East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Radio with Pictures – Clutch Cargo


CC - PMB (0)Do you remember Clutch Cargo?
A few days back, on a blog I do not normally read, an off-topic comment to a rather meaningless post (I’m not making this up, ladies and gentlemen) dissed Clutch Cargo, calling it a bad show, making fun at its style and animation.

And that throwaway comment, on a blog I don’t normally read, sent me back memory lane.

So, for the uninitiated – what the heck’s a Clutch Cargo?

Clutch Cargo was an animated series first aired in 1959.
It was what today is called a “limited animation” show – static panels with some minimal animation and, the most curious bit, probably, the fact that the characters spoke through human mouths, the actors’ lips superimposed on the graphics.
It was called Synchro-Vox* – and it was cheap, les than 20K$ per episode (less than a tenth of the cost of a Hanna-Barbera animated episode).

And a mighty pulpy show it was.

Like any bona fide pulp hero, Clutch had his own Adventure Club

Like any bona fide pulp hero, Clutch had his own Adventure Club

The basic premise – lantern-jawed author and adventurer** Clutch Cargo travels the globe with his kid sidekick and his pet datcshund and meets… whell, let’s seeclutchcargo01

The Friendly Head Hunters
The Arctic Bird Giant
The Desert Queen
The Pearl Pirates

And this is just the first four episodes – fifty two twenty-minutes episodes were made, two full seasons.
Each episode was in four parts – the earlier entries ended on a cliffhanger, later episodes were self-contained.
And if those titles don’t make you wish you could watch this show right now, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.
So here, dig The Lost Plateau…***

So, was it a bad show, like that guy said, setting all this in motion?
For my money it wasn’t.
So, ok, it’s kids entertainment, so sue me…
And yes, there’s quite a few implausibilities – like the one in which Clutch’s sidekick finds a message in a bottle on a beach… and the message’s addressed to Cargo! Then go and talk about coincidences!
But it’s all right – it sort of comes with the genre.
The writing was tight, thanks to former jet-pilot-turned-writer Clark Haas, the situations were interesting, the characters fun.
So, ok, this thing is more than fifty years old – it has almost no animation, and a weird (but not really unpleasant) blending of cartoon and live action.
When everything’ said and done, this is radio drama with pictures.
But the stories are good – and those are important.
And if you show Clutch Cargo today to young kids – because it was made for kids, remember, and it respected those kids – they won’t make any snide comment on the fluidity of the animation.
They will enjoy the story.
Like we do.

  • there were two other series that I remember, done in the same style – called Space Angel and Captain Fathom; we’ll talk about those, too, one of these nights.
    **this story abut writing adventure books and having real-life adventures was huge when I was a kid – it’s certainly one of the reasons why I’m here doing what I’m doing.
    *** you can find most of the series on Youtube.

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.

4 thoughts on “Radio with Pictures – Clutch Cargo

  1. Pingback: Setting the Scene | 315glenroy

  2. Guess I’ve always known there was great content on Karavansara. I came here to find the quality Clutch Cargo Adventure Club Certificate for a post, resulting in synchronistically finding a Pingback to one of my blogs: 315glenroy.wordpress.com. You’re likely not surprised to read that I’m also a loyal Clutch Cargo fan. The music was also perfectly wed to the dialog and to the snappy movements. Clark Haas really provided excellent firsthand experience and it shows in each episode. The names were also wonderful: Professor Knockwurst, the scientist leaning his ladder against his last-minute last-resort guided missile. Banging at the hull with a sledgehammer (what other tool would come to mind when imagining precision work) is something I’ve never ever seen repeated, so it sticks warmly in memory it does. And then, just as Clutch, Spinner and Paddlefoot arrive the rocket launches, but the gang is resourceful when needing a plan B, C….. In depth characterization was also a hallmark. Swampy actually looked swampy.


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