Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 1.11 “Reunion/Anniversary”

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 all about confronting the mistakes of the past.

Episode 1.11 “Reunion/Anniversary”

(Dir by Allen Baron and John Newland, originally aired on April 29th, 1978)

Before I talk about the two fantasies in this episode, here’s a bit of trivia.  This episode was originally intended to be the first episode of the series.  That perhaps explains why it has a tone that is more similar to the original TV movie than to the more light-hearted episodes that followed.  Just as in the made-for-TV movie, Mr. Roarke is a bit of an enigma in this episode, one who has little trouble manipulating his guests in order to get the results that he wants.  This episode even ends with Tattoo saying, “Thank God,” and Mr. Roarke replying with a mysterious half-smile.  Roarke isn’t quite as sinister as he was in the TV movie but he’s also not quite the cheery host that he would become in later episodes.  Roarke, at one point, also mentions that he has people who research everyone’s fantasy before choosing whether to grant it.  That’s certainly different from later episodes, in which the fantasies are apparently available to anyone who can pay or who has been lucky enough to win Roarke’s sympathy.

Of course, when it came time to air the first season of Fantasy Island, this episode got pushed back and it aired as the eleventh episode.  As a result, it presents a bit of a change-of-pace from the episodes that aired the weeks before.  One can only imagine how someone who decided to start watching the show because of the fantasy where Don Knotts played a private eye reacted to this episode, in which four guests were stalked by a murderer who wore giallo-style black gloves.

The guests being stalked by the murderer are Agnes (Pamela Franklin), Hannah (Hilarie Thompson), Carol (Michele Lee), and Jill (Sue Loyon).  They are all members of the Honeybees, a group of former high school cheerleaders who are having a ten-year reunion.  Their fantasy is to spend the weekend at a recreation of the Beehive, a cabin where they used to hang out while in high school.  Of course, every one of them has a dark secret and, after one of the Honeybees is apparently blown up in a nearby barn, the three remaining Honeybees have to solve the mystery.  It all gets fairly dark and sordid but, fear not!  Mr. Roarke shows up and even takes part in some hand-to-hand combat before revealing the truth about what is going on at the Beehive.

(Again, this is not something that we would normally expect from Mr. Roarke.)

Meanwhile, troubled couple Toni (Lucie Arnaz) and Tom Elgin (Ronny Cox, looking slightly embarrassed) come to the island for their anniversary!  Toni wants to relive the weekend that they got married, when they were still happy and before Tom became a drunk.  All of their old friends are invited to the island and soon, Tom is flirting with another woman while Toni is flirting with another man.  Mr. Roarke even invites Rev. Allen (Stuart Nisbet), the man who performed the original wedding ceremony.  The reverend explains that, due to a mix-up at the licensing office, he wasn’t actually legally allowed to perform marriages when Toni and Tom get married so it turns out that Tom and Toni have been living in sin all this time!  Now, Tom and Toni have to decide whether to get married for real or to go their separate ways.

I vote for separate ways, just because they really do seem to be miserable together.  However, it turns out that Mr. Roarke has a plan to keep this awful couple together.

The decision to move this episode from the start of the season to the latter half was definitely a good one.  It was probably a bit too dark and dramatic to really work as the premiere episode but, as the 11th episode, it provides a nice change-of-pace.  After several comedic and somewhat shallow episodes, this episode emphasizes the dramatic side of Fantasy Island.  In this episode, the ultimate lesson appears to be that fantasies are fun but that it’s far more important to deal with the real world.  In other words, Fantasy Island is a nice place to visit but only Mr. Roarke and Tattoo should live there.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.10 “Dear Beverly/The Strike/Special Deliver”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

Come aboard!  We’re expecting you!

Episode 10.10 “Dear Beverly/The Strike/Special Delivery”

(directed by Allen Baron, originally aired December 3rd, 1977)

Tonight’s voyage is all about misunderstandings!

For example, Beverly Blanchard (Eva Gabor) is an advice columnist who has built a career out of helping people work their way through misunderstandings.  When she boards the Love Boat, she is swarmed by fans who all want her advice.  She even leads a little seminar by the pool, in which she asks people if they have any problems that she can help with.  Unfortunately, what she doesn’t understand is that her husband, Russ, is feeling neglected.  Usually, I would say that Russ should stop feeling sorry for himself but Russ is played Leslie Nielsen, who is so superlikable in his stiffly earnest way that it’s hard not to have some sympathy for him.  When Beverly finds out that Russ has been spending time with another passenger (Stephanie Blackmore), she writes a column in which she announces her retirement so that she can give Russ the attention he deserves.  Personally, I would think a better column would be about why husbands shouldn’t cheat on their wives, especially with someone who they’ve known for less than 24 hours.

