You could see the Age of Weird Imagination building with classic early fantasy shows like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS, and forgotten older ones like ONE STEP BEYOND, SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE, and TALES OF TOMORROW (all of which I’ve gotten into lately on DVD) but some have said the ball actually got rolling with MR. ED, a series about a talking horse.
Sidebars of this weirdness included THE MUNSTERS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY – and even, in the non-supernatural sense, THE MONKEES.
The camp approach to BATMAN, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, cemented the deal – particularly for the hour-long non-sitcom series, bringing profound changes in approach to existing series such as LOST IN SPACE (especially, as it was on opposite BATMAN), THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE WILD WILD WEST, and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.
STAR TREK, to its credit, managed to resist the pull toward “fantastic weirdness”, despite episodes about Tribbles, Chicago-style gangsters, and Roman Empires in space. Perhaps that’s why it’s still so popular today. But that may also be why it’s Third Season is so deadly dull, with many episodes I deem unwatchable – like “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”!
I was a kid during this time, and with this and the incredibly imaginative Silver Age of comic books, it was a wonderful time to be young and impressionable. When it finally all "went away" (...and I can pinpoint the exact moment when things began to change -- that will be some homework Blog post reading -- you can read it HERE!) I missed it to such a degree that television was never quite the same for me!
The period of “fantastic weirdness” was in its fullest force from 1965-1968, with the epicenter being the year 1966 – not coincidentally, in January of that year, BATMAN premiered!
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA was the saga of the Submarine Seaview, a super-sub designed for the Government-funded “Nelson Institute of Marine Research” by Retired Navy Admiral Harriman Nelson (played by Richard Basehart) and run by Captain Lee Crane (played by David Hedison). It was created by producer Irwin Allen, as a 1961 feature film starring Walter Pidgeon in the Basehart role, and later a successful TV series, running from 1964-1968.
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA had four separate and distinct seasons: 1: Black and white, primarily tales of espionage with a smattering of sci-fi. 2: Color with amped-up special effects. Begins as espionage and converts fully to sci-fi. 3: Moves from general sci-fi to “Monster of the Week”. 4: Moves from “Monster of the Week” to what I’d describe as “weird fantasy”. The weirder it got, the more I liked it!
It’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” on a submarine. It reunites Vincent Price with David Hedison, who starred together in “The Fly”. Hedison has said it was a delightful reunion. Vincent Price previously worked with Irwin Allen in such films as “The Big Circus” (1959) and the tragically obscure “The Story of Mankind” (1957).
“The Deadly Dolls” was written by Charles Bennett, who wrote the VOYAGE Feature film, 7 episodes of the TV series, and previously wrote screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock – Including “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), “Sabotage” (1936), “The 39 Steps” (1935), and the original version of “The Man who Knew Too Much” (1934) with Peter Lorre. Classic Hitchcock to “Deadly Dolls”! That’s some range!
As “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” is a “comfort view” for Keith, “The Deadly Dolls” (and certain other artifacts from that period) are for me! I’ve watched this more times than I can count, over its nearly 48 year existence. A reviewer on IMDB (and what would we do without it!) said of “The Deadly Dolls”: “Just a totally unique, totally insane, totally epic hour!”
I’m not sure everyone here will agree, but Irwin Allen did describe VOYAGE in general as: “An action-packed hour full of things you didn’t see elsewhere on TV!” I have to say he delivered on that promise - weekly.
It’s hard to imagine today how HUGE THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was in its time (1964-1968 – same years as VOYAGE). There were images of the stars, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, EVERYWHERE, and parodies of the name “U.N.C.L.E.” were irresistible in all media. Inspired by the James Bond / 1960s Spy Craze, Robert Vaughn’s “Napoleon Solo” was the James Bond of the small screen.
In U.N.C.L.E.’s third season (1966-1967) it was given a 29 episode spin-off THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E., staring Stephanie Powers (later of HART TO HART) as agent “April Dancer”, with Noel Harrison (son of Rex) as her partner Mark Slate.
Leo G. Carroll of Jack Arnold’s and Universal’s “Tarantula” (1955) starred in both series as U.N.C.L.E.’s director Alexander Waverly.
The episode we are going to see, “The Mother Muffin Affair” with guest star Boris Karloff in a cringe-worthy role, was part of a coordinated stunt between the two U.N.C.L.E. series. For the THIRD WEEK’s EPISODES of both series, the U.N.C.L.E. agents switched partners. David McCallum got Noel Harrison on MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. for that week, and Stephanie Powers was the lucky recipient of Robert Vaughn for “The Mother Muffin Affair”. So, besides Boris Karloff, you get TWO U.N.C.L.E. leads for the price (not Vincent) of one!
|April Dancer AND Napoleon Solo!|
As mentioned, “The Mother Muffin Affair” was Episode 3 of Season 1 (and only) of THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E., and aired on September 27, 1966 – again at the epicenter of my Wheelhouse madness.
|Goodness Gracious Me!|
There’s also a great director who’s never been represented in this class. His name is Tex Avery, also known as “The King of Cartoons”. No one took as full an advantage of the cartoon medium – and the ways you can unconventionally and outrageously exaggerate it – as Tex Avery, who made theatrical cartoons for Warner Bros. (he came up with the line “What’s up, Doc?”), Walter Lantz, and MGM – and later created advertising’s animated insects who flee in mortal terror from a can of RAID!