Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) – Legends Are Forever & Escape From Death Island

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Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) flies into danger in this week’s installment of the Bellisario gem, Tales of the Gold Monkey.

The first episode, Legends Are Forever, aired 20 October, 1982 and saw the introduction of an old flying buddy of Jake’s, the legend seeking Gandy Dancer (William Lucking). It was penned by Bellisario, Reuben Leder and Milt Rosen, based on his story.

Jake gets ‘persuaded’ to help out a relocated tribe of Watusi who are suffering from malaria. His old buddy Gandy, however, may have ulterior motives, as it seems this tribe may hold the treasures of King Solomon’s Mines.

Gandy bears an uncanny resemblance to a character that shows up in Magnum in Season 3, apparently Bellisario liked the character idea and was hoping to create a backdoor pilot for him…

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It also features the song Yellow Rose of Texas, which recurs in another Bellisario series, my favorite, the premier episode of Quantum Leap.

Jake, Jack, Gandy, Corky (Jeff Mackay) and Louie (Roddy McDowall) all fly to the island inhabited by the Watusi, as well as more hostile tribe they are at war with. Corky and Jack stay with the Goose, but the rest make the ascent to the village, but not all of them will be coming back down.

This episode perfectly married the 1930s sense of high adventure and melodrama with a real sense of loss.

And I often find myself wondering how amazing this series would have been if it had been allowed to continue.

Escape From Death Island, which aired 27 October, 1982, was written by Stephen Katz and Peter Elliot, shows that despite the series trappings, it’s not afraid to deal with heavier material.

Jake, Jack and Corky are flying to a remote island that is under French rule. They’re flying a distraught gentleman, Arthur Fromby (Gerry Gibson) to the location because the island now serves as a prison, and his son, Eric (the always sadly underused Xander Berkley).

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Once there, they discover that Eric is in a deteriorating condition due to being locked in a low box, and left out in the sun all day. Arthur tries to help him escape, with Jake and Corky helping, but they are all caught, and made prisoners.

Working all day in the blistering sun, everything seems to be set up to sap anyone of their will to live, let alone their desire to escape, but Jake and company aren’t giving up hope yet. They’re going to escape, and get Eric out if they can.

Of course, the heroes escape, but none of them are unscathed, and even Louie, is unable to help them despite his position as the French Magistrate in the islands.

The pair of episodes show that the series could tell a variety of genre of stories within its world, and with such a likeable cast, it’s desperately sad that ABC cancelled it at the end of the season. Not due to ratings, but the show, at the time, was just too expensive for them.

… you know, maybe it’s time to relaunch it… There could be something there…

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Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) – Shanghaied & Black Pearl

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Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) and his one-eyed dog Jake are in for it this time!

Roddy McDowall joins the cast this episode, Shanghaied, as Bon Chance Louie. It originally aired 29 September, 1982. It was written by Bellisario, and throws our heroes right into the fire.

Corky (Jeff MacKay) is kidnapped by a George R.R. Martin look-alike calling himself Ahab (Guy Stockwell) to repair his slaver ship (he is actually harboring a secret that ties him to Koji), the Pandora. Jake, Sarah (Caitlin O’Heaney) and Jack take off after him, despite the fact that Jake is suffering from malaria.

Running down a lead that Ahab may have worked for Princess Koji (Marta DuBois), they take Cutter’s Goose into the Japanese Mandate to get answers. Then Koji with Todo (John Fujioka) and a number of samurai in tow, they head out to save Corky.

Meanwhile, Ahab keeps Corky in check by threatening the Mud People he has captured for selling, though Corky tries to nurse a couple of them to strength so he can use them as help but also hopefully facilitate an escape.

Allying themselves with the Mud People, Jake and company have to come up with a plan to save Corky.

This is good rip-snorting fun, wonderfully embracing the feel of the 1930s serials and the melodramas of that time.

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Black Pearl, penned by Bellisario, Dennis Capps, George Geiger, Paul Savage and Bob Foster aired October 13, 1982.

