From Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category, it’s a look at the 1969 episodes of N.E.T. Playhouse. For the opening look at the 1966 episodes click HERE.
THE TIN WHISTLE (January 10th) – Barbara Bosson starred in this 80-minute adaptation of Richard S. Burdick’s play about 12-year-old Martin Palmer, who channels his newly discovered powers of witchcraft through his tin whistle. Martin targets two teachers who have tried to discipline him. A 10-minute short film, Eugene Atget, which looks at the man’s Belle Epoque photos, padded the runtime to 90 minutes.
THE NATIONAL THEATER OF THE DEAF (January 17th) – The first part of this hour-long production featured members of the National Theater of the Deaf reciting, miming and signing poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Blake, Yang Ti, Robert T. Panara and others. The second part saw the theater members performing an adaptation of Puccini’s comedy Gianni Schicchi. The production used instruments specially designed by French sculptor Francois Baschet, which produce vibrations discernible to the deaf.
SILENT SONG (January 24th) – Filmed version of Hugh Leonard and Frank O’Connor’s play with only partial dialogue and the rest in mime. In a trappist monastery, the monks honor their vows of silence but indulge in vices like drinking and betting on horse races. The 75-minute effort starred Tony Selby, Milo O’Shea and Jack MacGowran. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s year by year look at the forgotten N.E.T. Playhouse continues with the program’s 1968 offerings. For the opening look at the 1966 episodes click HERE.
AUTO STOP (January 5th) – Henry (David Hemmings) is told by Federika, the older woman he is pursuing, that he needs to gain more experience in the world before she’ll entertain the thought of a romance with him. Henry takes her seriously and roams around Europe, loving and leaving women his own age, encountering a Neo-Nazi and attending a La Dolce Vita party in Rome. N.E.T. Playhouse paired this 75-minute film with the 8-minute cartoon short Tamer of Wild Horses from Yugoslavia’s Zagred Animation.
HOME (January 19th) – A 90-minute musical about the threat of overpopulation set among a honeycomb of rooms in which citizens of the future must spend their lives due to the dictates of the government. They live in these small chambers, own nothing and are forbidden to travel. Written by Megan Terry, noted for her 1966 anti-war musical Viet Rock. Edward Winter, Joel Fabiani, Dennis Patrick, Roger Davis, Irene Dailey, Louise Latham and others starred.
A PASSAGE TO INDIA (January 26th) – Long before the theatrical film came this teleplay that was first broadcast on the BBC’s Play of the Month in November, 1965. The cast of this 90-minute adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel included Sybil Thorndike, Virginia McKenna, Cyril Cusack and Zia Mohyeddin. Drama involving life and race relations in 1920s India under the Raj. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s look at this example of Forgotten Television continues with N.E.T. Playhouse‘s episodes from 1967. For the opening look at the 1966 episodes click HERE.
THE AMOROUS FLEA (January 6th) – Majestic Productions put together this operatic comedy adaptation of Moliere’s play School for Wives. A young woman raised in virtual isolation is competed over by her much older patron and the son of that patron’s best friend. Lew Parker starred in this 90-minute presentation, repeating his stage role as the older suitor Arnolphe.
COMEDY OF ERRORS (January 13th) – This was first aired on British television’s show Festival in 1964. It’s a production of Shakespeare’s comedy, which was itself based on Plautus’ play Menaechmi. Diana Rigg, Donald Sinden, Ian Richardson and others starred. Though many reference sites claim this ran just an hour the actual U.K. site says it’s 90 minutes, having first aired from 9:25PM to 10:55PM.
LA MAMA PLAYWRIGHTS aka THREE FROM LA MAMA (January 20th) – In this 1 hour & 45 minute episode, New York’s experimental La Mama Theater Club presented three short plays: Pavane by Jean-Claude van Italie, in which social customs are lampooned … Sam Shepard’s Fourteen Hundred Thousand about generation gaps and incompatible visions of “community” … and The Recluse by Paul Foster, about two older women who live together in mutual hostility. The 1st section was performed in a studio, the latter 2 were shot at New York City locations. James Coco and others starred. Continue reading
N.E.T. PLAYHOUSE (1966-1972) – This anthology series from National Educational Television presented dramas, comedies, fantasies and musicals. Many were produced by N.E.T. themselves, others were produced overseas and a very few were movies theatrically released before being shown on N.E.T. Playhouse.
