Monday, May 21, 2018

Jonny Quest 01x01 The Mystery of the Lizard Men

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Jonny Quest is a cartoon that originally aired during the 1960's, about the son of a scientist who uses his wits and the occasional gadget to foil evildoers and save the day. I've seen a few episodes over the years but have never watched the show all the way through, so I'm going to be doing a watch party of sorts and sharing my thoughts as I go. I've found this series to be a lot of fun, if somewhat dated, and I have lots of thoughts but will generally save them for individual episode reviews. So join me for a look back at what I think is one of the better cartoons of all time- Jonny Quest.  

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The Mystery of the Lizard Men is the premiere episode and establishes the framework for the series. First of all I love the title sequence, with its mix of futuristic tech and old school adventure elements. There's a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe even though that wasn't a thing yet, but the Quest family spend a lot of time exploring and visiting remote areas during their adventures. So it's kind of like a James Bond/ Tomb Raider mashup? 

Anyway we start with a ship moving through the Sargasso Sea, and the helmsman points out the abundance of seaweed. The captain helpfully points out that some of the shipwrecks in the area are hundreds of years old- I like how they used this area for the premiere, it really sets the tone with its rather dark, mysterious environment. I'm not sure the Sargasso Sea actually looks like this, but for dramatic reasons we'll go with it. And we don't spend a lot of time with the helmsman and captain anyway since they are abruptly killed when a laser blows up their ship. Where did that come from? 

A nearby fishing boat hears the explosion but before they can radio for help two lizard men (really just guys in green suits) climb aboard and take care of them. This show has more of a body count in the first five minutes than most cartoons have in their whole run! We then segue to a search and rescue plane who find... a survivor! The man's delirious, raving in Portuguese about a sea lizard coming onto his boat. And in a neat little effect we "see" the lizard man reflected in his eyes as he's obviously in terror at the recollection. The government agents investigating note that five ships have disappeared in the last month. It's time to bring in file O-37- Dr. Benton Quest! 

We then learn that Jonny is Dr. Quest's son, and Race Bannon is his tutor and bodyguard, assigned by the government to keep Jonny safe. They don't want anyone compromising Dr. Quest by kidnapping his kid, after all. So the introductions are made and we find ourselves on Palm Key, an isolated island off Florida where Dr. Quest has his compound. There's always a compound. There we see Race teaching judo to Jonny (you know that will come into play later) but the government agents arrive, and soon they're talking business. We get a demonstration of a laser from Dr. Quest, who already suspects that is what is blowing up ships in the Sargasso. Who says cartoons can't be educational? So the Quests are on the case- next stop the Sargasso Sea! 

Once they get there Jonny wants to explore an old ship, and Race thinks it's safe enough. Riiiight. Oh and Bandit (he's the dog- I haven't mentioned him yet) sees his reflection in a large mirror onboard and barks at himself. A lot. Seriously this dog is already on my nerves. Why do they have a mirror onboard? I'm sure we're going to find out. 

As Race and Jonny head over to the ship in their hydrofoil we get more educational factoids. Sargasso weed apparently has a bladder that enables it to float, and oh sargasso means grapes in Portuguese? Okay I didn't know that. Bandit, meanwhile, spots three lizard men surfacing in the mucky water and barks a warning, but Jonny and Race don't take it seriously. We then get a glimpse of the lizard men operation, which is pretty slick. They have a futuristic transport tube that leads below one of the wrecked ships to a submarine, where one of the flunkies reports on the intruders, and is instructed to take them prisoner if they board the ship. 

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That's exactly what Jonny and Race are doing, naturally, and Bandit is barking his head off as usual. They are being observed, of course, and while Jonny pokes around Bandit comes face to face with a lizard man! He gets snatched for his trouble and soon Jonny and Race are looking for a missing Bandit. Race finds wet footprints (flipper prints?) and realizes they're not alone, while Jonny is attacked and judo throws two assailants into the sea (see I knew it about the judo). Maybe Jonny doesn't need a bodyguard? 

