Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sea Hunt (1961)

The fourth and final season of Sea Hunt didn't diverge from the previous three in depicting the adventures of frogman-for-hire Mike Nelson who encounters life-threatening dangers each week, whether on assignment with the U.S. Coast Guard, where he is an auxiliary officer, working for scientists and inventors hoping to make new discoveries, or simply giving diving lessons to civilians who sometimes have ulterior motives. But while most of the episodes involve hair-raising near-death experiences, star Lloyd Bridges and the producers show a lighter side as well on a few occasions. In "The Meet" (July 1, 1961), in which Mike Nelson and a young diver named Chaz spoil a counterfeit ring using a cave on an isolated island as their base of operations, Nelson is an avid fan of the TV series Dempsey of the Deep, a kind of soap opera version of Sea Hunt, and after he and Chaz have finished breaking up the counterfeit ring, he learns that Chaz is a fan of the series, too, and the two sit down to watch an episode together while Chaz's girlfriend rolls her eyes. In "Imposter" (August 5, 1961) Bridges plays both Nelson and his diving doppelganger Whitey Fender, who pretends to be the famous diver Nelson in order to swindle socialite Marna Gould out of a diamond necklace and other jewels she lost when a boat she was traveling on sank after she was rescued. To add insult to injury, Fender romances Gould and then drops her like a hot potato once he recovers her jewels, leaving Nelson in an uncomfortable position when she accuses him of ghosting her the first time he actually meets her. And "The Aquanettes" (March 25, 1961) seems to be Nelson's dream come true when he is assigned to help three pretty young female astronauts train underwater for a planned trip to Venus (yes, 8 years before man landed on the moon) only to spend most of his time trying to reassure one of the astronauts that her two panic-induced blunders were perfectly normal and do not mean she is unfit for duty. Which isn't to say that Nelson doesn't show a sense of humor fairly often in teasing people who have just escaped a harrowing experience, but the above-mentioned episodes add a kitschy charm that offer a nice change-of-pace from the usual life-or-death dramas in which the series traffics.

The other characters Nelson interacts with are often mere foils for his swashbuckling manliness, but Victor Buono's depiction of lip-smacking archaeologist Tank Wallace in "The Saint Story" (July 29, 1961) compares favorably with his portrayal of King Tut in Batman as he blusters into the office of Father Guerra before secretly revealing to Nelson that he is actually working undercover for the U.S. government to try to foil an attempt to overthrow the small Caribbean island where Nelson happens to be working. Less amusing is the character of eccentric inventor Dr. Kendrick Kelway as played by Kelton Garwood in "P.T. Boat" (August 26, 1961) due to Garwood's over-the-top mugging and affectations. Then there are the characters who show incredible stupidity that leads to life-threatening near disasters. In "River Treasure" (January 14, 1961) Tom Marzack continues diving alone in the Amazon River searching for emeralds to the point of exhaustion and then suspects his wife of wanting to leave him for Nelson. Nelson has to continue to rescue him when he gets stuck in some underwater pinch, but Marzack continues to ignore Nelson's advice to rest up before trying to go below again. "Rescue" (February 18, 1961) features Nelson's old friend Lou James who thinks he is too poor to avoid a wedding license, so he risks his life and nearly gets killed diving for a reported Aztec relic in the luggage of a sunken freighter that Nelson has been hired by the Coast Guard to blow up. Of course, James gets trapped underwater on his dive minutes before the explosives are due to go off, and Nelson has to make a hair-raising rescue mission to save his life. "Superman" (August 12, 1961) features another bonehead named Stan Brenner in search of relics in an underwater Mexican cave. Brenner's idiocy is matched by his wife Liz's in that he has never told her he has diabetes and takes daily insulin shots, and she is frustrated that he is so obsessed with diving for relics that she deliberately sinks their boat on an isolated, uninhabited island so that he will be forced to pay attention to her, not realizing that the boat she just sank contains her husband's insulin kit. You already know who has to save everybody--Nelson. And "Skipper" (September 9, 1961) tells the implausible story of speed-boat racing champion Johnny Cleaver and his brother Fred, who serves as his mechanic and one day deliberately sabotages his brother's speed boat in the hopes of killing him because mom always liked him best. Funny that his resentment never surfaced until Nelson appeared on the scene.