Flying an American named Kimble (Cliff Potts), who we learn is a double agent, to Bora Gora, Jake and Corky rescue a dying slave who is carrying radioactive material, stolen from a top-secret Nazi installation where they are working on a new kind of bomb.

Taking a risk, and making sure that Sarah and Corky will follow him, Jake poses as Kimble (after Sarah Mickey Finns him), and meets with the Germans. But as time runs out to the weapon’s test, Jake’s true identity is learned, and Corky and Sarah may not find him in time.

While not as all out as the previous episode, this one continues to make the world of the Gold Monkey fun, and full of melodrama, and gives a familiar Bellisario name to the wheel-chair bound waiter of Louis’ bar… Gushie (Les Jankey).

There is some nice wordplay between Jake and Sarah, when Jake learns that Kimble is in Sarah’s room, but she’s trying to keep it a secret, as they continue to dance around their feelings for one another.

All of the characters are developing nicely, and it’s fun to see the undercover Nazi agent, Reverend Tenboom (John Calvin) dealing with the idea of betraying his country or helping Jake.

Corky’s drinking will continue to cause problems for him throughout the series, and while sometimes it’s used as a joke, the undertone of it treats it as a real problem, and I like how Sarah, Jake and Jack all worry about his problem.

More trouble awaits our heroes next week as the Cutter’s Goose flies into more adventure!!!

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Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) – Pilot

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The next Bellisario series that came along after Battlestar Galactica that caught my attention (despite the fact that Magnum, P.I. started first, I came to it a little later) was this 1930s high adventure series starring Stephen Collins as ex-Flying Tiger Jake Cutter in his Grumman Goose, and his one-eyed dog Jack.

Bellisario wrote the two-hour pilot that premiered the series on 22 September, 1982, I remember it fondly, and even now, I often catch myself whistling and humming the fantastic theme music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.

Fairly quickly, we’re introduced to something that will be a hallmark of a Bellisario series, the inner monologue directed through the fourth wall to the audience, as Jake gives us background, or asides to the viewers.

It’s 1938, World War II is on the horizon, and Jake Cutter is living and working in remote islands of the South Pacific, ferrying cargo and passengers for any who can afford him.

In the pilot, we see a pair of German soldiers, one of whom is William Forsythe,  on an island infested with giant monkeys, searching for a legendary gold monkey, that isn’t actually gold, but of an alloy that is resistant to extreme heat, as its rumored to have survived volcanic explosions.

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The pair are killed by the monkeys in a rather brutal sequence for 1980s television.

We join Jake and Jack in the middle of a card game, where Jake loses Jack’s opal eye… And Jack holds a grudge.

They ferry Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney) to a remote outpost where we learn Sarah is actually working for the government trying to stop the threat of the oncoming war, and that a German officer is posing as Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin).

Everyone on the island converges on the port, and the bar there, run by Bon Chance Louie (Ron Moody – replaced by Roddy McDowall), who is lively and has his finger in every kind of pie imaginable, but still runs a reputable place.

Tenboom allies with local female warlord, Princess Kogi (Marta DuBois) and her right hand man Todo (John Fujioka) as they take over the German’s mission, aided by Monocle (John Hillerman).

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Sarah is eager to thwart the German war effort any way she can, so convinces Jake, his boozy, and forgetful mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay!) and Jack to help her.

Everyone is racing to the island, and there’s a final confrontation between Monocle and Jake, and a daredevil escape…

The series, right from the off, is a lot of fun, combining the wondrous joy of high adventure and melodrama with humor, romance and espionage.

The stories are fun, the cast is almost perfect, for me, it all comes together when Roddy joins in the next episode, and the sparks between Sarah and Jake are great to watch… not to mention wondering if Jack will ever get his eye back…

This is gonna be a fun trip checking out this treasured series that everyone thought was going to run for a few years, but its cost exceeded its ratings, and now, its been lost except to the fans who love it.