Below is a representative example of the program’s offerings, which could run from one hour to three and a half hours. An incredible range of productions were broadcast during the six-year run of this excellent program. I will examine N.E.T. Playhouse one year at a time.
TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL (October 7th) – Martin Sheen starred as the downtrodden ex-boxer Kilroy in this 90-minute episode adapted from the play by Tennessee Williams. Janet Margolin, Albert Dekker and Lotte Lenya also starred.
THE JOURNEY OF THE FIFTH HORSE (October 14th) – This 2 1/2 hour production was based on the play by Ronald Ribman which was itself based on Ivan Turgenev’s novel The Diary of a Superfluous Man. Dustin Hoffman starred as Zoditch, with a supporting cast which included Michael Tolan, Charlotte Rae, Susan Anspach and Susan Lipton.
THE STAR WAGON (October 21st) – Another 2 1/2 hour production, this one based on Maxwell Anderson’s play about an inventor who devises a time machine then goes to the past to try to change the course of his life. Once again Dustin Hoffman starred, playing Hanus Wicks. In support were Eileen Brennan, Orson Bean, Richard Castellano and others.
L’AVVENTURA (October 28th) – This was a broadcast of the 1961 film from Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Monica Vitti. It occupied a 3 1/2 hour time slot. Continue reading
SPACE COMMAND (1953-1954) – Long, long before the recent television series of this name came Canada’s Space Command. James “Scotty” Doohan was Phil Mitchell, Robert Barclay played Frank Anderson, the 20-something young man who was the ostensible star of the show, Harry Geldard portrayed Captain Steve Cassell and Austin Willis was Dr. Fleming.
William Shatner made a guest appearance on one episode, so he worked with James Doohan before Star Trek, just like he did with Leonard Nimoy. Special effects on Space Command were as cheap and unconvincing as they were on any other science fiction program from the time period.
This series was broadcast live but was kinescoped like various other series back then and episodes were distributed around Canada following the live broadcast from Toronto. Space Command ran from March 13th, 1953 to May 29th, 1954. Out of the program’s supposed 150 episodes, only 1 has been found so far, but the search continues. Continue reading
LES GRANDS DETECTIVES (1975) – A few years back in Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category, I reviewed every episode of the British television and radio series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. That series presented mystery stories featuring fictional Victorian and Edwardian Age detectives in tales written during Holmes’ own time period.
Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, Dr. Thorndyke, Inspector Lipinzki, Miss Hagar Stanley and others were introduced to generations who had never heard of them. This French-West German co-production titled Les Grands Detectives presented mysteries being solved by similar detectives – including America’s Nick Carter, the one-time fictional giant who has since fallen down the memory hole. Each episode ran 52-55 minutes.
Les Grands Detectives episodes were as follows:
THE SIX DEAD MEN (April 21st, 1975)
The Detective: Inspector Wenceslas Woroboyioetschik, known as Inspector Wens for short. This detective was created by Belgian writer Stanislas-Andre Steeman. Wens was introduced in short stories during the 1920s and also appeared in novels beginning in the 1930s.
The Six Dead Men was the first Inspector Wens novel and was published in 1931. During World War One, six soldiers establish a short-term tontine: in ten years (five years in the novel) the survivors of the sextet – if any – will split the profits accrued in their venture. As the date of the cash-out draws near, some of the men start getting killed off, and Inspector Wens gets involved. Continue reading
ALPHA ALPHA (1972) – This time around in Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category comes this German sci-fi series which ran for 13 episodes from May 17th to August 2nd of 1972. Every episode of Alpha Alpha was written and directed by Wolfgang F. Henschel and ran for 25 minutes, meaning it would nicely fit a half hour time slot with commercials.
This television series was a German variation of other country’s programs like Quatermass, The X-Files and so many others both before and since.
Karl Michael Vogler, who played Rommel in the film Patton, starred as Alpha, the top operative in a never named and top-secret organization dedicated to investigating unusual phenomena, extraterrestrial entities and the like. There were even conspiratorial hints at an existing one world government behind the scenes.
