Heritage Auctions – The Irwin Allen Collection

The Irwin Allen Collection Auction, July 29, 2023

Coming up at the end of July 2023 is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity to bid on a vast collection of original Irwin Allen props and collectibles. The Heritage Auctions – Irwin Allen Collection auction takes place in session 5 of the 3 day Hollywood/Entertainment Signature® Auction #7351 from 27 to 29 July 2023. Below is the press release from Heritage Auctions (HA.com).

Press Release – July 6, 2023

The Master of Disaster: The Irwin Allen Collection
Crashes into Heritage July 29

The incredible storyboards, props, concept art and more from the producer-director behind Towering Inferno and Lost in Space hit the block for the first time

Original John Berkey Final Poster Artwork for The Towering Inferno

DALLAS, Texas (July 6, 2023) Since the inception of moving pictures, smart filmmakers have catered to the very human desire for spectacle and adventure, for stories of challenges faced and surmounted. We watch and we learn. Historically, action and adventure narratives – a massive market that can include everything from road-trippers to swashbucklers to superheroes to wartime stories are the highest-grossing films we flock to: The top 10 most successful movies are all adventure tales (the list includes Titanic, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and Jurassic World).

A particularly bracing sub-genre of action-adventure is the ever-seductive disaster movie. We do want to know how to respond to sudden catastrophe; we want to know how our fellow travelers help or hinder effort; we want to know the tips and tricks for survival. We watch screen disasters because we are determined to not perish in a real one. But mostly we watch because cinematic disaster is pure spectacle and throws out some of the most memorable scenes in screen history. Titanic, yes, but movie and TV buffs will remind you that Titanic, and all other contemporary disaster flicks and streaming shows, rest on a foundation of the great disaster-movie trend of the 1970s, which belonged to producer-director Irwin Allen. The Master of Disaster.

Original Mort Künstler Final Poster Artwork for The Poseidon Adventure

Allen’s 1972 blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure set the stage, so to speak, for our understanding of pleasure-cruise calamity. The Poseidon Adventure was a massive blockbuster in its day, and countless viewers of 1997’s Titanic had, 25 years earlier, watched Gene Hackman, playing an unconventional preacher, lead a rag-tag crew of survivors out of an inverted and flooding formal dining room and through a ravaged ship to safety. So we already knew some of the horror of what happens when a luxury liner goes down. The dining room scene in The Poseidon Adventure, a movie now considered a classic, is even by today’s standards protracted and brutal. Allen was the movie’s producer, but that sequence he directed as well, as he did with many action scenes in his output. His other big-screen hits that decade: The Towering Inferno, The Swarm, and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. The decade before, the prolific Allen was pure adventure pusher, introducing television audiences to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-68), Lost in Space (1965-68), The Time Tunnel (1966-67) and Land of Giants (1968-’70), among others.

On July 29, Allen’s fans and followers will celebrate the first event to bring the Disaster Master’s archive to the public, and it is a doozy. Heritage’s The Irwin Allen Collection is comprised of more than 200 items from Allen’s legacy, including significant props, models, concept art, costumes – and some of the most detailed and gorgeous storyboards to come out of Hollywood.

There is also one very special robot.

“Almost none of this has ever been seen by anyone,” says Ron Hamill, associate producer of the 1995 doc The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen. A lifetime fan of Allen’s – “I was interested in the things he was interested in,” Hamill says – he stepped in following Allen’s death in 1991 to help gather and organize Allen’s material legacy, which was spread across his production studios and homes. He also helped build a robot famous in the world of Allen devotees: The “Fantasy Worlds Robot,” included in this event, is a near-perfect replica of the familiar and beloved Lost in Space robot and did some heavy lifting for Allen for years on screen and at special events.

“From 1994 to 2015 a lot of people called me the ‘robot wrangler,'” says Hamill. “I was on the road displaying the Fantasy Worlds Robot at Comic Con, broadcast TV and cable conventions, department store openings, Good Morning America and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno… . Over the years, I continued to manage the robot and all of the treasures in the Irwin Allen Collection.”

Original Concept Artwork for Parade Scene from The Big Circus

Some pieces in the collection surprised the Allen archivist: “The storyboards are incredible,” says Hamill. “It’s all the detail. The storyboards show exactly what happens on screen, and of course this was all before CGI. And the concept art is fantastic, starting with The Big Circus.”

