Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!
This week, we’ve got a special, 90-minute episode of Fantasy Island!
Episode 2.7 “Let the Good Times Roll/Nightmare/The Tiger”
(Dir by George McCowan, originally aired on November 4th, 1978)
This week’s supersized episode of Fantasy Island begins with Tattoo revealing that he’s come up with a new way to annoy Mr. Roarke.
Mr, Roarke rolls his eyes and dramatically sighs, especially when Tattoo makes the mistake of assuming that Roarke is a Pisces. (“I am a Sagittarius!” Roarke snaps.) For once, Mr. Roarke is right to be annoyed. There’s no time for this foolishness this week! We’ve got three fantasies to deal with!
For instance, Duke Manducci (Paul Sand) and Ernie “Smooth” Kowalski (Peter Isacksen) want to go back to the 1960s and relive their youth. Duke was once known as the King of the Strip because he could outrace anyone. Now, years later, Duke is just a guy working in a garage. Roarke leads them to an exact recreation of the Strip. The Strip is so perfectly recreated that even Donny Bonaduce shows up to make trouble.
Uh-oh, it turns out that Mr. Roarke has also invited all of Duke’s old friends to come take part in Duke’s fantasy. Except, of course, none of them know that Duke is still working at the same gas station that he worked at as a teenager. Duke ends up telling a lot of lies in order to convince them that he’s made a success of himself. But when he falls for Sheila Crane (Mary Ann Mobley), he realizes that it’s time to be honest. And when Bonaduce challenges him to a race, Duke eventually realizes that his racing days are over and it’s time for him to be a grown-up. Duke not only learns an important lesson but he’s also offered a job working on a NASCAR pit crew. Yay!
Meanwhile, Janine Sanford (Pamela Franklin) is haunted by a recurring nightmare. She always has the dream at midnight and she’s never made it to the end of the dream without waking up. She travels to Fantasy Island with her husband (Brett Halsey, who later starred in Fulci’s Touch of Death) and her father (Ray Milland). Her fantasy is see how her nightmare ends. Mr. Roarke takes her to what he calls the Nightmare House.
And, oh my God, this nightmare is seriously freaky! We see it twice. It involves Janine watching as all of her childhood toys catch on fire. There’s even a clown that comes to life and go crazy at one point.
Janine’s father is convinced that the dream is linked to some sort of past trauma and he fears that Janine will be hurt if she relives it.
It turns out the joke’s on him! Janine’s nightmare is not about the past but the future. It turns out that it was warning her that her father was going to be trapped in a fire. When her father is indeed trapped in a fire, Janine is able to rescue him. Yay! What a great fantasy and I love a happy ending. This fantasy is handled so well that it takes a while to realize that the show just kind of dropped the whole idea of Janine suffering from past trauma, despite the fact that her father seemed really worried about what she might end up remembering.
Finally, for our third fantasy, Victor Duncan (Darren McGavin) is a Hemingwayesque writer who wants to go to India so he can hunt a legendary tiger. How do you think that works out for him?
Yep, the tiger kills him.
Fear not, though! Mr. Roarke explains to Tattoo that Victor was actually terminally ill and his fantasy was to die on Fantasy Island. So, I guess that’s a happy ending.
I actually liked this episode, if just because it was throwback to season one when all of the fantasies were linked by a common theme. Here the link is aging and growing up. Duke and Victor both have to deal with the fact that they’re no longer young men. Janine manages to put her nightmare behind her and move on. These three fantasies all seemed to belong together, so there were none of the strange tonal shifts that I’ve noticed in some of the other episodes. All in all, this was a good trip to Fantasy Island.