Saturday, June 12, 2010

Episode 1: Pilot

In the 2 hour series premiere we meet Jake Cutter as he is about to lose Jack’s opal and sapphire eye in a card game due to a misunderstanding (one bark means no, not yes). Jack, followed by Jake, comes to the aid of a singer, Sarah Stickney White, apparently being harassed by her manager. The first of many fights ensues. Sarah misses the boat to Boragora, which happens to be where Jake is headed, so she comes along. The Goose develops engine problems (thanks to a Gestapo agent played by John Hillerman who subsequently kills Sarah’s “manager” who is really a spy), forcing them to jettison their cargo of champagne and bibles. They land at Boragora where we meet Corky the mechanic and Bon Chance Louie (played by Ron Moody in this episode only), proprietor of the Monkey Bar Hotel. Louis agrees to give Sarah a job singing at the Monkey Bar, which is a perfect cover for her real mission as an American spy. The loss of the cargo causes some concern to Louie (for the champagne) and Reverend Willie (for the bibles). Willie is in fact a German spy (although a Wermacht soldier, not a Nazi), and the bibles hold the key to finding a volcanic island inhabited by monkeys which is said to have a giant monkey idol made of a heat-resistant gold alloy of interest to the German government. It just so happens that the cargo was dumped over that island, so Jake and the gang return to the island. After an encounter with the monkeys and the Gestapo agent, they find a small idol which subsequently turns out to be made of brass. Meanwhile, the real golden idol remains on the island.

I enjoyed seeing this as much now as I did in 1982. Sure the monkey costumes are cheesy, and the writing/directing/acting isn’t the best ever, but it’s entertaining. You know the good guys will always win, and I like that. I also enjoyed the stock footage of the Pan Am Clipper that was spliced in. I thought it was neat to see that even if it was in black and white. The picture quality of the DVD has been a pleasant surprise, although it’s in full screen, not widescreen.

A lot of people have dismissed the show as a Raiders of the Lost Ark knockoff. In fact, the producer, Donald Bellisario, pitched the idea in 1979, but it wasn’t picked up until after the success of Raiders. Personally, I never saw them as the same beyond the late ‘30s setting. An archaeologist and a cargo pilot are very different to me. Sure, they both fought Nazis and looked for treasures... I hadn’t seen Raiders before Gold Monkey, so maybe I didn’t have the same bias most people did. They obviously both owe a lot to the adventure serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Bellisario has cited the 1939 Cary Grant movie Only Angels Have Wings as an inspiration. I’ve never seen it mentioned, but I think the Turk Madden stories of Louis L’Amour must have also been an inspiration.

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