Category Archives: Forgotten Television

THE FLYING DOCTORS (1986-1992): FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

Flying DoctorsTHE FLYING DOCTORS – Not to be confused with The Teleporting Accountants or The Swimming Chiropractors this was a terrific Australian television series about the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The show was based on the real-life Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, a brilliantly-conceived non-profit outfit that provided medical care – both emergency AND maintenance – for people who had no other access to doctors due to their locations in remote, lightly-populated portions of the Outback.  

With its winning blend of doctors, nurses, life-or-death drama and beautiful Australian scenery this series should have been a NATURAL for crossover success here in the United States. Unfortunately that old t.v. executive excuse always applied to this and other Aussie programming: the belief that the accents would be too heavy for stateside audiences to make out the dialogue. Continue reading

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ASK BALLADEER: DARK SHADOWS (1966-1971)

Dark ShadowsQUESTION: Recently you recapped the saga of Laura Collins the Phoenix from the old Gothic Soap Opera Dark Shadows (1966-1971). Do you plan to review any of the other story arcs from the show?

ANSWER: At this time I don’t but I would emphasize that the original series is always fun to watch for people who like horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Like early Doctor Who episodes, part of the charm comes from the unrefined, seat-of-their-pants, low budget nature of the 5 day a week Dark Shadows.

Even people who aren’t fans of the show seem aware that it featured a vampire, a witch, ghosts and a werewolf. There were also warlocks, a Dorian Gray figure, mad scientists, zombies, an artist whose works came to life because his canvases were made from enchanted wood, plus lots and lots of time travel.

In addition to the aforementioned Phoenix and other tales, Dark Shadows featured two other fun storylines which I’ll summarize briefly:

masc graveyard newThe Leviathan Cult: The supernatural Collins family clashed with what was basically an imitation Cult of Cthulhu. Dan Curtis (creator and guiding creative force behind Dark Shadows) made the undersea entity worshiped by the cult be Leviathan from the Bible. (“Try suing us NOW, Arkham House!” I’m kidding.) Other serpentine figures from world mythology were tied to the Leviathans, too, like Nagas. 

You know the drill: the Leviathans ruled the world long before the dawn of humanity and wanted to rule it again with the help of their human cultists. The thwarted Leviathans punished Barnabas Collins by returning the curse of the vampire upon him. (In a disastrous move that was up there with New Coke, the show’s creative team had actually had Barnabas cured for a while, but babes just didn’t go for the less-than-smoldering Jonathan Frid without his fangs.)

Even the witch Angelique had given up her evil pursuit of Barnabas for a time and had settled down with wealthy publisher Sky Rumson (Geoffrey Scott of First and Ten). When it turned out Sky was really one of the Leviathan worshipers, the heart-broken Angelique was once again free to stalk the re-fanged Barnabas. 

The second of the two storylines came by way of Mary Shelley – Continue reading

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DARK (SHADOWS) PHOENIX

masc graveyard newThe latest attempt at cramming the X-Men’s lengthy, years-long Dark Phoenix storyline into one movie is now in theaters. With everybody reviewing that cram course Balladeer’s Blog will instead take a look at the female Phoenix character from the original 1966-1971 run of Dark Shadows.

Amazingly enough, I often encounter people who claim to have never heard of the Gothic Horror soap opera Dark Shadows. Not the original 5-day a week cult series (still available in reruns), not the movies, not the attempted reboot in 1991 and not the ongoing series of audio plays set in the 1970s onward. If anything they’ve heard of the incredibly lame Tim Burton comedy version of the show starring Johnny Depp.

Laura the Phoenix paintingDecades before Bella Swan was torn between a supposedly hunky vampire and a supposedly hunky werewolf in the Twilight novels, female readers of Tiger Beat magazine were torn between Dark Shadows‘ horror heart-throbs. Jonathan Frid’s vampire Barnabas Collins was one and David Selby’s werewolf/ warlock/ Dorian Gray-figure Quentin Collins was the other.  

Diana MillayIn terms of female horror heart-throbs from Dark Shadows, Lara Parker’s evil witch Angelique is the best known, but obviously this post will address the unusual supernatural menace the Phoenix, aka Laura Collins, played by Diana Millay (right) on the original Dark Shadows.      

In Dark Shadows lore Laura Collins was sold to a Phoenix Cult in Egypt in the 1700s by her evil lover, for whom she had abandoned her husband back in America. The cult used Laura as an offering/ guinea pig, transforming her into a supernatural figure called the Phoenix. Continue reading

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THE MANIPULATORS (1970): FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

marcstrange 0001THE MANIPULATORS (1970) – The words “gritty” and “streetwise” seem never to be used when describing vintage television programs from Canada but they certainly apply to The Manipulators (Originally the title was to be The Clients).

If you enjoyed underrated Canadian shows like The Beachcombers or Police Surgeon you might like The Manipulators, an hour-long dramatic series about parole officers and the men and women they were responsible for.

