Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Poseidon Quickies: Oh "Man..."

You know, I really pride myself on having unpredictable content and coming up with surprises along the way; unexpected subjects that seem to pop up out of left field. But lately I seem to have fallen into a definite pattern, spinning my wheels like a bald tire during the height of a Detroit winter! Ha ha! I've been caught in the continuing spiral of a whirlpool of 1970s sci-fi television. So here we go again with a photo essay on a show I never, ever watched during its initial run, but which recently caught my (roving) eye.

When the prime-time soap Dallas premiered in a five-part miniseries in April of 1978, revitalizing the genre and emerging as "must see" television, one of its stars was young Patrick Duffy. Heretofore only having done bit roles and TV commercials, Duffy had been given the lead in his own television series, Man from Atlantis, the year before. Thus, viewers who were attempting to become familiar with Bobby Ewing on Dallas were also (possibly, since there weren't too many of them!) seeing him wriggle around in the water on Atlantis, which aired through June of '78! It was only the premature cancellation of Man from Atlantis that freed Duffy up to portray Bobby, a career-defining role on a staggeringly successful show. I watched Dallas from its inception, but for whatever reason had never once seen Man from Atlantis. Until last week...!

Inspiration for Man from Atlantis sort of sprang from attempts at getting a rendition of Namor, The Sub-Mariner onto TV screens. The half-human/half-Atlantean anti-hero had been created in 1939 and endured with slightly-tweaked incarnations through the years. One issue facing creators was the fact that Mr. Spock of Star Trek (then killing it in syndicated reruns) had a similar look, with arched brows and pointy ears. It was feared that confusion might come about if he were represented on screen the way he appeared in comics. (If it matters, the cover price of this book was actually $0.12, not $0.02. It was cropped too closely.)

While some folks were worrying about just how to work out any potential Namor show, another project with several similar attributes came to light. (This comic came after the show was developed. The show wasn't based on a print character.) A series of TV-movies were developed with Patrick Duffy as a man washed ashore who is discovered to have webbed hands and toes and who breathes water (but can eventually remain outside of it for limited periods of time.)

The movies were rated high enough that a regular series was created, with Duffy continuing his role. Before it even premiered, it was met with a certain level of derision by critics (as many sci-fi series were then, even in the wake of Star Wars, 1977.)

Sadly, the character on the series never wore a skimpy suit like the one shown in the comic adaptations! He was virtually always in a mid-thigh-length, terry-cloth suit. But, as I have recently found out, that unusual suit did occasionally have its own benefits. Let's begin the exhibit!

As you can see from this moment in the first TV-movie, Duffy was in exemplary physical condition for this role.

He was compelled to shave his chest (and more) for the part, initially doing so in the shower with a razor, but later switching to an electric model.

This type of fine-tuned physique was atypical of most actors, even leading actors, at that time.

Not only did Duffy need to eat right and work out to stay in shape. He suffered many other physical torments. He had to wear large green contact lenses which depicted the change between his time underwater and on the surface (the character had sensitive eyes in harsh daylight, at least initially.)

Then there were his hands, which in some shots had to be outfitted with the webbing his character possessed as a sort of mer-man.

Needless to say, he also spent a fair amount of time underwater, always with his eyes open (and with those contacts in!) and often in murky-looking water that one wouldn't be thrilled to expose one's eyes to! He also had to demonstrate a particular dolphin-like swim, which was pretty unusual (though had been previously seen from Burr DeBenning in City Beneath the Sea, 1971.)

Furthermore, in an effort to appear as though he were inhaling water, he would hold water in his nostrils and mouth to avoid any sign of air bubbles! I mean, the man was dedicated to his task at hand and it was not easy...

More than a few times, he was subjected to having to walk barefoot over rocky, rugged, dirty terrain, too! If you direct your eyes to his feet here, you're a better man than most. Ha ha!

He's seen here with series costar Belinda J. Montgomery, who was so displeased with the project that she had her lawyers work to excise her from her contractual duties. She was out of the picture after the twelfth episode, though only two more followed in any event.

Blessedly, there were quite a few instances in which Duffy was seen taking long walks towards the camera, his li'l trunks barely concealing his own buried treasure.

Sometimes certain setups unintentionally gave the hilarious impression, for a moment or two at least, that Duffy was walking around naked, almost like those old gags on variety shows and sitcoms about visits to a nudist colony!

