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What did you watch this week in classic TV on DVD(or Blu)? (8 Viewers)

Rustifer

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Episode Commentary
Star Trek
"The Balance of Terror" (S1E14)

When Star Trek set forth on its first round of reruns in 1970 shortly after the series ended, Sunday morning at 9:00 was our area's scheduled time slot. I would find myself sitting in front of the TV in my pajamas, eating whatever was left over from Saturday's dinner. It didn't matter if it was pizza, part of a steak, a chicken leg or a nuked bowl of chili--there was just something comforting about watching a Star Trek episode on a lazy Sunday morning while stuffing myself with eats that had no resemblance to typical breakfast food. It just tasted better the second time around in combination with the show. Go figure. That being said, this little story has no significance on my following episode commentary, so feel free to disregard everything you've read up to this point.

Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) is presiding over a shipboard marriage of two crew members when he's suddenly summoned to the bridge due to an approaching Romulan vessel. If you remember, Romulans were akin to the evil Russian commies from the 20th century--they didn't play fair, went places they weren't allowed, and would only use single ply toilet paper. Barbarians! In this instance, the Romulans were encroaching on the galaxy's "Neutral Zone", where citizens live free from invasions, Kroger is open 24 hours and liquor was sold in to-go cups. Entering the Neutral Zone was justifiably considered an act of war, not to mention just plain bad manners. It became the task of the Enterprise to stop this atrocity.

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The crew catches an episode of "The Big Bang Theory"; A Romulan and Kirk check out Lt. Uhura; Spock rids the ship of mice

Kirk and the crew follow the path of the Romulans on the bridge's 50-inch Sony monitor that depicts a map of the Neutral Zone--which looks as if drawn by Disney interns. Spock busily punches buttons and twists knobs as if those actions held any consequence. Too late, the Romulans attack and blow up a passing ship. The crew of the Enterprise collectively crap their pants when they learn the Romulans have a "cloaking" device that renders their vessel invisible. That's about as unfair as cheating at Old Maid. To add insult to injury, Romulans appear to be of pointy-eared Vulcan descent. Spock suddenly finds himself no longer welcome at the ship's Saturday bingo games.

Introspection and deep thoughts begin to occur in both the Enterprise crew and that of the Romulans. The Good vs. Evil stratum enters a gray zone that inspires a lot of yakity-yak about such worldly subjects as global prejudice and whether bread crust should be cut off sandwiches at lunch. A battle ensues between the two ships, eerily reminiscent of 20th Century Fox's 1957 The Enemy Below--with Capt. Kirk in Robert Mitchum's role and the Romulan Commander as that of Curt Jurgens. In the end--as always--Kirk wins.

As Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) puts it: " There's perhaps 3 million earthlike planets in the galaxy, and another 3 million galaxies with another 3 million planets each--but there's only one James Kirk." For so eloquently kissing ass, McCoy gets a raise and a week's paid leave in Bermuda.
 
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Rustifer

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Not to be a nerd but that’s “Balance of Terror” and none of those screen shots are from the episode.
“Nerrrrrrd!”

However I really enjoy your nostalgic memories of Saturday Morning.

Yeah, I often substitute reality for satire in my commentaries. That includes the pics. Hopefully it doesn't detract any enjoyment from reading them.
 

BobO'Link

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When Star Trek set forth on its first round of reruns in 1970 shortly after the series ended, Sunday morning at 9:00 was our area's scheduled time slot. I would find myself sitting in front of the TV in my pajamas, eating whatever was left over from Saturday's dinner. It didn't matter if it was pizza, part of a steak, a chicken leg or a nuked bowl of chili--there was just something comforting about watching a Star Trek episode on a lazy Sunday morning while stuffing myself with eats that had no resemblance to typical breakfast food. It just tasted better the second time around in combination with the show. Go figure. That being said, this little story has no significance on my following episode commentary, so feel free to disregard everything you've read up to this point.
I was in college in 1975 before syndicated Star Trek was available here, thanks to the cable company adding WGN to their line up. I forget just what day and time it aired but I made sure to be there to watch. I'd seen most of it in first run airings - until they stupidly moved it to Friday nights. I was in the marching band and those stupid HS football games kept me away from the series the entire first half of S3 (of course it's the "lesser" one but it's *still* Star Trek - one of the best SF series to grace network TV, especially in the late 60s).

