Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.7 “Let the Good Times Roll/Nightmare/The Tiger”

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.

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.4 “Best Seller/The Tomb”

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!

Fantasy Island has a desert?  Read on to find out more.

Episode 2.4 “Best Seller/The Tomb”

(Dir by George McCowan, originally aired on October 14th, 1978)

Fantasy Island can be a strange place.

Just consider the fantasy of Neville Marlowe (Barry Sullivan).  Marlowe is an archeologist who has devoted his life to seeking the tomb of a lost Egyptian pharaoh who is believed to have been King Tut’s twin brother.  His fantasy is to finally find the tomb and to explore it with his wife (Shelley Fabares) and his associate (David Opatoshu).  He wants to do this even though the tomb, if it does exist, is said to be cursed.

Mr. Roarke informs Marlowe that he’s in luck.  There’s an archeological dig currently taking place on the island and there’s a good chance that it might finally lead to the discovery of the tomb….

Now, this brings up some interesting issues.  First off, the dig is taking place in the desert.  Since when has Fantasy Island, a tropical paradise, had a desert?  Secondly, even if you accept that idea that Fantasy Island is home to a large desert, why exactly would it also be home to the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh?  Though the show always kept it a bit vague as to just where exactly the island was located, it’s always been suggested that it’s near Hawaii.  The actual natives of the island (as opposed to Mr. Roarke and Tattoo) all appear to be Polynesian.  When the guests get off the plane at the start of each episode, they’re given a lei and a tropical drink.  My point is that there’s never been anything about the show that would suggest that Fantasy Island is anywhere near Egypt.  Certainly, it’s possible that an Egyptian ship may have landed at Fantasy Island at some point in the past, just as it’s possible that ancient Egyptians also landed in South America.  But still, there’s no reason why a pharaoh would be buried on Fantasy Island as opposed to along the banks of the Nile.

It makes no sense but, for whatever reason, the tomb is indeed on Fantasy Island.  Entering the tomb leads to Marlowe’s wife having several nightmares about being wrapped up like a mummy.  It’s nicely creepy but it doesn’t lead to anything.  Because Marlowe decides to send the artifacts to Egypt as opposed to sending them to a British museum. he is spared the curse.

Meanwhile, Barney Hunter (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) is a bookstore clerk who suffers from crippling shyness.  His fantasy is to be a best selling author so Mr. Roarke informs him that he is now the author of the world’s most popular book about sex and, as a result, hundreds of his fans are coming to the island to meet him.  The problem with that, of course, is that Barney is a virgin.  So, you have to wonder why Mr. Roarke would make Barney the world’s leading expert on sex when he doesn’t know anything about it.  My guess is that Mr. Roarke thought it would be funny but it’s actually kind of mean-spirited.  Anyway, Barney meets Angela (Maureen McCormick), who is also a virgin.  They fall in love but Angela’s mother (Gloria DeHaven) refuses to allow Angela to see a man who has written a “filthy book.”  Again, it’s hard not to feel that Roarke is having a little fun at Barney’s expense.  Fortunately, things work out in the end and that’s good.  Arnaz and McCormick were a cute couple.

Finally, Tattoo entered a jingle contest and won!  Unfortunately, it turned out that first prize was a trip to Fantasy Island.  Mr. Roarke had a good laugh about that one and I have to admit that I did too.  Fantasy Island just has a way of sweeping you up in all of its silliness. 

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.3 “The Beachcomber/The Last Whodunit”

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 …. Tattoo gets a trumpet!

Episode 2.3 “The Beachcomber/The Last Whodunit”

(Dir by George McCowan, originally aired on September 30th, 1978)

Tattoo is learning how to play the trumpet and Mr. Roarke can barely hide his anger.  That is this week’s Tattoo/Roarke storyline and it rasies a lot of questions about Roarke and Tattoo’s relationship.  Is Roarke upset because Tattoo is a bad trumpet player or does he just dislike Tattoo in general?  Does Tattoo really care about learning how to play the trumpet or is he just looking for an excuse to annoy Mr. Roarke?  I think all of those possibilities may be true at the same time.  If the previous two episodes hinted that Roarke and Tattoo no longer hated each other, this episode seems to confirm that they’re still the frenemies that they’ve always been.  I sympathize with Roarke but it’s hard not to appreciate Tattoo’s determination to be an agent of chaos.

As for the fantasies, Charles Preston (John Astin) is a successful businessman who wants to throw it all ways so that he can spend the rest of his life as a beach bum.  Roarke sets Preston up in a cabin on one of the shabbiest beaches on Fantasy Island.  Seriously, the layout of Fantasy Island is just weird.  A third of the island is a luxury resort.  A third of the island is a magical jungle.  And a third of the island is apparently just a collection of poverty-stricken fishing villages.  Do the people who live on the island know that they could be having a fantasy if they only had the money?  Let’s hope none of them ever pick up a copy of Marx or Piketty. 

