Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Al Hodge played Captain Video for most of its run. He'd been a radio actor, giving voice to "Mr. District Attorney" and "Gangbusters," which eventually became TV shows. Many if not most TV shows and forms came directly from radio (and indirectly from theatre, Vaudeville, movies and comics.) But Captain Video started with and on TV--and its popularity there led to a couple of movie serials.

Captain Video was set in the year 2254. He piloted the sleek spaceship The Galaxy. The show was live and on a very small budget--if the Captain and Ranger slid in the grass, it was apt to wrinkle like the throw rug it was. But the filmed inserts of The Galaxy and other minatures were magical.

Captain Video's adventures were primarily fighting villains--often scientists, like himself. (Dr. Pauli was the best known, and most popular. ) Since these confrontations turn out to be one scientific invention against another, they mirrored the simultaneous admiration and suspicion of scientists in the 1950s, the age of atomic power and radiation fears. There were some real science and science fiction ideas in what was basically space adventure. Imaginative extrapolations of radio and television in particular made the show seem futuristic.

Even though he had his advanced devices--including a Cosmic Ray Vibrator that shook his enemies into submission--Captain Video was also an action hero (Hodge was also a former track star.) One reviewer called him a combination of Einstein and Flash Gordon.

Hodge also taught Sunday School, so he took to heart his moments on the program talking directly with the "Rangers at home." As the Museum of Broadcasting site comments: "While messages on other children's programs would focus on children's issues such as safely crossing the street, Ranger Messages dealt with more global issues such as freedom, the Golden Rule, and nondiscrimination." Showing the scientist and his shadow side (in the villain) also emphasized the potential for good and evil within everyone, and the importance of asserting and living up to these ideals. Hodge even told a congressional committee that Captain Video never used the word "kill."

Captain Video did wind up on Saturday morning in 1953 and 1954, as "The Secret Files of Captain Video," which sometimes alternated with the Dumont version of "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet." But the Saturday series only featured some actual Captain Video episodes. It was also a showcase for other science fiction stories, including one by James Blish. At some point the Saturday morning Captain was reduced to introducing other old movies and cartoons, shown on a screen in Tobor's midsection. By 1953, the week night Captain Video was down from thirty to fifteen minute episodes--I seem to recall that at least one other science fiction series shared that 7 to 7:30 slot. By 1955, the Captain was still making good stories, but the Dumont network was on its last legs. When it failed, Captain Video went off the air.


Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Torbor? TORbor? TORBOR????

May Valerion do whatever it was he used to do to people -- after 50+ years I remember the name but nothing more -- for that blunder.

The name was TOBOR,
I TOBOR. (It was supposed to be ROBOT I, but the name was put on backwards.)

The next thing I know, you'll be pronouncing the name of Phineas T. Bluster's brother as "Don Jolla" instead of "Don Holla" (as in "Don Jolla. don' holler").

For shame, for shame.

Captain Future said...

Holla Jim--and lighten up, okay? It was a typo, which I've corrected. I got it right in the paragraphs below, under the robot toys.

The ROBOT 1 reversal resulted in the title of the intro episode, "I, Tobor," a neat reference to the classic Asimov tale, "I, Robot."

All I can say about 50 years is that we started out looking like Howdy, and now we look like Mr. Bluster. Thanks for checking in--