Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stand by for ADVENTURE

Okay, for a switch here's something that has nothing to do with booze. (Which isn't to say you might not enjoy booze with it...)

One of my fave obscure old cartoons is a little number called COLONEL BLEEP. I first became aware of the Bleepster back in the 90's when I read an animation magazine article on him. Colonel Bleep was having a bit of a mini revival, what with having the episode "The Treacherous Pirate" included in Speed Racer The Movie and two videocassettes having been released by Tapeworm Video. I missed out on all that at the time, but later managed to get a bunch of episodes on a bootleg video off of eBay. A lot of things don't live up to my anticipation of them, but such was not the case with Bleep.

Starting in 1945, the inhabitants of the planet Futura begin witnessing man's atomic age culminating in guided nuclear missiles. To the Futurans this means trouble, "Trouble in SPACE!" The "Futura Interplanetary High Command" thus sends Bleep to earth to do...something. With pretty much no explanation why or how, Col. Bleep hooks up with Squeak (A little boy puppet in a cowboy costume) and Scratch .(A bald caveman who was blasted out of his cave by an atomic explosion.) The three get a fly glass domed pad on "Zero Zero" island and proceed to have a bunch of far out adventures which don't seem to have much to do with nuclear proliferation.

Colonel Bleep was the first color cartoon made for TV, and color was pretty much it's one nod to lavishness. The need to economize can be seen in Bleep himself, his body merely a series of white lines perched on top of a circle. (Representing some kind of minimalistic alien unicycle I guess.) Bleep's bubble helmeted gumdrop shaped head doesn't actually omit speech so much as make a bunch of sounds resembling the warbling of an electronically treated flute. In fact, our heroes pretty much never talk, leaving the heavy lifting to the narrator. (In Squeak's case we are given the somewhat weak explanation that Squeak can't speak "Because as you all know, a puppet cannot talk for himself!" Independent thought and locomotion sure, but talking? Feh!) I can forgive all these attempts to save costly and time consuming lip synching on the strengths of narrator Noah Tyler's efforts. Dear God this man has heart! Whenever our three merry heroes are in trouble Tyler wails and laments the situation like a tortured soul (I like to imagine him rolling around on the floor tearing his hair out.) stopping just short of crying "OH THE HUMANITY!"

To compensate for lack of fluid animation, director Jack Schleh frequently has the characters spend their spare moments doing extreme squash & stretch poses climaxing in having them swoosh around the screen in a burst of sparkly stuff before returning to the spot they were standing in. It may not make any sense, but brother does it look WILD. That maybe best sums up Colonel Bleep's appeal. In an era before kid's cartoons were designed by committee and prescreened by educators, Colonel Bleep just seeks to get it's sugar soaked youth audiences rocks off with as much frantic action as humanly possible. The results are a hallucinatory revelation, to say the very least.

A couple of years ago Alpha Video released a DVD with some of the good Colonel's adventures so you too can thrill to Bleep's battles with Doctor Destructo, The Black Knight,Black Patch the Space Pirate or whatever other wonderfully cockamamie thing creator/writer Robert D. Buchanan could come up with to throw at them. For a taste of what to expect, click the link below for Bleep's first adventures:

1 comment:

James Crawford (aka metamorphhh) said...

I just re-discovered Colonel Bleep last night, after spending nearly 5 decades wondering if I'd made the whole thing up in my head. I immediately started a fan blog...


And I NEVER dreamed it was in color, never having seen a color tv until the mid '60s or so. REALLY good stuff; I just ordered the dvd. I'm stoked!