There are more of them, though, and Race takes out four of them swinging to the rescue on a rope (where did that come from?), but alas the rope breaks and Race falls into a cargo hold. Ouch. That musta hurt. Bandit gets free and saves Jonny from a lizard man about to throw a knife at him, but alas Jonny is eventually captured when he sees Race unconscious in the hold. 

So we're not wasting any time here, the villainous mastermind explains his laser experiment to them and his intention to blow a manned space rocket out of the sky. Why? The rocket is headed for the moon- and keep in mind this was 1964, so no man had been on the moon yet. Race tackles the guy and gets pistol whipped for his trouble, and they're locked up. Race promptly hoists Jonny into an air vent and they're soon free and ready to rumble. Using Bandit as a distraction they start taking out lizard men but it isn't long before everything goes sideways. They manage to escape on their hydrofoil and it's a chase- the lizard men have a speedboat of their own!

"Something must have gone wrong. I hear shouting," says Dr. Quest back on the main boat. That's an understatement. The Quest boat opens fire but the smaller boats are going too fast- it's up to Race to save him and Jonny! Luckily he figures it out and the lizard men get obliterated. I think this is one of the few (or only) early cartoons I've seen where the heroes kill on the regular. In fact the body count is quite impressive. 

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Oh dear the lizard men have turned their laser on the hydrofoil and end up starting a fire in the seaweed. Would seaweed burn? I don't know but it's a hydrofoil so Race just raises the boat up over the flames *sigh* and they escape. So the bad guy decides to just blow up the Quest ship -why didn't he just do that before?- but remember the mirror? Exactly. Wily Dr. Quest has it all going on and they use the mirror to reflect the laser back. Game over for the lizards. 

So time to wrap things up. Back at Palm Key the whole affair is ascribed to foreign powers and the lizard suits were just a device to scare off the curious. Apparently that didn't work. And that's it! Besides the awesome end sequence- seriously the title and end sequences are fun. I watched 'em twice. I'm kind of excited about this show, despite the fact that there were no females in sight. Clearly that needs to be rectified, hopefully they fix that in future episodes. Also Jonny's sidekick Hadji did not make an appearance, he must come along later. Jonny does need someone to work with besides Race, someone his own age, so Hadji will be welcome when he shows up. And Bandit barks too much. 

I give this one four stars. 

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  1. Wonderful graphics and I love the cover!

  2. Memories!!! I used to watch these cartoons every Saturday morning growing up! Love it! Thanks for the blog post and the memories!

  3. Oh my gosh! I vaguely remember when this was on TV! I don't think I ever sat down and watched a whole episode though which is weird because I loved shows like this.

    1. I know, I'm not sure how many full episodes I saw either, so when I recenly bought the DVD's I was like- gotta watch em all!

  4. I used to love Jonny Quest cartoons. Mr. Barb and I would watch them all the time. I mean really, I couldn't resist Bandit - who am I kidding!

  5. I used to watch this years but I don't remember much about it.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  6. This brings back some childhood memories, although I have to admit I didn't follow it properly, just a few episodes here and there. Still, I really enjoyed reading your post, Greg :)

  7. Oh man. This looks so old school!

  8. My sister is 16 years younger than me, so I used to watch these with her and I loved them, but they made my son nervous, ha ha, so I haven't seen them since the early 80s.

  9. Wow, this brings back memories. I loved watching Jonny Quest when I was a kid!

  10. I've never even heard of this, sounds fun though! Gives me a kind of Scooby Doo vibe? I laughed when the ship was blown up by a laser because that was unexpected lol. Some nifty foreshadowing with that mirror ;-) I wonder if a mirror would really deflect a blast from a laser gun though? Seems like such a simple weakness for lasers lol.

  11. Johnny Quest is awesome! I grew up with it because my oldest sister loved it. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :D