Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman; all seemed like cool guys I could pal around with when I was littleâ€¦ Sleestaks, not so much. Truth told, Sleestaks freaked me out. For those not familiar, Sleestaks are inter-dimensional, reptilian humanoids that appear in Sid and Marty Krofftâ€™s seventies-era Saturday morning adventure series LAND OF THE LOST. Theyâ€™re like eight feet tall thanks to extended lower legs, have sorta crab-claw hands, a spike/horn on their heads and gigantic glassy insectoid eyes. Did I mention they hiss(ssssss)? And if thereâ€™s a group of them (I seem to remember them preferring to travel in threes) the hissing is especially worrisome (and even vaguely insulting if you are a kid who suffers from asthma).
I donâ€™t know what my deal is but as a child, I had a near primordial reaction to them. It was sorta like that thing when you put a cucumber behind a cat and it mistakes it for a snake and jumps three feet in the air (I beg you not to do this). Although I have to admit they never failed to liven up the show, they gave me true heebie jeebies. It didnâ€™t help that they kind of hunch over with their arms spread out and almost ape the familiar movements of an adult trying to wrangle a child. As I recall there was a kind, helpful, more sophisticated Sleestak (possibly from the future) who did indeed attempt to aid our heroes Marshall, Will and Holly but his mellow disposition did not make up for the aggressive behavior of his more primitive brethren
Hereâ€™s where it gets weird (and by that I mean, where I get weird). I have a very strong memory of my older brother riding a bike with a rope tied behind it and me on skates being pulled while holding on to said rope. This was in the basement so Iâ€™m sure we were not moving at any incredible speed. Anyway, I fell and smashed my head hard against the cement (not my first head injury by a long shot). I must have been out for a second because when I came to I was surrounded by Sleestaks looking over me and then they were quickly replaced by my familiar basement surroundings. What the hell was that? Normal brain damage or some unglued memory of alien abduction!?! Am I in some bed somewhere attached to tubes MATRIX-style and have no clue? I honestly DO NOT want to know. Anyway, Sleestaks; I very much prefer them on my TV rather than in my basement (or head).
I hear ya’ on the Sleestak phobia. Their bug eyes totally freaked me out, reminding me of a spider’s eyes. Ironically, they look closest to a jumping spider’s eyes which are the only spiders you could categorize as ‘cute’.
Sleestaks have a whole mythos behind them. They are the devolved ancestors of a highly intelligent race called Altrusians. The kind, intelligent Sleestak is actually an Altrusian called Enik who fell through a time-tunnel to end up in his society’s dystopian future. They were named Sleestaks by a Peter Koenig, a Revolutionary War soldier that ended up in the Land of the Lost; he named them after Major Joshua Sleestak. Sleestaks regard humans as terrible threats and will sacrifice them to their god. And to play the Sleestaks, the producers hired high school basketball players who fit the tall profile.
Whoever designed the sleestaks was genius! Theyâ€™re are such a brilliant collage of natural threats (spider, snake, giant etc) and this is before STAR WARS!
I know I could have googled â€œgood Sleestakâ€ but I wanted to go by memory alone! I was texting a friend and my guess was â€œElokâ€ so I was really close! I love all that mythology!!! That is so incredible to me. I should watch the whole show again from beginning!
I canâ€™t believe they screwed up that big screen remake (2009) as bad as they did! It was alright there! They didnâ€™t have to change a thing, just update it. Would have had the gigantic family adventure appeal of JURASSIC PARK or STAR WARS but they decided to do a comedy!?! and get rid of the kid characters (Will &Holly) !?! Its so off base that it seems like a calculated disaster like in THE PRODUCERS. such a waste.
The Sleestaks loomed large in my childhood fears, as well. I was born in the middle of the show’s original broadcast run, but Land of the Lost was still airing in reruns as late as the early-to-mid-80s, when I was a kid. That’s when I watched the show. Those weird pylons that were gateways to time vortexes (I think, or something like that) also scared me.
Several notable science fiction writers contributed to Land of the Lost, which is one reason why the show’s mythology was so intelligent, and above the usual quality level for Saturday morning television.
Regarding the 2009 movie (which I hated), Will Ferrell had a role in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where he played a police officer (I think) named Marshal Willandholly. Groan. I’ve wondered if that somehow convinced a studio executive to green-light a comedy film of the show. I like Ferrell, but it’s not one of this better movies.