Check it out!

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Toronto After Dark – Bounty Killer (2013) – Henry Saine

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Following in the footsteps of the beautifully American gothic We Are What We Are, the opening night gala presentation for the 8th annual Toronto After Dark Film festival would be difficult for any film.

So the programmers went in a completely different direction for the second feature of the night. Using the Kickstarter campaign comic as its basis, Bounty Killer embraces and revels in its absurdity and B-movie dialogue, filled with action sequences and sex appeal it plays like a post-apocalyptic western with tricked out vehicles instead of horses.

In the not so distant future, the world has fallen apart, the corporations declared war on themselves and the governments fell. Now, a select breed, are hunting down the suits that control the world’s wealth, and exploited the common man, they are the bounty killers.

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Front and center is Drifter (Matthew Marsden), who has just taken on a gun caddy (you read that right) in the form of a goofy sidekick named Jack (Barak Hardley), he’s also the only character who actually sees everything that is going on, story and emotion wise. I had a hard time getting into Marsden’s performance, because he seemed to be in a different movie from Hardley and couldn’t find the right tone for his character.

That’s ok though, because the lovely Christian Pitre, who plays the mini-dress, boot wearing, knife-throwing, gun-toting, star of the bounty world, Mary Death, makes for a wonderful distraction. The trio are thrown together, Mary and Drifter have a bit of history, when a bounty is put out on him and a dark secret from his past is revealed.

Deciding to appeal the decision before the Council of Nine, they travel across the Badlands, face gypsies,  and take on a sinister corporation run by another dark secret of Drifter’s.

The gore is explicit, the humor runs the gambit from clever throw aways to visual gags, to cheese.

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Bounty Killer has the feel of an 80s B-movie sci-fi flick, even so, I couldn’t quite find my way into it as much as I’d like. Once the bodies started dropping, or there was a particularly gory kill, the audience definitely responded, and Mary’s assault on the corporation Second Sun got a great response.

For a low budget film, it looks spectacular, there are gorgeous locations which give the film fantastic production value, there are some recognizable names in the cast, Gary Busey, Beverly D’Angelo and Kristanna Loken, and even the cg-explosions or environments tend to work inside the visual look of the film.

Pitre is the center of the film, and she walks through it, assault rifle in hand, looking fantastic, and honestly, I’d prefer a whole movie following her character.

So it looks like Toronto After Dark got off to a great start last night, and as always Adam Lopez and his team have brewed together a fantastic concoction of horror, action, sci-fi and cult to entertain us.

I am quite looking forward to the Bug Night double feature tonight.

What are you seeing?

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Tales of the Gold Monkey

1982.

The year after Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, a couple of television series tried to cash in on the action period piece serial vibe, there was Bring Em Back Alive with Bruce Boxleitner, and then there was Donald Bellisario who has gave me two of my favorite television shows Quantum Leap and Magnum P.I. and he created a little show that sadly lasted only one season… Tales of the Gold Monkey.

Filmed in the studio and on location in Hawaii, the series is set in the South Pacific in 1938, and follows the adventures of roguish pilot, Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) his one-eyed dog Jack (who can hold a grudge like you wouldn’t believe). Using the small fictional island of Boragora as their launching point, and with a fun cast of supporting characters operating out of The Monkey Bar, Jake finds adventure, romance, mystery and excitement as an America ex-pat flying his worn but well-loved Grumman Goose.

He puts himself out for hire, flying cargo, people and in the double episode that composed the pilot movie, he and an American agent posing as a singer, Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney) get embroiled in a Nazi plot to recover a 100 foot tall gold monkey statue with mystical powers.

Aiding the Nazis in their quest is a Gestapo officer, only known as The Monocle (played by Higgins himself, John Hillerman) a Nazi masquerading as a preacher, Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin) and Princess Koji (Marta DuBois) and her army of samurai.

