A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, 20th Century-Fox released a film about a battle in outer space featuring a boy, some comical robots and ruthless alien enemies. No, not Star Wars – I’m referring to “Space Attack”, a 3-dimensional animated sci-fi short. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Today we are discussing The Adventures of Sam Space, an odd little film that I had first seen (in polaroid 3D) at the Jeff Joseph’s World 3-D Festivals in Hollywood 2003, 2006 and 2014. Now, someone has posted it in anaglyph (Red-Green) 3-D on You Tube – and it’s well worth a look (with appropriate glasses or not).
The Adventures of Sam Space was produced in 1953 by Volcano Productions, based at General Service Studios in Hollywood (now called the Hollywood Center Studios at 1040 N. Las Palmas Ave.). Volcano produced the television programs The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Mickey Rooney Show and I Married Joan. It also produced TV commercials.
This animated short was announced in the trades on July 3rd, 1953 and started production on August 4th, 1953. All character voices in the cartoon were performed by the great Paul Frees. It was written and directed by Paul G. Sprunck, who had previously animated on George Pal’s Puppetoons and Frank Tashlin’s Daffy Ditties and had written and directed the short Brightest Night (1952), a telling of the nativity story for children (which also used puppet figures although there was practically no animation involved.)
Here is the text from a small news clipping in THE BILLBOARD (October 24th, 1953):
Animated Doll Blurbs by VP
Hollywood, Oct. 17th
Volcano Productions this week announced it is prepared to produce telefilm commercials using animated puppets. These spots, volcano topper Bob Angus said, are more effective in delivering a message and cost about the same as animated cartoons.
Angus indicated his telefirm is now prepared to offer this service after having successfully completed this week a 10-minute theatrical animated puppets movie “The Adventures of Sam Space.” The film was made in all dimensions with Eastman color. Heading this phase of Volcano’s operation is Paul Sprung [sic] who formerly worked with George Pal at Paramount. Volcano’s animated puppets, Angus said, are similar to Pal’s puppetoons. Angus said he currently is dickering with several firms to use the new methods for commercials.
The Adventures of Sam Space was filmed in 3-D using a stereoscopic camera system by the Howard A. Anderson Company (best known for creating the opening title sequence for I Love Lucy and the original visual effects for Star Trek). Arthur C. Pierce, an optical effects cameraman with the Anderson company who had previously filmed over 100 industrial films, adapted the script and supervised the production. Pierce went on to write and direct a number of low budget sci-fi films in the 1960s including Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1965). The music was composed by Clarence Wheeler (of Pal’s Puppetoons and Walter Lantz Cartune fame).
For unknown reasons, The Adventures of Sam Space was not released theatrically in 1953 or 1954 as planned. It sat on the shelf until 1960, when it was purchased by producer Edward L. Alperson’s ALCO Productions. Alperson needed to increase the running time of his Stereo-Vision 3-D feature “September Storm” for 20th Century Fox, so he added the short to his prints and re-titled it “Space Attack.” Both pictures were released in anamorphic CinemaScope, even though they weren’t filmed in that format.
“Space Attack”, originally shot at 1.37:1, was optically cropped and squeezed using the SuperScope 235 process for the widescreen release, and the accompanying films were exhibited in both 2-D and 3-D versions. The 3-D version was presented in theaters in full color using polarized glasses (contrary to popular belief, red/blue anaglyph glasses were NOT used to view most 3-D movies in the 1950s.)
Below, the original 1953 Billboard article transcribed above (at left); and several “Space Attack” publicity images (center and right) from the 1960 press book of September Storm. (Click each to enlarge)
Special Thanks for research and imagery in this post to Eric Kurland, founder of 3-D SPACE: The Center for Stereoscopic Photography, Art, Cinema, and Education. For more cool 3D stuff visit www.3-DSPACE.org and 3-D Film Archive.