Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.14 “Séance/The Treasure”

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, Eve Plumb and Leslie Nielsen visit Fantasy Island!

Episode 2.14 “Séance/The Treasure”

(Dir by Larry Stewart, originally aired on January 13th, 1979)

Tattoo is a horse thief!  He claims that he just found the horse while wandering around the island but later, he comes across a wanted poster that has his picture on it and the declaration that Tattoo is wanted dead or alive.  Mr. Roarke gets a good laugh out of that and even repeats the words, “Dead or alive,” as if he’s realizing that he’s finally found a way to get rid of his assistant.  Fortunately, Mr. Roarke has a change of heart and, at the end of the episode, buys the horse for Tattoo.  Awwwww!

As for this week’s guests, Joe Capos (George Maharis) is a fisherman who has always wondered what it would be like to be a millionaire.  Joe and his wife, Eva (Shelley Fabares), come to the island and find themselves set up in a house that looks exactly like the one where Joe grew up.  One day, Joe goes out fishing and what should he find in his net but a gold statue of Triton blowing his horn!  It’s a valuable artifact, one that could make Joe a millionaire if it is found to be authentic.  Soon, Joe is surrounded by a bunch of people who are hoping to be on his good side when he becomes rich.  He’s the most popular man on the island!  Unfortunately, Joe is having so much fun being rich and popular that his neglected wife leaves him.  Joe knows that the only way to get Eva back is to return the statue to the ocean but will he have the courage to give up wealth and fame for love?

Meanwhile, Eve Plumb plays — wait a minute, Eve Plumb?  Just last week, Robert Reed was on the show, playing a method actor who thought he was a vampire.  Now, the original Jan Brady has come to the island.  I wonder if the entire Brady Bunch will eventually make it to Fantasy Island?

Plumb is playing Clare Conti, a young woman who suspects that her twin brother was murdered.  In order to prove it, her fantasy is to have a séance and contact him.  Her entire family comes to the Island for the séance, including Uncle Victor (Leslie Nielsen).  This episode is Neilsen’s second appearance on the Fantasy Island and, again, he’s playing a very serious and a very somber character but, because he’s so deadpan about it, it’s hard not hear everything that he says as being a joke.  It’s always great fun to see Nielsen playing humorless authority figures in the days before he became a comedy superstar.  The only thing that would make this episode better would be if Nielsen turned out to be the murderer but sadly, he’s not.  As for the rest of the fantasy, the séance scenes manage to strike the right balance between being creepy and being campy.  Clare’s dead brother yells a lot but I guess that’s what you do when you’re trying to communicate from the beyond.

This was an enjoyable episode, featuring good performances from the guest stars and fantasies that were intriguing without demanding too much from the audience.  This trip to Fantasy Island was more than worth it.

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.13 “The Lady and the Longhorn/Vampire”

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, Robert Reed turns into a vampire!

Episode 2.13 “The Lady and the Longhorn/Vampire”

(Dir by Arnold Laven, originally aired on December 16th, 1978)

Tattoo is excited because Vera Templeton (Eva Gabor) is coming to the island.  Vera is the glamorous owner of a cosmetics company and she is looking for a location to shoot a commercial for her makeup.  Tattoo hopes that she’ll hire him to direct so he puts on a red beret to make him look more like a director.  Mr. Roarke rolls his eyes, letting us know that he has no time for Tattoo’s foolishness.  NOT THIS WEEK!

Actually, this turns out to be a very foolish week indeed.  Vera Templeton is not just coming to the Island to shoot a commercial.  She is on the verge of going bankrupt and needs to marry a rich man.  She meets Hollis Buford, Jr. (Jack Elam), who wears a cowboy hat and picks his teeth and talks about the rodeo a lot but who is apparently a millionaire.  He’s also supposed to be from Dallas.  (I’m from Dallas and I can assure you that the cattle barons live in Fort Worth.)  Vera flirts with Hollis by speaking in a painfully bad Southern accent.  Vera and Hollis get engaged.  Hollis seems to love Vera but Vera just wants his money and we are supposed to find this funny.