Speaking of cheaters, Jeff Smith (Robert Urich) cheated on his wife, Gail (Pamela Franklin), and now they’re separated.  When Jeff boards the ship, he tries to pursue a romance with Julie but he quickly admits that he’s still hung up on his wife.  What Jeff doesn’t know is that Gail is also on the ship and she’s 9 months pregnant!  Now, considering that this is The Love Boat, it probably will not surprise you to learn that Gail goes into labor while on the boat and it’s up to Doc and Jeff to deliver the baby while the rest of the crew waits outside.  Fortunately, the baby makes it and Jeff and Gail get back together.  But what about Jeff cheating on Gail?  Well, Gail takes responsibility for that, saying that she drove him to it.  I was expecting at least one member of the crew to tell her that Jeff was responsible for his own decisions but instead, everyone nodded alone.  Like, what the Hell?

Meanwhile, Captain Stubing was upset to learn that Chef Antonio Borga (Al Molinaro) was going to be in charge of the ship’s kitchen for the cruise.  Apparently, there was bad blood between the two.  When Borga refused to work, Stubing attempted to prepare dinner himself.  The results were disastrous but the Chef respected the Captain for trying.  And perhaps Chef Borga realized that Captain Stubing could probably get him fired for insubordination.  Well, the important thing is that everyone came to an agreement and people got to eat.

This was a weird episode.  The Chef storyline seemed like filler.  The other two stories both featured women making excuses for cheating husbands.  If this episode wanted to remind me that The Love Boat is very much a show of the 70s, it succeeded.  This episode had a lot of boat but not a lot of love.

Hopefully, next week’s cruise will be a bit less problematic.

Horror on TV: Ghost Story 1.7 “Half a Death” (dir by Leslie H. Martinson)

On tonight’s episode of Ghost Story, Pamela Franklin plays two roles.  She plays both Christina Burgess and Lisa (hey!), the twin sister who Christina has never met.  When Lisa mysteriously dies (boooo!), Christina finds herself haunted by her sister’s ghost.  But is the ghost benevolent or is the ghost seeking revenge?

Co-written by Richard Matheson, this episode originally aired on November 3rd, 1972.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Food Of The Gods (dir by Bert I. Gordon)

Uh-oh! Something weird has bubbled up to the ground on an island near British Columbia and a farmer and his wife (played by John McLaim and Ida Lupino) foolishly decided to feed it to their farm animals! Soon, they’ve got giant chickens! And listen, that might sound like a good thing to some but I’ve spent enough time around farms to know that giant chickens are not a good thing! Seriously, normal-sized chickens are messy enough. Giant ones? I don’t even want to thinking about it.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the chickens that are eating the food. Rats are eating the food. Wasps are eating the food. All of the animals are turning into giants and now, they’re hunting humans! After his best friend is attacked and killed by giant wasp, a football player named Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) decides to investigate on his own. You would think that a football player would be busy preparing for his next game or something like that but no, not Morgan! Morgan’s determined to find out why there are giant animals off the coast of Canada.

Of course, Morgan isn’t the only one interested in the so-called Food of the Gods. There’s also Jack Bensington (Ralph Meeker), who owns a dog food company. Jack wants to sell the food. Why would Jack want to do that? Does he actually think that causing dogs to transform into giants who would undoubtedly try to kill their masters is somehow going to be good for his company’s reputation? Jack’s main motivation seems to be that he’s a businessman and, in this film’s moral universe, that automatically makes him one of the bad guys. But it seems like even an evil businessman would know better than to kill off all of his customers.

This 1976 film, which is loosely (very loosely) based on a novel by H.G. Wells, was directed by Bert I. Gordon and, if you think the plot sounds a little ludicrous …. well, it is. Nothing about the film really makes much sense but that’s kind of to expected from a Bert I. Gordon film. Gordon specialized in making films about giants destroying stuff. The films were never particularly good but Gordon obviously understood that American filmgoers love big things. Food of the Gods, as silly as it may be, apparently made a lot of money when it was first released.

Today, of course, it’s impossible to watch the film without noticing just how terrible the special effects are. Between the unconvincing use of super-imposed images and the obviously fake rats that are tossed at some of the actors, there’s not a single shot that doesn’t somehow look totally ridiculous. In fact, it’s all so silly and obviously done on the cheap that it becomes rather charming, or at least as charming as the superimposed image of giant wasp ever could possibly be. You have to admire the film’s determination to tell its story despite not having the resources to do so. As for the rest of the film, it’s dumb but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re specifically searching for a bad giant animal movie, The Food of the Gods is fun in its own goofy, nonsensical, low-budget way.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Satan’s School For Girls (dir by David Lowell Rich)

Have you ever wanted to enroll in a private school so that you could investigate a murder and maybe uncover some sort of occult conspiracy?  Sure, we all have!  Well, don’t worry …. there’s a place for you!  Welcome to Salem Academy, an exclusive all-girl’s college where students learn all the basic subjects, along with taking courses in art and human sacrifice!

Salem Academy is overseen by the feared and intimidating Mrs. Williams (Jo Van Fleet), who keeps a close eye on her students and tries to make sure that they aren’t distracted or corrupted by any outside influences. However, not even Mrs. Williams can keep Martha Sayers (Terry Lumley) from fleeing the school and going to her sister’s house in Los Angeles. When Martha’s sister, Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin), returns home, she discovers that Martha has been hanged. The police say that it was suicide. Elizabeth believes that it’s something else.

