Bob Kellett (1927-2012)

Space:1999 director Bob Kellett died on 2012 at the age of 84. A latecomer to Space:1999’s roster of directors, Kellett was recruited to join Ray Austin and Charles Crichton in helming episodes of the show’s first season when David Tomblin left the production temporarily to become Assistant Director on Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

With a brisk style and efficiency much appreciated in the midst of a production schedule beset by overruns, he directed three episodes in all, Voyagers Return, The Full Circle and The Last Enemy. His experience in working with limited budgets and short production schedules enabled Kellett to take The Full Circle on location in Black Park, virtually the only outdoor filming in Space:1999’s first season. The results were, both literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air in a series which was, by necessity, usually studio bound.

Kellett got his start in the film industry at Pinewood Studios and, after working in the script department, was promoted to Director working on short documentaries in Rank’s Look At Life series. He proved to have an affinity for comedy, working on successful short films that used sound effects and illegible mumbling instead of dialogue: producing A Home Of Your Own (1964), writing and producing San Ferry Ann (1966) and directing the almost legendary Futtock’s End(1969), written by and starring Ronnie Barker.

His love of and affinity for broad comedy coupled with the direction of travel of the British film industry meant that Bob Kellett became, for a good five years, probably Britain’s busiest Director of feature films. After his transsexual comedy Girl Stroke Boy in 1971 he was chosen by Producer Ned Sherrin to direct the film version of Frankie Howerd’s TV success Up Pompeii, a sitcom about a wily slave in in ancient Rome. This was the first in a projected series of historical comedies which were designed to be a rival to the ongoing Carry On comedies. Two further films were made in the series, Up the Chastity Belt and Up The Front, the box office failure of the latter killing the idea off.

Kellett remained incredibly busy, with three films released in 1972 alone, Up The Front, Our Miss Fred, a wartime comedy featuring the then-wildly popular character comedian Dick Emery, and The Alf Garnett Saga, a spin-off of the BBC ‘s popular sitcom Till Death Us Do Part. After his stint on Space:1999 Kellett returned to comedies, by now practically the only films being made in Britain. Spanish Fly, released in 1976, featured comedy legend Terry-Thomas, by now showing the early signs of Parkinson’s Disease. The seventies comedy boom couldn’t last, and 1977’s Are You Being Served? was the end of the line – a laughter-free expansion of a popular sitcom which left both audiences and director needing a change.

After some time working with the Children’s Film Foundation, Kellett turned the energies of his company Gannet Films towards providing services to other film companies, with great success. He supervised the post-production of the hit 1986 thriller F/X and also worked on its 1991 sequel. His script Haunted was filmed in 1995, directed by Lewis Gilbert, with Kellett also acting as Second Unit Director. He maintained the link with the veteran Gilbert, producing his final film, 2002’s Before You Go.

Originally published in FAB 74.