On Jake’s side is his forgetful, but loyal mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay – who had a recurring role as Mac on Magnum), and the proprietor of the Monkey Bar, Bon Chance Louie (played by Ron Moody in the pilot, but then replaced by the awesome Roddy McDowall for the remainder of the series).

The race is on to recover the statue which, as legend has it, is on a volcanic island, guarded by man-sized monkeys (the effects of which are fun, very man in a suit, and yet there’s something kinda creepy about them).

Along the way Jake loses Jack’s eye (again), gets stuck between a runaway wife and her angry husband, Corky’s bar bill, and the looming threat of war.

It’s wonderful, escapist fun, and it brought back so many memories of my childhood…

I remembered loving this show as a kid, and even before I picked up the complete series on DVD, wonderfully released by SHOUT! Factory, I was whistling the theme music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter – it’s amazing the things that stay with you.

The series is fun, full of humor, cliffhangers, romance, and a poor dog who keeps losing his glass eye, and often seems smarter than his owner, and inherently knows who the bad guy is, even if Jake doesn’t.

Also, very characteristic of Bellisario shows… Jake has a fun little inner monologue much like Sam’s from leap and Thomas’ from Magnum. It’s very fun, and embraces its heritage, but there’s always the hint of something a little more serious under all the characters and the stories.

I’ve always loved the Grumman goose as a plane, and I think this is probably where that love came from, I remember sitting at the desk I had in my bedroom, pretending to reach over my head to throttle up the engines as I looked out the windows of my bedroom at the blue sky beyond, humming a mix of the Gold Monkey theme and the Raiders theme, or running around through the forest, and clambering over rocks, imagining I was an adventurer in the vein of Indiana Jones and Jake Cutter – they both had cool hats, leather jackets, seemed to be living in an amazing time when there was adventure everywhere and amazing mysteries and treasures.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who loved it, as it has often been cited by the creators of Disney’s Talespin as the show’s inspiration.

It’s sad that the show only lasted the one season, and I think something like this could be reworked a little (still keeping the time period and the general story idea) and find a lot of success today.

Did you ever see it?  I am gonna have a great time rewatching these adventures!

An American Werewolf In London (1981)

I love this movie! It’s one of my all time favorite horror films, and I was so happy to revisit it on the 101 Horror Movies list.

There’s nothing I don’t love about it, the source music – all the songs have the word moon in the title; Jenny Agutter – so amazingly hot in this movie, as well as funny, endearing and the emotional heart of the film; a story that balances horror and comedy incredibly well, and of course Rick Baker’s makeup effects – which one an Academy Award. (in fact before this film that category didn’t exist!).

The story is simplicity itself, updating the classic tale of the likeable everyman, in this case David Kessler (David Naughton) and his friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking across England, and make the mistake of straying from the road and onto the moors, where they are attacked by a werewolf.

Jack is savaged and killed, but David is only bitten, waking three weeks later in a London hospital where he begins suffering from some disturbing and frightening dreams, and falls in love with his nurse, Alex Price (Agutter).

He is visited in hospital by Jack, Dunne is outfitted in an outstanding makeup job by Baker, who warns him that he will turn into a werewolf on the next full moon.

David scoffs, until…

John Landis has crafted a wondeful horror film, one that perfectly balances the scares with the jokes, and even today, the film still works perfectly, never failing to entertain.

There are so many things I love about this film, and I’ve now seen it countless times…

I remember in my early teen years, leafing through starlogs, and reading about Rick Baker, and seeing pics of the Nazi-Monster masks for sale, and of course, pics of a monster version of David in his hospital bed in the middle of a forest, and those always bothered me more than his transformation into a wolf, or even the giant, beast that prowls the London streets. Even now, the imagery can be frightening and jarring.

I love throwing this film on, and listening to the werewolf stalk around my loving room, via my speakers, as it circles David and Jack on the moors. I love the Slaughtered Lamb. I love the two cops. I love the scene in the porno theater, as David leans over and whispers, “Good movie.”

