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 1.10 “The Over-The-Hill-Gang/Poof, You’re A Movie Star!”


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 1.10 “The Over-The-Hill-Gang/Poof, You’re A Movie Star!”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on April 15th, 1978)

Uh-oh, Tattoo has a new money-making scheme!  It involves a parrot.  While the exact details of Tattoo’s schemes are a bit vague, it all involves teaching the parrot how to speak.  Again, I’m not sure how exactly that’s going to make Tattoo a lot of money but whatever.  I like parrots.

Still, it’s hard not to notice that Tattoo seems to spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to make extra money.  Tattoo is the second-in-command at the world’s most prestigious resort so you have to wonder why he always seems to be so desperate to bring in some extra cash.  It’s not like Tattoo is paying rent or even buying his own food.  That’s all provided by Mr. Roarke and the island.  Add to that, it has been implied that Tattoo is in charge of the island’s finances and that’s not a job that you give to someone who can’t handle his own money.  Maybe Tattoo isn’t looking to make money for himself.  Maybe Fantasy Island is on the verge of bankruptcy due to Roarke’s habit of giving people free fantasies.  Maybe the talking parrot is Tattoo’s latest scheme to save the Island.  If that’s the case, then Tattoo really is the secret hero of this series.

I actually wish this episode has spent more time with the parrot because that little throw-away story was still more interesting than the two main stories.  Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t a bad episode.  It’s just a bit bland.

Shirley Russell (Barbi Benton) comes to the Island with dreams of becoming a movie star.  Mr. Roarke simply snaps his fingers and suddenly, Shirley has not only an agent but also hundreds of fans following her everywhere that she goes.  She also has a role in a big movie that will be filming on the Island!  When the film’s producer (played by a veteran sleazy guy Herb Edelman) tells Shirley that she’ll have to film a nude scene for the movie, Shirley abandons her fantasy and happily reunites with her earnest fiancé.  Barbi Benton was likable as Shirley but the fantasy itself was predictable and on the blah side.  Shirley’s shock over the proposed nude scene made me wonder if she had actually watched any movies other than The Sound of Music.

The other fantasy dealt with Spencer Randolph (Ray Bolger), an aging bank robber who wanted to pull off one last job with his old gang before marrying a wealthy businesswoman.  Bolger’s old gang was made up of familiar Hollywood character actors like Tom Ewell, Foster Brooks, and Phil Foster.  Along with getting the old gang back together again, Spencer was also able to foil a blackmail scheme.  Again, the storyline was a bit bland but the chemistry between all of the Hollywood veterans was enjoyable.  Ray Bolger was just as spry and likable here as he was when he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.  Interestingly enough, 39 years passed between The Wizard of Oz and this episode of Fantasy Island and Bolger was still younger than Joe Biden is today when he played Spencer Randolph, the leader of the over-the-hill gang.

Lisa Watches An Oscar Nominee: Auntie Mame (dir by Morton DaCosta)


Oh Lord, Auntie Mame.

There were two reasons why I watched the 1958 film Auntie Mame.

First off, as I’ve mentioned before, TCM has been doing their 31 Days of Oscar this month.  They’ve been showing a lot of films — both good and bad — that were nominated for best picture.  Since it’s long been my goal to see and review every single film that has ever nominated for best picture, I have made it a point to DVR and watch every best picture nominee that has shown up on TCM this month.  Auntie Mame was nominated for best picture of 1958 and was broadcast on TCM this month so I really had no choice but to watch it.

My other reason for wanting to see Auntie Mame was because, when I was 19, I was cast in a community theater production of Mame.  (Mame, of course, is the musical version of Auntie Mame.)  Though everyone who saw the auditions agreed that I should have played the role of Gloria Upson, I was cast in the ensemble.  (Gloria was played by the daughter of a friend of the director.  Typical community theater politics.)  As a member of the ensemble, I didn’t get any lines but I still had fun.  In the opening party scene, I dressed up like a flapper and I got to show off my legs.  And then in another scene, I was an artist’s model and I got show off my cleavage.  (If you don’t use being in the ensemble as an excuse to show off what you’ve got, you’re doing community theater wrong.)  Towards the end of the play, I appeared as one of Gloria’s friends and whenever she delivered her lines, I would make sure to have the most over-the-top reactions possible.  She may have stolen the part but I stole the scene.  It was a lot of fun.

But, even while I was having fun, I have to admit that I didn’t care much for Mame.  It was an extremely long and kind of annoying show and there’s only so many times you can listen to someone sing We Need A Little Christmas before you’re tempted to rip out the hair of the actress who stole the role of Gloria Upson from you.

So, when I recently sat down and watched Auntie Mame, I was genuinely curious to see if the story itself worked better without everyone breaking out into song.  After all, Auntie Mame was the number one box office hit of 1958, it was nominated for best picture, and it was apparently so beloved that it inspired a musical!  There had to be something good about it, right!?

Right.

Auntie Mame tells the story of Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell, attempting to be manic and just coming across as hyper) who is rich and quirky and irrepressibly irresponsible.  When her brother dies, Mame suddenly finds herself entrusted with raising his son, Patrick (played, as a child, by the charmless Jan Hadzlik and, as an adult, by the stiff Roger Smith).  Mame is a wild nonconformist (which I suppose is easy to be when you’ve got as much money as she does) and she tries to teach Patrick to always think for himself.  However, once Patrick grows up and decides that he wants to marry snobby Gloria Upson, Mame decides maybe Patrick shouldn’t think for himself and goes out of her way to prevent the wedding.

Auntie Mame is an episodic film that follows Mame as she goes through a series of oppressively zany adventures.  When the Great Depression hits, she’s forced to work as an actress, a saleswoman, and a telephone operator and she’s not very good at any of them.  She does eventually meet and marry the wealthy Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Forrest Tucker).  As you can probably guess from the man’s name, he’s supposed to be from the south.  (And yet Tucker plays the role with a western accent…)  He loves Mame but then he ends up falling off a mountain.  So much for Beau.

(In the production of Mame that I appeared in, Beau was played by this 50 year-old guy who simply would not stop hitting on me and every other girl in the cast and who was always “accidentally” entering the dressing room while we were all changing.  Whenever Mame mentioned Beau’s death, all of us ensemble girls would cheer backstage.)

Anyway, as a film, Auntie Mame doesn’t hold up extremely well.  I can understand, to an extent, why it was so popular when it was first released.  It was an elaborate adaptation of a Broadway play and, in 1958, I’m sure that its theme of nonconformity probably seemed somewhat daring.  When you watch it today, though, the whole film seems almost oppressively heavy-handed and simplistic.  It’s easy to embrace Mame’s philosophy when everyone else in the film is essentially a sitcom creation.

As I mentioned previously, Auntie Mame was nominated for best picture.  However, it lost to the musical Gigi.