So, Elizabeth does what any vengeance-seeking sister would do. Using an assumed name, she enrolls in Salem Academy herself. She meets and befriends three other students (played by Kate Jackson, Jamie Smith Jackson, and Cheryl Ladd). She gets to know two rather suspicious teachers, Prof. Delacroix (Lloyd Bochner) and Dr. Clampett (Roy Thinnes). She also manages to raise the concerns of Mrs. Williams, who doesn’t like the fact that the new girl keeps asking so many questions about why so many students at Salem Academy have died recently.

Still, Elizabeth continues to investigate. Perhaps the secret can be found in a mysterious painting that she comes across, one that appears to be of Martha? Perhaps the teachers and the students know more than they’re telling. But who can Elizabeth trust?

A made-for-television film from 1973, Satan’s School For Girls is frequently as silly as its name.  Fortunately, the film, which was produced by Aaron Spelling and directed David Lowell Rich, seems to understand just how ludicrous it is and it totally embraces both the melodrama and the silliness of its plot. This film is totally product of the time in which it was made, from the dialogue to the hairstyles to the fashions to the ending that you’ll see coming from a mile away. At the same time, that’s also why this film is a lot of fun. It’s such a product of its time that it doubles as a time capsule. Do you want to go back to 1973? Well, go over to YouTube and watch Satan’s School For Girls.  After you’ve watched it, step outside and ask anyone who the president is and they’ll probably say, “Richard Nixon.”  And if you ask them who they’re favorite Brady is, they’ll look at you like your crazy because everyone know that Marcia is the best Brady.  If you even have to ask, it’s obvious that you don’t really watch the show.  After that, you should probably try to find a way to get back to 2021 before you change the future or something.  You know how tricky time travel can be.

As for Satan’s School for Girls, it’s just a really fun movie so check it out and be sure not to be late for class!

Horror on the Lens: Satan’s School for Girls (dir by David Lowell Rich)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have a 1973 made-for-TV movie called Satan’s School For Girls.

After her sister turns up dead, Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) refuses to accept that official conclusion that it was a suicide.  Instead, Elizabeth is convinced that it was murder and that it has something to do with the exclusive school that her sister attended, the Salem Academy for Women.

Well, honestly, the Salem part is a dead giveaway.  I think we can all agree on that.

Anyway, this movie features a Satanic cult, an old school clique, and plenty of early of 70s fashion choices.  It may be silly but it’s also definitely entertaining.


Horror on the Lens: Satan’s School for Girls (dir by David Lowell Rich)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have a 1973 made-for-TV movie called Satan’s School For Girls.

After her sister turns up dead, Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) refuses to accept that official conclusion that it was a suicide.  Instead, Elizabeth is convinced that it was murder and that it has something to do with the exclusive school that her sister attended, the Salem Academy for Women.

Well, honestly, the Salem part is a dead giveaway.  I think we can all agree on that.

Anyway, this movie features a Satanic cult, an old school clique, and plenty of early of 70s fashion choices.  It may be silly but it’s also definitely entertaining.


A Movie A Day #160: Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973, directed by John Erman as “Bill Sampson”)

Sometimes, the story behind a movie is more interesting than the movie itself.

A young Steven Spielberg received a “story by” credit for Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies but, at one time, he was going to be credited with much more.  Spielberg wrote the treatment for Ace Eli and sold it to 20th Century Fox because he was hoping to make his directorial debut with the film.  However, shortly after selling the story, there was an executive shakeup at the studio.  Spielberg’s supporters were out and the men who replaced them gave the treatment to another screenwriter and director.  Spielberg was so angered by his treatment that it would be close to thirty years before he ever again worked with 20th Century Fox.  (In 2002, 20th Century Fox co-produced Minority Report with Dreamworks.)  Ace Eli ended up being directed by television veteran John Erman, who was so upset by the studio’s final edit of the film that he demanded to be credited under a pseudonym.

The plot of Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies is recognizably Spielbergian.  Ace Eli (Cliff Robertson, who was a pilot in real life and who, after he won his Oscar of Charly, was involved in several flying films) is a stunt pilot in the 1920s.  After his wife is killed in a crash, Eli and his 11 year-old son, Rodger (Eric Shea), set off on a barnstorming tour.  Going from small town to small town, Eli deals with his pain through nonstop womanaizer.  With Eli refusing to take any responsibility for his actions, Rodger is forced to grow up quickly.  It is a typical Spielberg coming of age story, combining a nostalgia for the past with a clear-eyed portrayal of irresponsible adulthood.

In fact, it is easy to imagine the approach the Spielberg would have taken if he had been allowed to direct his story.  Unfortunately, Spielberg did not get to direct the film and John Erman takes an impersonal approach to the material.  Whereas Spielberg would have captured the excitement of both flying and life on the road, Erman keeps the audience at a distance.  An underrated actor, Cliff Robertson is still miscast as the irresponsible Ace Eli.  The reason why Cliff Robertson was perfect for the role of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man is the same reason why he feels all wrong as Ace Eli.  He is just too upstanding a citizen to be as impulsive as Eli often is.  An actor like Warren Oates would have been perfect for the role.

Steven Spielberg directing Warren Oates in Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies?  That would have been something worth seeing!