And... when I was ~13 if I didn't have a "Jethro size" (actually nothing quite that large but still 3-4 "normal" bowl's worth - often 3-4 biscuits of Shredded Wheat, crumbled with probably 1/4 cup of sugar and soaked in milk until mush) bowl of cereal I'd have a can of Kelly's chili w/beans (a staple in our house - mom didn't make home made chili - and, yes, I'd eat the entire contents) and a half a loaf of bread (no crackers) for Saturday breakfast. I'd dip the bread into the chili to soak it in chili juice before eating. This was done while watching cartoons (our kitchen was open to the den so I could sit at the bar, scarf down chili, and watch TV). Your eclectic Sunday breakfasts were rather normal for me for years...
 
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Rustifer

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Yeah, I often substitute reality for satire in my commentaries. That includes the pics. Hopefully it doesn't detract any enjoyment from reading them.
So, even though I sometimes skewer facts, the least I can do is get the title of the episode correct. Thanks for the heads up so that I could edit in time, Scott.
 

Jeff Flugel

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Episode Commentary
Star Trek
"The Balance of Terror" (S1E14)

When Star Trek set forth on its first round of reruns in 1970 shortly after the series ended, Sunday morning at 9:00 was our area's scheduled time slot. I would find myself sitting in front of the TV in my pajamas, eating whatever was left over from Saturday's dinner. It didn't matter if it was pizza, part of a steak, a chicken leg or a nuked bowl of chili--there was just something comforting about watching a Star Trek episode on a lazy Sunday morning while stuffing myself with eats that had no resemblance to typical breakfast food. It just tasted better the second time around in combination with the show. Go figure. That being said, this little story has no significance on my following episode commentary, so feel free to disregard everything you've read up to this point.

Good stuff, guys!

My first exposure to Star Trek was in syndication in the 1970s. Where I grew up (about 80 miles south of Seattle in Washington State), Star Trek aired on Saturday evenings (I think it was at 6pm, but it could have been earlier) on KSTW Channel 11. So no king-sized bowl of cereal or chili for me, as I would most likely have already scarfed down a couple plates of dinner, three glasses of milk and a fat slice of chocolate cake before then (my family usually ate dinner around 5pm, which is why I still get hungry around that time to this day). But I rarely missed a showing of what was at the time -and still is - one of my favorite TV shows.

I'm sure I had a similar routine to Howie's on Saturday mornings, chowing down on cereal while watching cartoons, but my chief food memory of those halcyon childhood and teen years was of being perched in front of the TV at lunchtime when on vacation, watching Perry Mason re-runs and eating a bowl of chili, Campbell's navy bean soup, or SpaghettiOs. Good times...
 

Purple Wig

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I went through a set of NBC recordings of the short-lived "Cliffhangers" from 1979 (the unaired in the US last episode comes from a 1981 British TV airing). It has a "watchable" quality that other infamous flops of this year do not have (i.e. "Supertrain" which is hard to take more than once!) but still comes off as very flawed.

Of the three segments, it's obvious that "Curse of Dracula" was the most popular and the most effective. So much so that after the first two episodes, NBC changed the program sequence. Originally, "Stop Susan Williams" with Susan Anton aired first, in keeping with the theme that Anton was the "star" of the series and was getting a LOT of publicity at the time in specials, TV-movies etc. But starting with the third week it was switched so "Dracula" came first instead of third, and "Stop Susan Williams" came third. "Secret Empire" which is by far the weak link of the entire show stayed in the middle.

"Curse of Dracula" comes off best because of Michael Nouri's charismatic presence which tied in to the whole new trend of making Dracula a sex symbol type image that Frank Langella was already doing on Broadway and later in the big-screen movie . It's a big shift away from the old Bela Lugosi/Christopher Lee image of Dracula. But another bonus is Louise Sorel's outstanding performance as Amanda Gibbons, a past victim of Dracula turned vampire who is determined to save her daughter from becoming a victim as well. It's only too bad that Sorel doesn't show up until more than half-way through the storyline because her presence really boosts things.

