World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A Entries
Forrest J Ackerman
Nick Adams
John Agar
Philson Ahn
William Alland
Irwin Allen
Woody Allen
Kirstie Alley
Gerry Anderson
Michael Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Jack Arnold
 
ANDERSON, MICHAEL
(1920– ). British director.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Directed: 1984 (1955); Around the World in Eighty Days (1956); Shoes of the Fisherman (1968); Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975); Logan's Run (1976); Orca: The Killer Whale (1977); Dominique Is Dead (1978); The Martian Chronicles (tv movie) (1979); Murder by Phone [Bells; The Calling] (1980); Millennium (1989); 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (tv miniseries) (1997); The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1999).

Assistant Director: Vice Versa (Peter USTINOV 1948).

Appeared in: On Location: The Shoes of the Fisherman (documentary short) (1968); Logan's Run: A Look into the 23rd Century (documentary short) (Ronald Saland 1976).

 
The Comcast television guide had promised me that the Sci-Fi Channel was going to show Richard FLEISCHER's rousing 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1953), but when I tuned in, I was dismayed to find they were actually showing a re-edited version of Michael Anderson's 1997 miniseries. I decided to watch anyway, vainly hoping that the film might provide some additional insights into Anderson's remarkably empty career. But of course, this dull, listless production only served to confirm what I had already known.

To argue for Anderson as a major film talent, I think, would first requirement the development of a theory of the set designer as auteur. Certainly, all of the setpieces and scenery in Anderson's films always look very nice; and with little about the actors or plot to attract one's interest, a filmgoer ends up spending a lot of time staring at Anderson's sets and scenery. To this day, except for some vague (suppressed?) memories of a confused-looking Michael YORK and a speechifying Peter USTINOV, the colorful futuristic sets are the only things I remember about Logan's Run.

Tellingly, Anderson began his career in film as an assistant director, a position in which anything resembling directorial vision is a liability. Promoted to director, he soon provided solid evidence of the Peter Principle in action with an uninvolving adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. His splashy, episode version of Jules VERNE's Around the World in Eighty Days attracted more critical acclaim, and an Academy Award for Best Picture, but even Hollywood could not bring itself to hand its creator an Oscar for Best Direction, honoring George Stevens instead. The success of Around the World in Eighty Days led to a series of forgettable mainstream films, although I do have a soft spot in my heart for the melodramatic absurdity of The Shoes of the Fisherman, with Anthony QUINN amusingly cast as a Russian pope confronting a world crisis.

In the 1970s, Anderson's fortunes declined as the status of science fiction films rose, and the two briefly met in passing, with disastrous results. Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze is so bad that it's not even funny, Orca: The Killer Whale improbably inspires a vast appreciation for the talents of Steven SPIELBERG in dealing with a similar subject, and please don't get me started again on Logan's Run. After demonstrating that he also couldn't handle horror with Dominique Is Dead and Murder by Phone, Anderson soon could only find work doing television movies such as the aforementioned 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, an obvious effort to recapturing old glories by returning to the world of Jules Verne. But the saga of Captain Nemo provided no opportunities for surprising star cameo appearances or striking location shooting, so one is left to stare at an impressively-rendered faux-Victorian Nautilus and randomly-inserted footage of underwater creatures as the only diversions from Anderson's characteristically abandoned actors and indifferent pacing. Late in his career, he briefly got back into your neighborhood theatres with what proved to be (of course) a terrible adaptation of Pinocchio.

Still, there is precisely one Michael Anderson movie that I would voluntarily watch again, and that is his version of Ray BRADBURY's The Martian Chronicles, which I found far superior to published reports and a film with flaws that can be solely attributed to its source material. Unable or unwilling to impose his own vision on Bradbury's loosely linked stories, Anderson provides an evocative and revelatory exposition of the author's strengths and weaknesses. For, as the history of science fiction film has repeatedly demonstrated, even mediocre talents are capable of providing us with inadvertent insights.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2014 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art