As for Nelson, besides being brave, heroic, trustworthy, and persistent, in Season 4 he also shows he is modest in "Vital Error" (January 28, 1961) on a diving trip with friend and celebrated newspaper columnist Frederick C. Darrow, who keeps having underwater "accidents" that turn out not to be accidental because Darrow is secretly trying to commit suicide believing that he has a fatal tumor. Fortunately, Darrow's doctor gets in touch with Mike and rushes out to his boat to tell him that the latest tests revealed that the tumor is benign, and Nelson is able to once again rescue Darrow from an underwater death trap, after which Darrow thanks him for saving his life, but Nelson replies that he did it for selfish reasons--so that he can continue to enjoy Darrow's column in his daily newspaper. Nelson uses the same line in the very next episode "The Dancer" (February 4, 1961) when he answers a distress call while out tooling around in his boat and is informed that world-famous dancer Anna Buonanova has one leg pinned by a heavy metal plate on the floor of Rosarita Bay. At first it appears that they may have to perform an underwater amputation of the leg just to save her life, though it would also end her career. But after trying several unsuccessful attempts to free her leg, Nelson hits on the idea of using an air saw, which is rushed out to the site on a Coast Guard boat and saves the day--and the leg. Afterward, when Buonanova is recovering in the hospital, Nelson visits her and says he saved her leg for selfish reasons--so that he could one day see her dance again. Luckily, this is the last time we hear Nelson deflect praise this way, though one can imagine that it could develop into a pretty funny gag if used in more and more ridiculous situations.

Despite the fact that Bridges was the biggest star in syndicated television--he was a major star in NBC's Marineland Circus special and was featured in the April 1, 1961 edition of TV Guide in connection with that program--as we documented in our post on the episodes for 1960, producer Ivan Tors eventually cancelled the series after Season 4 because Bridges wanted to start using plots revolving around oil companies and other industrial actors damaging the sea and its resources, an idea to which the show's sponsor Standard Oil would obviously have objected. Though the final episode, "Round Up" (September 23, 1961), didn't actually serve as a finale in the way we think of series signing off today, it perhaps suggests that Mike Nelson's thrill-seeking adventures were winding down because after completing yet another job collecting and detonating discarded underwater explosives, Nelson says the assignment may be his last such job because he had decided that the work was too dangerous to keep pushing his luck. Of course, he is then immediately summoned by the Coast Guard to do another such job, and once that is finished he is pressed to locate and remove a torpedo fired into the drainage pipe of a hydro plant by disgruntled former employee John Stark, played by a very young Jack Nicholson. Nelson is clearly tired of his life-threatening work and by episode's end is so exhausted that he can barely make it out of the drainage pipe with the torpedo. Though he would never don his mask, fins, and air tanks on television again, Mike Nelson has remained a cherished TV character for decades. Beau Bridges marveled in a 2014 interview on that he ran into a fan wearing a Sea Hunt T shirt at a concert performed by his brother Jeff's band The Abiders. Apparently not just The Dude abides in the hearts of old Sea Hunt fans.

The Actors

For the biography of Lloyd Bridges, see the 1960 post on Sea Hunt.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 4, Episode 1, "Point of No Return": Paul Birch (shown on the left, played Erle Stanley Gardner on The Court of Last Resort, Mike Malone on Cannonball, and Capt. Carpenter on The Fugitive) plays State U.S. Coast Guard project leader Dr. Bainbridge. Ross Elliott (Freddie the director on The Jack Benny Program and Sheriff Abbott on The Virginian) plays his assistant Lt. Dave Tulley. Joyce Meadows (Lynn Allen on The Man and the Challenge and Stacy on Two Faces West) plays journalist Dottie Maybrook.

Season 4, Episode 2, "River Treasure": Linda Lawson (shown on the right, played Renee on Adventures in Paradise, Pat Perry on Don't Call Me Charlie, Laura Fremont on Ben Casey, and Mrs. Paganini on That's Life) plays diver's girlfriend Jill Marzack. 

Season 4, Episode 3, "The Destroyers": Ross Elliott (see "Point of No Return" above) returns as USCG Lt. Dave Tulley. Harlan Warde (John Hamilton on The Rifleman and Sheriff John Brannan on The Virginian) plays Tulley's friend USCG Cmdr. Ben White. Paul Maxwell (Steve Tanner on Coronation Street, Sam Webber on The Lotus Eaters, Hellman on The Aphrodite Inheritance, Ed Hathersage on Emmerdale, and was the voice of Col. Steve Zodiac on Fireball XL5) plays electronics expert Dr. Neal Martin. Karl Held (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Perry Mason) plays a Navy radar operator.

