The Twilight Zone 5.26 – I am the Night – Color Me Black

From a heavier-than-usual episode of Young Indy to a heavier-than-usual episode of Zone, once again we had a little more cause to talk about the world with our son. Rod Serling’s “I am the Night – Color Me Black” features a stellar cast, including Michael Constantine, Ivan Dixon, and Paul Fix, in a story about a town so full of hate and rage that on the morning of an execution, the sun literally doesn’t come up.

It’s a village seething with racial resentment. The murder victim is said to have been a “cross-burning psychopath,” but also the only one in the town willing to be open about his bigotry. His killer has been railroaded; the town’s high and mighty squashed evidence and perjured themselves on the stand to ensure that there wouldn’t be any chance of acquittal. It’s not an execution; it’s retribution.

So yeah, this was a very heavy half-hour, and one we paused twice to ensure our son could follow the narrative. At least he got his questions about the mechanics of hanging answered a couple of weeks ago so he could focus on this, and we could agree that the only way to dispel the creeping, terrible darkness that threatens towns like this is through love and kindness. Fortunately, things will be a little lighter tomorrow night.

MacGyver 1.3 – Thief of Budapest

So I picked this episode because Terry Nation wrote part of it, and because both Michael Constantine and Sid Haig – yes, two Electra Woman villains – are in it. I did not realize that The Italian Job is also in it.

This is all kinds of shameless. As soon as I saw the red, white, and blue Minis that MacGyver and his Hungarian chums would be using for their getaway, I said “Oh, cute, The Italian Job,” expecting a winking little in-joke. I wasn’t expecting a good five minutes of footage culled from the movie! The entire climax is old footage and the actors in the studio in front of rear screen projection. And as for the footage, if southern California didn’t look anything like Hungary already, 1969 Turin doesn’t look a blessed thing like 1985 Budapest either.

Still, our favorite six year-old critic has not yet seen The Italian Job, and he thought this was one of the most fun car chases ever. “Oh my goodness, they’re on top of a building!” he shouted at one point. He concluded by letting us know that this was so insane that they need to invent a new word to tell you how insane this is.

Did they do this on MacGyver regularly? I’d kind of prefer for our son to see the original feature ahead of either a case where an old movie gets cannibalized or a parody, which is why I intend to show him The Maltese Falcon a couple of weeks before we watch that Terry Nation-written episode of The Avengers that spoofed it. I guess I should confirm with my wife that there aren’t any episodes where MacGyver goes looking for a Big W, huh?

Electra Woman 1.9 and 10 – Return of the Sorcerer

Well, here’s a weird coincidence. Just a few days ago, I was writing about the apparent habit of British kids’ shows to feature villains who plan to heist the Crown Jewels. That’s exactly what the Sorcerer does in tonight’s episode of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. Except there are only three Crown Jewels and they’re part of a King Arthur exhibit, and they’re not in the Tower of London, they’re in the local municipal records building as part of a traveling tour.

Another weird coincidence: you know the two stories that Douglas Adams wrote for the seventeenth season of Doctor Who? The villain in this story has an invisible headquarters in a vacant lot which people enter through a blue-screen door, as well as a trip back to 1502 to speak with Leonardo da Vinci as he’s painting the Mona Lisa. And you thought Adams was penniless and hitchhiking across Europe in ’76.

Anyway, if you’re just joining us since we last wrote about this series, the plan had been to watch all of Batman and then add this to the rotation, but after 56 of that program’s adventures, we took a short break and watched the first four of the eight Electra Woman stories. The show got a legitimate release in Australia a few years ago, the only one in the world, and it’s available in a region-free box set with all of H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. That’s 105 Krofft episodes in one purchase, and absolutely worth it. Click the image above for more info.

Daniel really enjoyed this episode. It’s as nutty as a trip to Cromer’s in Columbia SC, with da Vinci, Merlin’s mirror, gigantic disembodied clapping hands, the same “hideout” set as every other story, and the return of Michael Constantine as the villain trying to defeat “the kilowatt cuties.” He thought it was incredibly exciting and watched the half-hour with his eyes wide and his security blanket in hand, loving it and ready for more.

Electra Woman 1.1 and 2 – The Sorcerer’s Golden Trick

So I may be thought of as something of a stinker, taking a break from Batman with Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which is a pretty deliberate clone of Batman! The show was originally one of the three installments of the umbrella series The Krofft Supershow, which ran on ABC in 1976. It was created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, who would later form their own production and animation company and unleash many terrible cartoons upon the kids of the late seventies, and mostly written by Dick Robbins and Duane Poole, who turned in dozens of scripts for the Kroffts, Hanna-Barbera, and the like in the day.

(Speaking of “in the day,” it’s worth looking at the Supershow first season’s opening sequence on YouTube to see what Atlanta looked like in the summer of 1976, when crowds were steadfastly avoiding the Kroffts’ doomed indoor amusement park. That breathtakingly ugly brown building you see was the Omni, then the city’s premier concert and sports venue, located next door to the building that housed the park. David Bowie played at the Omni about three months before they taped this.)

Anyway, Deidre Hall, who was still a fresh new face in the cast of Days of Our Lives at the time, played Electra Woman, and Judy Strangis, who was eternally-young Helen in Room 222 for four years, was Dyna Girl, and Norman Alden, best known for his voiceover work on cartoons, played their assistant Frank, who programmed their computer gadgets. Most of the actors who played baddies had their biggest roles ahead of them; Michael Constantine, who hams it up as the Sorcerer in the first story, had previously starred with Strangis in Room 222, but is best known today as Gus in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

But is it any good? Objectively, no, but it sure is fun. It’s just a goofy, silly, zero-budget romp with traps and villainous threats, mustache-twirling and eye-rolling overacting, and a whole lot of chromakey for every conceivable special effect, even the things that probably could have been accomplished without it. A little of this show goes a long way, which is why it’s a good thing they only made sixteen episodes (each about twelve minutes), comprising eight stories.

It is charming to see how the goofball superhero logic of faster-than-light travel across the country and villainous plans that simply do not make any sense at all – bear in mind that Robbins and Poole were veterans of Hanna-Barbera’s equally insensible Super Friends – impressed Daniel. The cliffhanger, in which our heroines are about to be attacked by a tiger, had him hiding behind the sofa for safety, but he loved the climax, in which Electra Woman and Dyna Girl use the latest addition to their Electra-Comm wrist gadgets to repel the Sorcerer’s hypnotic mirrorball and zap him instead.

So yeah, this is a fun little diversion. Seven of these eight stories are cute and fun. Unfortunately, the turkey is the very next one. We’ll take a deep breath before we watch “Glitter Rock.”