlantis.

In this movie, McClure plays Greg Collinson, an engineer who is part of an undersea expedition. Around the beginning of the 20th century, British archaeologist Professor Aitken (played by David Bisset) and his son, Charles (played by Peter Gilmore), have chartered a ship called the Texas Rose to take them out to sea, where they plan to dive underwater in a diving bell designed by Collinson. Although everyone aboard the ship, including Greg, thinks that the Professors Aitken are just going to look at fish, Charles and his father are secretly searching for proof of the existence of the lost city of Atlantis. He and Greg find it on their first dive, but discover more than they had planned on finding.

heavy_gear_flourishWarlords of Atlantis marks the parting of McClure and Conner from this four year span of Victorian and Edwardian adventure.

Conner continued on with a screenplay by the then recently deceased Brian Hayles (1930 – 1978), to make Arabian Adventure (1979) with Christopher Lee, Oliver Tobias, and Peter Cushing before moving on to much more television directing in the 1980’s. At the age of 77 years, Kevin Conner continues to direct with three TV movies released in 2014, and two in pre-production for 2015.

McClure followed Warlords of Atlantis with a TV movie called The Rebels and through the 1980’s and early 1990’s appears in various TV shows in one off episodes or in the case of Out of this World and The Fall Guy he played regularly occurring characters. At the age of 59, McClure died on February 5th, 1995, but thanks to this quartet of adventures he will continue to live on within the Steampunk Community.

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