Tag Archives: mickey morton

Barbary Coast 1.2 – Crazy Cats

It’s true that our son hasn’t been all that enthusiastic about this show, but tonight’s installment might have won him over a little. The plot was much more straightforward and easier for him to follow, plus it ended with both explosions and a swordfight. He was also predisposed to like it from the outset because our heroes are tracking down a pair of stolen jade cats, and he “just really likes cats!” I was glad to see that they reintroduced Cash Conover’s superstitions. Unlike our kid, he doesn’t like cats at all.

Lots of familiar-to-me faces in tonight’s cast. Eric Braeden plays the villain, and Len Lesser is a clerk at a sleazy motel. Mickey Morton has a small role as a soldier who’s losing big at Cash’s casino, and he gets to tower menacingly over Doug McClure. Weirdly, I mentioned last time that Bobbi Jordan wasn’t able to continue with this series owing to a prior commitment. Well, Sherry Jackson basically takes over her part as a different red-haired dealer at the casino… but she’s apparently only in this one episode. This is an amusing show, but it kind of needs a semi-regular female character.

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Wonder Woman 1.6 – Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua!

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.

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Bigfoot and Wildboy 2.10 – Return of the Vampire

Bigfoot and Wildboy is a very unusual example of a Krofft show that got a second lease on life. It started as the dramatic, cliffhanging installment of the second season of The Krofft Supershow in the 1977-78 season, with sixteen two-part episodes comprising eight stories. These featured Monika Ramirez as a character called Susie, who assisted Bigfoot and Wildboy as they defended “the great northwest” from a variety of alien, supernatural, and super-scientific threats.

ABC asked the Kroffts for another season of twelve half-hour episodes, even as they lost the overall variety show that was Bigfoot and Wildboy‘s home to NBC. More on that tomorrow. Then, weirdly, ABC put the twelve half-hours on the shelf and didn’t screen them until the tail end of the 1978-79 season, burning them off in the summer instead of promoting them in the fall. I’ve always been curious about this. It feels like petulant retribution for the Kroffts decamping their successful program to another network.

Of course, Bigfoot was never bigger than in the 1970s. Kids today – like ours – have no frame of reference for what a bizarre icon of popular culture Bigfoot was back then. Ours also had no prior experience with the 1970s shorthand for showing a character running really fast by having the character run in slow motion. He’ll be seeing that again in the future, you can bet. Bigfoot made as much sense as the lead character in a 1970s kids’ show as a dune buggy did. It was the seventies, man.

The twelve half-hour episodes of Bigfoot and Wildboy, which saw Yvonne Regalado replace Ramirez as another character, Cindy, hint at what Shazam! and Isis might have been like with supervillain threats. Each week, Bigfoot (Ray Young) and his human pal Wildboy (Joseph Butcher) save the land from space invaders, babbling subterranean magic-users, low-rent Incredible Hulk knockoffs, mummies, and, in this episode, a vampire countess played by pretty Deborah Ryan. (You remember her from KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park; she was the one who figured that rock bands keep track of all the members of the audience, as opposed to, you know, venue security.)

I was a little disappointed that Rhino picked a slightly atypical episode of the show. Most episodes that I’ve seen were filmed on 16mm almost entirely on location, but this one is mostly a studio venture set in a labyrinth of caves. On the other hand, that worked perfectly for our kid, who was scared out of his wits by the vampire and her plans, and the feel of getting lost underground in a “jigsaw puzzle” of tunnels. This was one of the scariest things he’s ever seen, even though it follows the tame rules of children’s TV and doesn’t allow the vampire to bite anybody onscreen, and has her power cut off by the lid of her box, which isn’t referred to as a coffin. She certainly isn’t staked through the heart. That didn’t matter; he was scrunched up in a tight ball with his head under the blanket for about the whole show.

While neither Butcher nor Regalado had very many acting parts, Ray Young stayed pretty busy until his death in 1999, usually playing really big, mean-looking people. I’m afraid the casting director this week sort of worked against him by hiring Mickey Morton – Solomon Grundy in Legends of the Superheroes – as one of the human servants of the vampire. Everybody in these shows should be looking up at Bigfoot, not meeting the actor’s sight line!

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Monster Squad 1.9 – The Wizard

The most notable thing about this episode is that they’re running out of safe and comedic ways to have fights without making NBC’s Saturday morning censors upset, so Dracula and the villainous Wizard, played by Arthur Malet, have a swordfight with invisible swords. I think the actors were having fun.

What else? Weirdly, they set up this character in the previous episode. Ultra Witch was trying to get the Wizard sprung from prison, which is the sort of “big picture” world-building that these kinds of kids’ programs very rarely ever did. But the previous episode isn’t actually referenced at all this week, which makes you wonder why they bothered.

There’s also a Jonathan Livingston Seagull gag, because this was the seventies, as well as a lot of gags about patriotism, because this was 1976, specifically. The enormous Mickey Morton played one of the Wizard’s henchmen. He’d be back on NBC in two weeks as a big monster in Land of the Lost. Our son thought this was “pretty cool” and we’re glad that somebody did.

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Land of the Lost 3.11 – Ancient Guardian

Well, here’s a pleasant surprise. This episode is markedly better than I remembered it. I’d place it in that top tier with “After-Shock,” “Cornered,” and “Timestop.” Weirdly, this is another one of the better episodes of year three that ends with Wesley Eure lip-synching one of his bubblegum songs. You’d think that sort of thing would lower the installment a notch or two, but no, it’s really not bad, and better than the average.

I love that it just dumps more information and half-explained material into the story, including a new area that they’ve never visited. Most unusually, the episode opens with the Marshalls being pursued by some unseen tree-climbing creatures that are throwing things at them. These beasts, whatever they are, are never mentioned again.

The ancient guardian of the title is a statue with a heat ray inside. It has been protecting the valley from an incredibly long-lived hairy beast called Kona for many, many years by keeping the rocks and air in the only passage from a high mountain area super-heated.

It’s clunky, and during one dopey moment where Jack concludes that some algebraic equations on the statue have to do with optics, obnoxiously so. It’s directed with absolutely no grace or style by Joe Scanlan, who has to once again lower the Sleestaks’ threat level by having them flee, awkwardly, in terror from Kona rather than fighting to the death. It’s written by Peter Germano, and 90% of his resume prior to this was westerns and not SF, but somehow it all just about works, and there’s a sense of weirdness and urgency that raises the episode above the low average for the season.

Incidentally, some money was clearly saved this week by having the Tapa costume from “Abominable Snowman” dyed and sent back for a different actor to wear. Last time, Jon Locke, who normally played the bombastic Sleestak Leader, wore the suit, but this time, Locke has to appear in some of the same scenes as the beast, so Mickey Morton plays Kona. Morton, who was a really big guy, would later play Solomon Grundy in Legends of the Superheroes and one of Chewbacca’s relatives in The Star Wars Holiday Special. He’d earlier worked for the Kroffts on two episodes of Far Out Space Nuts, and in a Wonderbug installment that was probably made within a month or so of this. The first commercial break came with the hairy monster casting a shadow on the Marshalls’ temple door, which gave Daniel a solid little fright. He really enjoyed this episode, especially since both Grumpy and Spike put in brief appearances.

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