Archive for September, 2011
The James Bond film Dr. No, as the story goes, inspired Joe Barbera to try an adventure cartoon with more realistically rendered characters. Wildey is given most of the credit now with how the show finally looked as well as the development of the shows characters. The main characters were Dr. Benton Quest who is always involved in some sort of top secret adventure or another. He always takes his young son Jonny along despite potential dangers. Jonny’s mom died under circumstances I am not clear on yet but it is is possible some sort of intrigue was involved. To make sure Jonny is safe and sound Dr. Quest has employed Race Bannon (a character based on an earlier comic strip called Steve Bannon by Wildey) as a bodyguard and mentor of sorts. In the series’ second episode we are introduced to the Hindu boy Haji though we are never really told who he is and why the Quest group have him hanging around. This may be explained in a later episode and if anybody out there knows where Haji comes from please let me know. The last regular member of the group is Jonny’s dog Bandit, and like many boys in the 60’s I had a little dog named Bandit myself, after the TV show dog. Bandit supplies the comic relief for the show as well as sometimes helping Jonny out of a bind or helping him get into one. Some recurring characters include the sexy Jezebel Jade who is a sort of Mata Hari femme fatale who has some possible romantic connection to Race Bannon though for the most part it is always implied. The evil mastermind of various plots Dr. Zin shows up now and then as Dr. Quest’s nemesis and arch rival.
A couple notable aspects of the show outside its graphic design was that the adventures always took place in some new exotic local and the use of violence, to the point that in each episode cartoon characters actually died. Of the course the people who died were either bad guys or nameless “natives” but characters in cartoons dying off was not something audiences were used to back in 1964. The vibe between Race and Jade at times was a little smoldering too, especially in the episode called Double Danger where something appears wrong with Race and there is even a kissing scene. Wow! The show inspired a couple animated movies and later some TV series later but I have not seen any of them and cannot comment. There is much talk about a live action movie being negotiated but I am not sure where any of that of that is going. But the 26 original episodes are classics and have been released on DVD with some extras. In this post I present a couple of those extras and in my next post I will give you a matinee feature of the Double Danger episode I just introduced. Also in this post I am giving a list of all the 26 episodes with titles and brief description. I did not compile these and got the list from this page at Animated Views. Lots of good stuff on the net and some of the best related to the original and classic shows can be found at this Classic Jonny Quest fan site. And yes, I am old enough to remember seeing the original episodes on an old b/w TV. There are some perks to being over fifty.
LIST OF THE 26 JONNY EPISODES
2) Arctic Splashdown – A deflected missile lands in the frozen wasteland, and the race is on to recover it.
3) The Curse Of Anubis – An Arab chieftain lures the Quest team to Egypt to use them in a plot to unite his people and become their leader. Before the story ends, a mummy will walk again.
4) Pursuit Of The Po-Ho – Dr. Quest goes into the jungle to save a friend kidnapped by natives, and finds himself captured.
5) Riddle Of The Gold – This tale has a trip to India and the first appearance of Quest nemesis Dr. Zin, in a story involving a process to create gold.
6) Treasure Of The Temple – An ancient Mayan city holds the promise of a lost treasure.
7) Calcutta Adventure – This flashback episode is the “origin” of how Hadji joined the Quest team.
8) The Robot Spy – In perhaps the series’ most popular episode, Dr. Zin uses an arachnid-like robot to gain the secret of Dr. Quest’s new ray gun.
9) Double Danger – Dr. Zin and Dr. Quest compete to find a rare plant in Thailand. Race’s old flame, Jezebel Jade, also arrives on the scene to help determine that Race is not who he appears be. This was actually the first episode produced, which explains its weaker animation. One can tell that the Hanna-Barbera animators initially struggled with the more realistic drawing style. Despite improving greatly over the next few episodes, this awkwardness would show up again years later in Super Friends.
10) Shadow Of The Condor – A forced landing in the Andes leads to a meeting with a baron who flew in World War I , and his mute servant. A conflict is decided in an air duel.
11) Skull And Double-Crossbones – Modern-day pirates overpower a Quest expedition and force Jonny to dive for treasure.