Lilith Ungerer costarred as the operative codenamed Beta, Arthur Brauss played Gamma, Horst Sachtleben was Dr. Simak and Gisela Hoetter provided the female voice of the outfit’s computer. Along with Karl Michael Vogler, these five were the only actors to appear in all 13 episodes. Heinz Engelmann showed up twice as the Chief. Continue reading
Recently, Balladeer’s Blog examined the 1937 Jungle Jim serial and all sixteen Johnny Weissmuller movies in which he was technically in the role. In this third and final Jungle Jim blog post I will look at the one-season series from 1955-1956. Each episode was 30 minutes with commercials.
Jim’s chimp was back to being called Tamba, and the series added a son named Skipper (Martin Huston) for the hero. Fans will remember that Skipper was originally the name of Jungle Jim’s pet dog. Norman Fredric was added to the cast as Jim’s turbaned assistant Kaseem.
EPISODE ONE: MAN KILLER
Synopsis: Jungle Jim tussles with an inexperienced hunter (Dick Rich) who, while shooting at big game from a riverboat, wounds a lion but fails to kill it, setting the pained animal on a reign of terror. Jim, Skipper, Kaseem and (groan) Tamba must save the locals AND the careless hunter from the lion.
EPISODE TWO: LAND OF TERROR
Synopsis: Helene Marshall, playing the sister of a famous botanist, interrupts Jungle Jim and Skipper’s census of wild animals to help her search for her missing brother. Our heroes and Tamba rescue the botanist from yet another remote African locale teeming with dinosaurs. (The usual stock footage from One Million B.C. that showed up in countless movies.) This time the area gets wiped out by lava after a volcano eruption.
EPISODE THREE: TREASURE OF THE AMAZON
Synopsis: A pair of murderous plunderers posing as archeologists trick Jungle Jim into flying to Brazil with them to lead their expedition. They are searching for a lost city built by the Incas long ago, but naturally just want to loot the place’s treasure. Jim and the villains find it, but face headhunters, piranha, warthogs, jungle cats and boa constrictors. The bad guys get killed as a consequence of their own greed. Continue reading
NAVY LOG (1955-1958) – Here’s an unusual segment of Balladeer’s Blog’s recurring Forgotten Television feature. Rather than review the entire series I will take a look at this program’s episodes regarding the often-overlooked Korean War. Most episodes of Navy Log featured half-hour dramatizations of real-life incidents from World War Two, so in keeping with my overall theme of things that slip through the cultural cracks, my focus here will be the few Korean War incidents dramatized on the show.
THE FROGMEN – Two U.S. ships are sunk in mined North Korean waters. To prevent the possibility of North Korea or China recovering classified information from those ships a pair of Navy Frogmen are let loose from a submarine to blow up the sunken vessels before that can happen.
OPERATION THREE-IN-ONE – When a Marine Corps unit is cut off by North Korean forces and is being whittled down, Army and Navy officers quickly improvise a rescue plan in hopes of saving the Marines.
THE POLLYWOG OF YOSU – Six Navy frogmen are sent in to surface behind North Korean lines and blow up a tunnel being used by the North to transport supplies to their troops. When a member of the unit is wounded by the explosion, he is not left behind, but is evacuated with the others at great risk to themselves.
LUNGER AT KUNSAN – The spectacular exploits of the commander and crew of a Navy Mine Sweeper near Kunsan, Korea. Continue reading
THE MINI-MUNSTERS (1973) – This children’s cartoon version of The Munsters originally aired on October 27th, 1973 as one of the hour-long (including commercials) episodes of the second season of ABC’s Saturday Superstar Movie. That version was 44 minutes long without commercials. ABC later edited it down into a VERY incoherent 22-minute version that they proceeded to combine with commercials to make a half-hour Halloween cartoon which they would broadcast into the 1980s.
Not that the 44-minute version is a masterpiece, but it holds together much better than the edited version. You can judge for yourself because no less than THREE versions of The Mini-Munsters are available online: The original 44-minute version in color, the 22-minute version in color AND a black & white version of the 44-minute original.
Taking it from the top, this animated venture was directed by Gerard Baldwin of Bullwinkle & Rocky and Smurfs cartoons fame. The writers were veterans Don Nelson and Arthur Alsberg, who also co-wrote The Munsters’ Revenge in 1981.
THE PREMISE: Continue reading