And the effects, the effects, the effects.

David’s transformation, taking place on camera, is painful and violent, his and Alex’s fate, sad and heartbreaking.

I can’t rave enough about this film, and it will always be amongst my all time favorite horror films, and I love coming across people who haven’t seen it, because then I can whole-heartedly recommend it, and know that someone else is discovering this awesom film.

What did you think of it?

Titanic 3D

 So Paramount and associated companies laid out quite the event the other night for Valentine’s Day by giving a select few audiences a sneak peek at the re-release of Titanic in April, newly upgraded to 3D.

Now before you heave that sigh, and say 3D, really?? Titanic??

The one thing one needs to remember about the film, besides how incredibly hot Kate Winslet is, is that it was written and directed by James Cameron. Now no matter what one thinks of Avatar (wasn’t a fan) technically it was a great achievement, showing that 3D didn’t have to be gimmicky with things lunging out of the screen at you. It can be used to enhance the actual film-going experience, to add visual depths to the film.

But I’m starting to get ahead of myself.

On arriving we were directed to the upper floor of the AMC24 at Yonge and Dundas, where we were greeted by a plethora of folk milling about and enjoying everything that had been arranged for us.

First off there was a photo-op against a Titanic backdrop with a couple in fancy dress referring to themselves as Jack and Rose. But the picture turned out great, and we’ll post it when we find it!

We also realized we were in first class, not only because we got free popcorn and drinks, but there was a quartet playing away in the corner, making sure we had music to down to.

While we wandered about, we noticed that there were also sketch artists on hand to do portraits while you wait, happily no one decided to strip down and re-enact Kate’s performance in that scene, but both artists did wonderful work.

Finally when we wandered into the theater, we were issued first class boarding passes, special Titanic 3D glasses (I do love cool swag) and then settled into our seats.

I knew going in that the conversion of the film would have to be amazing, otherwise Cameron would never have okayed the re-issue.

But I was simply stunned by how amazing it looks!

You wouldn’t believe looking at it that this film was 15 years old, and hadn’t been shot in 3D the first time around. As the underwater submersibles emerge and descend into the darkness surrounding the ship, the layers worked into the film become readily apparent, there is detritus floating all about, but all at different depths in the picture.

It’s a gorgeous transfer, and it makes the experience truly unique. There’s an added emotional impact when she sinks. The masses of people in the water seem absolutely incredible, and then in turn dwarfed by the sinking hulk towering over them. Another sequence where you could truly see the layers of a 3D film establishing depth, is Rose’s arrival in America while it’s raining, the rain has layer upon layer, not a single sheet… I can only imagine the work that went into converting this film to 3D… was it necessary? No. Does it actually enhance the theater going experience… Yes.

Of course it’s a simple story, much in the same vein of Avatar, a simple tale set against an intricate technical achievement. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet still shine in the roles that helped launch them to super-stardom, and despite it’s simplicity, it’s still engaging as you wait to watch the disaster that you know is inevitable (unless you’re completely unaware of historic events – which apparently some of the people in our audience were, they remarked a number of times, “It’s sinking! The boat is sinking!”).

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the music, James Horner’s score is as always fantastic, he uses a lot of percussion and horns, and of course a stirring use of piano motifs as he incorporates an instrumental version of THAT song.

It’s sad that My Heart Will Go On has descended into the realm of cliché because it really is a gorgeous song,course, it would also have been better if they hadn’t used Celine either. But that’s neither here nor there.

I enjoyed going back to Titanic, but that song at the end now just jars you right out of the experience. It’s too bad that it hasn’t weathered the years as well as the film.

Titanic returns to theaters this April, and if you aren’t opposed to the three hour run time, though it certainly didn’t feel like three hours, course, that is three hours in Kate’s company… Indulge your inner romantic, take a friend, your sweetie, or your gal pals…It makes for a nice evening out.

It was for us, and we also got to walk away with some cool swag, as we were all presented with gift bags on our way out.