The rest of the cast of "Dracula" ranges from poor to competent. The reason here is because "Stop Susan Williams" took up so much of the budget casting wise for Susan Anton, a LOT of people who were just minor contract players for Universal ended up getting thrust into large-scale roles for the first and pretty much last time in their careers. When the series starts, we have established as Dracula's pursuers, the grandson of his old nemesis Dr. Van Helsing and his assistant Mary, who as we'll eventually learn is the daughter of Sorel's vampire transformed character and has a revenge motive. They are played by unknowns Stephen Johnson and Carol Baxter (who had a couple bit parts in "Battlestar Galactica" before this). Johnson is simply an ineffectual "hero" lead, coming off as a not-too-bright geek who gets easily duped and can never hold his own in a crisis. This may have been deliberate in order to let Nouri shine more as the charismatic lead, but it hurts the overall production. Baxter fares a little better and is competent once we get into the storyline of her as potential victim for Dracula, but the problem is that this happens much too easily and it's hard to buy the idea that she was a competent investigator before she started to come under his spell. Because Dracula in keeping with the "Cliffhangers" gimmick of starting "mid-stream" begins with "Chapter Six" it's probably a case of us just being supposed to assume the character was more professional in the untold part of the story but combined with the ineffective Johnson as Van Helsing it doesn't come off. That said, both Johnson and Baxter are MUCH better than the college age students who serve as Dracula's minions and compared to the truly awful performances in the "Secret Empire" series their shortcomings are forgivable in that at least they don't take you out of the storyline which is compelling towards the end once Sorel shows up. An alternate ending of the last chapter showing Dracula escaping was used for a later re-editing of the story and supposedly NBC was thinking of a spinoff "Dracula" series with Nouri but this never came off.

"Secret Empire" the remake of a 1930s Gene Autry serial is just awful. The combination western/sci-fi story in which the above-ground western scenes are filmed in a sepia/black and white concoction while the alien world is color just doesn't work nor is it very compelling. It also has some of the worst acting I've ever seen in a TV show. Geoffrey Scott is a likable but bland lead so we don't have the strength of a charismatic lead to hold our attention. It doesn't help when we get better stuff from the villains such as Mark Lenard (as the evil alien leader) and Peter Breck (as a crooked transporter of gold shipments Lenard tries to deal with). Anyone who is a fan of "Night Gallery" will never be able to look at the "Pickman's Model" episode again and be scared to death since the same head is used for a cuddly alien named "Taz". And then there is the sheer surreal campiness of seeing Peter Tomarken, the future host of the game show "Press Your Luck" in his only acting part as a good member of the alien society. His entire delivery shows why his future was as a game show host and every time he talks I keep expecting him to warn Scott to "avoid the Whammy!"

But the real bottom of the barrel in "Secret Empire" that shows how actors who weren't up to the task were being thrust into this comes in the form of Diane Markoff, cast as Lenard's bad princesss daughter. Markoff had a recurring role as the waitress at Danny's bar on "Quincy" but that was a part that just required her to deliver at most one or two lines and look good serving drinks. When they give her dialogue and scenes it's like watching a train wreck. And the powers that be realized that she was in over her head because late in the storyline they actually concocted a story element of her character getting an appearance change makeover (Courtesty of an alien device) so that Markoff now suddenly becomes Stepfanie Kramer, who at least could deliver her lines better. All-in-all, there just isn't much to recommend in this one. "Dracula" despite it's flaws is compelling viewing. "Secret Empire" isn't.

"Stop Susan Williams" which was supposed to be the showcase serial, falls in the middle. As the "Star" of the piece, Susan Anton isn't a disgrace but she's not a standout either, and because the format requires her to get trapped in a peril at the end of each segment it has the effect of making her not seem that bright. The boyfriend she picks up along the way, tough guy Michael Swan, is always calling her "Candy Cane" and "Sweet Cakes" which with his poor delivery will make even the less PC-inclined feel a bit uncomfortable. Albert Paulsen is a good scenery-chewing villain as the mastermind of everything, though the lack of a confrontation between him and Anton doesn't help (though the way things end, had "Cliffhangers" survived as a show, another "Susan Williams" serial pitting her against Paulsen was clearly intended). The international intrigue plot is okay but the show would have IMO benefited from a stronger lead than Anton was.