Vera’s  bratty and annoying daughter (Tammy Lauren) doesn’t like Hollis, even though he seems like a perfectly well-meaning guy.  So, she sells her stocks to Vera’s butler (Lloyd Bochner) and Vera marries her butler after telling Hollis that their marriage just won’t work out.  “Dagnabbit,” Hollis says, “Now, I have to find another date to the rodeo.”

What an annoying fantasy.  Not only did the humor fall flat but it was a bit mean-spirited as well.

Meanwhile, Leo Drake (Robert Reed) and his wife, Carmen (Julie Sommars) have come to the Island.  Roarke explains that Leo is a method actor.

“That means he like to become the role that he plays,” Tattoo says, “Like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky.”

(And that is probably the only time in history that Robert Reed has even been compared to Sylvester Stallone.)

Leo has been cast in a remake of Dracula so he wants to live in an actual castle overlooking a village in Transylvania.  Roarke obliges and soon, Leo is wandering the streets in the middle of the night and he’s developing fangs.  Has he become a vampire or is the method getting the better of him?  The villagers want to set him on fire but Roarke suggests that they just wait for the sun to rise.  When the sun doesn’t destroy Leo, everyone realizes that he’s not a vampire and …. well, that’s that!

Yes, it’s painfully dumb but at least the episode features mild-mannered Robert Reed, with his gray perm and his aging porn star mustache, putting on a cape and wandering around a village at midnight.  Reed is totally miscast but that gives this episode what little charm it has.

My fantasy is that next week’s episode will be better!

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 2.12 “Charlie’s Cherubs/Stalag 3”

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, Fantasy Island is invaded by Nazis and Angels!

Episode 2.3 “Charlie’s Cherubs/Stalag 3”

(Dir by Cliff Bole, originally aired on December 9th, 1978)

Today’s episode begins with Mr. Roarke noticing that Tattoo is carrying a calculator with him.

“What is that, Tattoo?” he asks.

“A mini-computer,” Tattoo replies, “My cousin Igor sent it to me.  Computers can take away a lot of guess work.”

Mr. Roarke, obviously thinking that these “computer” things are but a mere fad, replies, “So can bikinis.  Let us meet our guests.”

This week, all of the guests have dangerous fantasies.  For instance, Danny Ryan (Cornel Wilde) is a World War II veteran who has never really been able to make it in the post-War world.  So, he invites three fellow vets to return with him to the French town in which they spent 1944.  During the War, they were POWS at Stalag 3 but they were famous for continually outsmarting Commandant Horst Von Stern (Nehemiah Persoff).  In fact, Von Stern’s career and reputation never really recovered from the time that Danny and his friends escaped.  (I imagine that, after the war, Von Stern’s reputation was also damaged by the fact that he was a freaking Nazi commandant.)  Not only has Mr. Roarke arranged for the old French village — complete with Fifi of the Resistance (played by Yvonne DeCarlo) — to be moved to Fantasy Island but he also brought over the old POW camp.  Unfortunately, Von Stern decides to come over as well and get his revenge by tossing Danny and friends back in the camp.

“You see,” Von Stern announces, “generals have fantasies too.”

What the Hell is going on with this Island?  Does Mr. Roarke just give anyone a fantasy, even a Nazi war criminal?  Actually, it appears that Mr. Roarke doesn’t know that Von Stern has come to the Island nor does he know that there is a treasure of stolen diamonds hidden in the village.  Apparently, Roarke decided to just let this fantasy run on autopilot without actually bothering to check in with what was going on.

Both Mr. Roarke and Tattoo are more concerned with the three secretaries (Melinda Naud, Brenda Benet, and Bond Gideon) who want to be Charlie’s Angels and solve a crime.  The crime involves a theft on Fantasy Island and …. well, it’s really not much of a mystery.  It’s basically a 20-minutes episode of Charlie’s Angels, with a bit less action but a lot more scenes of people saying stuff like, “He knows about electronics so he’s the thief!”  It was really a weak fantasy, which is a shame because, if I ever went to Fantasy Island, I would probably want to be a detective as well!

