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O–Q Entries
Simon Oakland
Arch Oboler
Charles Ogle
Willis O'Brien
George Pal
Gregory Peck
Cassandra Peterson
Walter Pidgeon
Jack P. Pierce
Vincent Price
Anthony Quinn
 
PAL, GEORGE
(1908–1980). Hungarian producer and director.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Produced: The Great Rupert (Irving PICHEL 1950); Destination Moon (Pichel 1950); When Worlds Collide (Rudolph Mate 1951); The War of the Worlds (Byron HASKIN 1953); The Naked Jungle (Haskin 1954); Tom Thumb (Ladislas Foder 1958); The Power (Haskin 1967); Doc Savage—The Man of Bronze (and co-wrote with Joe Morhaim) (Michael ANDERSON 1975); The Puppetoon Movie (compilation) (1987).

Produced and directed: The Time Machine (1960); Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1960); The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (co-directed with Henry LEVIN) (1962); The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964).

 
George Pal was a very likable person who spent more than a few weeks planning his science fiction and fantasy films, and more than a few weeks making those films, in an era when most of his contemporaries did not. These extraordinarily lukewarm words of praise necessarily foreshadow an inescapable conclusion: although once highly regarded in the science fiction community for his contributions to the genre, Pal conspicuously failed to produce a memorable body of works, and his films today are, for the most part, justifiably forgotten.

Because of Pal's background in making short cartoons using stop-motion animation, one might expect his films to be colorful, episodic, and shallow, and that is generally the case. Pal was numb to the rhythms of film narrative and unable to attract or inspire capable actors; he regularly seized upon wonderful source material and shamefully butchered or trivialized it, as if unable to comprehend what made it special; even the special effects that he devoted most of his attention to could be wildly inconsistent, ranging from the impressive to the laughable.

The best film he produced was probably Destination Moon, where the guiding presence of author Robert A. HEINLEIN imposed what would emerge retrospectively as an uncharacteristic aura of logic and unity on the proceedings; not exactly an involving film, it is a sincere and credible film that still merits attention. Of his other films, only the borderline Amazonian adventure The Naked Jungle is moderately successful. When Worlds Collide and The War of the Worlds are incohesive and strangely flat, given their catastrophic themes; Tom Thumb, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao are clumsy contrivances unredeemed by their sometimes striking special effects; Atlantis, the Lost Continent and The Power frustratingly fail to live up to their potential; the inadequacies of The Time Machine have already been addressed in the entries on David DUNCAN and H. G. WELLS); and Doc Savage—The Man of Bronze is, as I have discovered, simply impossible to sit through.

To epitomize everything that was wrong with Pal, consider the culminating Pal film that was never made: his proposed Time Machine II, which later surfaced as a novel by Pal and Joe Morhaim. One might hope that Pal, belatedly ashamed of the way he had trashed Wells's novel, suggested the sequel as a way to return to and recapture the author's original vision. But Time Machine II instead was a mind-numbing, point-by-point retelling of the original Duncan script, with the Time Traveller's son standing in for the Time Traveller, far-future cavemen standing in for the Eloi, and giant insects standing in for the Morlocks. Those who condemn the Hollywood mentality should at least appreciate the wisdom of the various studio executives who repeatedly refused to finance the project; and, if this was the best Pal could come up with after a lifetime of involvement with the genre, one is forced to conclude that, when it came to science fiction film, George Pal just didn't get it.

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