East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Bringing ’em back Alive

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4998492-lWe discussed Tales of the Gold Monkey – now it would be bad form not mentioning the other pulp show of the ’80s.

And the other pulp show of the ’80s was, of course, Bring ’em Back Alive, which ran for 17 60 minutes (45-minutes according to other sources) episodes and then folded, in 1982.

The set-up: Frank Buck (Bruce Boxleitner in his pre-Sheridan youth) is a big game hunter turned animal collector in Southeast Asia and… well, and that’s it.

The main problem, to me, when it comes to Bring ’em back Alive is, the sense of void which lurks sometimes beneath the Gold Monkey stories, here strides frightfully across the script.

It had a certain style.
It looked great.
But substance was sometimes lacking.

Frank Buck (animal collector)

Frank Buck (animal collector) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And yet there’s a large pulpy cast – there’s Buck’s right-hand man, there’s a blonde and pretty American diplomat/spy (the delectable Cindy Morgan), there’s a properly shady local crime-lord, sometimes aided by a devious guy in a Fez, there’s the Sultan of Jahore… there’s Singapore’s Raffles Hotel as a location (the set actually featuring props from Rick’s Cafe Americain, in Casablanca)…
And it is really even more of a pity because not only the cast is absolutely great, but also, the whole thing is based on the real life and exploits of a gentleman called Frank Buck – a real-life animal collector, big game hunter and adventurer whose biography packs quite a punch in terms of strange adventures and excitement*.

acteur_cindy-morgan_9_1141998500And yet, the plot normally revolves around standard thriller fare, strictly formulaic and rather un-pulpy, the exotic locations and the unusual role of the main characters rarely shining.
Which is a sad, because Boxleitner and Morgan (who is absolutely gorgeous) and their colleagues are clearly having a ball and are quite good – but they have very little to do.
The production is quite lavish (if not up to Gold Monkey standards) – and if the “studio backlot feel” is strong, costumes and sets were clearly well researched. The Buck compound was apparently designed referencing 1930s photographs of the actual place.
And the episodes are fun, in a lightweight way, but there is a weakness which the excellent work of the cast cannot seem to solve in any way.

Only 17 one-hour episodes were produced.
Pitched against the fierce competition of… ehm, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, the show sank.
And the sole idea of people rather watching Happy Days or Laverne & Shirley instead of a show featuring wild animals, exotic locales and thrilling action, fills me with disappointment at my fellow humans**.
Even if the thrills, admittedly, were discontinuous.

  • I’ll have to write a post about Frank Buck, one of these nights.
    ** Something like the conformist 50s being more successful than the adventurous ’30s… not bad as a metaphor.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

One thought on “Bringing ’em back Alive

  1. Pingback: The Karavansara summer reading list for students (and everybody else) | Karavansara

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