Friday, September 23, 2016

Captain's Theatre THE GREEN HORNET "Programmed for Death"

Frank Miller tries to kill The Green Hornet!
No, not THE Frank Miller, writer-artist of 300, Daredevil, Dark Knight Returns, and other comic classics!
This guy was a criminally-oriented gemologist who tried to freeze the Hornet in today's episode "Programmed for Death", the third show aired on ABC in 1966, but the first episode filmed.
There's a number of differences between what you'll see here and our previous two posts.
It's slower-paced since it had to introduce the various elements of the show to an audience unfamiliar with the character.
The last Green Hornet radio show was 14 years earlier, and an entire generation had grown up with no idea as to who he was!
Unlike Batman, there were no ongoing Green Hornet comic books or licensed products during this period, except a couple of lp record albums of radio shows.
The heroes have different masks (see photo at top) that actually work better to hide their identities, but obstructed peripheral vision. After this episode, molds were taken of their faces and new, form-fitting masks were created and used for the remainder of the show's run.
Note, also, that Kato does all the hand-to-hand fighting in this episode.
From September 23rd, 1966, the first episode filmed, but the third one aired..."Programmed for Death"!

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Captain's Theatre THE GREEN HORNET "Give 'Em Enough Rope"

The second episode aired (on 9/16/66), though the fifth filmed, is still expermenting with exactly how to "structure" the story.
In order to be as different as possible from studio-mate Batman, some episodes had more emphasis on plot elements and surprises than just the "something happens-hero investigates-big fight-something else happens-big fight-end", though, that structure domniates most of the show's run.
The early episodes (like this one) featured a "cold opening" where The Green Hornet and Kato didn't appear.
There's only one big fight scene, and most of Kato's participation in it (though he takes out the majority of criminals) is off-camera!
(That would soon change..)
There's also a one-time use of the Black Beauty's normal (non-green) headlights.
Speaking of those headlights, they were supposed to be "infra-green", which would be invisible to the human eye and their light could only be seen through transparent green sunvisors in the front of the car.
(Since the duo operate at night, they wouldn't need normal sunvisors in the car...)
Kato looks through his sunvisor to see the "infra-green" light, giving him a greenish hue while he's driving, but their use is abandoned shortly after this episode is filmed.
Be here next week when we present the pilot episode!
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Friday, September 9, 2016

Captain's Theatre THE GREEN HORNET "The Silent Gun"

Exactly 50 years ago today, at 7:30 pm Eastern time...
...ABC-TV's other Dynamic Duo made their first TV appearance!
Though the third episode filmed, it was the first one aired, a distinction it shares with Star Trek (which premiered the night before)!
Enjoy...
You'll note the "tag scene", (the short scene after the last commercial, but before the final credits usually wrapping up loose plot threads and ending with a joke) is missing, indicating this video is from the Encore Action Channel airings a decade ago.
(The MeTV and Sci-Fi Channel [now SyFy] versions had the "tag scene", but they also had commercials, and Sci-Fi Channel cut the 26-minute episodes to 22 minutes to allow extra commercials.)
The scene featured Mike Axford commenting to Britt Reid and Lenore Case, that, though the two criminals the Green Hornet set up were captured, the "silent gun" had disappeared!
Axford comments he hopes the gun hasn't fallen into The Green Hornet's evil hands as Reid and Case nod in obviously mock agreement!
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Monday, September 5, 2016

Secrets of the TV Green Hornet and Kato

On January 12, 1966, Batman debuted on ABC to absolutely astounding ratings!
The whole country went "Bat-Mad"!
Anything and everything comics-oriented sold like crazy!
Radio syndicator Charles Michelson quickly put together a package of old superhero radio shows including The Shadow, Superman (which featured Batman as a guest-star), The Lone Ranger, and The Green Hornet and marketed them to local radio stations (where, in some cases, ratings doubled) as well as issuing them on LP record albums (which sold well).
Cover to one of the 1960s LP albums re-presenting classic radio adventures
Meanwhile, ABC told Batman producer William Dozier they wanted MORE comic/super-hero shows.
Dozier had been listening to the re-issued radio shows and decided The Green Hornet would make a good follow-up to Batman, despite the fact that the last new radio show aired in 1952, and the last new comic (which we presented HERE) was published in 1953!
(Batman had been continually-published since 1939.)
But audience response to the radio show re-runs, especially among adults (who remembered the show) and college students (who were discovering it) was good, so Dozier felt it was worth a try...
Art by Gil Kane
Both Dozier and original Hornet creator George Trendle felt the "camp" approach used on Batman would be inappropriate.
Trendle pointed out that doing a "straight" version of his other character, The Lone Ranger, resulted in a long-running TV show and two successful feature films!
So ABC agreed to do it their way...but with some "updating".
Art by Dan Spiegle
The Hornet's mode of transport, Black Beauty, was upgraded from just being a really fast car to a really fast bulletproof car with, among other things, a flying TV camera, knockout gas projectors, and lethal rocket launchers.
The Hornet retained his knockout-gas gun, but added an ultrasonic "Hornet Sting", which quickly became his primary weapon.
The Hornet's costume, as described in the radio show and shown in Golden Age comics included a full-face mask that would've required expensive and time-consuming redubbing whenever the character spoke, so it was modified to be a standard domino mask covering just the upper half of the face (see pic at top of page).
Since Batman worked with a police commissioner, The Hornet's police commissioner liaison became District Attorney Frank Scanlon (who, unlike Batman's Commissioner Gordon, knew The Hornet's secret identity and that he wasn't the criminal he pretended to be.)
In a compromise, there were no costumed super-villains, but the gangsters could use cutting-edge technology and unique weapons, like a radio-controlled leopard or a laser gun.
Art by Gil Kane
Dozier himself promoted the differences between the two shows in a promo shown only to TV station owners (note the two different Hornet logos that weren't used in the final version)...

(Note: near the end of the show's run, there was an attempt to introduce more flamboyant enemies including a cloaked assassin and a mad scientist pretending to be an alien invader.)

ABC also insisted that "Flight of the Bumblebee" was too dated to be used as the show's theme. Dozier brought in jazz musician Billy May, who had previously done music for TV shows like Naked City, to compose an updated version.
With trumpeter Al Hirt performing, the new theme became the show's signature element, recognizable almost 50 years later...


The Green Hornet debuted on September 9th, 1966 to solid (but not Batman-level) ratings.
On-set photo from the Batman episode "Batman's Satisfaction"
Despite several promotional stunts, including an appearance on Batman as a "visiting hero" (even though everyone, including Batman, thought the Hornet was a villain), the show was cancelled after only one year.
It found a new home in reruns, which are must-see viewing, since the series is not available on VHS/DVD/BluRay!
Though Encore Action Channel, SyFy, and MeTV all re-ran the show over the past decade, none is currently airing it!
Why?

Ironically, since there wasn't a Green Hornet comic book at the time, a new series (based on the TV show) from Gold Key (the premier publisher of Silver Age movie/TV tie-in comics) hit newsstands in late 1966.
Our "brother" RetroBlog, Hero Histories, will be presenting remastered versions of all three issues over the next three weeks beginning Wednesday.
But be HERE this Friday, as we begin a complete re-presentation of The Green Hornet, with each episode presented exactly 50 years after it aired on ABC!
Special Bonus: Want to see what The Green Hornet might have looked like if it had been done in the late 1940s-early 1950s, while the radio show was on?
Click HERE to find out!