The show ends with Von Stern being sent to Germany to be put on trial for war crimes and the Angels saying that they’re ready to be secretaries again.  Roarke informs them that most angels fantasize about being secretaries.  Uhmmm, Mr. Roarke …. the proper term is administrative professional.  Everything appears to be wrapped up but, as the show ends, Tattoo announces that someone has stolen his mini-computer and Mr. Roarke laughs at his assistant’s misfortune.  Perhaps Tattoo losing his most prized possession was Roarke’s fantasy.

This was a weird episode.  Mr. Roarke might need to pay closer attention to what’s happening on his island!

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.11 “Carnival/The Vaudevillians”

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!

Smiles everyone!  Smiles!

Episode 2.11 “Carnival/The Vaudevillians”

(Dir by Georg Stanford Brown, Originally aired on December 2nd, 1978)

Tattoo has come up with a new way to become a millionaire!  He’s invented a sleeping bag that he claims can hold two people.  Mr. Roarke is a bit skeptical that the small roll of material that Tattoo is holding could possibly be big enough to hold two people.  Tattoo tells him that all he has to do is remove a key and the material will inflate.  Roarke removes the key and several feathers explode into the air.  Tattoo shrugs and says that he obviously has to get back to the drawing board.

“Inventor indeed,” Mr. Roarke says, in a tone that suggests that the only he reason he’s not physically killing Tattoo is because it’s time for them to greet their guests.

(Why is Tattoo always trying to make extra money?  Does Fantasy Island not pay well?)

This week, the fantasies are all about reliving the past.  Charlie Parks (Phil Silvers) and Will Fields (Phil Harris) used to be stars on Vaudeville but, like so many of the old time entertainers, they’ve now found themselves forgotten.  Charlie’s even been put in a nursing home.  Still, he manages to make the trip to Fantasy Island, where his fantasy is to be reunited with Will so that they can try to bring Vaudeville back to life.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work.  Tattoo loves their corny old jokes but when they perform for a larger audience, they only get a few pity chuckles.  Dejected, Charlie plans to return to his retirement home when he and Will are approached by a man who claims that he works for the city of Baltimore.  (Oh no!  Run!)  The man explains that he wants to hire Charlie and Will to perform at nursing homes, where their old-fashioned routines will enliven the golden years of people who don’t like loud music and R-rated movies.  Charlie and Will agree.  Yay!

Meanwhile, Dorothy Weller (Carol Lynley) is a woman who has spent the past few months in a coma.  Now, she’s not sure if the man she thought she loved really existed or if he was just someone she dreamed up while she was in the hospital.  Mr. Roarke arranges for her to travel to a recreation of the same Mexican town where she met the mystery man.  She finds her former lover, Tom Parnell (Stuart Whitman), on the beach.  Tom explains that he is real and he is in love with her.  He’s also a spy and there’s an international assassin (an appropriately sinister Luke Askew) after him!

This episode was kind of a mixed bag.  The Vaudeville fantasy featured charming performances from Phil Silvers and Phil Harris but their jokes were never quite as funny as Tattoo seemed to think that they were.  The spy fantasy was not helped by the casting of the reliably dull Stuart Whitman but the story itself was intriguing and Carol Lynley gave a believable and emotional performance as Dorothy.  The end result was a thoroughly pleasant but not altogether memorable trip to Fantasy Island.  But really, when it comes to Fantasy Island, hasn’t the appeal always been just how pleasant everything is?

Well, except for the relationship between Tattoo and Mr. Roarke, of course.  I still suspect Tattoo is secretly plotting to kill Mr. Roarke and take over the island.  Who knows?  Maybe that’ll be a future episode.  We’ll find out soon!

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.10 “The Flight of the Great Yellow Bird” / “The Island of Lost Women”

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!

Smiles, everyone, smiles!  It’s time to search for Bigfoot!

Episode 2.11 “The Flight of the Great Yellow Bird / The Island of Lost Women”

(Dir by Joseph Pevney, originally aired on November 25th, 1978)

This week’s episode is all about people looking for things.