Or take this instance with guest star Sharon Farrell (giving it her best Farrah Fawcett attempt) positioned in a way that gives Duffy a Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold appearance!

Here's what he looked like without the obscuring figure in the way.

Increasingly, Duffy might don regular street clothes or even go undercover for a given situation. Even then he looked pretty good in his jeans.

But more often than not, he could be found in his basic uniform of clingy, terry-cloth trunks with an Atlantean symbol on one thigh.

Child of the '70s & '80s that I am, I far prefer the tan look he developed after having worked outside with practically no clothes on for several months.

I'm general of the mind that leading men on TV (or in movies for that matter) should always wear as few articles of clothing as possible!

Here, Duffy is showing his stick to guest star Ted Neely. (Jesus...!)

We call this "The Wet Look."

One installment had Montgomery and others being kidnapped and held in a compound where exposure to a certain fountain/spa led to mind control. All the musclebound henchmen there went around shirtless at all times.

At the climax, all of the gents wound up in the fountain together!

How I missed this show in its initial airing I will never know...

Before we get to the end of this post, I did want to mention that Duffy did eventually wind up sporting several bikini-style swim trunks on Dallas if he didn't on Atlantis. He kept his figure (and allowed his body hair to grow back.)

We close with one of those long walks I referred to earlier. This one was my favorite.

I'm not sure precisely what he wore under these trunks, but it couldn't have been too much.

Ya gotta love '70s TV...!

Which brings us to, you guessed it...

The End!

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Marvel-ing Over "Shazam!"

As a kid, there was one day of the week we longed for more than any other and that was Saturday. (Still do!) Now I look forward to getting out and doing something, but as a tyke it was all about planting myself in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal or a stack of pancakes and watching a long string of cartoons or the occasional live-action program. As far as the latter is concerned, 1974's Shazam! was a favorite. In it, a young man named Billy Batson traveled the world nearby California locales along with his mentor in an RV, righting various wrongs and saving young people from trouble at every opportunity. Usually, in order to accomplish this, he transformed into Captain Marvel by uttering the immortal word SHAZAM!

Things had become confused because the original, hugely-popular Captain Marvel of the 1940s had stopped appearing in print after 1953 (thanks in part to lawsuits over similarities to Superman.) In the interim, Marvel Comics had introduced their own Captain Marvel. So, in 1973, when DC comics purchased and reintroduced the "original" Captain Marvel, they were prevented from using the name on their comics, opting instead for the title "Shazam!" The TV show followed that lead.

Mentor was played by radio-voiced actor Les Tremayne while Billy was essayed by 23 year-old "teen" Michael Gray.

Often, at the first sign of concern or confusion, Gray would close his eyes and consult with The Elders, a collection of godlike figures whose initials (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury) formed the title exclamation. These folks were animated (of a sort!) and thus in contrast to the rest of the show, which was live-action (of a sort!)

Later, whenever things headed really south, Gray would find a private spot and holler "Shazam!," whereupon he'd transform into the super-powered Captain Marvel, who could fly, was super-strong and basically took care of business (like moving vehicles, rocks and other debris or bringing someone down from a terrifying precipice.)

Marvel, played by Jackson Bostwick (who was blessedly free of any sort of strictly-confining undergarment) would then appear and usually catapult himself into the sky.

As a kid whose daddy left when he was four (insert violin music here) and had no considerable male role model or even physical example of manhood, shots of Bostwick's jangly bits clanking around in his costume made for provocative viewing! LOL

It's entirely possible that my lifelong preoccupation with bulges (countless examples of which have been duly documented here for many years) began while watching this show as a 7 to 10 year-old. Where else was I going to learn? Ha ha!

Such matters weren't confined to Bostwick, though. Take the extra pictured above at left (all in white.) He had on the tightest, briefest pair of shorts I've probably ever seen on a human male.

I straight-up thought his junk was going to come bouncing out when he ran down the beach in this scene...!

This was the mid-'70s, when you couldn't go into a store and buy "distressed" jeans. You had to get them that way by whatever means necessary from hard work to over-laundering to scraping at them with a rock!

As the show was aimed at kids, there was a steady stream of youthful performers dropping in for each episode. Many of them sported the de rigueur trousers of the day, which were clingy, revealing, deliberately roughed-up blue jeans.

Shaggy hair was also the order of the day, which I was never a fan of, but the pants I could appreciate.

Not only is this dude firmly "dressed left" but his fly isn't even closed all the way!

