Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult TV Blogging: Ark II: "Robin Hood" (November 6, 1976)


This week, Ark II takes a step down in interest and excitement from “The Robot” and “Omega,” the two previous series entries.  Here, the titular vehicle and its crew enter Sector 25 to investigate reports of “hunger and widespread unrest.”


The team soon discovers that a group of outlaws have modeled themselves on the mythical Robin Hood and are fighting in Sector 25 an evil tyrant named Lord Leslie.  At first, Jonah is amused by the strange conflict and personalities the Ark II encounters.  He puts up a force field barrier between opposing armies during one battle.  But then, Lord Leslie captures the Ark II and Jonah’s crew is taken hostage.

While hoping to convince Robin and his merry men that “robbery isn’t the answer and neither is violence,” Jonah nonetheless requires their assistance if he is to retrieve the ark and its personnel.  

Fortunately, Jonah also has help – of a sort, anyway – from inside the Ark II.  The intelligent chimpanzee Adam has been taking driving lessons and, in a slapstick comedy scene, takes the craft on a wild joy ride, all the while firing lasers and even doing an embarrassed face palm.

Soon Jonah reclaims the Ark and the local villagers reject Lord Lesley.  Now Robin and his men will have to build a better society together, and Jonah marvels at how difficult it is to “keep the Lord Leslies of the world at bay.”

“Robin Hood” is a weird and borderline amusing episode of Ark II.  The idea of post-apocalyptic people taking on the characteristics of a hero from literature doesn’t seem that farfetched given other examples of this genre, like Star Trek’s “A Piece of the Action,” which saw an alien culture model itself on a book about the Chicago Mobs of the 1920s. 


But one of the more interesting and bizarre images to come out of Ark II is certainly “Robin Hood’s” visual of Lord Leslie’s flamboyantly-dressed minions riding trikes in the desert. It’s like The Road Warrior meets the Crusades…in the Planet of the Apes Forbidden Zone.

Also, this is also the only episode (at least thus far) to devolve into out and out slapstick humor, as Adam drives the Ark II into danger.  It’s a unique experience to watch the huge Ark moving erratically, knocking things over, and otherwise proving a real road hazard.  By the same token, these scenes reveal just how difficult it is to maneuver this unwieldy (but gorgeous…) cult-tv vehicle.  The Ark II is huge, and doesn’t look like it corners very well…

Next week: “The Cryogenic Man."

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Bugaloos: "Lady, You Don't Look Eighty" (October 24, 1970)


In “Lady, You Don’t Look Eighty,” Joy (Caroline Ellis) is upset because it is October 12, and her friends have apparently forgotten that it is her birthday.

In truth, they are planning a surprise party.  The boys also trick Sparky (Billy Barty) into believing that Joy is actually an old woman who is eighty years old.  They also claim they are seventy years old!

Benita Bizarre (Martha Raye) overhears this practical joke, and believes that the Bugaloos have discovered a fountain of youth. She wants it for herself, and captures Sparky. She will make a trade: the firefly for the elixir of youth.

The Bugaloos make a fake elixir of honey and water, and then, to demonstrate that it works, pretend to be old, themselves.


It’s pretty much business as usual on The Bugaloos (1970-1971) for this installment. The Bugaloos have something that Benita Bizarre thinks she wants -- this time the Fountain of Youth -- and captures one of the gang (Sparky) to get it.  To rescue their friend, the Bugaloos must get in disguise, and outsmart their nemesis.

One intriguing element about “Lady, You Don’t Look Eighty” is that it is established, as it was in the series’ second episode, that Joy is responsible for household chores in the forest.  Here, she is understandably grumpy about the division of labor. The boys don’t have to chip in?

Even in 1970, in an enchanted forest, the patriarchy was in firm control, apparently.

But this episode shows Joy acting crankily about having to clean up after everyone and the boys respond by calling her “granny,” and saying that she sounds old. Nice.  Yet not one of them lifts a finger to help her.

The song of the week? “Older Woman!”  That’s adding insult to injury, I would say.


