Things that re-enact in the night . . . | Street Jazz

Things that re-enact in the night . . .

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Passing by Prairie Grove Battlefield Park last Saturday, the conversation turned to all those ghost hunters who like to descend upon such places, seeking to capture proof of the afterlife.  And then, of course, one thinks of all those awful TV shows in which people seem to spend the afterlife doing nothing but walking up and down staircases, and traipsing up and down hallways.

Yes, well, no ambition in life, none in the afterlife, I suppose.

Not so, some of my friends insist. These spirits are merely haunting the places they happened to love a lot in real life; we just happen to see them in the hallways and the staircases.

Okay.

So once you accept the premise of spirits just sort of hanging out in one place, and not taking the time to visit the places they have always wanted to see in what one might term as “real life “ - the Grand Canyon, London, the Taj Mahal, William Shatner’s patio - one wonders who else might be hanging out, and where.

Which brings us all the way back to Prairie Grove Battlefield Park.

If folks are haunting the places they really, really loved, then I am left wondering if some of those Civil war soldiers that one sometimes sees haunting such sites - and soldiers from other bygone eras as well, I suppose - might not just be re-enactors, doing what they love best?

Of course, if that theory holds water, I suppose one day we’d be getting reports of encounters with spirits who are wearing Star Trek uniforms.  That would be a fun show to watch, if it ever happened.

******

Speaking of ghosts, one thinks of the ever-wretched Ghost Whisperer

CBS has picked up Medium, which was recently canceled by NBC, and will be adding it to its Friday night linhe-up, following the Junior Varsity Ghost Whisperer, which has become a parody of itself in recent years.

I’ve always sort of wandered about the middle-class morality exhibited by the protagonist on GW, who insists that all spirits must “go into the light.”

Why?

What if they just want to hang out for a while? Maybe they want to see the places they never had a chance to visit before. Maybe you want to play at being at being a Civil War re-enactor, perhaps?

Personally, I think the whole “you must go into the light business” has a whole lot more to do with the psychological hangups of the main character than anything else.

*****

Quote of the Day

Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead. - Mac McCleary

****

Return to the Planet of the Apes: I’m going Humanoid over you . . .

There was a time when you could do get away with almost anything on children's television. Nowadays, of course, most of it seems to be bland fare - or at least it appears that way to these jaded eyes.

A few decades ago, Saturday morning television was a little more interesting to watch. Admittedly, most of the offerings were probably as lame as today, but every so often something intriguing would come along.

In 1974, CBS came out with the disastrous live-action Planet of the Apes, a series which should have been great, but which was mishandled badly. What might have been a series every bit as good as the film series - somewhere out there is the lost pilot episode written by Rod Serling (deep sigh) - but was hampered by being put in the so-called "Family Hour," which was the kiss of death for any adventure series.

It lasted just a scant few months. That seemed to be it for the Apes franchise. But wait, what's this?

It's September 1975, and NBC decides to see if there is life in the old girl yet, with Return to the Planet of the Apes.  It was some trepidation that I turned on my black and white portable that morning, and was favorably impressed.

The opening shots featured a desolate landscape featuring crucified (yes!) upside down apes, eerie misc, lightning flashes, humans pursued by apes. Yes, this was more like it.

All right, the animation was lousy. This was the period when Filmation was leading the pack on Saturday morning with their versions of Star Trek and Tarzan, and a host of imitators where not far behind.

The storyline? Well, there's these three American astronauts, see, and somehow, they end up in the future - our future - and it's dominated by apes! They find out in episode three, but we know before they crash, because we see the Earth as their little spaceship - which looks like an old Gemini capsule - enters the atmosphere.

There might have been some kids out there somewhere who didn't know that the Planet of the Apes was Earth; why not let them find out along with the astronauts?

The animated series owes a great deal more to the films and novel by French novelist Pierre Boulle than to the CBS series. In fact, it is actually quite a bit more exciting than the CBS attempt.

One particular deviation from the films is the fact that these apes have mastered a certain degree of technology. They drive cars, and have radio and television.

Great care was taken with the characterizations. Though a Saturday morning series, these characters all stand out as individuals, human and ape alike.

Several characters are borrowed from the films - Zira, Cornelius, Zaius, Nova, and Urko from the TV series - and are used yo great advantage. Also used well are the Underdwellers, the deadly inhabitants of buried New York City.

In the NBC series our trio of astronauts are essentially guerilla fighters, helping the humans survive, and trying to evade capture by the apes. But  like the CBS series, no conclusion was ever reached. For all we know, they are still out there, somewhere.

There is a lot of unexpected humor, too. At one point two of the astronauts need to get back into Ape City (Ape City: how narcissistic is that?) And jump into the back of a pickup truck driven by an old ape farmer. On the radio is a love song with the title, "I'm going Humanoid over you."

How could you not love this show?

One fun question - while astronauts from the films and the previous series wore animal skins, these astronauts wore T-shirts, pants and boots. Surely that should have been a dead giveaway to any apes who came in contact with them?

No, not a bit. So even though we ultimately don't know what happened to our stalwart heroes, I am heartened by Charlton Heston's line from Planet of the Apes:

"If this is the best this planet has to offer, in six months we'll be running the place."

Along with the series came a series of paperback novels by William Arrow, which novelized the episodes. The books were considerably more violent and adult oriented than the animated series.

Trivia note: Austin Stoker, who supplied the voice of astronaut Jeff Allen, had also played MacDonald in Battle for the Planet of the Apes

rsdrake@nwark.com

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