Season 4, Episode 4, "Vital Error": Reed Hadley (shown on the left, starred in I Shot Jesse James, The Return of Jesse James, Dallas, and Little Big Horn and played Capt. John Braddock on Racket Squad and Bart Matthews on Public Defender) plays writer Frederick C. Darrow. Aline Towne (Joan Gilbert on Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe) plays his wife Elaine. William Woodson (the narrator on Dick Tracy, The Invaders, and Centurions, voiced J. Jonah Jameson on Spider-Man and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends,  and played Sgt. Ed Blankey on This Man Dawson) plays Darrow's doctor John Gregory. Ross Elliott (see "Point of No Return" above) returns as USCG Lt. Dave Tulley.
Season 4, Episode 5, "The Dancer": John Hackett (stand-in for Jack Nicholson in 7 feature films from 1990-2003) plays diver Bob Forrester. 
Season 4, Episode 6, "Sperling of Lamatsu": John Barclay (starred in The Mikado, The Power of God, and King Rat) plays renowned humanitarian physician Dr. Jan Sperling. 

Season 4, Episode 7, "Rescue": Jack Ging (Beau McCloud on Tales of Wells Fargo, Dr. Paul Graham on The Eleventh Hour, Lt. Dan Ives on Mannix, Lt. Ted Quinlan on Riptide, and Gen. Harlan "Bull" Fullbright on The A-Team) plays salvage diver Lou James. Sue Randall (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Leave It to Beaver) plays his fiance Mary Carter. Ross Elliott (see "Point of No Return" above) plays USCG Cmdr. Bill Brady.

Season 4, Episode 8, "Mercy Ship": Gregory Gaye (appeared in Dodsworth, Tovarich, Ninotchka, and Creature With the Atom Brain and played The Ruler on Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe and Andre the Maitre D' on The Roaring 20's) plays Philippine Mayor Sunander. Ken Drake (Bragan on Not for Hire) plays hospital ship chief Dr. Levy.

Season 4, Episode 9, "Hot Tracer": Robert Montgomery, Jr. (shown on the left, son of actor Robert Montgomery and brother of Elizabeth Montgomery) plays thrill-seeker Chan Harrington III. Darlene Tompkins (stunt double for Cheryl Ladd on Charlie's Angels) plays his girlfriend Ginny. Tyler McVey (Major Norgrath on Men Into Space) plays scientist Dr. Wilmer.

Season 4, Episode 10, "Sonar Story": Mark Dana (SAC Clayton MacGregor on The F.B.I.) plays sonar experimenter Dr. Briggs. Joan Patrick (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Dr. Kildare) plays a drug trafficker.

Season 4, Episode 11, "Amigo": Noel Drayton (Mr. Hardcastle on Family Affair) plays archaeologist Dr. Graham. Eugene Mazzola (Joey Drum on Jefferson Drum) plays Mexican boy Don Juan.

Season 4, Episode 12, "The Aquanettes": Valerie Allen (appeared in The Joker Is Wild, The Five Pennies, Bells Are Ringing, and Pillow Talk, and played Verna Mason on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and Anne Banner on The Texan) plays astronaut Dana Perry. Gloria Marshall (Mary Beth Hall on The Bob Cummings Show) plays astronaut Joanna Sue Tolliver. Mary Lawrence (shown on the right, appeared in County Fair, The Stratton Story, and A Cry in the Night and played Alice Jones on Casey Jones and Ruth Helm on The Bob Cummings Show) plays their boss Dr. Barnes.

Season 4, Episode 13, "Survival Kit": King Moody (Starker on Get Smart and Ronald McDonald on McDonaldland) plays German Consul Baumer. Gertrude Michael (appeared in I'm No Angel, Murder at the Vanities, and Flamingo Road) plays Nazi pilot's widow Mrs. Dietrich.  

Season 4, Episode 14, "Expedition": Robert F. Simon (shown on the left, played Dave Tabak on Saints and Sinners, Gen. Alfred Terry on Custer, Frank Stephens on Bewitched, Uncle Everett McPherson on Nancy, Capt. Rudy Olsen on The Streets of San Francisco, and J. Jonah Jameson on The Amazing Spiderman) plays history professor Aaron Halliday. Irene Tedrow (the biography section for the 1961 post on Dennis the Menace) plays boarding house owner Naomi Roundtree. 

Season 4, Episode 15, "Bionics": Kathie Browne (shown on the right, played Angie Dow on Hondo and was Darren McGavin's second wife) plays scientist's daughter Kathryn Drayton. Robert Karnes (see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Lawless Years) plays Mike's boss USCG Cmdr. Flint. 

