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(1916–1983). Hungarian writer, producer, and director.

Produced: The Magnetic Monster (and co-wrote with Curd SIODMAK) (1953); Gog (and story; script Tom Taggart and Richard G. Taylor) (Herbert L. Strock 1954); Riders to the Stars (and story; script Siodmak) (Richard CARLSON 1954); Science Fiction Theatre (tv series) (1955-1957); Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (documentary) (Winston Jones 1956); Around the World under the Sea (and appeared in, uncredited) (Andrew Marton 1966); Birds Do It (Marton 1966); Island of the Lost (and co-wrote with Carlson) (tv movie) (Ricou Browning and John Florea 1967); Off to See the Wizard (tv series) (1967-1968); Hello Down There (and story with Art Arthur; script John McGreevey and Frank Telford) (Jack ARNOLD 1969); The Aquarians (tv movie) (Don McDougall 1970); Danny and the Mermaid (tv movie) (Norman Abbott 1977).

Wrote stories for scripts: "Beyond" (script Robert Smith and George Van Marter), "Y.O.R.D." (with Van Marter; script Leon Benson), "Stranger in the Desert" (script Robert M. Fresco and Curtis Kenyon), "Sound of Murder" (script Stuart Jerome), "Death at 2 AM" (script Ellis Marcus), "The Frozen Sound" (with Norman Jolley; script Jolley), "The Stones Begin to Move" (script Doris Gilbert), "The Negative Man" (script Thelma SCHNEE), "Dead Storage" (script Jerome), "Target Hurricane" (script Eric Freiwald and Robert Schaefer), "Postcard from Barcelona" (with Tom Gries; script Sloan Nibley), "Before the Beginning" (script Arthur Weiss) (1955), "Signals from the Heart"  (script Jerome), "The Long Sleep" (script Weiss), "The Green Bomb" (script Gries), "When a Camera Fails" (script Jolley), "The Missing Waveband" (script Lou Huston), "The Human Experiment" (script Gilbert), "Beam of Fire" (script Jerome), "Living Lights" (script Marcus), "The Miracle of Dr. Dove" (script George Asness), "Brain Unlimited" (script Nibley), "Survival in Box Canyon" (script Huston) (1956), episodes of Science Fiction Theatre.

Supplied divers and diving equipment: Thunderball (Terence Young 1965).

Appeared in: The World of Inner Space (short documentary) (1966).

A while ago, a funny thing happened to me on the way to this website; I needed some information on famed Hungarian producer Ivan Tors, and so I decided to examine my own entry on Tors to see what I had written about him. And I was genuinely stunned to discover that I had never written an entry on Tors.

Anyone familiar with the history of science fiction film can readily maintain that this has long represented a grievous omission in this encyclopedia—since during the key decade of the 1950s, when science fiction film essentially was defining itself, Ivan Tors was a major player in the process. A few plays written in his native Hungary, military service during World War II, and some nondescript screenplays in the late 1940s and early 1950s had not satisfied his ambitions: he wanted to be a producer, and he wanted to produce science fiction films. He consulted with noted science fiction fan Forrest J. ACKERMAN, who suggested several noteworthy novels he might adapt for the screen, but Tors ultimately resolved to rely upon his own original stories, which would place an unusual emphasis on scientific accuracy and originality.

The three films that resulted—The Magnetic Monster, Gog, and Riders to the Stars—are often dismissed as stilted and didactic, but no one can say that they were derivative, because Tors if nothing else had a flair for story ideas that were unlike anybody else's. The Magnetic Monster was not a biological creature with homicidal impulses, but rather a newly discovered radioactive element with the ability to expand indefinitely if hero Richard CARLSON cannot devise a scientific solution to the problem, while Gog features an underground laboratory, dedicated to constructing Earth's first space station, which is menaced by enemy agents who take control of the facility's robots to carry out acts of sabotage and murder. But Tor's masterpiece was unquestionably Riders to the Stars. Ignore the idiotic premise that Americans must send astronauts into space to retrieve meteors in order to discover what sort of coating they have to allow them to travel through space unmolested, and you are left with science fiction film's most realistic portrayal of how human space flight would actually proceed, with astronauts in space constantly communicating with monitors on Earth who provide information and advice, as well as the most skilled cast ever assembled for such a project: astronauts Carlson and William LUNDIGAN, supported by scientists Herbert MARSHALL and Martha HYER.

Tors next moved into television to produce the pioneering television series Science Fiction Theatre, which did have a certain quaint charm, as host Truman Bradley would always begin by offering some brief scientific lesson vaguely relevant to the slow-moving narrative which would follow. All things considered, it's ironic that one of the novels that Ackerman pitched and Tors rejected as a film project was Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (1925), since episodes of this series, even more so than Tors's movies, generally represented precisely the sort of science fiction that Gernsback preferred—heavy doses of scientific education combined with a story about a scientist and his latest invention or discovery. While there may have been enough novelty in its subject matter to keep Science Fiction Theatre alive for two seasons, it's hardly surprising that it wasn't a big hit and has been rarely watched since its cancellation.

Obviously interested in greater profits than these ventures had provided, Tors then decided to radically change the direction of his career—which would be the basis for a counterargument to the effect that my neglect of Tors was entirely understandable, since after five years of specializing in science fiction, Tors effectively abandoned the genre for the rest of his long career. His subsequent films and television series, almost without exception, either would feature adorable, bright animals regularly coming to the aid of their less-capable human companions, or would involve explorations of an exotic but more down-to-earth realm than outer space—the world beneath the sea. Considering the former, the preternatural intelligence of the creatures Tors presented, unobserved in their real-life counterparts, would arguably qualify their series as fantasies, yet an encyclopedist has to draw a line somewhere, and I personally refuse to spend any of my time researching mind-numbing series like Flipper (1964-1967), Daktari (1966-1968), and Gentle Ben (1967-1969). As for the latter aquatic epics, these would occasionally stray in mildly futuristic territory, but the results were either dull—Around the World under the Sea, The Aquarians—or risible—Hello Down There (a film which, if you can actually manage to sit through it, qualifies you as a better man than I am). Still, all of these efforts, unlike his earlier science fiction work, undoubtedly earned Tors enough money to support a luxurious retirement—which was fortunate, since similar endeavors in the 1970s, his final decade of work, were uniformly unsuccessful.

Today, it is hard to discern any evidence of Tors's legacy, since few if any science fiction films or television series follow his quirkily pedagogical pattern, and few if any films or television series feature heroic animals or undersea adventurers. The unifying aspect of all his productions, one might say, is that he told the kinds of stories that people rapidly outgrow. However, this also is precisely why Ivan Tors is fondly remembered by those aficionados of science fiction film who never grow up. Speaking as one of them, I should have remembered him long ago.

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