Last night we finally picked up the DVD set for Tales of the Gold Monkey that came out a few months ago. Overall, it's a pretty fair package; the transfers are decent if a bit soft and weathered, and since it was transferred from the PAL discs that came out in the UK a couple years ago, the episodes run about 4% too fast, making everyone sound a little bit like chipmunks. But it's nothing that interferes much with the sheer enjoyment of having the show I loved as a kid on my shelves.
Set in and around a fictional group of Pacific islands in 1938, Tales chronicled the adventures of ex-Flying Tiger-turned soldier of fortune, Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins), his alcoholic mechanic Corky (the late Jeff Mckay), pretty American agent Sarah (Caitlin O'Heaney) as they sought treasure and fought Nazis and Imperial Japanese in the years leading up to WWII, while hanging out at the Monkey Bar, an island saloon run by expatriate Frenchman Bon Chance Louie (the late, great Roddy McDowell).
The show was rife with anachronisms - for one thing, the Flying Tigers weren't even formed 'til about three years later - and the tone could, on occasion, slide dangerously close to camp, but it was a pretty fair attempt at a period adventure show - especially for the early 80s - and actually improved steadily as it went along.
Still - considering that ABC wanted an action epic like Raiders of the Lost Ark (on a TV budget!) and creator Donald Bellasario wanted a Howard Hawks-ian period character study like Only Angels Have Wings or To Have And Have Not, I think the show usually struck a fair balance of both. Too bad the conflict between creator and network ultimately led to the show's premature cancellation. The cast was very solid, the writing was generally good, and it had a style.
I'll post a full review of the DVD set over on DVD Late Show this week, but if you've never seen the series - or haven't seen it since '82 - you might want to give it a rental from Netflix. It's a fun, pulpish series with some very cool characters.