Season 4, Episode 16, "The Defector": Robert Sampson (Sgt. Walsh on Steve Canyon, Father Mike Fitzgerald on Bridget Love Bernie, and Sheriff Turk Tobias on Falcon Crest) plays diving student Bob Hicks. Ted Knight (shown on the left, played Phil Buckley on The Young Marrieds, Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Roger Dennis on The Ted Knight Show, and Henry Rush on Too Close for Comfort) plays government agent Steve Powery. 

Season 4, Episode 18, "Cougar": Robert Ridgely (Lt. Frank Kimbro on The Gallant Men, the announcer on The Woody Woodbury Show, and Cliff Hamilton on Domestic Life and was the voice of Tarzan on Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, Flash Gordon on Flash Gordon, and General Ross on The Incredible Hulk) plays former juvenile delinquent Cougar Norris. Susan Silo (Rusty on Harry's Girls and has been a prolific voice actor on shows such as The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, James Bond, Jr., and Where's Waldo?) plays professor's daughter Leilani.

Season 4, Episode 19, "Sub Hatch": George Clayton Johnson (co-wrote the stories for Ocean's 11 and Logan's Run and wrote screenplays for The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and Kung Fu) plays USCG Lt. Harwell. Bill Edwards (Jonathan Kaye on Hawaii Five-O) plays USCG submarine Cmdr. Murdock.

Season 4, Episode 20, "The Octopus Story": Ken Curtis (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1961 post on Ripcord) plays oceanographer Dean. 

Season 4, Episode 21, "Quicksand": Kathie Browne (see "Bionics" above) plays archaeologist's daughter Eleana Dales. Ric Marlow (wrote the lyrics to "A Taste of Honey") plays diving crew member Slade. Corey Allen (went on to direct multiple episodes of Dr. Kildare, Police Woman, Dallas, Hunter, and Star Trek: The Next Generation) plays diving crew member Young.

Season 4, Episode 22, "Lost Island": Roy Dean (multi-talented athlete in swimming and track, stage designer, actor, singer, and photographer whose first book A Time in Eden was the first to bring male nude imagery to the masses) plays escaped prisoner Johnny Gerard. 

Season 4, Episode 23, "Baby": Beau Bridges (shown on the left, Lloyd Bridges' son, played Seaman Howard Spicer on Ensign O'Toole, Richard Chapin on United States, Dave Hart on Harts of the West, Judge Bob Gibbs on Maximum Bob, Dan Falco on Beggars and Choosers, Tom Gage on The Agency, Maj. Gen. Hank Landry on Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate SG-1, Carl Hickey on My Name Is Earl, Nick Brody on Brothers & Sisters, Barton Scully on Masters of Sex, and Tom Miller on The Millers) plays missionary Warren Tucker. Denise Alexander (Susan Hunter Martin on Days of Our Lives, Mary McKinnon on Another World, Sister Beatrice on Sunset Beach, Lola on The Inn, Dr. Lesley Webber on General Hospital, and Louise Fitzpatrick on Pretty the Series) plays his wife Caroline. John Zaremba (Special Agent Jerry Dressler on I Led 3 Lives, Dr. Harold Jensen on Ben Casey, Admiral Hardesy on McHale's Navy, Dr. Raymond Swain on The Time Tunnel, and Dr, Harlem Danvers on Dallas) plays physician Dr. Bruney.

Season 4, Episode 24, "Confidential Mission": Ken Drake (see "Mercy Ship" above) plays government agent Steve Walker. Terry Becker (Chief Francis Ethelbert Sharkey on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) plays American journalist Alcott. Jan Arvan (Nacho Torres on Zorro and Paw Kadiddlehopper on The Red Skelton Hour) plays a Caribbean police lieutenant. Dehl Berti (Vittorio on Buck James and John Taylor on Guns of Paradise) plays a yacht captain. 

Season 4, Episode 25, "Underwater Pirates": Ron Hayes (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bat Masterson) plays Mike's war buddy Sam Carter. Stuart Bradley (Prince Percival on The Magic Cottage) plays pirate diver Brady. John Considine (brother of Tim Considine, played Grant Capwell on Santa Barbara) plays Brady's partner Doak. Robert Christian (Dr. Colby on All My Children and Lt. Frank on Search for Tomorrow) plays tug boat pilot Charlie.

Season 4, Episode 26, "The Meet": Robert Clarke (appeared in The Man From Planet X and The Astounding She-Monster, starred in and directed The Hideous Sun Demon, and was married to Alyce King of the King Singers) plays federal agent Bill Saunderman. Richard Evans (shown on the left, played Paul Hanley on Peyton Place) plays young diver Chaz. Larry Pennell (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Ripcord) plays counterfeiter Steve.

