ALAN KEELING'S spotlight on old TV programmes and B movies continues to burn brightly, and his enthusiasm for researching more mystery and adventure stories, and the good old Western, is unquenchable.
This week's meander down memory lane presents The Munsters, Mighty Mouse, and Larry, Curly & Moe as The New Three Stooges:
"I'd imagine there's folk who have seen The Munsters in recent years, but perhaps not when the series was first broadcast," writes Alan. "It began on US television in 1964 and ran until 1966, with a total of 70 half-hour programmes being produced in monochrome, although the pilot was in fact shot in colour. This classic show from the days of early TV was produced by Kayro-Vue Productions for Universal Television and first premiered on BBC 2 in 1965, and has since enjoyed endless re-runs on ITV, BBC 1 and Channel 4.
"The setting for this unforgettable sitcom was a creepy-looking, large, gothic style house known as No. 1313 Mockingbird Lane in Mockingbird Heights. The head of the family was Herman, (played by Fred Gwynne), who resembled Frankenstein's monster and was employed by the local funeral directors, Gateman, Goodbury and Graves. His wife Lily appeared as a female vampire (played by Yvonne de Carlo) and the two of them lived with their 10 year old werewolf son Eddie (played by Butch Patrick); Lily's father, commonly referred to as Grandpa (played by Al Lewis), who was 378 years old and both a vampire and mad scientist, and finally the young and beautiful Marilyn (played by Beverly Owen to begin with and later by Pat Priest) who was the only normal member of the family. The family also shared the house with some strange pets, including a prehistoric creature called Spot, Igor the bat, and a raven. The Munsters believed they were normal, kind-hearted people and couldn't understand why the outside world shunned them in the way they did, which in turn led to some hilarious story lines.
Mighty Mouse first appeared in a Paul Terry cinema cartoon, The Mouse of Tomorrow, and told the story of a humble mouse who ate a piece of supermarket super cheese and became 'Super Mouse', a parody of Superman, who fought with all sorts of cats, flew through the air, deflected bullets off his chest and wore a red and yellow costume. He was later renamed Mighty Mouse.
The star villain was a cat called 'Oil Can Harry' who often threatened Mighty's girlfriend Pearl Pureheart, especially in the cinema cartoons. In 1955 Paul Terry sold his Terrytoons studio to C.B.S. who packaged all the old Mighty Mouse cartoons and made some new ones for television. The Mighty Mouse Playhouse became the longest-lasting Saturday morning cartoon series when it ran from 1955 to 1967.
The voice of Mighty Mouse was provided by Tom Morrison, and the 150 half-hour shows consisted of four six minute segments with Mighty Mouse cartoons at the beginning and end of every feature. The middle two segments comprised of 'Terrytoon Classics' from the thirties and forties, and later more modern characters such as 'Clint Clobber,' 'Luno the Time Travelling Horse', and 'Mighty Heroes' were added.
This series was never shown on British TV, although the Mighty Mouse shorts were screened at news theatres and Saturday morning children's matinees. However, the Mighty Mouse shorts were sometimes included in The Deputy Dawg Show, which was screened by the BBC in the sixties.
Several Bugle readers have mentioned The Three Stooges recently. They began their career in Vaudeville, and from the mid-thirties to the early fifties made a whole host of short films for Colombia Pictures.
Then in 1965 they found a career in television with a show called The New Three Stooges which followed the trio's antics in both live and cartoon action. Cambria Studios produced 156 short 'Stooge' cartoons, animated in a style similar to Hanna-Barbera TV productions, using the actual voices of Larry Fine, Moe Howard and 'Curly Joe' Derita (the Three Stooges themselves). The two one-minute long live action sequences wrapped themselves around each three minute cartoon, and because the three were visibly ageing the slapstick was somewhat limited. The pilot was entitled 'Little Old Bomb Maker', with the three stooges reminiscing about their exploits during the First World War. Other titles included 'Baby Sitters', 'Dentist the Menace', and 'Flat Heads'. The five-minute shows were distributed by Heritage and ITC, so it was no small wonder that Midlands ATV were first to screen the shows in 1966, at first included in an ATV puppet show called Topo Gigio Comes to Town,, then as part of the Tingha and Tucker Club, and finally when there was a gap to fill during programme schedules."
As a supplement to Alan's current TV research he has managed to find time to answer a query about Renfrew of the Royal Mounted.
"In reply to Trevor Owen of Wombourne, the series "Renfrew ..." was screened in the late afternoon (circa 1953) as part of the BBC TV's Children's Hour. The series included 13 episodes, each lasting 25 minutes, and starred James Newell as officer Douglas Renfrew, his assistant constable Kelly played by Dave O'Brian, and his girlfriend Carol Girard, who was played by Louise Stanley. It's also possible the eight B movies made in the '30s and '40s were screened in the same slot, running in each case for an hour. The series was based on the novels by Laurie York Erskine which appeared on CBS radio before production began in the 1930s. Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony (Pathetique) was used as the show's theme tune for both the B movies and the TV series. I personally would be delighted to see the 'Renfrew' series both in their TV and B movie form, so perhaps, sooner rather than later I hope, they might be released on DVD."