Most often, however, the on-screen dickory fell to Bostwick in his "Marvel-ous" costume.

Keen-eyed viewers could ascertain just what was happening under those tights.

Shazam! loved to impart lessons to its viewing audiences... and I learned a few they weren't intentionally providing!

Bostwick had lovely green eyes... IF you could manage to look at them!

Sunshine was a major friend to oglers of Bostwick. If his back was to the sun, it was harder to see things. If he was standing towards the sun... well, hallelujah!

As the song goes, "Let... the sun shine...!"

If you were able to stay focused, there was a moral at the end of each story.

In an unhappy turn of events, though, things were about to change. Bostwick, who performed virtually all of his own stunts, was injured during one episode. He was seeking medical treatment for it when he missed a filming day and was promptly fired!

So, without warning, Bostwick was out and a whole 'nother Captain Marvel was in!

Now the part was played by John Davey. While bulkier and more lantern-jawed like the original Marvel of the comics, he was quite a change from the friendlier-looking and more accessible Bostwick. Fans still debate to this day over which one was better for the role.

Just like his predecessor, though, Davey was soon letting it all hang out in his red costume.

Again... "Let... the sun shine!" Ha ha!

While Davey was Captain Marvel, the show introduced the splendiferous Joanna Cameron as a pretty archeologist who has her own little secret. With the help of a mystical amulet, she can transform into Isis!

I dearly loved this character, who then had her own show, Isis. She appeared three times on Shazam! and Captain Marvel appeared three times on Isis.

It may interest you to know that football player-turned actor Mark Harmon was in the running to portray Captain Marvel and model-turned-actress Veronica Hamel was one of those up for the part of Isis!

Interesting to imagine...

In any event, the show could be a fertile training ground for young, new talent. The guy in the middle won a featured role after having played quite a few bit parts beforehand.

That's young Andrew Stevens, who would proceed on to a considerable TV and, to a lesser extent, career in movies.

His episode happened to be one that included Isis.

Okay... why not? "Let... the sun shine!" Ha ha ha!!

Generally, Davey showed more from the side than Bostwick had.

But the front wasn't exactly neglected either.

This was not a mystery show. The plots were very straightforward and fit snugly into a roughly 20-minute time frame. But one mystery was how and why on earth Tremayne wound up with his hair in this complicated confection...! Tremayne had supporting roles in films from the 1950s through the 1960s and many times lent his resonant voice to projects, including narrations and animated movies. He passed away in 2003 of heart failure at age 90.  

Earnest-looking, pouty-lipped Gray had worked as a teen guest star on Room 222, The Flying Nun, The Brian Keith Show and even as one of Marcia's beaux on The Brady Bunch before landing Shazam!

As the principle star of a popular Saturday morning show, he was thrust into the teen magazine whirlwind, his face dotting the covers of all the popular periodicals of the day such as 16, Tiger Beat, etc...

Sometimes his body, of the lean, non-threatening type, was also featured. After the series was cancelled, he faded from public view, ultimately operating a flower shop which he ran with his wife and which catered to celebrities. It's hard to believe, but he is now 70! He's occasionally been called upon to reflect upon the show or take part in comic-related events and projects.

Bostwick might have been unfairly ousted from his role, but he won a case against the production company (Filmation) and was awarded full pay for the second season (in which he barely appeared) and was given residuals, too, which mattered since the show was re-aired for a long while (and later restored beautifully for DVD - at least as beautiful as a 16mm series with a budget per episode of about $12.97 can get!) He continued to work on screen occasionally and also became involved in independent producing (in Alabama and Tennessee.) Bostwick is currently 78.

Ex-marine and former boxer Davey had played small roles in many TV series and would continue to do so after this through the mid-1980s. He is currently 82.

Neither Bostwick nor Davey was the first Captain Marvel on screen. Western star (and former champion weight-lifter) Tom Tyler had played the hero in a 12-part 1941 serial called Adventures of Captain Marvel. All that weightlifting seems to have done his glutes a world of good!

Then for the campy 1979 specials Legends of the Superheroes, bit player Garrett Craig somehow wound up in the tights! 

By the time of 2019's Shazam!, the camp was intentional and the whole thing played, for most purposes, with laughs.

So that's about it! Signing off till next time.


After this post went up, an eagle-eyed viewer commented about a brief "slip-up" in one of the episodes. (Or should I say "slip-out??") So in order to satisfy any curiosity about that among my readers, I give you the said moment, followed by the actor's self-correction!