As his fans across the world still mourn the passing of the legendary Gerry Anderson at the end of 2012, it seems that all may not be lost on the long, long-awaited feature film remake of his debut live-action TV series UFO. The series, produced in 1969 - 1970, was set in far-flung 1980 and concerned the exploits of the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation who, from their secret headquarters underneath a film studio, fought off the incursion to Earth of a dying, infertile alien race who crossed space in their whirling dervish flying saucers to harvest human body parts to keep their species alive. The series starred the late Ed Bishop as Commander Ed Straker and remains memorable for its Derek Meddings-designed hardware such as the lunar interceptors, Skydiver submarine and its flying nosecone Sky One (not that Sky One) and SHADO’s unforgettable Moonbase front-line defence installation populated by its crew of shapely, purple-wigged SHADO operatives. But UFO is also remembered for its mature storylines and intense performances and the show is in many ways the definition of a series which has matured and found its audience over the years and in time it’s become one of Anderson’s most-admired and underrated shows.
As long ago as 2009 a big screen version of the series, later revealed to be a proposed trilogy of movies, was in development under Robert Evans and ITV Global with visual effects supervisor Matthew Gratzner named as the film’s director. By November 2009 casting rumours were suggesting that Joshua Jackson (Fringe) would be playing Straker’s right-hand man Paul Foster (portrayed by the late Michael Billington in the TV series) with Ali (Heroes) Larter in the running to play Colonel Virginia Lake, an irregular series character played by Wanda Ventham who appeared in the series’ first episode ‘Identified’ and was later drafted in to replace SHADO second-in-command Alec Freeman (the late George Sewell) when the actor proved unavailable for filming as the series moved to Pinewood in 1970 after a short production break. But as the years rolled by the film seemed to wander into Development Hell although it’s known that within the last couple of years Gerry Anderson himself was actively involved in the movie’s ongoing pre-production.
However, a recent updated posting on the website for ‘Film Bridge International’, which acts as representative and executive producer for feature films and TV productions around the world announced a new ‘relationship’ with ‘New Deal Studios’ who have most recently been responsible for visual effects in the likes of Hugo, Inception and The Dark Knight. Interestingly, Film Bridge have announced their involvement in “two major science-fiction motion pictures”, one of which is entitled Claustrophobic, set 200 years in the future - the other being UFO “based on the television series from UK broadcaster ITV” and due to begin production in the first quarter of 2013.
Probably best to file this one in the “we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it” category for now but it’s pleasing to see that the heart of this promising project, much-anticipated by the show’s many fans, is still beating. Starburst Magazine will, of course, be the best place to keep an eye out for news on this long-awaited return of an old favourite if and when it happens…
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