Sunday, April 4, 2010

Medusa (Land of the Lost, 1976)

With the remake of Clash of the Titans hitting theaters this week, I thought I'd revisit the place where I had my first encounter with one of the mythological monsters featured prominently in the film, the snake-haired gorgon whose evil gaze turns any living thing into stone. From a third-season episode of Land of the Lost, its Medusa.

I'm old enough to have watched Land of the Lost in its initial run, when it aired Saturday mornings from 1974 to 1976, and was a big fan. Its too bad the show is best remembered for its cheesy effects and Brady-Bunchesque family squabbling, instead of its often ambitious science fiction scenarios (time loops, alternate timelines, closed universes, and psychological monsters were frequent story elements.) Land of the Lost is one of the few shows that at least attempted to bring high-concept fantasy and dramatic storytelling to Saturday morning, even if it did so in a universe of bad video compositing, skimpy sets and rubber dinosaur puppets.

By the third and final season, Will, Holly, and new arrival Uncle Jack (he replaced dad Rick Marshall, who was written out of the series when actor Spencer Milligan declined to stay on for another season) found themselves encountering increasingly fantastic and whimsical characters and situations, including an Abominable Snowman, a Cro-Magnon man (played by Richard Kiel!), the haunted ship The Flying Dutchman, a Native-American medicine man, and yes, even the mythological monster Medusa.

As the episode begins, Will, Holly and Chaka are about to test their new canoe when a sudden swift current sends Holly down the river.

Holly is pulled to safety by a woman standing on the bank, who introduces herself as "Meddy".

Meddy takes Holly on a tour of her home, the so-called Garden of Eternity, which is decorated with several life-size statues, including a tiny praying mantis, a full-grown triceratops, and a Civil-War era soldier and cannon, whom Holly recognizes as a character from a Season 1 episode titled Downstream.

The garden is guarded by animated vines, which Meddy demonstrates by tossing a stick. The vines wrap around it like tentacles. They also envelope the gated entrance.

When Holly says that her family will be searching for her, Meddy sees an opportunity to add them all to her statue collection. She passes the time conversing with her vanity mirror, which seems to be reflecting her subconscious thoughts.

Jack, Will and Cha-Ka finally arrive at the Garden of Eternity, and stop to admire the statuary. Jack declares this statue to be of "museum quality."

Shortly, they are attacked by the animated vines, or, as Will calls them, "the salad that fights back."

Jack finally realizes that "Meddy" is actually Medusa, and that they are all in danger of becoming permanent additions to her collection. He uses Medusa's own vanity mirror to reflect her deadly gaze back into her own eyes, freezing her forever in the Garden of Eternity.

Land of the Lost is available on DVD in individual season sets, but just go for the complete series packaged in a cool vintage lunchbox, here.


Shiverbones said...

I forgot all about this one until you posted this! I was mystified by it as a kid! Thanks!

Wings said...

This was the season where the writing paled in comparison to what had come before.

Still, an interesting and weird episode of Saturday-morning fare!

Atom Kid said...

Season 3 was okay, but this episode is one that's ingrained in my memory as a kid. This is still my top favorite kid's shows!

Steve said...

I had a Land of the Lost lunchbox as a kid. It looked something like this one but I think it was different.

Mr Bloody Mojo said...

WOW! THis is one of the episodes of LOTL that sticks out in my head the strongest, although I imagine if I saw more I'd remember them. I was really into this show as a kid.