It'd be nice to see an official release of the show on DVD but I know it will never come. I'm glad at least someone liked the show enough to get all the episodes in their NBC airings AND the unaired last episode. I can tell why the last episode got yanked though in the US because the "Dracula" storyline had ended in the next to last episode necessitating two episodes of "Secret Empire" to finish that up along with the last "Stop Susan Williams" segment. NBC probably figured that without Dracula, the ratings would be even more bad than they already were and no one would have cared! (A re-edited "Susan Williams" telemovie was later made called "The Girl Who Saved The World").
This show was on “McDonalds Night”, meaning my Mom worked the night shift at a department store, so my Dad would supply the dinner. 2 regular hamburgers, fries and a coke. My brother and I watched this show mainly for Dracula, vaguely remember liking Phantom Empire, recall even less about Susan Anton. Wouldn’t mind revisiting it without the McDonalds.
 
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Jeff Flugel

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I went through a set of NBC recordings of the short-lived "Cliffhangers" from 1979 (the unaired in the US last episode comes from a 1981 British TV airing). It has a "watchable" quality that other infamous flops of this year do not have (i.e. "Supertrain" which is hard to take more than once!) but still comes off as very flawed.

I enjoyed reading your detailed thoughts on Cliffhangers, Jack. I remember watching the show when it first aired in 1979, and my memory of it pretty much jibes with yours, as I too felt that the "Dracula" segments were far and away the best, thanks mostly to Michael Nouri. I remember being mildly amused by the "Phantom Empire" segments and bored to tears with the "Stop Susan Williams" segments (I was 12 at the time and maybe not quite ready to fully appreciate Ms. Anton's charms). Haven't seen the show in the 40-plus years since, but I suspect that it hasn't aged at all well. I do think the concept, of an hour-long show split into three different stories with on-going "chapters" is a good one. It just needed to be executed better.
 
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Jack P

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I think all episodes from the same source recordings are on YT (I won't put up the links but they're easy to find) so they're not as difficult to revisit as other "lost" shows of this era.

Somebody at IMDB I noticed screwed up the bio info on "Dracula" damsel in distress Carol Baxter because it gives her a birth date of 1936 which is clearly not right since she was a young actress in her 20s! It looks like they mashed her bio together with someone else with the same name. Unfortunately I can't find any info on her that would allow me to correct that entry (I'm reminded how IMDB once mashed together the bios of the two different "Tracy Reeds", the British actress from "Dr. Strangelove" and the African-American actress from the 70s "Barefoot In The Part" TV series!)
 

Jack P

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Beyond Westworld (1980)
-After revisiting the classic 1973 movie again, I decided to brave going through the five episodes of this short-lived 1980 alleged "sequel" to the movie. (Only three of the five actually aired). I did it once before when it came out. And the second going it was even worse than I remembered. "Cliffhangers" at least is fun and an easy thing to get through. "Beyond Westworld" may well be the worst-written, worst-premise TV show I have ever seen in terms of not even remotely making sense and then compounding a nonsensical premise with scripts that make it even more nonsensical.

-CBS which ran this should have already gotten the message from "Planet Of The Apes" and "Logan's Run" that a great sci-fi movie does not as a general rule lend itself to a regular series. Those shows could only give us a warmed-over "Fugitive" retread concept with endless chases in the desert. This show decided to give us a premise that totally undermined the original concept of the film which is that something went horribly wrong as technology got out of control. Instead, the premise is that notion that things went wrong in Westworld because of the deliberate sabotage of megalomaniac James Wainwright who is now going to use the Westworld robots for eventual world domination etc.

-Now that's the kind of idea that *might* have worked for a stand-alone movie with high stakes (even if it would still undermine the message of the film), but for a regular series? No way. Like so many other short-lived sci-fi series of the 70s ("The Immortal" and the aforementioned "Planet Of The Apes" and "Logan's Run") it means you're giving us a "threat" from someone who is going to get beaten every week and not look like much of a threat when all's said and done.

-But even worse is that this series doesn't play fair and TREAT Wainwright as a big threat. A guy like this should be on the FBI ten most wanted list and be tracked down by all government and law enforcement agencies. Instead, the security chief for the company that built Westworld (played by the uber-bland and uncharismatic Jim McMullan) is the guy in charge of doing this all by himself with Connie Sellecca tagging along (Sellecca wasn't even in the pilot, which had Judith Chapman as a different character instead).

