Posted by Bob Greenberger on August 16, 2010
One of the great pleasures of the digital revolution is having the chance to relive our childhood.
Slowly, but surely, I am revisiting many of the touchstones heroes or programs that I adored as a kid. In some cases, such as the 1960s cartoon collections from Warner Home Video, I see the flaws but can’t help but feeling warm and tingly as I see my Saturday morning companions once again.
I’ve been working my way through the complete M*A*S*H and am halfway through the Banacek series.
This morning, I completed the final two chapters of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, finishing the three Universal serials. As a kid, I first encountered Alex Raymond’s comic strip hero when Chuck McCann hosted a Sunday morning show on WPIX. With his sense of humor and frequent use of the Sunday Daily News comics sections, I found myself preferring this show to WNEW’s Sonny Fox-hosted Wonderama show (setting up some fights with my brother over the family room television).
McCann would be on from 9-11 and would show at least one chapter of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, The Phantom Empire, the Masked Marvel, and The Purple Monster Strikes. New York’s local television stations seemed to take turns licensing and rebroadcasting many of these so I was riveted by these all through the 1960s.
Since these informed my image of Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and Ming I was delighted by the set design but appalled by the 1980 feature film version and even more disgusted by the unrecognizable SyFy travesty.
A few years back, McFarland Books published a history of the serials which I read with great interest and it’s a wonderfully informative tome. Them, about a year back, I finally splurged and bought a box set of the three serials. Bit by bit, I’ve worked my way through them, recalling scenes and moments, along with the music.
I can certainly see today the flaws, beginning with weak stories and characters. Most of the recastings throughout the series were to the detriment of the saga, and they certainly could have been better – even then. But, what a thrill to see Buster Crabbe once more in his imaginative costumes, running, leaping, fighting, and grimacing. Charles Middleton had the perfect voice and demeanor to be his merciless opponent but he never had a chance to really be evil.
Still, it’s been great tripping down memory lane. Next up will be the semi-obscure one season wonder, Search.