Land of the Lost 1.1 and 1.2 (take two)

A couple of weeks ago, our son spotted the absolutely terrific first volume of Scarred for Life on the shelf and asked me what it was about. So I breezily said it’s about all the things from the seventies – movies, TV shows, comics, weird games, books – that freaked out kids and left them remembering nightmares. He said “I don’t think anything’s scarred me for life. I don’t remember anything that gave me nightmares.”

I said that Land of the Lost wasn’t in the book, because it was never shown in the UK, but that would be an example. And he said that he didn’t remember it. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t disappoint me and break my heart just a little. We poked and prodded and showed him pictures of the Sleestak, those tall and green lizard men which caused him an awful lot of trouble when he was five, and he shook his head firmly, emphatic that he didn’t remember them at all.

This is what I was getting at when I wrote about rewatching the Doctor Who serial “Carnival of Monsters” the other day. He’s revisited several favorites and enjoyed lots of old shows we’ve watched together again and again, but he’s always said no to trying LOTL again because – at least for a while – he remembered that it scared the absolute tar out of him several times and he’d be just fine forgetting about it. And in time, he did just that. I don’t know how he manages to completely and totally forget the things he doesn’t want to remember, but if I could borrow that talent from him, I’ve got a memory of a bad meal or two that I’d like to expunge.

Refreshed, he found a lot to enjoy in the first two episodes’ dinosaur chases and near misses. He said that overall, these were pretty good and he particularly enjoyed Grumpy getting smacked in the mouth with our heroes’ handy “flyswatter.” And as for the Sleestak, he said “Eeuggh! No wonder I was scared of those things! They’re terrifying!”

He doesn’t want to watch these in order because he wants to see the fire-breathing dimetrodon again next. I was glad to hear it. I said we’ll dust that one off one afternoon next week.

Bigfoot and Wildboy 2.3 – Birth of a Titan

If you recognized the guest monster this week, you’re doing better than me. That’s Carel Struycken, who would later appear in Twin Peaks and the ’90s Addams Family movies, as “The Titan,” one of his very first credited roles. He looks so young that even though he was 29 or 30 when he made this, our son asked “How are a couple of teenagers from middle school supposed to steal plutonium?” So why’s he been painted red and given a clown wig? Well, he gingerly touched a plutonium bar and the room filled with smoke and he looked like that. Every time we reach what must surely be the silliest thing in any of these episodes, they up and prove me wrong.

Our son wasn’t impressed. He liked the other two, but this one left him bored. He could have been building worlds in Minecraft.

That’s the last of the Bigfoot and Wildboy episodes that we’ll watch for the blog. Home-taped copies of the first season can be found on YouTube, since The Krofft Supershow was repeated by a Cox cable conglomerate. Six of the twelve episodes of the second season were released on home video: five on VHS and one on DVD. I never ran across the remaining six when I was tape trading, and they haven’t made their way to YouTube yet. I wonder whether we’ll ever see them.

Bigfoot and Wildboy 2.11 – Outlaw Bigfoot

Regular readers know that we mostly adhere to a no-bootlegs rule here – although we’re going to cheat in about three months – and I’ve already posted about the one and only episode of Bigfoot and Wildboy that’s ever made it to DVD back in 2016. But then I was rearranging the closet and stumbled upon my old VHS copy of three other episodes from the show’s second season. I bought it from the dearly missed Oxford Books on Atlanta’s Pharr Road in the mid-nineties.

Embassy Home Video, under the Children’s Treasures banner, released two volumes of several different Sid & Marty Krofft shows in 1988. Most of these sets contained the first four episodes of various shows, but Bigfoot and Wildboy got a really weird release. Embassy’s two tapes of this show skipped season one entirely – these were the sixteen episodes that co-starred Monica Ramirez and were each about 12 minutes long – and jumped to season two, with Yvonne Regalado. The first tape contained the first two installments, but the second has slightly edited copies of what appears to be episodes 11, 7, and 3, linked together into a 72-minute TV-movie.

(A misfiring synapse suggests to me that there was one other Krofft show that Embassy Video might have presented this way, with three linked-together episodes on the second volume. I may be wrong, but if I ever confirm that, I’ll edit this post.)

If our son, at age five, was a little small for such an outre program as this, at nine, he’s at the prime age. This is a dopey program for kids, and even though we’ve left the tech behind, he had a lot of fun with this. “I’m already tired of the slow motion,” he told me, which might provide a clue as to why he’s revisited several shows and movies we’ve watched together, but has let the eight seasons of Bionic action collect a little dust. Later on, the two villains use a laser to make the boulders that Bigfoot throws at them vanish. No ray on the film, and no explosion, because those cost money, they just edited the film to make the big rock disappear. “Okay, that is a stupid laser,” he snorted.

“Outlaw Bigfoot” concerns two villains played by a pair of omnipresent seventies TV villains, Sorrell Booke and John Milford. Taking advantage of the least competent armored car delivery guards in the world, Milford plants a recording of Wildboy yelling for help underneath the truck, so that Bigfoot will stop the truck, scare the guards off, and rip open the back door. Then the baddies can steal some plutonium once he leaves. Bigfoot himself is not as unbelievable as these dimwit guards. It’s perfect pablum for kids, and amusing silliness for those of us old enough to know better.

The Bugaloos 1.14 – Benita’s Double Trouble

You know, there sure was a lot of cross-dressing in kids’ TV in the early seventies.

The interesting cultural throwback in today’s episode is the title of the Beatles’ second movie being a clue that Peter Platter is in trouble. Fifty years ago, it was a safe bet that just about every one of The Bugaloos‘ young viewers knew perfectly well that film was called Help!. Our kid’s certainly heard a few Beatles songs – we sang “She Loves You” to him all the time as an infant, along with “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and Roxy Music’s “Street Life” – but it doesn’t really appear that Kids These Days even start listening to pop music in elementary school at all.