Tattoo, for instance, is looking for success on the stock market.  He thinks he’s got a hot tip on how to make a lot of money.  Mr. Roarke rolls his eyes when Tattoo speaks about it.  Obviously, Mr. Roarke has heard a lot about Tattoo’s hot tips and he’s given up on pretending to have any respect whatsoever for his loyal assistant.  Later, Mr. Roarke will order Tattoo to get his stock ticker out of the office.  One gets the feeling that, much like Joseph P. Kennedy in the 1920s, only Mr. Roarke will be smart enough to escape the collapse of the world’s economy.

(Legend has it that Joseph Kennedy — father of the Kennedy children — got out of the Stock Market when the guy who was shining his shoes started giving him stock tips.  Kennedy figured that if even the shoe shine guy was playing the market, that meant there were too many deals being made.  Kennedy turned out to be correct and, as a result, his family suffered not at all during the Great Depression.  Of course, after the Great Depression, there would be suffering all around.)

While Tattoo looks for money, this week’s guests look for ancient legends.

For instance, Barney Shore (Robert Morse) is a sailor who spent two years on an atomic submarine.

“He went two years without seeing a woman!?”  Tattoo says, “Boss, what did he do?”

Well, what do you think he did!?  Mr. Roarke, being a gentleman, says that Barney spent all of his time reading and researching legends of an island that was populated only by women.  Barney’s fantasy is to discover the island and indeed, he does.  Barney is dropped off on a tropical island that is populated by women who all dress as if they’re extras in an Italian Hercules movie.

Unfortunately, for Barney, Queen Delphia (Cyd Charisse), has very strict rules about men on the island.  Only one man is allowed to be around the women per year.  That man is crowned the Harvest King and his job is to …. well, make sure that the population continues to grow.  Of course, once the Harvest King has done his job, there’s no reason to keep him around and he’s sacrificed.  Barney falls in love with one of the women and he convinces the rest of the tribe that it’s okay for men and women to live together on the same island.  Good for Barney….

“But what about Bigfoot!?”

I hear you, I’m getting to him.  Barney’s a nice guy and I’m glad he survived his trip to the island but obviously, the main attraction here is to watch Peter Graves play the world-renowned adventurer Singapore Eddie Malone.  Eddie comes to Fantasy Island to give a lecture about his hunt for Bigfoot.  However, he’s hired to help Prof. Smith-Myles (Barbara Rush) explore an isolated area of the island where Bigfoot may indeed live.  Eddie is here to help the professor experience her fantasy of finding Bigfoot while Eddie’s fantasy is to be a true explorer and everyone’s fantasy comes to true!  Of course, Eddie is also an old friend of Rourke’s and, at the end of the episode, Tattoo suggests that maybe the whole thing was just Roarke’s fantasy to make Eddie feel better about his life.

But what about Bigfoot!?

The actual Bigfoot doesn’t really get much screen time, sorry.  Then again, I think that’s why Bigfoot is so intriguing.  He’s elusive!  He’s fun to search for.  He’s fun to talk about.  But spending too much time with him would just take away the mystery.  Besides, who needs Bigfoot when you have Peter Graves glowering and doing his whole “international man of mystery” routine?

This was a silly episode and both stories felt a bit rushed but Peter Graves gave such a grave, deep-voiced performance that the episode was still entertaining.  Hopefully, Bigfoot will return!

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 2.9 “The Appointment/Mr. Tattoo”

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 finally gets his chance to be in charge!

Episode 2.10 “The Appointment/Mr. Tattoo”

(Dir by Cliff Bole, originally aired on November 18th, 1978)

This week’s episode opens with Tattoo in a very good mood.  Apparently, Mr. Roarke has promised Tattoo that Tattoo will someday get a chance to be in charge of a guest’s fantasy and Tattoo has decided that he is now ready to take on that responsibility!  As is typical of this show, Roarke responds to Tattoo’s enthusiasm by pretending to not remember what Tattoo is talking about.  Tattoo not only has to explain their deal but he literally has to beg Roarke to uphold his part of the bargain.  Roarke smiles at Tattoo’s excitement and says, in a tone that suggests the opposite, “I can hardly wait.”