-And if that isn't ridiculous enough, the plots Wainwright engages in are ridiculous. The pilot shows him sabotaging a nuclear submarine so it can launch a nuclear missile aimed at......the company. Then in another one we see him trying get control of an oil company and in another one a motor company in which his robots are acting as planted henchmen to further his aims. McMullan, with help from boss William Jordan (who was so much better in the first season of "Project UFO") are able to keep "intercepting" transmissions that Wainwright sends to his operatives so they can try to figure out who the planted robot is. But this keeps begging a rather obvious question. Namely, why aren't they instead trying to trace where WAINWRIGHT is and have the police arrest the guy???? The man's established as a would-be terrorist who has likely killed a lot of people in order to put his replacement robots in these areas so (this is another thing the episodes never take time off to ponder. The episodes always end with the robot being found out and destroyed and the plan thwarted with barely a second to take a breath. In NONE of these episodes do McMullan, Sellecca, Jordan etc. ever stop to ask what happened to their REAL counterparts who got replaced? Are they dead? Are they being held captive? No one ever seems to care!) so why is it so difficult to get Wainwright into custody and charged??

-So with multiple idiocies in the premise, combined with a weak lead and flat-out dull stories (one episode is devoted to inflitrating a country-rock group headed by Ronnee Blakely of "Nashville" fame. She wrote and performed her own songs for this episode which means in order to get this on DVD, Warner had to go to the kind of music clearance effort that they unfortunately have NOT done for a lot of classic shows) it's no wonder this got yanked before all of it's five episodes aired. Sellecca was fortunate she was able to slide right into "Greatest American Hero" in under a year.

-
 

BobO'Link

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I've been continuing with Mister Ed and have made it to S5. For the most part it's maintained its premise fairly well with stories that are a bit above average. I say for the most part because part way into S4, Larry Keating, who played Roger Addison, the Post's next door neighbor, died suddenly. The episodes following his death are a bit odd as his wife, Kay, makes solo appearances with his absence totally ignored and she suddenly disappears only for new neighbors (the man is Wilbur's former Air Force commanding officer and, to me, is a bit grating) to show up a few episodes later and purchase the Addison's house. They're OK, but *just* OK and don't have the same chemistry as did "the Addison's."

There are also a couple of guest star episodes that, for me, just don't work well. One with Leo Durocher, the better of the two episodes, and one with Mae West with both being lesser due to writing *for* the guest stars rather than incorporating them into more normal stories, if you can call stories about a talking horse "normal."

The S4 closer was horrible and yet another of those "back door" pilot episodes that went unsold. It's a part-animation part-live action episode about an invisible Martian, who's animated - poorly, taking over people's actions, making them do things they'd normally not do. It plays as badly as it sounds. IMHO it's the worst episode of the entire series and one I'll absolutely skip during any rewatches.

I'm about six episodes into S5, which is looking up a bit as, so far, there have been no "guest stars" or backdoor pilots getting in the way, although an episode or two have been on the silly side, even for Mister Ed.
 

Jack P

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One "Beyond Westworld" postscript. I have a subscription to Newspapers.com because of my regular job and it allows me when I have free time to look up obscure articles that can often shed some light on TV history that's become forgotten. I found an interview with James Wainwright at the time the show was on that reveals that they were planning a never-filmed or completed sixth episode for what was the initial planned run in which his character would be arrested, and then if they'd been picked up for renewal, he would be acquitted and thus in a stronger position to implement his schemes. So that would indicate that behind the scenes there was a realization of some of the built-in-flaws of the series that needed to be addressed/fixed but they never got to do that (and I doubt it would have succeeded anyway).

The original "Westworld" is still a terrific movie.
 

Jeff Flugel

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Stingray – 1.1 “Stingray”
Not to be confused with the mid-‘80s Nick Mancuso crime drama, this is Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s pre-Thunderbirds ITC SuperMarionation series, featuring lovingly hand-crafted puppets, props and impressively executed miniatures and special effects. In this pilot episode, we’re introduced to the world of Troy Tempest, agent of WASP, the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (Gerry Anderson really loved acronyms), who polices the undersea realm in his special submarine, Stingray, assisted by navigator, Phones, and mute mer-lady Marina. I rather enjoyed this charming and lively little tale. It helps that the show was filmed in bright and bold ‘60s colors and bustles along at a fair clip. Thirty-nine episodes were produced and most appear to be available on YouTube. Barry Gray’s main theme is quite catchy. Can’t watch too many episodes of these Anderson puppet shows at a time, but once in a while, they’re a fun nostalgic treat.

