Happily, for those of you noting our son’s disinterest in this western, tonight’s episode does indeed have some fights. As ships and cargo are being torched by a protection racket, our heroes have several suspects and the location of the payoffs. Since all the suspects are fans of boxing, all that’s necessary is to arrange a big prize fight that will draw them all out while Jeff ransacks the bad guys’ safe.
Anyway, while our son was distracted by the brawls and by the stock footage of a ship going down in San Francisco Bay, I thought it was cute, and it’s always nice to see Gretchen Corbett. She had a recurring role in The Rockford Files at this time. This episode was probably filmed in October 1975. According to Ed Robertson’s book on Rockford, that show was really rushing production on its second season, because the producers decided that the first several episodes they filmed were not up to scratch and they needed to speed up work on several more installments and drip out the ones they didn’t like throughout the rest of the year instead of running six lousy ones in a row. I mention this because I’m enough of a geek as to be curious about which of Corbett’s Rockford stories this was made between, and the answer is… I have no idea!
Our son hasn’t bolted behind the sofa quite the way he did tonight in some time. When Wonder Woman first meets the programmed-by-Nazis gorilla, she has to jump back as he lunges at her from his cage. He was over the top of the sofa and down on the ground with a whack, and then he gingerly made his way over to my side of the couch for some next-to-dad reassurance.
This episode’s heart is in the right place, but it sure is dopey. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure you can’t train gorillas anywhere nearly as quickly as it’s depicted here, and I’m also pretty sure that, even in 1942, military policemen knew better than to try to tackle a seven foot tall gorilla in hand-to-hand combat.
But never mind, because the guest cast is amazing. Robert Loggia and John Hillerman play Nazis, and Gretchen Corbett (Beth from The Rockford Files) is Gargantua’s trainer, and the gorilla himself is none other than our old pal Mickey Morton. About one month before this was originally broadcast (on Dec. 18 1976), Morton had worn a different furry costume as a seven foot monster in a Land of the Lost episode.
This suit, incidentally, has a terrific mask. I wonder whether it was reused from the 1974 Planet of the Apes TV series? The rest of the suit is pretty woeful, but the mask is of very high quality and gives Morton a lot of room for expression.