12) The Dreadful Doll – Voodoo and a secret submarine base figure into this mystery.
13) A Small Matter Of Pygmies – Another forced landing, this time in a jungle, finds the group chased by pygmies.
14) The Dragons Of Ashida – An insane zoologist and his giant reptiles trap the Quest team on a small island.
15) Turu The Terrible – A search for a special metal leads instead to the discovery of a flying dinosaur controlled by a wheelchair-bound schemer.
16) The Fraudulent Volcano – Dr. Quest unintentionally comes into conflict with Dr. Zin, who is using a volcano as a testing ground for a new weapon.
17) The Werewolf Of The Timberland – French-Canadians and a wolfman figure in this mystery of smuggled gold.
18) Pirates From Below – Criminals attempt to steal another of Dr. Quest’s inventions.
19) Attack Of The Tree People – The boys and Bandit survive a boat fire and come ashore an island, then require the assistance of apes to thwart some would-be kidnappers.
20) The Invisible Monster – A colleague of Dr. Quest disappears after accidentally creating an energy creature.
21) The Devil’s Tower – You just cannot beat an episode with a mile-high mountain, Nazis, and aborigines who speak German.
22) The Quetong Missile Mystery – Poisoned swamp fish, a General Fong, and a secret missile enter into this story.
23) The House Of Seven Gargoyles – Gravity reversal, a dwarf, a submarine, and a glacier— this is a shopping list for a typically exciting Jonny Quest episode.
24) Terror Island – Dr. Quest is kidnapped in Hong Kong, and Race must ask Jade for help in locating him.
25) Monster In The Monastery – Jonny meets monks in Nepal threatened by Abominable Snowmen.
26) The Sea Haunt – A sea monster seems to have a taste for treasure.the Smith Conan comics for marvel I will get working on that.
1966/ Director: Alan Rafkin/Writers: James Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum
Cast: Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond, Dick Sargent, Skip Homeier, Reta Shaw
Sometimes we all have a certain movie in our lives that holds a special place. A link to fond memories and long forgotten times. When it comes down to it I am a sentimental sap. For me The Ghost and Mr. Chicken with the fidget king Don Knotts is one of those films. The 1966 Universal film had already been out for some time before I began catching it late night on old network TV. If you’re too young that means no cable or VCR. The image was adjusted by “rabbit ear” antennae that usually had strips of tin foil at the top to secure a slightly better image. The film, as I recall, played annually as part of a Halloween program and I had to stay up past midnight usually to catch it. No problem for me as I seem to be nocturnal by design. Knotts of course is best remembered for his role as the quirky and nervous though tough talking and big hearted Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith show. He won some Emmy’s for his performance on the show and after five successful seasons he went on to continue making “big pictures” after the successful The amazing Mr. Limpit in 1964. The story here, from an interview with Knotts, seems to be that he was under the impression that The Andy Grittith show was to end after five seasons and Griffith seemed to be of the same idea. Knotts secured a contract with Universal only to find Griffith had decided to continue on with the show and offered Knotts to continue. Of course it was too late and he would return now and then to reprise his role as the shaky Barney. The Ghost and Mr. chicken is supposed to built, at Knotts suggestion, on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show called the Haunted House where Barney and Gomer go to retrieve Opie’s lost ball on the grounds of a haunted house in Mayberry.
There is some disagreement about whether or not the Universal back lot studio house (located on used in the film is the same one made and used for the creepy mansion in 1960’s Psycho. Wikipedia says yes and IMDB says no. IMBD claims the credits roll over the house used for the TV show The Munsters but the Simmon’s House in the film is actually situated next door to The Munster’s House. The house, of course, plays an important role in the film as any haunted house does in a haunted house movie. Knotts plays Luther Heggs, a basement confined typesetter with aspirations of moving upstairs and being a real reporter (he’s been studying that and karate for years through the mail). He works for a small town paper in Rachel Kansas run by George Beckett (Dick Sargent, the 2nd Darren of Bewitched) who is a decent guy and likes Luther. He is harassed by the jockish bully Ollie who called him “scoop” and patronizes his dreams. Seems too that Luther and Ollie live in the same boarding house and Luther must endure Ollie’s taunts over the meal table. Luther also has a big crush on Ollie’s “girl” Alma (sexy in that All American girl way Joan Staley) and tries his best to get her attention and soon has the chance of his lifetime when he is offered the chance to stay a night in the Simmon’s murder mansion to capitalize on the 2oth anniversary of the infamous murder-suicide of “old man” Simmons and his wife.