The Immortal – 1.8 “The Queen’s Gambit”
Excellent, James Bond-style episode of this short-lived sci-fi riff on The Fugitive, featuring Christopher George as Ben Richards, a man with special disease- and age-proof blood, who is on the run, hunted by all sorts of unsavory types that want to use him as a human blood bank. In this one, slinky Lee Meriweather guest stars as a sharp operator, who fakes Richards’ death to throw his dogged pursuer, Fletcher (Don Knight) off the trail, then whisks him away to the secluded estate of yet another power-mad millionaire (Nico Minardos) who wants to exploit Richards for his own means. This is a good part for Lee Meriweather, who gets a whole lot more to do here, acting-wise, than she ever seemed to on The Time Tunnel or Barnaby Jones. A cool premise, a formidable villain, an outlandish plot, a beautiful femme fatale slowly swayed by our stalwart, upright hero, and plenty of action make this one a blast to watch.

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The Beverly Hillbillies – 1.27 “Granny’s Spring Tonic”
Granny and Pearl fret when Jed, recent recipient of a double dose of Granny’s spring tonic, seems to be falling for the curvaceous charms of a gold-digging employee of Mr. Drysdale’s bank, played by sultry siren Lola Albright, a few years after smoldering her way through three seasons of Peter Gunn. But Jed is a sneaky old fox who’s not so easily duped by a pretty face and a low-cut dress. As usual, I laughed all the way through this one.




Bearcats! – 1.6 “Conqueror’s Gold”
Soldiers of fortune Hank Brackett (Rod Taylor) and Johnny Reach (Dennis Cole) are hired by a prim newspaperwoman (Jane Merrow) to travel to an archaeological site and thwart the plans of a sadistic thief (Kevin McCarthy) and his band, who have enslaved the local Indians and are forcing them to dig for buried treasure. A cheerful adventure romp with plenty of humor and action, which takes advantage of a lot of good location footage filmed along the Puye Cliffs in Santa Clara, New Mexico. Ms. Merrow uses her clipped British demeanor and glorious figure to good effect, and there’s a neat cameo early on from Rod Cameron, as an old soldier pal of Hank’s.

Batman
1.13 “The Thirteenth Hat”
1.14 “Batman Stands Pat”
This goofy, silly camp classic is another that I can’t watch too often, but it is undeniably entertaining, and Adam West’s deadpan delivery is pitch perfect. David Wayne hams it up as the Mad Hatter, who’s out to get revenge on the 12 jurors who put him away years before. His evil plans also include Batman, who was a witness at the trial. Blonde stunner Diane McBain plays the Mad Hatter’s bloodthirsty accomplice. Completely ridiculous, but in a good way.




Alias Smith and Jones
– 1.9 “Stagecoach Seven”
Quite the cast in this one. Genial former bank robbers Hannibal Heyes (Pete Duel) and “Kid” Curry (Ben Murphy) wander the west, trying unsuccessfully to stay out of trouble for one year in order to gain pardons from the governor. Now going by the names Smith and Jones, the boys join five other passengers on a stagecoach that is held up by an outlaw gang led by Clint Weaver (L.Q. Jones). Weaver eventually recognizes who the boys really are, and sets out to capture them for the $20,000 reward on their heads, trailing them to a way station run by Charlie Utley (Keenan Wynn). Weaver tries to cut Utley in on the deal, but the wily Utley decides to turn the boys in and keep the money for himself, leading to a bullet-ridden siege.

I have to be in the right mood for humorous westerns. I generally prefer the straight, serious shoot-‘em-up type of cowboy yarn, but this is a very good example of this particular subgenre, yet another rock-solid, easy-going show from the fertile mind of Roy Huggins, the mastermind behind 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files. Also with Steve Ihnat, Dana Elcar, Mitzi Hoag, Geoffrey Lewis , Randolph Mantooth and Angela Clarke.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – 1.14 “The Ghost of Moby Dick”
Sorry, VTTBOTS fans…try as I might, this show just keeps letting me down. I remember it fondly from childhood reruns, of course, and really want to like it as an adult, but I keep running into a wall with this show. The first, black-and-white season is generally better, but several episodes still suffer from lousy scripting, illogical plotting and frequently terrible science which render everything a bit juvenile – what I like to call “the Irwin Allen effect.” It could be that I just keep picking weaker episodes to watch, I don’t know. I’ll keep trying, but it’s been an uphill climb so far.

