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!


A said...

Love this post! Not only did he get more tanned as time went on, but he got beefier too! The yellow trunks weren't bad, but they don't hold a candle to the black/navy speedos of Dallas. I was also reminded of the shower scene in Dallas (and rewatched the scene on youtube, and boy, Victoria Principal could be a terrible actress.)

Anyway, Thanks again Poseidon!

PS - Noticed that picture of Ted Neely, and just yesterday heard music from Jesus Christ Superstar on the radio, and tried to remember which actor who played Jesus. And there he is in this post!

Shawny said...

That TV guide article has a spelling error and a run-on sentence. Haha. Never saw any of the shows referenced. But I never knew there was a show from back then that had the lead actor shirtless for most of the time. Very surprising. I love underwater photography, though the ocean depths are one of the scariest things to me. Wonder if the show had any significant underwater scenes. Or was he on land most if the time?

magusxxx said...

Duffy admitted he had to cheat in order to get the role. During the audition he wore a tight sweater with fake muscles underneath. Only after he found out he got the role did he start seriously working out.

Gingerguy said...

You "elevate" the material Poseidon, Sub Mariner is my type except for the queeny eyebrows. And the fountain scene looks like the east side club for men here in NY (from what I hear anyway). I like him with longer bushier hair, so sexy. All of these sci fi shows were catnip to young kids, I seem to remember this was NBC but could be wrong. I am probably the exception in that I watched this but never saw even one episode of Dallas!

F. Nomen said...

Shazam, Logan’s Run, now Man From Atlantis, somebody has discovered Tubi lol. Loved this nonsense as a kid, have been having a blast revisiting it.

Poseidon3 said...

A, as I was researching this post, I came across PD's "Pioneers of Television" interview in which he describes that whole shower set-up in detail. It was quite a feat, bringing Bobby back to "Dallas" but it pissed off a number of fans (not to mention cast, who sort of got shafted in the end by having their work turned into a dream!) BTW, I was STUNNED by how short and small Ted Neely was on "MFA." And I'd seen him in
"JCS" on tour! They must have cast that whole show with diminutive performers.

Shawny, Duffy was in the water a fair amount, though I'm sure they reused footage for time/money's sake. He really ought to have gotten and Honorary Esther Williams certificate for being underwater as long as he sometimes was, eves open and no bubbles. !!

magusxxx, I had forgotten about that! Heard it once long ago. He clearly got going on his workouts right away! Thanks.

Ha! Gingerguy...! I do believe this was on NBC. That may be why I never saw it because I was a total ABC kid with the occasional CBS show. Parts of "Dallas" were just wonderful! By the time it ended... ick. But I did like much of the reboot a couple of years back. Only Hagman's death wrecked it. Thank you!

F. Nomen, you are correct. What's better is that I can bring it up at work and see the show's in beautiful detail on my monitor. I always liked Tubi, but as of late I just love it!

hsc said...

That episode that featured the spa with the magic fountain had an *ahem* interesting element-- TWO of the muscle guys in that episode had done gay porn around that time!

The black actor behind Belinda Montgomery in the first photo and at left in the pool shots (actor Ernie Hudson and stuntman Bob Minor were the other two black actors) was openly gay competitive bodybuilder Jim Morris.

The blondish guy at the right in the first photo and in the foreground of the pool shots was competitive bodybuilder/wrestler/actor Ric Drasin, who was involved with Gold's Gym (he even designed the famous logo).

Drasin and Morris had recently been two of Mae West's muscle guys in SEXTETTE-- they're both in a widely-published group shot with her-- and both had posed for Colt Studios and done loops.

I remember watching MAN FROM ATLANTIS a few times during its short run, but I didn't watch a lot of TV during that period, so I wasn't a regular viewer. I do remember the webbed fingers and "dolphin kick" swimming move (that I tried to duplicate).

Even though I'm a big comics geek, for some reason I had never thought of it as an attempt to *sort of* do Sub-Mariner on TV (along with Spider-Man, Hulk, Dr. Strange and Captain America)-- but man, it should've been obvious.

There was definitely a boom in that sort of programming at that point, so I assumed it was just one of those shows like MANIMAL or LUCAN, where they tried to do an "original" superhero.

This was a great look back at the show-- as always, so much fun! Thanks for framecapping and presenting this! Be well and safe, everyone!