Biography of Irwin Allen (1916-1991)

Director, producer and screenwriter of American cinema, born on June 12, 1916 in New York and died on November 2, 1991 in Santa Monica (California).


Popularly known in the 1970s as the "King of the cinema of catastrophes", Irwin Allen occupied a place of importance among the large producers of television of all time for his fundamental contribution to the settlement of formats such as the Telefilm and fantastic character series however. That is why his creative figure is subjected to continuous claims by a vast number of fans to genera apparently minor such as science fiction or the adventure film, which was a consummate teacher.

Interested in journalism during his youth, Irwin Allen studied at prestigious Columbia University before becoming a modest editor of popular magazines, some of which was approaching literature kiosk on the side closest to the fantasy genre. Shortly after took over a radio program, that ended up producing and directing, at the same time launched an agency of local news in the New York area. It was not therefore until the Decade of the fifties, already in full maturity, who decided to make the leap to the world of cinema as the scientific documentary filmmaker in the line of The Sea Around Us, which won the Oscar in its category in 1953, and The Animal World (1956).

These films followed them by a feature film, with the passing of the years become true object of worship for its delirious mix of fantastic, humorous and anthropological elements: The Story of Mankind (1957). This film, articulated on different emblematic passages from the history of mankind, was based on a trial in which a court consisting of a Council of elders of outer space should decide if the man deserves to survive or be destroyed. The Story of Mankind did not spare at all media nor names of true prestige, because it featured actors Ronald Colman, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and the venerable performer of the silent period, Francis X. Bushman, clothed them all by stellar interventions of comedians like the Marx Brothers: Groucho in the role of Peter Minuit; Chico as a monk; and Harpo doing nothing less than Isaac Newton.

This absurd proposal, with obvious nods to classic film, took in some measure continuity in the lost world (1960), an entertaining start to the day of the silent film directed in 1924 by Harry O. Hoyt from the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle. Within the genre of adventure, which, along with science fiction, primarily formed the universe film and television by Irwin Allen, both journey to the bottom of the Sea (1961), starring Joan Fontaine and Walter Pidgeon, as above all five weeks in a balloon (1962), according to the work of Jules Verne, they assumed a notorious passage later in the sum of heterogeneous popular materials treated with solemn dialogues and an effective narrative rhythm. However, television went to focus the paramount interest of Allen, who developed numerous series of indisputable success as the tunnel of time or the mythical lost in space.

Already in the 1970's, his return to cinema came through the door of the design of special effects in blockbuster movies such as the adventure of the Poseidon (1978) directed by Ronald Neame. The quality of their work, as well as the prestige acquired in television, allowed him to intervene in a series of films under the so-called "cinema of catastrophes" both predicament had since the success of the Colossus in flames (co-directed by John Guillermin, but whose action sequences were planned by the own Allen) or successive deliveries from airport. In that sense, the swarm (1977) and more beyond the Poseidon (1978), both starring Michael Caine, were some singular contributions to this fashion just at the moment when the public began to fatigue of the many surprises that populated the screens.

After this new stage in the film, Irwin Allen returned as producer on television and tried to give a new twist to the usual ingredients of his works in series in the style of code red, Aliens from Another Planet or Alice in the Wonderland. In 1991, he/she died of a heart attack.


1956: The Animal World. 1957: The Story of Mankind. 1960: The lost world. 1961: Journey to the bottom of the sea. 1962: Five weeks in a balloon. 1970: The city under water. 1974: The towering Inferno. 1977: The swarm. 1978: Apart from Poseidon.

As productor:1950: Where Danger Lives. 1951: Mister dollar. 1952: a Girl In Every Port. 1953: The Sea Around Us (documentary; and screenwriter). 1954: treacherous snow. 1959: The great circus (and screenwriter). 1972: the magical legend of the leprechauns. 1980: The day of the end of the world.