Season 4, Episode 27, "Dark Evil": Michael Whalen (starred in White Fang, Career Woman, The Lady Escapes, Inside Story, and The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues) plays philanthropist Oliver Bradon. Margie Regan (shown on the right, played Lucy Carr on Michael Shayne) plays his daughter Lucille.

Season 4, Episode 28, "Sunken Car": John Marley (appeared in Cat Ballou, Love Story, and The Godfather) plays fisherman Frank Johnson. Ann Morrison (Dr. Alma on The Young Marrieds) plays widow Mrs. Krag.

Season 4, Episode 29, "Hit and Run": Nancy Valentine (appeared in Father of the Bride, The Black Castle, and -30-) plays model Virgie Bryant. Terry Becker (see "Confidential Mission" above) plays a movie star's agent. 

Season 4, Episode 30, "The Saint Story": Nestor Paiva (Theo Gonzales on Zorro) plays salvage boat operator Tio Ramon Delgado. Victor Buono (shown on the left, appeared in Robin and the 7 Hoods, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and The Silencers and played King Tut on Batman and Dr. Schubert on Man From Atlantis) plays archaeologist Tank Wallace.

Season 4, Episode 31, "Imposter": Jean Porter (shown on the right, wife of director Edward Dmytryck, appeared in The Youngest Profession, Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble, and The Left Hand of God) plays diamond necklace seeker Marna Gould. John Bryant (Dr. Carl Spaulding on The Virginian) plays insurance investigator Larrabee. 

Season 4, Episode 32, "Superman": Russ Conway (Fenton Hardy on The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, Gen. Devon on Men Into Space, and Lt. Pete Kile on Richard Diamond, Private Detective) plays relic seeker Stan Brenner. Sue Randall (see "Rescue" above) plays his wife Liz. 

Season 4, Episode 33, "Roustabout": Kenneth Tobey (shown on the left, starred in The Thing From Another World, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came From Beneath the Sea and played Chuck Martin on Whirlybirds and Russ Conway on I Spy) plays salvage diver Pete Butler. Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. (Luis Valdez on Viva Valdez) plays policeman Carlos. 

Season 4, Episode 34, "P.T. Boat": Kelton Garwood (Beauregard O'Hanlon on Bourbon Street Beat and Percy Crump on Gunsmoke) plays inventor Dr. Kendrick Kelway. Ken Roberts (the announcer on The Secret Storm, The Electric Company, and Texas) plays his sister's friend Dan Canaday. 

Season 4, Episode 35, "Starting Signal": Robert F. Simon (see "Expedition" above) plays oceanographic scientist Dr. Tomaso Ricou. Ross Elliott (see "Point of No Return" above) plays USCG Lt. Pete Gregory. Ray Hamilton (Al Casey on King of Diamonds) plays Mike's diving partner Jim Parsons. 

Season 4, Episode 36, "Skipper": Grant Woods (Lt. Kelowitz on Star Trek and Capt. Myles Keogh on Custer) plays speed boat mechanic Fred Cleaver. Jana Lund (shown on the right, appeared in Don't Knock the Rock, Loving You, Frankenstein 1970, High School Hellcats, and Hot Car Girl) plays his brother's girlfriend Jill Bromley 

Season 4, Episode 37, "Crime at Sea": Sue Randall (see "Rescue" above) plays Navy captain's daughter Peg Nicholson. Keith Andes (starred in Project X, Clash by Night, and The Girl Most Likely and played Col. Frank Dawson on This Man Dawson, Keith Granville on Glynis, and voiced Birdman on Birdman) plays maritime lawyer Todd Webster. Chris Robinson (Sgt. Sandy Komansky on 12 O'Clock High, Rick Webber on General Hospital, and Jack Hamilton on The Bold and the Beautiful) plays his assistant Kelsey. Bruce Dern (shown on the left, starred in The Wild Angels, Hang 'Em High, Support Your Local Sheriff!, Silent Running, Coming Home, and Nebraska and played E.J. Stocker on Stoney Burke and Frank Harlow on Big Love) okays FBI agent John Furillo. Harry Lauter (Ranger Clay Morgan on Tales of the Texas Rangers, Atlasande on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, and Jim Herrick on Waterfront) plays a Coast Guard judge. Ric Marlow (see "Quicksand" above) plays helicopter pilot Robert Lewis Bates. Ken Drake (see "Mercy Ship" above) plays bomber George Hillman.

Season 4, Episode 38, "Round Up": Jack Nicholson (shown on the right, starred in Five Easy Pieces, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chinatown, The Shining, and Terms of Endearment and played Jaime Angel on Dr. Kildare) plays bomber John Stark.