Though the cinematic conception of Planet Krypton as a world founded on crystal technology may be credited to Star Wars designer John Barry, it may come as a surprise that the final designs for Superman’s alien mechanisation were rendered by the man most famous for the iconic look of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Despite their infamy, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind insisted on hiring the best of the best across the industry for their productions and the late Harry Lange, now forever known as ‘The man who saw the future’ was no exception.
Credited as an ‘Astronautics Consultant’ for Richard Lester’s Superman II, German born Hans Kurt Lange (bottom pic, holding the astronaut helmet he designed for 2001) was solely responsible for the interior/exterior work on the Artemis II space capsule set (third pic) realised with such authenticity it could’ve passed as a real spacecraft –
“I’d seen real hardware at Cape Canaveral and in NASA’s research laboratories and hangars, so I knew what the equipment had to look like. A piece of board with blue squares stuck on it may do for TV, but not when you want to do something on a Cinerama screen. It had to be absolutely perfect. I kept that idea in my following films: Star Wars, Superman, James Bond…”
While comparisons between the earth-based hardware in II, Kubrick’s classic and Moonraker evidently bear Lange distinctive style, it is the Kryptonian computers/memory banks (first & second pic) that are standout examples of fantasy art elegantly realised. While the console (second pic) could easily be the basis of Superman’s computer in the Fortress Of Solitude revised for Superman II, one wonders if he was involved uncredited as early as Donner’s original movie as this lot of illustrations from his estate (in auction this month by Propstore) clearly show a bank of computers mounted in the arch of Lex Luthor’s underground hideaway…
Read Harry’s obituary from the UK Independent here…
2 Replies to “Astronautics…”
Amazing stuff. I did not know this.
Hi Jason –
Cheers – neither did I and that’s the beauty of researching for this blog. The story goes that all these incredible artworks were only found recently in Harry’s shed by the family after his death. I think we were lucky to see these pieces before they disappear into private collections as they reveal yet another fascinating hitherto unseen dimension to these movies. Incidentally the lot containing the pieces above sold for £650…