I think that thanks to the old Al Broadax Beatles cartoon, which was in repeats all the time in the seventies, I knew most of the songs from the Beatles’ first seven LPs when I was his age. Or their first eleven if you counted them in the Capitol Records order. Plus all the Jackson 5ive and Partridge Family and Archies songs we knew in elementary school before we started listening to Styx and Pink Floyd. As you did in 1980.

The Bugaloos 1.13 – The Bugaloos Bugaboo

The Mopheads, who appeared very briefly in the first episode, make a short reappearance here, and Benita gets a new one-off costume. This really drives home what a huge challenge it must have been to write for this show, with no guest stars and five sets. It made me wish that NBC had given this program a little larger of a budget to increase its scope somewhat. This was especially apparent in the episode about the rock festival, which is depicted as about four church pews in Tranquility Forest, but also here, where the only acts to show up for Peter Platter’s talent contest are the Mopheads, Benita, Funky Rat doing standup, and our heroes. The show’s almost over and the only other real musical act we’ve met is Gina Lolawattage. They don’t even have room for her in this one. The kid chuckled his way through it again, which is nice.

The Bugaloos 1.11 and 1.12

In episode 11, Benita tries to start a rock festival to rival the one that Peter Platter is sponsoring, fails, and tries instead to choke out everybody in Tranquility Forest. I didn’t find much to write about with that one, but episode 12 is a lot sillier. It’s the second time that the show reused a set piece from the recently-wrapped Pufnstuf movie. The villains shrink the Bugaloos to use as live musicians in Benita’s broken music box. The show ends with the tables turned, as always, but there are lots of silly gags and puns about “small” along the way.

The Bugaloos 1.10 – Help Wanted – Firefly

Following on from what I was saying last night about Cockney rhyming slang, in this afternoon’s episode of The Bugaloos, Wayne Laryea teaches the audience that Harvey Nickel can mean pickle. It starts with Sparky trying to be more confident and useful, but it turns into a war over the airwaves. Peter Platter tells Benita that if she wants her lousy records to be heard, she should get her own radio station. So she blows him off the air and starts playing her hilariously terrible epic song “Nature Girl.”

The most beautifully unexpected, and, from our son’s modern perspective, utterly baffling gag is that when Benita takes to the air, Funky plays three chimes on a xylophone. I was first reminded of the little chimes that the office assistant played whenever the principal in Grease made an announcement, but of course it’s really a wink at NBC, the network that first aired the series.

The Bugaloos 1.9 – Now You See ’em – Now You Don’t

The invisible episode, in which the Kroffts employ the still-new technology of chromakey to make people vanish, or half vanish. Of course it’s primitive, but it’s done with such flair that the results really are funny. By the end of the episode, the wand has made Funky’s head and torso disappear, before they turn it on Benita to zap away her legs. Our kid was howling; it’s the same sort of comedy that children’s programming has been doing for sixty or seventy years, and although the results certainly rely a lot less on actors standing absolutely still when you do it on a cartoon, if you’re just relaxing and enjoying the lunacy, it works just fine.

Also, this is the episode that introduces Sparky’s song, “Gna Gna Gna Gna Gna.” I told our son that I didn’t know whether he’ll love it or he’ll hate it, but if he lives to be a hundred, he’ll have it stuck in his head for the next ninety-two years. Upstairs, he’s doing a bit of straightening in advance of tomorrow’s big Spring Cleaning project, and I can hear that he’s singing it to himself. It’s a catchy tune. It was the B-side of a Venezuelan release of “If You Become a Bugaloo” in 1970.

The Bugaloos 1.8 – Benita, the Beautiful?

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the astonishing Bugaloos Buggy? It was designed by George Barris and built in 1969 and I think it’s the finest of all of his “kustoms.” I’d give my left pinky to own this car, and I wouldn’t even say that about the Batmobile or even the mighty Drag-u-la.

There were a couple of great, great moments in this story that our son howled through. There’s a magical bit where Benita fixes her eyes on the camera and tells all the kids in the audience to scram, because she doesn’t want us blabbing her plans to those bratty Bugaloos. And there’s a “new” puppet character onscreen! Magico the Magnificent is a redressed version of the Judy Frog costume from H.R. Pufnstuf, and the voice is Walker Edmiston doing the Ed Wynn voice that he’d done for that show’s Dr. Blinky.

The Bugaloos 1.7 – Lady, You Don’t Look Eighty

Until this episode’s actual plot started, our son was enjoying this a lot, but he grew a little bored and restless in the end. Just to be silly, the boy Bugaloos convince the gullible Sparky that October 12 is Joy’s 80th birthday, not her 16th, and that they’re all pushing 70 themselves. This goes on for a while, very amusingly, until Benita overhears them and becomes convinced that they’re hogging the Fountain of Youth. Actually, I thought Benita chugging about thirty gallons of lily pad water over the course of an afternoon was a scream as well, especially since they added the sound effect of sloshing water as she tried to move around, bloated, after that.

Lots of the gags in old kids’ shows like this are rooted in the pop culture of the time for the benefit of any parents stuck watching this silliness, so there are usually little throwaway references or jokes from Laugh-In or Hee Haw, like we saw last time. But there’s a quickie reference to a place called Sun City that I never would have caught before last month. By chance, writer Mark Evanier fielded a question about a pair of TV specials called Sun City Scandals, clarifying the next day that the name was used for some well-known retirement communities like a big one in Arizona, and it didn’t have anything to do with that big casino in South Africa. It’s one of those things that grownups in 1970 might have known, just like the South Africa Sun City is one of those things that teenagers in 1985 might have known.