The 1961 sci-fi/fantasy creature feature was directed by Columbia veteran Edward Bernds. Bernds started out as a sound engineer for the studio, notably for his work on Frank Capra’s acclaimed Columbia features; including “It Happened One Night” (1934, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert), “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936, with Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur) and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939, with James Stewart, Arthur and Claude Rains).
Bernds later directed numerous Columbia short comedies featuring The Three Stooges (with Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Jerome “Curly” Howard from 1945 until Curly’s stroke in 1947 and the Stooges’ shorts with Shemp Howard from 1947–1952). Bernds would later direct two feature-length Columbia “Stooge” productions with “Curly Joe” DeRita, “The Three Stooges Meet Hercules” and “The Three Stooges in Orbit” (both 1962).
Some of Bernds’ non-Columbia features that he directed were “Queen of Outer Space” (1958, for Allied Artists) with Zsa Zsa Gabor and the Twentieth Century Fox sequel to 1958’s “The Fly,” “Return of the Fly” (1959) with Vincent Price.
According to Clive Hirschorn’s retrospective book on Columbia Pictures, “The Columbia Story;” Bernds also wrote the screenplay for “Valley of the Dragons,” which was adapted from Donald Zimbalist ‘s story treatment. Bernds and Zimbalist’s work was loosely inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, “Career of a Comet” (a.k.a., “Off on a Comet” and “Hector Servadac”).
Who was in “Valley of the Dragons” (1961)?
The players who appeared in Bernds’ 1961 Columbia sci-fi/fantasy creature feature were Cesare Danova (as Hector Servadac), Sean McClory (as Michael Denning), Joan Staley (as Deena), Danielle De Metz (as Nateeta), Gregg Martell (as Od-Loo), Gil Perkins (in the dual roles of Tarn and a Doctor), I. Stanford Jolley (as Patoo), Mike Lane (as Anoka), Roger Til (as Vidal), Mark Dempsey (as Andrews), Jerry Sunshine (as LeClerc) and Dolly Grey (as Mara).
Cesare Danova appeared in numerous film and television productions throughout his screen career. One of his best known latter film acting appearances was his role of fraudulent mayor Carmine DePasto in the John Landis–National Lampoon–Universal campus comedy, “Animal House” (1978) with John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tim Matheson, Bruce McGill, Donald Sutherland, Martha Smith, Kevin Bacon and John Vernon.
Five years after her appearance in “Valley of the Dragons” (1961), Joan Staley played the role of Alma Parker in Alan Rafkin’s Universal ghost comedy with Don Knotts, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966).
Seven years earlier, Sean McClory appeared in the role of Maj. Kibbee in Gordon Douglas’ sci-fi creature thriller for Warner Bros., “Them!” (1954) with Edmund Gwynn, James Whitmore, Fess Parker, James Arness and a young Leonard Nimoy.
Filmed in “Monstascope”
According to details from IMDB’s trivia section on “Valley of the Dragons” (1961), Edward Bernds’ Columbia creature sci-fi/fantasy feature was filmed in “Monstascope.” “Monstascope” was a gimmick name devised by Columbia’s publicity department for Bernds’ film to be projected in theaters in the 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio format. Spherical lenses were used for Brydon Baker’s cinematography in the film.
In addition to Verne’s story, Bernds and Zimbalist were also inspired by an earlier film
According to additional details from Hirschorn’s passage on “Valley of the Dragons” in “The Columbia Story,” both Bernds and Zimbalist were inspired by an earlier fantasy feature, “One Million B.C.” (1940, a non-Columbia feature). The earlier feature was directed by legendary Hollywood mogul Hal Roach and his son, Hal Roach Jr. (featuring Lon Chaney Jr., Victor Mature, Carole Landis and Conrad Nagel).
Be sure to watch Svengoolie’s big broadcast premiere of “Valley of the Dragons” (1961), this Sat. on Me-TV!
With Danova, Staley, McClory, De Metz, Martell, Perkins, Jolley, Lane, Til, Dempsey, Sunshine and Grey, you will not be disappointed in Svengoolie’s upcoming big broadcast premiere of “Valley of the Dragons” (1961), this Sat. on Me-TV! Perfect for all fellow super SvenPals with Sven’s extensive fun facts, Doug Graves’ song parody and Kerwyn’s “mail call!” Don’t miss out on Sven’s big broadcast, as this will be another first for many of us fellow super SvenPals from coast-to-coast! Highly recommended!
In the Frederick, Maryland/Washington, D.C. area: WTTG-5.3/Cable 196/FiOS 489/Antietam Cable 194 (also on QAM digital 68.6 for Antietam cable subscribers)
In the Baltimore, Maryland area: WBAL-TV 11.2/Cable 208/FiOS 460
In the Hanover/Gettysburg/York, Pennsylvania area: WGAL-TV 8.2/Cable 248/FiOS 460
Live-tweet (via Twitter) with all fellow super SvenPals during #Svengoolie’s big broadcast premiere of “Valley of the Dragons” (1961), this Sat. on the airlanes of Me-TV!
(In order of the Spring holiday observances): Happy Passover, Happy Easter and whatever Spring holiday you observe to all fellow super SvenPals/fellow super readers everywhere from the writer of “Silver Screen Reflections!” –C.H.
(For those who haven’t voted): Final chance to vote in the Rondo Awards! For our fellow super SvenPals who haven’t entered yet, this is your final chance to vote for Svengoolie for the category of “Favorite Horror Host of 2018” in the 17th annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (the deadline is Sat., April 20, according to the official Rondo Awards website)! To those who haven’t entered yet, be sure to follow all directions carefully on the official Rondo Awards website! Cast your vote for Sven and study all the other categories on the official online Rondo Awards nomination ballot!
Extra! Extra! Fellow Chicago/Berwyn super SvenPals, fellow coast-to-coast super SvenPals and fellow Chicago/Berwyn readers of “Silver Screen Reflections!” Fellow super SvenPal Jamie Lee will be appearing with the Theater Five-One ensemble in two original family theatrical stage productions! Jamie will be playing the role of Princess Erin in the Theatre Five-One stage production of “Princess Erin and the Sphere of Fear” and she will be playing the role of Sam the Snowman in the Theatre Five-One stage production of “Adventures in Peppermint Land!”
Both Theatre Five-One family theatrical stage shows are free for all ages and will be taking place at the Terminus Theatre and Events complex (121 Grand Ave., Unit B; Lake Villa, Illinois 60046) on Wed., May 1 at 6:30 p.m. (local time), Sat., May 4 at 2:30 p.m. (local time) and Sun., May 5 at 2:30 p.m. (local time)! Fun for the entire family with free admission to both shows!
Congratulations again and kudos to Jamie and the entire Theatre Five-One players on their upcoming May family theatrical stage play showcases in May on behalf of all of us fellow super Svengoolie SvenPals from coast-to-coast! All of us are rooting for you and we’re all proud of you! -C.H.
In relation to “Valley of the Dragons” (1961):
“Valley of the Dragons” (1961) is also available on DVD as part of Mill Creek Entertainment’s anthology set of classic Columbia sci-fi/fantasy features, “Vintage Sci-Fi: 6 Movie Collection” (by arrangement with Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc./Sony Pictures Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). The film is also available as a standalone DVD release through Sony’s manufactured-on-demand “Choice Collection” of classic and rare Columbia productions.