Oh yeah those pylons were weird! So much of the shows sound and visual effects really added to the overall off kilter feeling. Even though I knew nothing of green/blue screens screens at that age the live action actors on top off the surreal backgrounds really had an effect on me. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN on The Banana Splits gave me a similar feeling. It was live action kids essentially stuck in a cartoon!
It makes sense that respected sci-fi writers were involved now that you mention it. Once you get past the waterfall plunge in the beginning (which we all loved as kids) itâ€™s pretty heady stuff. Theres kind of a MARTIAN CHRONICLES vibe going on. And hey, Cha-ka and his Pakuni clan predate Wookies and Ewoks- thats pretty impressive. The whole show deserves more respect than it gets- very creative, imaginative stuff. I hope kids today are getting something as good.
I’m with you on this on, Unk. As a little kid this was my favorite show as I loved the dinosaurs but the Sleestaks were nightmarish. I heard somewhere they only had three Sleestak suits so you only ever see up to three at a time on screen. I think my biggest trauma from the show is from an early episode where Marshall touches a crystal in a pylon and he screams while the screen starts flashing psychedelic colors.
Oddly enough I’ve been thinking about this show lately and might spring for the full series on DVD from eBay since they are out of print.
Incidentally, Enik’s original name in the script was Eneg. That’s Gene backwards, an homage to Gene Roddenberry.
The other character that really freaked me out was The Zarn, an alien that appeared as a human-shaped collection of lights. He was always so sinister to me.
Three suits! That makes sense. This pylons were something else. The sounds and digital effectsâ€¦ LOTL had such a great combo of futuristic & prehistoric itâ€™s such a one of a kind show. It looks like a lot (maybe all) of episodes are on youtube. I remember there was a â€˜90s version as well and I have a couple VHS tapes of it but its not as good.
Oh thatâ€™s awesome thereâ€™s a Roddenberry reference there. Now that I think about it, HG WELLSâ€™ THE TIME MACHINE and the Morlocks must have been an inspiration? I forgot about the zarn !!!! but as soon as you described him – it came flooding back! I have to rematch this show!!!
Hey! Our old pal bigwig wanted to leave a comment but wordpress is acting funky on him so he sent it to our gmail account!
So here is Bigwig’s comment::::::::
Iâ€™ve thought long and hard on The Land of the Lost, and of the Sleestak. I think what pushes the trauma over the top on this show, especially at the time it was released, was a combination of two factors aside from the costumed actors themselves.First was the sound of the show. There was no laugh track as was common back then with Sid and Marty Croft showsâ€¦and there was no real comedy, aside from once in a great while, Dopey the little Dinosaur harvesting a giant strawberryâ€¦..and with the exception of some sinister synthesizer cords when they were in a cave, or a plucky banjo riff when they managed to get back to their â€œhome caveâ€ in the cliff, there really was neâ€™er but an empty sound stage. Believe it or not, that truly played into the awful nature of the Sleestak, as their shuffling and hissing was always a telltale sign. I actually felt the further they got away from that home cave, the worse things were gettingâ€¦.and thatâ€™s quite an accomplishment for a Saturday morning kids show.
Secondly, the actorâ€™s reactions to the Sleestak were the selling point, especially Wesley Eure, who must have been told he was one failed audition away from losing his job, because, at least to a kid like me, his teenage reactions of wide-eyed horror and sometimes heroism, but most times screaming for his Dad on the empty soundstage was downright believable. Also, the Sleestak werenâ€™t on the screen most of the time if you remember. The family spent an inordinate amount of time reacting to them offstageâ€¦.be they just around a temple wall, or in the jungle, or in a pit filled with smoking dry ice; but rather than leave it at that, sure enough the Sleestak would eventually make their appearance.
And finally, this was the true height of the Croftâ€™s theme used again and againâ€¦.of kids lost in a fantastical world, trying in vain to find their way home. Thank heavens there was an adult along for the ride in this round, or I would have felt too sick to watch. Puffinstuff and Lidsville were supposed to be comedic based off the same premise, but to a sensitive little Bigwig, all that went through my head was, â€œMan, so hereâ€™s Mark (?) in a land of hat peopleâ€¦..he has genie which is of no help. I bet his parents are worried sickâ€¦he hasnâ€™t been home in weeks. They probably called the police, but you know what, help isnâ€™t coming because who in Godâ€™s green earth would think of looking for him in a Magicianâ€™s HAT?????