Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, September 21, 2006

80's Pulp Television: Tales of the Gold Monkey

Regular readers of this blog are well aware that my reading and viewing tastes peaked when I was around fifteen, which handily explains my obsession with comic books, James Bond, pulp paperbacks, hardboiled crime fiction, sword & sorcery and interplanetary swashbucklers. It also explains why I buy so many DVDs of late Seventies and early Eighties fantasy adventure TV shows, like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica (the fun one).

Well, one of my favorites from that era is, unfortunately, not available as yet in an authorized, licensed DVD release (and is unlikely to be). That show is Tales of the Gold Monkey, starring Stephen Collins, Caitlin O'Heaney and the late, great Roddy McDowall.

Well, I managed to get my hands on DVD-Rs of the entire series a couple years ago, as well as the entire run of Bring 'Em Back Alive, a similar show, which aired the same year as Monkey. I've pulled those discs out again recently, and have been enjoying watching them again.

Both Monkey and Alive aired in the Fall of '82, on ABC and CBS, respectively. And they were each attempts by their producers to trade off the success of the previous year's biggest movie hit, Raiders of the Lost Ark, with late Thirties settings, two-fisted heroes, exotic South Seas locales and plenty of villainous Nazis.

I never saw many episodes of Alive (starring Bruce Boxleitner as a fictional version of real-life big game trapper Frank Buck) when the series originally aired, much preferring the humor and ensemble cast of Monkey. But I've been watching those Alive shows now, and it's great fun. Period pulp adventure with all the trappings of a Columbia or Republic serial, and much better than I remembered.

Monkey holds up well, too. The stories are right out of the old pulps, with lost civilizations, missing link ape men, pirates, and lots of lost treasures just waiting to be found. The chracterizations were solid, and despite a few historical anachronisms, the show was a delightful attempt at high adventure on a TV budget. A Donald Bellasario production, Monkey had great production values for the time, a wonderful cast and a lot of charm. It should have run three or four years, but then, I think that about a lot of my favorite, short-lived shows.


Glen Davis said...

I used to love those shows myself. I only have a recording of the 2 hour movies from my VCR.

John Platt said...

Man, I'd love to see those shows again!