The night in the mansion soon turns into a terror fest for poor Luther as he is soon haunted by loud noises, secret passageways, blood stained, self playing pipe organs and a portrait of Mrs. Simmons with a pair of garden shears in her throat, blood gushing from the wound. Luther passes out but following the news story the next day he becomes a town hero. A picnic is held in his honor and he delivers a nervous speech and later receives a summons to appear in court in a libel suit. Seems the surviving heir of the Simmons estate, Nicholas Simmons (Philip Ober), does not take kindly to new plans to save from the house from destruction. Seems the banker’s wife (Halcyon Maxwell played by Reta Shaw), who owns 51% of the banks shares, feels the house is a bone fide conduit to the spiritual world and one she and her little sisterhood of small town “occultists” want to preserve. Nick Simmon’s crafty lawyer makes mince meat of neurotic and shaky Luther in court and all seems lost until the judge decides the best way to settle the matter is for the jury to go to the Simmon’s mansion at 11:30 that evening and wait until the stroke of midnight to see just what happens. And what happens is nothing and Luther is further made to look like a fool in front of the towns people and the people who believed in him like George Beckett. As a dejected Luther walks away from the house the organ music resumes and he finds the paper’s janitor, and his friend, Mr. Kelsey (Liam Redmond) at the keyboard. Seems the whole affair was staged by Kelsey to draw out the real murderer, Nicholas Simmons, and to clear himself of suspicion since his garden shears were the murder weapon. The film ends with Luther marrying the robust Alma and all in all this is a great movie.
The direction by classic TV sitcom director Alan Rafkin is nearly flawless and it is too bad he did nto do more big screen projects as he handled this one just fine. The music score my Vic Mizzy suits the film perfectly and the theme song was ripped by your humble editor here and is posted below for your pleasure, as are some pictures of lovely Joan Staley from her Playboy shoot. She would all but stop making films after this film when she suffered a near broken back from a fall from a horse. She would make TV appearances and it seems great to me that she even got this role considering she was a Playmate model. Things weren’t as uptight as I thought they were. The on-running gag in the movie of yelling “Atta boy Luther” (or another name) started a bit of a trend for a while. The gag was supposed to be the idea of Andy Grittith and I recently saw a newer film that had a person in the background yell “Atta boy Luther” though I cannot find the film now. If someday I do I will return here and edit this post. A scene from the film appears in the Jim Carrey movie Yes Man and it was possibly Knott’s best film. He has spoken highly of it and some of his other Universal films, including The Shakiest Gun in the West and The reluctant Astronaut though he seems to harbor some regrets for the more risque film The Love God?. Included he opening music by Vic Mizzy and a little audio sampling from the film’s intro here as well.
THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN THEME SONG
The story essentially follows the classic Frankenstein tale, that of a man whose supreme creation turns into a monster that sets out to destroy its creator. The film has a wrap around narration and opens up with a priest arriving at the jail house where a broken and disheveled Victor await the guillotine. He does seek absolution but just wants someone to believe his incredible story, and that it was a ‘monster’ that murdered his jealous house maid. We are taken back in time to when an already rich and arrogant young Victor Frankenstein meets his brilliant new tutor Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) and the two form a deep connection as time passes. However Victor’s passion run darker and more sinister than Paul’s as he desires to test their live reviving techniques on humans and not just small animals. Paul, though strong willed, is susceptible to Victor’s vision and passion and he is soon cutting corpses from the gallows to use in experiments. As in all Frankenstein stories the sublime nature of Frankenstein’s creation is not its physical form, hewed together from collected body parts, but it is to be the thing’s magnificent mind.