This one starts promisingly, as the Seaview is roped into the Ahab-like quest of scientist Walter Bryce (Edward Binns) to track down a gargantuan whale that left him crippled and caused the death of his son. Along for the ride is Bryce’s concerned wife (June Lockhart), a former student of Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart). It soon becomes apparent that Bryce is no longer interested in studying the massive creature, but is consumed with killing it. Nelson comes off as a real dupe in this one, seemingly uncaring about the fate of his crew or the possible destruction to his vessel. Basehart himself always strikes me as far too interior and muted an actor for the role, and to me he's perpetually pinched and dull in this show, like he's suffering from an ulcer, or a bad case of constipation (probably just his reaction to many of the scripts). This is a show really crying out for a bold, charismatic lead, ala William Shatner. I also find most of the Seaview’s crew a colorless lot, the victims of producer Allen’s mantra of plot over characterization. David Hedison, as Captain Crane, is the lone regular who I find appealing, but he's also hamstrung by inconsistent writing.

And just in case we’re not making the connection with the Herman Melville literary classic, we get a scene of Crane forcing Nelson to read a passage verbatim from Moby Dick, and then continuing on for another 15-20 minutes as if he’s not learned a thing (despite Basehart starring as Ishmael in the John Huston film version). I’m willing to give a pass to the many references to whales as "dumb beasts," and stock footage of whales being harpooned, capped off by Admiral Nelson wishing the captain of a whaling vessel “Happy hunting!” as indicative of the era in which the series was produced…but there’s no excuse for the sloppy science of a man exiting the submarine wearing only a standard wetsuit and tanks at a thousand-foot depth, let alone surviving a rapid ascent to the surface. It’s this kind of stuff that undercuts whatever dramatics poor June Lockhart is working her little socks off to achieve. On the plus side, the special miniature effects depicting the monster whale attacking the Seaview are plentiful and impressive.

Maverick – 1.22 “The Burning Sky”
Luckily I threw this episode on right after the above VTTBOTS disappointment, and redeemed the evening’s classic TV viewing. It seems like brother Bart (Jack Kelly) got the lion’s share of the more serious, adventure-driven episodes of this show, and it’s easy to see why, as he excels in them. Bart joins a stagecoach carrying several passengers across the desert: a rancher (Douglas Kennedy), a woman with a dark past (Joanna Barnes), a businessman looking to blackmail her (Phillip Terry), a saloon entertainer with something to hide (Whitney Blake) and a likable Mexican rogue (Gerald Mohr). Bandidos disguised as Indians ambush the stagecoach, killing the stage driver, and the passengers hole up in the ruins of an adobe house, under siege from their attackers and the merciless heat of the sun. One of the passengers has something the bandits want…just what is it, who has it, and will Bart and the others hand it over? Tense and interesting survival tale, with a good script and a fine guest cast, dominated by the great character actor and former radio star, Gerald Mohr. This is the second of a total of seven times Mohr appeared on Maverick (two of them as Doc Holliday). Below is a nice publicity still of Kelly in a romantic clinch with Joanna Barnes...though there's no hint of any love connection between them in the story itself.
 
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Jack P

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"Ghost of Moby Dick" is actually one of my favorite Voyage episodes. Not the least of which is that June Lockhart gets to do more in this one episode than Irwin ever allowed her to do in three years of "Lost In Space" (to his credit though this guest shot is how she got the LIS part). Having Basehart read a passage from "Moby Dick" I'm sure was a deliberate inside-reference to the fact that Basehart played Ishmael in the 1956 big screen version with Gregory Peck as Ahab. Compared to what Voyage would become starting in late Season 2 it still shows what Voyage was capable of doing at its best (and having a strong female guest appearance was one thing Irwin was quick to jettison entirely for the last two years of the show).
 

Jeff Flugel

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"Ghost of Moby Dick" is actually one of my favorite Voyage episodes. Not the least of which is that June Lockhart gets to do more in this one episode than Irwin ever allowed her to do in three years of "Lost In Space" (to his credit though this guest shot is how she got the LIS part). Having Basehart read a passage from "Moby Dick" I'm sure was a deliberate inside-reference to the fact that Basehart played Ishmael in the 1956 big screen version with Gregory Peck as Ahab. Compared to what Voyage would become starting in late Season 2 it still shows what Voyage was capable of doing at its best (and having a strong female guest appearance was one thing Irwin was quick to jettison entirely for the last two years of the show).