Compared to 21st Century television, which seems infested with law enforcement procedural shows 24/7, this program would have seemed much less derivative for early 70s viewers.    Continue reading

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THE NEW MONKEES (1987): PETER TORK IS DEAD

Peter TorkMonkees member Peter Tork is dead. Not since the infamous Day The Music Died has the rock world suffered such a loss. I’m kidding! Still, though, here’s a Balladeer’s Blog goodbye to the one and only member of the Monkees whose name always puts me in mind of the measure of a force’s tendency to produce torsion equal to the product of the force vector and the radius vector from the axis of rotation to the point of application of the force.

I think you’ll agree.

Anyway, I considered reviewing the Monkees’ movie Head or maybe even the motorcycle flick Torque but instead I’m going with this look at the NEW Monkees show from 1987. 

New MonkeesThe New Monkees are remembered as the most pointless re-launch of a band in history AND as one of the worst television shows in history. I’ve never listened to their one and only album so I can’t say if they make it a Hat Trick with one of the worst albums in history, too. 

The premise sounds like a comedy sketch from the glory days of SCTV but unfortunately this thoroughly bizarre attempt to recapture the flukish charm of the original Monkees was 100% real.

Let’s look at the debut episode of The New Monkees‘ 13 episode run in 1987. Everything you’ve heard is true: We get Rocky Horror Picture Show lips voiced by a black lady, a weird sci-fi mansion home for the title foursome, a built-in diner and their annoying butler, Manford.

The laugh track does NOT go off during the few things that seemed funny, like a couple of apparently ad-libbed jokes by the New Monkees during their screen test footage, but instead goes off during lame, obvious jokes that not even small children would laugh at. Continue reading

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Filed under Bad and weird movies, Forgotten Television, humor

TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT ANNIVERSARY AND A CALL TO FANS

1a randy and richard

Randy (right) and Richard way down on Level 31 hosting The Texas 27 Film Vault

Today is the 34th Anniversary of the very first episode of The Texas 27 Film Vault from Saturday, February 9th of 1985. My psychotically obsessive research on the show has yielded a lot of info over the years but I have now worn out every source I could find.

Even the show’s co-host and co-creator Randy Clower has been bled dry of information on the show by me. Over the years other fans of the show – and a special shout-out goes to “the Cap’n” – have provided info here and there that often led me to concrete source material.

Anyway, here are some movies that we have general, varied reason to believe were shown on The Texas 27 Film Vault but I need original broadcast dates, info on comedy sketches or movie ticket give-aways, etc. Episodes aired for 2 and a half hours Saturday nights from 10:30pm to 1:00am in Texas and Oklahoma.

Fiend without a faceFIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958)

The Film: “Thought Monsters” leech into atomic energy, then extract human brains and spinal columns to use as their corporeal forms. This is a Bad Movie Classic remembered largely because of the scenes where the flying brains, sporting antennae, attack their prey, with their spinal cord “tails” streaming along behind them.     

Serial Episode: No idea, for now.

Reason for believing it was shown: Some of the Flying Brain Creatures are on the 1987 Texas 27 Film Vault poster.

Earth vs the Flying saucersEARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956)

The Film: The title says it all for this fun but weird black & white time-waster.

Serial Episode: Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe.

Reason for believing it was shown: Tex (Ken Miller) announced it was to be the movie “Next time on The Texas 27 Film Vault” on one of the surviving episodes that I have.  Continue reading

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THE PRISONER: EPISODE LINKS

Prisoner 1Recently Balladeer’s Blog wrapped up an in-depth examination of all 17 episodes of Patrick McGoohan’s pioneering 1967 series The Prisoner. Before Lost, before The X-Files, before Twin Peaks, there was this innovative British series which was equal parts science fiction and existentialism.

PROLOGUE: My look at the themes and issues addressed in the series. CLICK HERE

ARRIVAL – After abruptly resigning from British Intelligence a man is abducted to a futuristic prison city called the Village. This inescapable dystopia is an Orwellian nightmare with bits of Kafka, Ionesco, Pirandello and more than a little bit of Alphaville tossed in for good measure. CLICK HERE 

DANCE OF THE DEAD – The Prisoner becomes more acquainted with the oppressive nature of the Village, including the seemingly mad Head Games to which the Villagekeepers subject the Villagers, their human guinea pigs. CLICK HERE    

THE CHIMES OF BIG BEN – After Number Six meets a female prisoner who knows where the Village is located he puts into motion an elaborate plan for escape. The Village’s Art Festival will serve as cover. NOTE: INCLUDES MY TAKE ON THE ALTERNATE VERSION OF THE CHIMES OF BIG BEN. CLICK HERE

CHECKMATE – A degrading game of chess using human beings as the pieces leads to the Prisoner meeting an Aristocrat fallen from power and now held captive in the Village. The pair gather co-conspirators around them in hopes of a mass escape. CLICK HERE Continue reading

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