Allen had already produced and directed for RKO and others, but his The Big Circus for Warner Bros. in 1959 ushered him into his early prime. Soon after for 20th Century Fox he directed three films: The Lost World (1960) from the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), and Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962). This auction has storyboard and concept art for all of the above, and the works are as special as Hamill describes.

It’s clear that from the get-go Allen was a visual obsessive, filling his head, and then his filmed scenes, with lavish abundance. Heritage’s July 29 event is packed with comprehensive collections of concept art and storyboards from Allen; his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a television hit, was prepped with artwork so gorgeous that it’s a blessing for all of us that it’s surfaced. In fact, an excellent introduction to Allen’s visual prowess are the storyboards and concept art for that early Circus; they are dense and lyrical evocations of the ambitious outing, rendered in crayon, tempera, and gouache. Allen employed a number of talented artists and every frame, every picture, is an artwork in itself.

All-Terrain Chariot Filming Miniature with Interior Character Figures from Lost in Space

Not all of the lots are in two dimensions. These days, Allen’s Lost in Space may be his most enduring television legacy, and this vintage original All-Terrain Chariot miniature used in the series is one of the most familiar and groundbreaking vehicles in sci-fi entertainment history. Expertly assembled, painted, detailed, and finished to appear as the show’s full-sized extraterrestrial all-terrain vehicle, it’s carrying models of the full family Robinson and was used in distance shots.

Precise Lost in Space B-9 Robot Recreation Built by Greg Jein from Studio Molds Screen Used in The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen

And speaking of utterly iconic, Heritage is indeed offering the above-mentioned Lost in Space robot: In the early ’90s, Allen documentarian Kevin Burns, who owned the original hero B-9 Robot from the series, needed a robot for the Allen-focused TV projects he was producing, and he commissioned Academy-nominated visual effects model builder Greg Jein to do the job, with a few refinements performed by Hamill. Bob May, the original actor inside the Lost in Space B-9, revisited his role as the “guy in the suit” on shows like Studs, Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen, Lost in Space Forever, and The Tonight Show, among many others. Fantasy Worlds Robot features a few hidden gems that have never been shared with the general public, including a scrim inside the collar and copies of the original claw operating mechanisms.

Oversize Unit Storyboards of Steve McQueen Chief O'Halloran in Raging Waters from The Towering Inferno

Allen’s big-screen history is his other gift to adventurephiles with a taste for calamity. His two biggies, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, were among the biggest box-office draws of the 1970s, and both employed all-star casts and extravagant action sequences that thrilled massive audiences. The concept art and storyboard art for these movies is as striking and action-filled as you’d expect from the luxurious vision of Allen. Check out the gorgeous hand and muted colors of this oversize unit storyboard from Inferno of Steve McQueen as Chief O’Halloran in raging waters, just one gem of many from the film at Heritage; the original final poster artwork by John Berkey for Inferno is appropriately dense and dramatic as it keeps the eye moving.

The movie was the biggest draw of the year and won three Oscars, and like the Poseidon Adventure, presented a who’s-who cast that reads like a particularly juicy if not surreal episode of The Love Boat: Inferno starred Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, William Holden and Jennifer Jones in her last role. The Poseidon Adventure, released two years earlier, starred the unlikely gathering of Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine, Shelly Winters, and Leslie Neilsen as a grave ship’s captain, in a precursor to the satirical roles he would play in Airplane, Naked Gun, and others. The Poseidon Adventure is represented in this auction with the complete storyboard drawings, in granular and graphic detail, and the original final poster artwork by Mort Künstler that shows us the moment the ocean rushes into the ship’s dining room; Hackman’s preacher and his terrified followers scramble to escape the deluge.

“It is exceedingly rare to encounter a time capsule like this collection from such a successful and influential writer/director/producer like Irwin Allen, who made such an impact on popular culture through film and television,” says Joe Maddalena, Heritage’s Executive Vice President. “It is such a joy to offer this collection to all the fans and collectors out there.”

Ron Hamill, the robot wrangler, perhaps sums up the emotional attachment Allen’s followers feel for Allen’s work – his generous contribution to our understanding of how adventure unfolds on screen, and the characters we’ve come to love like family.

“To whoever gets the Fantasy Worlds Robot, please take care of him… he’s a real nice robot.” Images, information on our favorite robot and all lots in the auction can be found at HA.com/7351.

Preview information is also available through the link. Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

Auction Gallery (images courtesy of Heritage Auctions, HA.com)