Anyway, Preston soon discovers that the life of a beach bum is not as easy as he thought it would be.  For one thing, the chief of the island’s indigenous population demands that Preston marry his daughter.  (The joke is that his daughter is overweight and …. well, it’s all pretty cringey by 2022 standards.)  Meanwhile, a bounty hunter slaps some handcuffs on Preston and threatens to take him back to his family unless Preston pays him $70,000.  “All of you beachcombers have a stash!” the bounty hunter hisses.  Fortunately, Preston’s wife shows up and announces that she’s fine with him being a beach bum, as long as he’s a responsible beach bum who helps to pay the bills.  And that’s the end of that.  What an underwhelming fantasy.

Luckily, the episode’s other fantasy is a bit more entertaining.  Mabel Jarvis (Celeste Holm) loves mystery stories and she wants to spend a weekend as her favorite fictional detective.  Of course, Mabel soon finds herself investigating the real-life murder of Mabel’s favorite writer.  Mr. Roarke explains that the writer was a friend of his and that he hoped Mabel could solve the case.  That seems like a lot of responsibility to put on someone who is just looking for a vacation but, fortunately, Mabel proves to be up to the job.  Anyway, this was a fun little fantasy and, as an avid reader of mysteries, it was one to which I could relate.  Celeste Holm seemed to be having a lot of fun as Mabel and, even more importantly, her cat played a key role in solving the mystery.

This was not a bad episode.  The beach stuff was forgettable but the episode was saved Celeste Holm and Tattoo’s trumpet.

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 1.6 “Treasure Hunt/Beauty Contest”

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 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Smiles, everyone!  Smiles!  My fantasy is to get this week’s review over with because, to be honest, this was one of the less interesting episodes of the original Fantasy Island.  So, let’s get to it!

Episode 1.6 “Treasure Hunt/Beauty Contest”

(Directed by Allen Baron and George McCowan, originally aired on March 11th, 1978)

For this week’s episode of Fantasy Island, we have two so-so fantasies and a lot of scenes of Mr. Roarke and Tattoo arguing with each other.  After having an almost brotherly relationship over the past few weeks, Roarke and Tattoo both seem kind of annoyed with each other during this episode.  If I had to guess, I’d say that the episodes are probably being shown out of production order and this episode was written and filmed before the show’s producers were sure what the overall tone of the show should be.  

Indeed, the first fantasy features Mr. Roarke allowing three people to search for a lost pirate’s treasure on an isolated part of the island.  He does this despite the fact that the terrain is dangerous and that he knows that one of the three treasure hunters is planning on killing the other two.  When Tattoo points out that a murder would be bad for business, Roarke kind of shrugs Tattoo off.  Indeed, in this storyline, Roarke comes across as being rather aloof, as if he has little concern for the troubles of humanity.

As for the three treasure hunters, they are Stu Chambers (Michael Callan), his wife Andrea (Jo Ann Harris), and their friend James (Peter Haskell).  Stu is under the impression that James and Andrea are carrying on an affair and, as Mr. Roarke mentioned, he is planning on killing the two of them.  Fortunately, he changes his mind during the fantasy and, instead of murdering his wife and his best friend, he instead helps them survive when they get trapped in a cave.  In the end, they don’t get the treasure but they do win back their ability to trust each other.  One has to wonder what the consequences would have been if Stu had gone through with his original plans.  Is there a Fantasy Island police force?  Would Tattoo be forced to arrest Stu?  Who knows?

Meanwhile, in the other fantasy, Maureen McCormick plays Sally Quinn.  Sally is the daughter of a legendary beauty pageant winner.  She wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and win a pageant herself.  However, Roarke — who seems far more invested in Sally’s fantasy than the treasure hunt fantasy — figures out that Sally’s real fantasy is to win the love of her father, Neville (Gene Barry).  In the end, Sally doesn’t win the pageant but she does learn that there’s more to happiness than being beautiful.

To be honest, both of the fantasies in this episode are pretty dull and predictable.  But we do learn a little bit about what Tattoo actually does on the island.  He’s the accountant.  He starts the show complaining that Mr. Roarke doesn’t charge enough for the fantasies.  Tattoo then says he has a fantasy.  Mr. Roarke laughs him off, saying that candy shop employees never develop a taste for candy.  WHAT!?  

We also learn that Roarke and Tattoo enjoy playing Monopoly but Tattoo apparently cheats by using loaded dice.  And, to be honest, the thought of Roarke and Tattoo arguing over Boardwalk is such an appealing one that it saves the entire episode.

As for next week’s episode …. hopefully, it’ll involve even more Monopoly!


The Love War (1970, directed by George McCowan)


Two warring alien races are settling their conflict in California.  Two teams of three have been sent down to Earth.  Though they may appear to be human, their true form is revealed whenever anyone looks at them while wearing a special pair of glasses.  (Yes, just like in They Live.)  Kyle (Lloyd Bridges) is the last surviving member of his team but, even if his side has lost two battles, Kyle is still determined to win the war.

