The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol #1, Issue #4
"Stand By For Mars!"
April 2006

Con-tact: Science Fiction Convention Previews and Reports

Cadet's Log: 2006 Williamsburg Film Festival (March 8-11, 2006)
by Caroline Miniscule

Every year, the Holiday Inn Patriot hosts the Williamsburg Film Festival in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. The Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary this year (March 8-11, 2006) and invited back guests who had attended in years past.

The Williamsburg Film Festival takes place in an intime setting. All of the guest stars signed autographs in a single large room, which permitted fans easy access to them. In addition to signing autographs, the stars participated in panels and question-and-answer sessions after certain of their films.

There were eleven guest stars at the festival—all with long and successful acting careers. While the majority of them are remembered as Western stars, most of them have acted in every genre. They all had a lot of fun and occasionally poignant stories to recount.

They also all ensured that their fans would have a good time. The autograph sessions were a lot of fun—with the actors signing stills and other memorabilia, posing for photos with fans, and chatting with whoever wanted to stop by. With the intime atmosphere, fans never had to wait very long to meet the stars.

I attended all four days of the Festival, met a lot of nice people, saw a lot of good TV shows and movies, and was entertained by the reminiscences of Beverly Garland (Not of This Earth), Jan Merlin (The Peacemaker), Mala Powers (The Storm Riders), Ben Cooper (Rebel in Town), and Jan and Frankie Thomas (Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

James Best
Ben Cooper
Beverly Garland
Will Hutchins
Dick Jones
Jimmy Lydon
Jan Merlin
Mala Powers
William Smith
Peggy Stewart
Frankie Thomas

and various Western entertainers

Read only the sci fi coverage:

The Solar Guard Reunion.

The Solar Guard (1950s science fiction TV enthusiasts) holds their reunion at the same time as the Film Festival. On this occasion, in honor of the Festival's tenth anniversary, Jan Merlin wrote a Tom Corbett radio play called "Project Enigma," and he, Frankie Thomas, and several other Festival guest stars participated. It was a highlight of the Festival.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
The Festival guests would not make their appearance until Thursday. Nevertheless, I went to the hotel on Wednesday afternoon, to make the rounds of the Dealer's Room and acquire various items of interest before the general rush of people [I ended up acquiring a great many DVDs for my movie collection].

More importantly, I met Cadet Ed, webmaster of The Solar Guard, who was busy setting up the Solar Guard table, and received my packet of Official Documents (and some extras Cadet Ed was generous enough to give me - premiums from earlier conventions such as a CD of Tom Corbett radio shows and a CD of Tom Corbett comic strips from the early 1950s.

The Solar Guard table. The display featured Tom Corbett advertisements from various sources during its heyday.

Cadet Ed's wife sewed this banner for the Solar Guard
A lot of people think that there was no science fiction on television before Lost in Space and Star Trek, but that's far from the truth. The Solar Guard website is jam-packed with information on 1950s programs like Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and Space Patrol. Although they were aimed for the most part at children, and had primitive "special effects," these shows were quite entertaining, and were just as inspiring to the youth of their day as the later programs would be.

To cite only one case, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, inspired Steve Robinson (STS-85, STS-95, and STS-114) to become an astronaut.

After chatting with Cadet Ed and his wife, I took my swag and went home. Autograph sessions with all the guest stars (except Mala Powers and Johnny Western) would begin the next day at 10:00 a.m.

My activities

  • Viewed The Peacemaker.
  • Q&A session Jan Merlin
  • Panel: Ben Cooper, Jimmy Lydon, Dick Jones
  • Viewed Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
  • Viewed more 50s sci-fi shows shown by the Solar Guard Academy
  • Friday

  • Q&A session with Mala Powers
  • Radio show: "Project Enigma"
  • Panel: Frankie Thomas and Jan Merlin
  • Viewed more 1950s sci-fi TV shows shown by Solar Guard Academy
  • Panel: Mala Powers and Beverly Garland
  • Saturday

  • Viewed Beverly Garland's First 50 Years in Show Business
  • Beverly Garland introduced Not of this Earth
  • Viewed Not of this Earth
  • Q&A session with Beverly Garland
  • 1/5 Johnny Western speaking of Johnny Cash
  • Viewed Have Gun, Will Travel
  • Ben Cooper introduced Rebel in Town
  • Viewed Rebel in Town
  • Q&A with Ben Cooper
  • Continue to Thursday and Jan Merlin's reminiscences of The Peacemaker and much more.

    Hotlinks of all Williamsburg 2006 webpages:

    Essential Websites:

    Solar Guard

    Williamsburg Film Festival
    Official Actor Sites

    Recommended Shops - Williamsburg

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    Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
    The Sand Rock Sentinel: Ripped From the Headlines of 1950s Sci Fi Films

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