Ib Melchior, who wrote the original short story on which both Death Race(s) are based, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on September 17, 1917. Since then he has led a truly remarkable life. His father was the opera singer and film star, Lauritz Melchior. Ib, in turn, has been an actor, a decorated World War II hero, an OSS intelligence agent, a successful writer of novels, historical non-fiction, short stories, plays, and screenplays, and a director of theater, television, and film.
As a writer (in addition to the Death Race films), Ib was responsible for the screenplays of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Journey to the Seventh Planet, and the English-language version of Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires. He also created – without receiving credit – the original concept for the TV series, Lost in Space. That series and its film version later became the basis for a precedent-setting copyright infringement lawsuit, Melchior v. New Line Pictures, Inc.
The common thread in all of these projects is Melchior’s fertile imagination. I particularly treasure Ib for his writing and direction of The Angry Red Planet (1959), a one-of-a-kind space travel film whose “Martian” scenes were photographed in a proto-psychedelic style (see frames, above) by the great Stanley Cortez, the same cinematographer who photographed Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, Laughton’s Night of the Hunter, and Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor – masterpieces all. Ib’s Martians, unlike your usual extraterrestrials, have no interest in conquering us, or studying us, or making our lives better. Their message to Earth is a simple one – STAY AWAY!