Tag Archives: television

Throwback Thursday: “Tales of The Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive”

I was chatting the other day with author and blogger “Porter Girl,” about what I call the “80’s ‘Raiders’ TV ripoffs.”  And that’s … probably an unjustly harsh term coming from me, because I absolutely loved both shows in question when they were on the air in 1982.

I’m talking about “Tales of the Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” which both aired for only a single season.  (“Bring ‘Em Back Alive” had the misfortune of airing opposite “The A-Team,” a show I never liked but which was a LITTLE popular among my peer group of 10-year-olds.)

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” had hit theaters a year prior.  Countless adults will tell you today that the “Star Wars” movies were part of their childhood, and that’s true for me too.  But “Raiders” was a far larger part, and today it is still tied with “Vanilla Sky” (2001) for my favorite movie of all time.  And if you’ve ever read this blog before, then you know that I watch a lot of movies.

So I was thrilled when two shows appeared that were so much LIKE “Raiders.”  Both were sort of … “Raiders” Lite.  (I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that the sometimes grim inaugural 1981 movie was unambiguously aimed at adults, while the sequels were geared toward the younger set.)

And, to be fair, each show stood on its own.  “Tales” was set in the Pacific in 1938, and followed cargo plane pilot Jake Cutter (played by Stephen Collins).  He and his near-sentient, one-eyed dog, “Jack,” adventured among all manner of period players: Nazi spies, American spies, Imperial Japanese officers, et alia.  (I think that both “Tales” and “Raiders” misled an entire generation about the degree of gunfights and swordplay connected with certain careers.)

The show’s title derives from the adventure in its pilot episode; Jake and company face a mysterious island in which giant, vicious were-monkey cryptids protect a golden monkey statue.  (Think of the evil primates in “Congo” (1995).)  I explained to my friend that I thought this was maybe inspired by the Hovitos’ gold idol in the opening of “Raiders.”  Quite honestly?  I remember that pilot episode being pretty scary for a kid, and it was unusually dark for early 80’s primetime show.

“Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” while also developed to capitalize on “Raiders'” popularity, was actually based on a real person.  Bruce Boxleitner’s “Frank Buck” was based on the very real Frank Buck, a famous big game trapper in the 1930’s.  He wrote a book entitled “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” and the film treatment followed in 1932.

I’m surprised that anyone even remembers “Tales” or “Bring ‘Em.”  I don’t ever remember meeting another fourth grader who talked about either show.  It was always about “The A-Team” in the lunch room, and the “DID YOU SEE WHEN THAT GUY SHOT THAT GUY?!”  But Blog Correspondent Pete Harrison chimed in immediately when I posted about “Tales” on Facebook, and there are people in the blogosphere who fondly remember them too.

If you do recall them with a smile, as I do, I think they’re both available on DVD.

 

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Goldmonkey     jakecutter1

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An explanation of movie and television ratings here at the blog.

“You give a lot of ‘8’s.”  That’s what blog correspondent Len Ornstein told me recently about my movie and television reviews here, and my shorthand scale-of-one-to-ten rating system.  I realized that I actually do rate a hell of a lot of movies an “8 out of 10,” and I thought maybe I should clarify why there’s a preponderance of favorable reviews on my blog.

First, let me reiterate my longstanding disclaimer.  I cheerfully admit that I am only an amateur reviewer.  I have never taken a single film class and profess no genuine expertise in the medium’s appreciation.  I do, however, tend to share the same tastes and standards as others in my peer group.  These are netizens who aren’t connoisseurs, but who can still tell a good movie from a bad one, and who’d rather not spend time and money on the bad ones.

Second, my informal rating system is purely subjective.  It depends often on my mood, and is usually a gut reaction.

Now, about those favorable reviews — the explanation is simple.  If a movie is less than good, I usually stop watching.  For example, I sadly abandoned the pilot for the “Minority Report” series yesterday after 25 minutes or so.  (I might get back to it this weekend.)  The past year’s television adaptation of “12 Monkeys” likewise failed to hold my interest.  I also tend to drop streaming movies or television shows that are well made, but aren’t quite my taste — tv’s “Gotham” and “Orphan Black” are two examples.

So I’m really mostly writing only about things I’ve liked.  The negative reviews here tend to be for things that have held my interest only out of nostalgia or morbid curiosity.  The pilot for the 1970’s “Planet of the Apes,” I think, is the most recent example.

Is an “8 out of 10” a sort of default rating for me?  Probably.  That’s the “numerical value” I usually give to a “good” movie or tv show — something that I enjoyed watching and would recommend to others.

A “7 out of 10” rating also suggests that a movie or show was “good,” but bordering on average, and not one that I’d go out of my way to recommend.  (Try to remember what it felt like getting a 70 on a test at school; it wasn’t terrible, but it was nothing to brag about either.)  Examples here could include “Cockneys vs. Zombies,” “Alien: Resurrection,” or the later “Hellraiser” sequels.

A “9 out of 10” denotes something that was extremely good — maybe not perfect, but a fantastic watch.  Examples, I think, would include seasons of “The Walking Dead,” “Hannibal,” or “Lost,” as well as the better superhero and horror movies.  The first examples that pop into my head are the “Avengers” movies, the lesser Indiana Jones films, “28 Weeks Later,” George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” “American History X,” “Zulu,” or “These Final Hours.”  These are movies or shows I’ll watch more than once, even if I don’t feel the need to endlessly revisit them.  Or they’re especially intelligent or thought provoking science fiction films that I’m really impressed with, even if one watch is enough — the recent “Ex Machina” would be a good example.

A rare “10” rating denotes a movie that I think is perfect, is nearly perfect, or is just so damn fun that I keep watching it again and again anyway.  These are the movies for which I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them.  Examples would include “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Blade Runner,” “Aliens,” “Alien 3,” “12 Monkeys,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Donnie Darko,” Ridley Scott’s “Hannibal,” “We Were Soldiers,” “The Accidental Tourist,” the first two “Blade” movies, “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “28 Days Later.”  They’d include all four season’s of Ron Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica,” all three of Britain’s “Sherlock,” most seasons of “24,” and one or two seasons of “The X Files.”  They’d also include comedies like “Old School,” “Anchorman,” or “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.”  A “10” is a movie that will typically inhabit the “Top Ten” lists that I swap with other flick-nerds on the Internet.

So there ya have it.  It’s nothing scientific; it’s just one nerd’s opinion.  My motto for all of this is “Caveat Reador.”

But if you occasionally find something you enjoy after I recommended it, that’d be just great. Thanks for reading and sharing!   🙂

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