Sorry to diss one of your Voyage faves, Jack. I do agree with you that June Lockhart is a big plus for this episode, and that her talents were mostly wasted on Lost In Space.
 

JohnHopper

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – 1.14 “The Ghost of Moby Dick”

You’d better watch the espionage-oriented episodes first. (those in italics are the must-watch)
“The Fear-Makers”

“The Saboteur”
“The Enemies”

“The Human Computer”
“The Exile”
“No Way Out”
“The Traitor”
“The Blizzard Makers”
“The Mist of Silence”
Or watch the catastrophy ones:
“Submarine Sunk Here”
“Doomsday”
 

JohnHopper

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Find an old review that I used to publish about “The Fear-Makers”.

This is the first defector working for the Soviet bloc entry paired with the enemy within theme—we only see his foreign contact phoning aboard a fancy British car at night. You can feel tension between men or witnessing men fighting men tropism and actor Lloyd Bochner’s performance as manipulative psychologist and saboteur Dr. Davis is very engaging. The individualized evolution of Dr. Martin Davis is interesting: first, he dominates, stirs up various negative reactions (anger) towards the crew by mentioning the casualties of the Polidor, by questioning for a survey, by influencing Crane to take the command against Nelson and then gradually looses the control and his evil scheme eventually turns against him because the unstable gas changes its properties and forces him to confess his deed and displays his guilt and moral weakness.

Director Leonard Horn manages to fashion an intense claustrophobic atmosphere of suspicion, paranoia, sweat and hysteria from a behavior perspective. For the anecdote, Admiral Nelson is uptight and obsessed by the fate of the Polidor submarine and keeps on listening to the final recording in his office and we learn later he is afraid of failure. The gas-induced fear is an attractive idea and the way it is smuggled (a canister hidden through the back of a mini reel player) and planted (in the air duct) is effective. This is the first valves repairmen (Patterson, Chief Jones) working in the shaft entry from the series.

The episode was broadcast September 28, 1964, and one week after, the same artificial fear concept was recycled in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode entitled "The Quadripartite Affair". First episode with Sparks on the radio. The music score is by Hugo Friedhofer and Alexander Courage.
 

Rustifer

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Episode Commentary
Petticoat Junction
"Kate's Recipe For Hot Rhubarb" (S1E8)

I was never too much into "ruralized" sitcoms like Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Real McCoys, et al--and yet I avidly watched Hee Haw every week. Why? Probably because I'm from Indiana and farm girls just have a certain earthiness that city gals can't duplicate. Give me a sweet girl in Daisy Dukes over a Christian Dior-clad sharpie any day. So consider me contradictory in thought and words as you read this commentary.

I must admit I was always intrigued at the opening credits in which Billie, Bobbie and Betty (all Jo's) are seemingly floating naked in the town's water supply. Apparently health officials decided the water was safe to drink as long as the individuals contaminating it were pretty. In this episode, Billie Joe (Jeannine Riley) has a hot date for the evening, but needs additional arm candy for her date's tagalong buddy. Against Billie Jo's wishes, Kate (Bea Benaderet) insists she insert Bobbie Jo (Pat Woodell) into the foursome. But instead of an evening of hubba bubba, brainy Bobbie Jo would rather stay at home and read something thrilling like Pilgrim's Progress. Kate will hear none of it. "You need to know about boys in case you trip over one", she explains to her doubting daughter, whose blouse is buttoned all the way to her neck as if to emphasize her cocoon-like libidinous innocence. Kate won't be happy until Bobbie Jo's amorous strings have been...uh...plucked.
Kate likens the experience to cooking rhubarb--you might not like it at first, but after a while you get used to it. Thus is written Kate's doctrine on sex.

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Bobbie Jo sluts up: But not nearly as well as Billie Jo; Bobbie Jo and Kate discuss Rhubarb since no one else will

Anyway, the girls' dates arrive. The lucky one, Junior (Russell Horton) gets dress-busting Billie Jo, while friend Roger (Jack Bannon) is "stuck" with blind date Bobbie Jo. Roger is a big city boy from Wilke's Corner--the hub of international finance, industry and part-time manufacturer of checker boards. Roger and Bobbie Jo's date is initially a bust since he's more smitten with Billie Jo's bust. Kate's solution is to significantly 'slut up' Bobbie Jo for her follow up date with Roger. It works.

The moral: A large IQ doesn't stand a chance against a large bra size.
 
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