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

I–K Entries
Steve Ihnat
Michael Jackson
Russell Johnson
Tor Johnson
Nathan Juran
Boris Karloff
Buster Keaton
DeForest Kelley
Erle C. Kenton
Val Kilmer
Akira Kubo
Stanley Kubrick
 
JURAN, NATHAN
(1907–2002). Austrian director.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Directed: The Black Castle (1952); The Deadly Mantis (1957); Twenty Million Miles to Earth (1957); The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958); episodes of Men into Space (1959–1960); "Gambling Story," "Feathered Foe," "The Pool," "The Smugglers" (1959), episodes of World of Giants; Jack the Giant Killer (and script with Orville H. Hampton; story Hampton) (1962); First Men in the Moon (1964); "The Machines Strike Back," "The Shape of Doom," "Deadly Invasion" (1966), episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; "Return from Outer Space," "The Magic Mirror," "The Space Trader," "Blast Off into Space," "The Ghost Planet," "The Prisoners of Space" (1966), "West of Mars," "The Wreck of the Robot," "The Girl from the Green Dimension," "The Condemned of Space," "The Space Primevals" (1967), "Target: Earth" (1968), episodes of Lost in Space; "The Walls of Jericho," "Billy the Kid," "The Death Merchant," "Raiders from Outer Space" (1967), episodes of The Time Tunnel; "Ghost Town" (1968), "Deadly Pawn," "The Clones" (1969), "Nightmare" (1970), episodes of Land of the Giants (1968); The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973).

Directed as Nathan Hertz: Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman (1958); The Brain from Planet Arous (1958).

Art director: The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Lachman 1942); Dr. Renault's Secret (Lachman 1942); Harvey (Henry Koster 1950).

Wrote as Jerry Juran: Doctor Blood's Coffin (with James Kelley and Peter Miller) (Sydney J. FURIE 1961).

 
In the ranks of its directors, science fiction film needs visionaries, energetic leaders eager to fashion distinctive narratives that imaginatively reflect their own ideas and concerns. Yet there is also a need for foot soldiers, directors who will meekly and professional perform their duties while letting others handle the artistry and creativity. And as a representative of the latter category, Nathan Juran merits some necessarily restrained praise.

Juran's obituaries understandably began by noting that he earned an Academy Award for his art direction of How Green Was My Valley; yet in that year Hollywood was bestowing Oscars on virtually everyone associated with that film, and there was visibly nothing remarkable about his pedestrian contributions to that film, or to any other films he served in that capacity (though he perhaps played a role in creating the memorable portrait of the giant rabbit in Harvey). Only Hollywood's version of the Peter Principle could have brought him into the director's chair, where one senses he could feel a bit overwhelmed. When given a degree of creative control over a film, two things happened: a film that was not that promising to begin with emerged as even worse than might have been anticipated, and Juran employed a pseudonym to conceal his work on the film. In short, if you're planning a revival-house double feature to punish your worst enemy, you should seriously consider Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman and The Brain from Planet Arous.

While a third film of that era, The Deadly Mantis, is a bit more palatable, especially to inveterate fans of giant-insect movies like myself, Juran clearly felt a lot happier on the set when someone else was pulling the strings, which led to his remarkably fruitful relationship with special-effects wizard Ray HARRYHAUSEN. Five Million Years to Earth is a quaint delight, with its dinosaur from space as the centerpiece of a kinder, gentler Godzilla movie. But the frequently overlooked The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad is a greater achievement, a pioneering fantasy film that produced scores of offspring, ranging from the Steve Reeves Hercules movies of the 1960s to television series of the 1990s like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, and of course Sinbad. Of course, Harryhausen's special effects were the major draw of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, but there is a brisk efficiency to Juran's direction as well. And The First Men in the Moon is one of the successful film adaptations of an H. G. WELLS novel, inevitably soft-pedaling the social commentary but otherwise capturing much of the story's spirit.

As Harryhausen grew more meticulous in his stop-motion animation, his films became less frequent, and Juran was looking for more steady employment. So he ended the partnership and moved to television, and to another creative mentor, the master of mediocrity, Irwin ALLEN. Becoming the directorial mainstay of Lost in Space, Juran also directed episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants, all without ever conveying one trace of his own personality. He didn't want to. He came, he saw, and he served, making his valley green and keeping the cogs of the science fiction film machine in motion, until he retired into thirty years of contented obscurity. Call his biography Attack of the Fifty-Micron Man.

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