Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nazisploitation Movie Night # 2 - Jonny Quest Episode # 21 : The Devil's Tower

     If you were a kid (especially a boy) in the 60's Jonny Quest was about the coolest cartoon you'd ever seen. A heady mixture of James Bond, Republic Serials and sci/fi & monster movies all crammed into a half hour TV show. Created by comic artist Doug Widley it ran for only one season in 1964/65 (every episode ran over budget - hence cancellation), but it left an indelible wrinkle on millions of young brains. Quest stayed in syndication up until the early 70's until the watchdog group Action for Children's Television (ACT) had it cancelled because of onscreen death, violence, weaponry, monsters etc. - so you know it had to be great (and HEY !, I think those are the main reasons why we watched it !).
      The ongoing main plot concerned 11 year old Jonny Quest (voiced by Tim Matheson of Animal House fame) who father is famous U.S. government scientist Dr. Benton Quest. Although it was never specifically addressed it was implied that Jonny's mother died when he was young. To protect father & son from nasty foreign elements the government assigned bodyguard "Race" Bannon to protect them. This being the height of the cold war the villains that pop up in various episodes all speak with a heavy Russian accent or in the case of the one recurring bad guy Dr. Zinn , it’s the "Oriental peril" plot staple of the men's adventure magazines popular at the time. There's also Hadji (an Indian orphan adopted by Quest in one of the episodes) and Jonny's dog Bandit.

   Jonny Quest was unique in that it never talked down to its intended audience and manged to always mix in a bit of history, geography or science into each episode. The group jetted around the world to investigate weird happening & sightings while the plots mixed such things as Gothic horror, spy stuff, monsters, laser guns, giant robot spiders and even classic staples such as mummies and werewolves. In addition it had death in high doses - including (but not limited to) being eaten by alligators (and other creatures), guns, falling into chemicals and tar, plane crashes and a Quest favorite - getting blown into smithereens. Although it featured Hanna Barbara's "limited" animation style, thanks to Widley Jonny Quest has a real cinematic feel to it with dissolve shots, heavy use of shadows, close-ups and very effective use of music and sound effects along with some beautiful painted backgrounds.

   The Devil's Tower is one of the more memorable episodes as it concerns a Nazi war criminal in hiding, Neanderthal men, bi-planes, hand grenades and even a rope bridge. While using the bi-plane to chase an errant weather balloon which has drifted atop a huge plateau (it's never stated where the location is - maybe Africa or with a WWII German most likely South America), Dr. Quest and the group are captured by Nazi in hiding Klaus Von Duffle. Klaus is forcing some Neanderthal-like men (or "throwbacks" as Dr. Quest refers to them as) to mine diamonds which he has discovered. After commandeering the plane he attempts to kill the Quest gang by throwing hand grenades at them (while laughing maniacally) as they negotiate a narrow footpath and the classic rickety rope bridge. Of course this being Jonny Quest he has to die spectacularly - one of his hand grenades becomes lodged in the plane wing and he dies screaming as the plane is engulfed in flames and crashes (and of course blows up !).

   The entire show run is available on a DVD set - although it has had  some of the perceived un-PC dialogue such as "ignorant savages" edited out.

  The Race Bannon charactor was modeled after actor Jeff Chandler.

No comments:

Post a Comment