After killing one of his opponents in Los Angeles, Kyle hops on a bus and heads to a small town.  While he’s on the bus, he’s approached by Sandy (Angie Dickinson).  Though Kyle tries to avoid talking to her, Sandy manages to break down his defenses because she’s Angie Dickinson.  If 70s era Angie Dickinson started talking to you on a bus, would you be able to ignore her?  When Kyle reaches his destination and gets off the bus, Sandy decides to follow him.  Even after Kyle explains that he’s an alien and allows her to see his true form, Sandy says that she’s in love with him.  Kyle starts to fall in love with her too but what will he do when the other aliens show up in the town, looking to kill him?

Even though this made-for-TV movie’s 70 minute runtime makes it feel more like an extended episode of The Outer Limits than an actual movie, The Love War makes good use of both its intriguing premise and its two lead actors.  Lloyd Bridges and Angie Dickinson might not be the first two actors who come to mind you think about who could credibly play an alien and the woman in love with him but they both pull it off.  The Love War works because it takes its premise seriously.  I can only imagine how audiences in 1970 reacted the film’s ending, which is hardly typical of the type of feel-good stuff that we usually associate with 70s television.

The Love War has never officially been released on DVD but it can be viewed on YouTube.

Black Brigade (1970, directed by George McCowan)

During the closing days of World War II, General Clark (Paul Stewart) wants to capture a Nazi-controlled dam and he thinks he’s found just the man for the job.  Captain Beau Carter (Stephen Boyd) is a tough and good with a knife and a gun.  Carter is sent to take command of a ragtag group of soldiers who have spent the last three years waiting for combat.  The only catch is that the soldiers are all black and Captain Carter is a racist redneck.

This was an Aaron Spelling-produced television movie that was originally broadcast under the name Carter’s Army.  When it was released on video, the name was changed to Black Brigade, probably in an effort to fool viewers into thinking that it was a cool blaxploitation film instead of a simplistic TV movie.  The film has gotten some attention because of the cast, which is full of notable names.  Roosevelt Grier plays Big Jim.  Robert Hooks is Lt. Wallace while Glynn Turman is Pvt. Brightman (who keeps a journal full of the details of the imaginary battles in which he’s fought) and Moses Gunn brings his natural gravitas to the role of Pvt. Hayes.  Probably the two biggest names in the cast are Richard Pryor as the cowardly Crunk and Billy Dee Williams as Pvt. Lewis, who says that he’s from “Harlem, baby.”

Don’t let any of those big names fool you.  Most of them are lucky if they get one or two lines to establish their character before getting killed by the Germans.  The movie is mostly about Stephen Boyd blustering and complaining before eventually learning the error of his ways.  The problem is that Carter spends most of the film as such an unrepentant racist that it’s hard not to hope that one of the soldiers will shoot him in the back when he least expects it.  The other problem is that, for an action movie, there’s not much action.  Even the climatic battle at the dam is over in just a few minutes.

There is one daring-for-its-time scene where Lt. Wallace comes close to kissing a (white) member of the German Resistance, Anna Renvic (Susan Oliver).  When Carter sees him, he angrily orders Wallace to never touch a white woman.  Anna slaps Carter hard and tells him to mind his own goddamn business.  It’s the best scene in the movie.  Otherwise, Black Brigade is forgettable despite its high-powered cast.

The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969, directed by George McCowan)

Andy Crocker (Lee Majors) is a earnest young Texan who enlists in Vietnam, is injured in a firefight, and returns home with a purple heart.  Upon landing in California, he discovers that America has changed.  A group of hippies (led by Stuart Margolin, who also wrote this film’s script and the folk-style song that’s played throughout the action) taunts him for wearing his uniform.  After Andy steals a motorcycle from them and makes his way back down to Dallas, he discovers that his girlfriend, Lisa (Joey Heatherton), has left him for another man and that his best friend (played by singer Jimmy Dean) has sold Andy’s business.  Lisa’s mother (Agnes Moorehead) orders Andy to stay away from her family while she’s skeet shooting.  Even though everyone tells him how proud they are of him, no one seems to want Andy around.  Finally, Andy ends up back in California without any direction home.

This made-for-television movie (which was produced by Aaron Spelling) was important in that it was the first film to attempt to explore the issues that would face servicemen as they returned home after serving in an unpopular war.  It was actually meant to be a pilot for a series called Corporal Crocker, which would have followed Andy Crocker as he traveled across the country, Route 66-style.  Since the series wasn’t picked up, The Ballad of Andy Crocker instead becomes a downbeat look at a man discovering that he no longer has any place in the world.  It’s only 72-minutes long so it doesn’t examine any issues in depth but it’s still sincere in its intentions and Lee Majors gives a good performance in the lead role.  Andy Crocker is an interesting character.  Despite the fact that he just returned from fighting in it, he doesn’t seem to have any strong opinion about the war in Vietnam.  He’s hardly a pacifist and he does steal a motorcycle but, at the same time, he’s not a gung ho warrior either.  He’s just an ordinary man who is trying to figure out where he fits in.  By the end of the movie, he’s more scarred by society’s indifference than he has been by the war.

Keep an eye out for Marvin Gaye, who has a small role as Crocker’s best friend from Vietnam.