(In many ways, Tattoo has the same relationship with Roarke that Nick Nack had with Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.  There’s a lot of passive-aggressive resentment to be found in every exchange between the two.)

Tattoo is in charge of granting the fantasies of Dee Dee (Barbi Benton) and near-sighted Evelyn Kastenbaum (Connie Stevens).  Dee Dee and Evelyn are Vegas showgirls who want to marry millionaires.  Tattoo hires two lounge singers, Jack (Troy Donahue) and Bernie (Fred Grandy), and instructs them to write a Broadway musical that will star Dee Dee and Evelyn.  Investors will come to the Island to see about investing in the show and surely, two of them will fall in love with Dee Dee and Evelyn!

It sounds like a great plan!  Way to go, Tattoo!

The only problem is that Dee Dee and Evelyn end up falling in love with Jack and Bernie.  In fact, during the musical’s big wedding number, the four of them are married by a minister who, Roarke explains, has always had a fantasy about appearing in a musical.  Tattoo is upset.  He says that he failed to grant the girls their fantasies.  But then Roarke explains that Bernie and Jack are actually millionaire playwrights who came to the island to fulfill their fantasy of writing a musical.  It all works out, even if it does appear that Tattoo was actually never really in charge of the fantasy.

While this is going on, Dr. John Carlson (Bert Convy) has a fantasy about meeting with a big financial backer and getting the money to build a hospital that will be named after himself.  However, while trying to drive to the meeting, John comes across a Fantasy Islander (Nancy Kwan) who is in the middle of a very difficult labor.  It turns out that her village only has one doctor and he’s away.  To save her life, Dr. Carlson will not only have to miss his meeting but he will also have to rediscover the joy of taking care of patients on a one-on-one basis.

(Why did all of the native Fantasy Islanders live in remote villages with so few modern resources?  Did Mr. Roarke just not care about them?)

Oh no, Dr. Carlson didn’t get his fantasy!  But don’t worry.  It turns out that Dr. Carlson’s wife (Tasha Noble) had a fantasy that the doctor would finally rediscover his love for medicine and that their marriage would improve.  So, at least someone got what they wanted!

Dr. Carlson’s fantasy was fairly predictable but the stuff with the showgirls, the playwrights, and the Broadway show was actually pretty cute.  It was definitely silly but Fantasy Island is at its best when its silly.  Plus, Mr. Tattoo finally got his fantasy.  Yay!

It was a fun episode.

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.8 “Return/The Toughest Man Alive”

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, Mr. Roarke falls in love!

Episode 2.9 “Return/The Toughest Man Alive”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on November 11th, 1978)

As usual, this episode of Fantasy Island starts out with a little Tattoo drama.  After announcing the arrival of the plane, Tattoo informs Mr. Roarke that someone has stolen Tattoo’s car.  Mr. Roarke has his doubts that anyone would steal a car on Fantasy Island but Tattoo points out that his designated parking space is empty.

Mr. Roarke informs Tattoo that he must be mistaken and that his car will eventually show up.  And yes, the car does eventually show up.  About halfway through the episode, two chimpanzees drive by in it.  It’s a bizarre little scene, one that is neither explained nor really resolved at the end of the episode.  I guess the chimpanzees just decided that they liked Tattoo’s car.  To be honest, this entire plotline made me feel bad for Herve Villechaize as the joke’s punch line seemed to be that Herve was so small that even a chimpanzee could drive his car.  From what I’ve read. Villechaize was often times not happy on the set of Fantasy Island and I imagine that jokes like that undoubtedly had something to do with it.

But enough about Tattoo’s car!  It’s time to learn who is having a fantasy this week!

Usually, the show’s fantasies are thematically connected but that’s not the case this week.  Indeed, neither one of the fantasies seems to go with the other and I actually found myself wondering if maybe the two fantasies had been meant for different episodes but, for whatever reason, were instead edited into this episode.

