It’s 1968, and kids like me are plopped in front of our TV sets, chomping on our Saturday morning Frosted Flakes and grooving to The Banana Splits, a children’s TV series with plenty of comedy and adventure.
But I’m not writing about the Banana Splits today. I’m writing about one of the show’s many programs that helped fill out the show’s hour-long time slot.
There was a 36-part serialized adventure series called Danger Island, which featured a team of explorers who searched for an ancient lost city, wile avoiding (and sometimes fighting) a series of deadly pirates. The series featured what was essentially a melange of 1960’s television action and adventure programs. You could see wild animals like the ones in Daktari, you could see fight scenes that looked like they were choreographed for a Batman episode, and there was also comic relief along the level of Gilligan’s Island. And a catchphrase, “Uh Oh, Chongo,” which is better seen than explained.
Here’s the first episode.
I should note that the series was filmed and directed by a young Richard Donner, who would later direct the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, as well as the Mel Gibson / Danny Glover Lethal Weapon movies. So there’s plenty of that kind of humor and action throughout the series.
And each episode was filmed as a cliffhanger, to make sure kids would tune in next week to find out how the adventurers got out of the latest predicament.
Of course, watching it today, there’s a tremendous amount of uncomfortability and queasiness. The bad guys – mostly pirates – barely look like they stumbled out of a cosplay convention; the natives are painted with skulls and skeleton bones, like some strange interpretation of aboriginals; and the character of Chongo is portrayed as barely comic relief, who spoke in monkey screeches and bird chatter as some sort of made-up language. And this was Saturday morning entertainment, folks.
Now I should note that Danger Island lasted for 36 short episodes as part of the Banana Splits Adventure Hour, but one enterprising YouTuber decided to eschew the idea of 36 short episodes, and combined the series into what is essentially a nearly three-hour standalone movie. Which you can see below. Yep, all the cheezy fight scenes, all the cringy dialogue, all the “Uh Oh, Chongo” shouts you never thought you needed to hear. Ha.
There you go, folks. Something to keep you entertained on a Monday. Bring the Frosted Flakes and your feety pajamas.