Next week: "Benita the Beautiful."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens (1976): "Nemesis"



The second episode of the 1970s war-of-the-sexes space opera Star Maidens opens with the thought: "space holds no fury like a female planet scorned."

The question regarding such a comment, of course, is intent. Is this series poking fun at such anti-woman proverbs? Or does Star Maidens take such commentary seriously, and reflect it in its space-age premise of a female dominated planet?

Given the other humorous aspects of the episode, I would suggest the former interpretation. At some, hopefully intentional level, Star Maidens seems to recognize the humor in applying broad, sexist language to a “futuristic” science fiction epic.  The premise finds a rigidly, unthinking patriarchy (Earth) confronting a rigidly, unthinking matriarchy (Medusa).

Our silly conceits about sex are, ultimately, reflected by Medusa’s silly conceits about them. Can’t we all just get along?

This second episode of the 1976 series involves the Medusan pursuit ship Nemesis following Adam and Shem to Earth.


The two escaped "domestics" have fled their space-age parachute (a giant bubble of sorts) and head across the English countryside looking for food. The men are happy to be "free at last," (they actually speak those famous words) and walking around on a world where no woman can "command them." 

They soon encounter a cow pasture and see cows grazing...so decide to eat the grass too. This doesn't speak well of their intelligence, but further enhances the idea that Star Maidens is something of a comedy, with a strong fish-out-of-water component.

Later, Adam and Shem happen across a farm and find apples to eat, but not before a little Earth girl chases them off the grounds. They flee the property by jumping over a tall brick wall in a single bound, pointing to the fact that Medusa and Earth have different gravity, and idea later repeated on Galactica: 1980. This scene is actually quite funny, as it involves, again, Shem’s ingrained fear regarding women. He is terrified when the young human threatens to tell her mother that the stranger has stolen an apple. Shem veritable cowers in fear at the thought, and one can’t help but laugh at his terror.



The women from Medusa -- Fulvia (Judy Geeson) and Octavia (Christiane Kruger) -- land on Earth and meet with Liz (Lisa Harrow) and Professor Evans (Derek Farr). The Medusan women demand the return of Adam and Shem, and bark orders at the local police chief. When he tries to explain what is happening, Octavia curtly tells him to "be quiet."


In the same sequence, Octavia utilizes superior Medusan weaponry to immobilize another police officer. Their weaponry is a kind of "paralysis" or "freeze ray," which is the equivalent of turning a person to stone and thus the perfect weapon for a citizen of a world called Medusa (after the character in Greek myth).


More genuinely humorous is the device that Fulvia uses to track down Adam. It's called a "man finder,” and it hunts down a man by his "scent." The theory being that each man possesses his own specific scent. Apparently, men wander off quite a bit on Medusa, and their overlords need to wrangle them…


The episode culminates with Adam and Shem riding around dirt roads in a computer-controlled police car, and sending the earthbound police on a merry chase. It all happens to the tune of a groovy seventies musical score. It's like Doctor Who meets Smokey and the Bandit.

It's pretty clear from this second installment of the series that Star Maidens has descended fully into tongue-in-cheek humor in record time. I could mention again the moment wherein the none-too-bright man-folk from Medusa sample grass along with generous cows. Or the moment wherein the Nemesis ship lands in a wide-open field, two gorgeous alien women disembark and none of the gathered earth people bat an eye, gasp, or react with surprise or shock. 

Nope. A conversation immediately begins about the Medusans wanting their men back. It's like a conversation officials from two countries might have over the subject of extradition. But officials from two planets?



And the scene in which the caped, futuristic women from Medusa enter a police station and start issuing orders...it's more of the same. It plays as comedy.

Still, since (according to Fulvia in this episode...) "most of outer space is very boring," I guess I can be grateful that Star Maidens is as entertaining as it is. However, “Nemesis” does not set one foot on advanced Medusa, and that means the earthbound action is, almost by default, less interesting than it might be otherwise.

Next week: "Nightmare Cannon."