The first fantasy involves Samantha Eggar as a fashion designer who returns to Fantasy Island after having previously visited four years ago.  During her first visit, Eggar’s fantasy was to become a designer and to fall in love.  While she became a designer, she did not end up with the man of her dreams so Roarke is giving her a second chance.  The twist is that she’s in love with Mr. Roarke!  And Roarke is in love with her!  To Tattoo’s shock, the two of them plan to get married on the Island.  But then, the designer realizes that she has responsibilities in the real world and apparently, marrying Mr. Roarke means staying on the Island.  So, the marriage is called off.  Mr. Roarke’s heart is broken …. or is it?  As I watched the episode, I found myself wondering if Mr. Roarke really loved her or if he was just giving her a chance to have her fantasy.  Ricardo Montalban’s enigmatic performance kept things ambiguous.

One thing that bothered me about this fantasy is that Mr. Roarke potentially getting married felt like a pretty big plotline to be confined to just half of a one-hour show.  It seemed like this should have been a special episode with just one fantasy.  Instead, because there’s a second fantasy, there’s several odd scenes of Roarke taking a break from planning his wedding so that he can encourage Red Buttons to defeat a bunch of pirates.  Buttons is cast as an engineer who wants to be a hero in the style of Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson.  Roarke gives him super-strength, which is not something that Eastwood or Bronson ever had.  But whatever!  Buttons is recruited to protect a bunch of islanders from some pirates.  But Roarke abruptly takes away Buttons’s super strength and, instead, Buttons has to use his engineering knowledge to defeat the pirates.  It’s kind of silly, to be honest.

This episode raised a lot of questions about the nature of the Island and Roarke himself.  Mr. Roarke rules over the island and apparently, he has to remain on the Island.  But, at the same time, he apparently can’t be bothered to stop a bunch of pirates from harassing the native’s inhabitants and instead, he gives temporary super strength to an otherwise meek engineer.  Maybe the engineer could have gotten Tattoo’s car away from those chimpanzees.  While all of this is going on, Roarke also ends up falling in love with a mortal who never stops to ask, “Hey, are you an angel or something?”  It’s an odd episode and a vaguely disappointing one, as neither one of the stories is that deeply explored.

Oh well!  There’s always next week!

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 2.6 “War Games/Queen of the Boston Bruisers”

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!

It’s time for another tonally confusing trip to Fantasy Island!

Episode 2.6 “War Games/Queen of the Boston Bruisers”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on October 28th, 1978)

We’re just six episodes into the second season of Fantasy Island but a definite pattern has emerged.  Just as in the first season, each episode features two fantasies.  But, in the second season, it appears that one fantasy is always comedic and the second is always serious.  This has created an interesting tonal mishmash on Fantasy Island.  Mr. Roarke spends half of his time laughing at the silliness of it all and the other half warning people that their fantasy could lead to death.

Take this episode for instance.

Rowdy Roberts (Anne Francis) is a roller derby champ whose fantasy is to become a “gentlelady” so that she can impress her daughter’s future in-laws.  (Rowdy’s future son-in-law, meanwhile, is played by a young Jonathan Frakes.)  Mr. Roarke and Tattoo spend an entire weekend teaching Rowdy how to speak properly, how to eat with silverware, and all the rest.  However, snobbish Betty Wendover (Joanna Barnes) doesn’t want her son marrying Rowdy’s daughter so she arranges for Rowdy’s roller derby rival, Hooligan Hanreddy (Mary Jo Catlett), to come to the island and challenge Rowdy to a fight.  Rowdy throws a punch and then runs off, ashamed at not being sophisticated.  But, it turns out that Rowdy’s future son-in-law is really impressed with what Rowdy did and the wedding takes place after all.  Yay!

Needless to say, this is all incredibly silly but it’s meant to be silly and both Anne Francis and Mary Jo Catlett seem to be having fun overplaying their rivalry.  There is nothing particularly realistic about this fantasy but it’s not meant to be.  It’s meant to make the viewer smile and, for the most part, that’s what it does.

But, at the same time, Vietnam vet Joe Beck (Christopher George) is chasing another Vietnam vet, attorney Ted Harmon (Greg Morris), through the jungle, intent on killing him.  Joe blames Ted for the death of Joe’s younger brother.  Apparently, they were all POWs together and Joe’s brother died during an escape.  Joe is convinced that Ted betrayed his country.  This is all pretty dramatic and it’s hard not to wonder why Roarke would have agreed to sponsor this fantasy in the first place.  Ted is a prominent attorney who is thinking of running for political office.  If he was murdered on Fantasy Island, that wouldn’t do much for the island’s reputation.  Fortunately, it all works out in the end as Joe discovers that his younger brother is not only still alive but that he’s also the one who informed the VC about the escape attempt.  Amazingly, Ted doesn’t seem to be at all upset that he was nearly murdered over a mistake.  I guess that’s the magic of Fantasy Island.

These two fantasies didn’t really go together and, as a result, this episode feels a bit messy.  But there is one cute moment in which Tattoo reveals to Mr. Rourke that his new side hustle involves selling phony college degrees.

Go Tattoo!

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.5 “I Want To Get Married/The Jewel Thief”

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!

We learn a little bit more about Fantasy Island in this week’s episode.  It’s a strange place!

Episode 2.5 “I Want To Get Married/The Jewel Thief”

(Dir by George McGowan, originally aired on October 21st, 1978)

You know what the best thing about Fantasy Island is?

The Disco Dancing!

Cindy Barker (Meredith McRae) is a big fan of the disco dancing.  That’s because her fantasy is to come to the island and meet the man that she’s going to marry.  In fact, she wants to marry the guy at the end of the weekend and she’s already spent $20,000 to reserve the island for her wedding.  (Tattoo is excited about that.)

Of course, one possible problem with Cindy’s fantasy is that she already has a boyfriend.  She’s been dating Eddie (Ken Berry) for a while now.  However, Eddie refuses to get married.  Every time that they schedule a wedding ceremony, Eddie finds an excuse to cancel.  He can’t even say the word “married” without sneezing.  Still, Eddie is in love with Cindy and he comes to the Island to try to convince her to give him another chance.  He also tells all of her potential suitors that Cindy is actually a prostitute.  

Now, to be honest, that’s not the sort of thing that I could forgive.  I don’t care who you are or how much you love me, that’s just not something that I’m going to be able to overlook.  However, this somehow convinces Cindy that Eddie really does love her so she decides to teach him a lesson by putting on a slit leather skirt and hanging out on a street corner in Fantasy Island’s red light district.

At this point, I said to myself, “Since when has Fantasy Island had a red light district?”  Seriously, last week revealed that the island has a desert where the Egyptians buried their pharaohs.  This week, we learn that the island has a red light district.  Fantasy Island is a strange place.  Stranger still, Eddie lying about Cindy and then Cindy pretending to be a prostitute leads to Eddie and Cindy getting married.  

While that’s going on, Jordan Montgomery (Steve Forrest) is living out his fantasy of being an international jewel thief and …. wait, what?  What type of fantasy is this?  You can commit crimes in your fantasies?  This island gets stranger and stranger!  Anyway, Jordan steals a necklace from Leslie Tarleton (Leigh Taylor-Young), just to discover that the necklace didn’t actually belong to her and his thievery is going to cause her to lose her job.  When Jordan attempts to retrieve the necklace so that he can return it, he discovers that it’s been stolen yet again!  This time, crime lord Carl Dekker (Peter Mark Richman) has stolen the necklace and is keeping it on his boat, which is heavily guarded and which is also floating off the coast of the island.  

So, for those keeping track, Fantasy Island has a desert, a pharaoh’s tomb, a red light district, and a Mafia.  It seems like the island’s kind of gone downhill since the end of season one!

Anyway, this was actually a fun episode.  Neither story was particularly deep but the action moved quickly and Steve Forrest made for a properly dashing jewel thief.  I still don’t think that Cindy should have forgiven Eddie, let alone married him.  But it was 1978 and I guess times were different back then.

Finally, Tattoo tried to start his own greeting card company.  He was looking to corner the market on sarcastic and downbeat greeting  cards.  He was just a few decades too early!