posted by Mike on 8/01/02
Throughout man’s prolific history, there has been a fascination with Earth’s “lower” creatures. One of man’s oldest stories, in fact, concerned the interaction between a woman and a snake. Some of mythology’s most storied beasts were in one fashion or another a cross between man and animal. The centaurs… the minotaurs… the mermaids… the fauns… The Egyptians worshipped gods who had the bodies of men, but the heads of animals. Over time, these myths contorted into fables about men becoming animals outright. The English had their werewolves, men who under the full moon twisted and contorted into bloodthirsty man-beasts, raping and killing (though not necessarily in that order) women across misty European countrysides. The Native Americans told tales of the Manitou, men possessed by the spirits of animals. These are not to be confused with Embassy Films’ “The Manitou” (1978) in which the most powerful Indian shaman in history returns to earth by gestating as a fetus inside a tumor on the neck of a white woman. That one, my friends, is for another day.
This man/animal theme has been revisited time and time again in the movies. While some, like the original Cat People, were classics, others, such as Teen Wolf, were less entertaining than a German scat film (and no, I am not going to elaborate on what a scat film is, so please, don’t ask me.) Television’s had its fair share of them as well. The earliest example I can recall that had such a theme was a show from the late 70’s called (if I remember correctly) Wolf Boy, or some such, about a young man who’d been raised by wolves. Once again mimicking the TV Hulk formula, he would wander from town to town, solving other people’s problems, always the helpful but dejected outcast. This formula was again revived in 1987 for Fox’s action/horror series Werewolf, a real life sucker which I plan on covering in a future article.
But perhaps the worst show to ever cover such a theme filtered down into our boob tubes from the vengeful television gods in 1983. This show was worse than bad. It was downright mythical in its ineptitude, from conception to realization. In fact, I can say with a straight face and without any shame whatsoever that Home Boys In Outer Space was a more entertaining bit of sci-fi fluff than this was. Compared to this one, The Wizard (a show about a midget who fought crime with his ultra high tech toys) was Alfred Hitchcock at his best. This vomitous mass of film was so mind-numbingly atrocious, in fact, that it lasted a mere eight episodes. That’s right. Eight. Not even half a season. Of course, that’s twice as many as The Phoenix (which I’ll be delving into the not-to-distant future) but still a milestone in television shitdom nonetheless. So grab your fireproof clothes, I’m about to commit arson. The show’s called Manimal. Fuck you, Larson!
The Ladies call me an animal, but I’m just a big pussy
He’d already tortured our fragile souls with a talking car, a living video game, Noah’s ark from outer space, and a 20th century nymphomaniac banging 25th century women with a giant talking dildo for a sidekick. So naturally, Glen Larson felt the need to top himself, and go for previously unheard of levels of kitsch with his newest production Manimal, which chronicled the ongoing adventures of Dr. Jonathan Chase (played by hunky British snooze-enducer Simon McCorkindale.) Dr. Chase worked at the University Of New York, where he taught as an animal behaviorist. You read correctly. There really are people out there whose goal in life is to become one with our cute, furry friends (hey, keep the thoughts clean, people) and see what makes them tick. Little did they know that all they needed was a British accent and a convincing demeanor and they could’ve become the Pet Psychic. (On an off-topic note, has anyone out there watched the Pet Psychic? Is that not the most annoying bitch you’ve ever seen? And yes, I’m talking about the star.)
But I digress. What makes Mr. Chase special, you see, are the teachings of his long lost father. Long long ago, in a jungle miles and miles away, young Jonathan’s father stumbled upon a lost African tribe, who taught him the secrets of the animal world. More succinctly, he was taught about the thin barriers that separate man from beast. These ancient methods have now been passed to Jonathan, who has chosen to use them to defend the helpless. When the need arises, Jonathan can transform himself into one of dozens of different animals, including snakes, hawks, lizards, cats, sloths, gerbils, (perhaps Richard Gere should’ve tried out for the role), donkeys, sperm whales, pubic lice, and his personal favorite, panthers. Yes, just like Sigfreid and Roy, Dr. Chase loves the panthers. In fact, I’m sure he really loves them, if you get my drift. He love them long time.
Manimal could always count on his trusty sidekicks, Token and Tits
As with all shows of this era, Jonathan had three essential sidekicks who followed him along on his daring adventures, spitting out witty one-liners and superfluous schtick: the sexual innuendo spewing blonde, the angry police detective who yells every word of dialogue he’s given, and the streetwise black guy who is mostly there to play Robin to his Batman, giving close quarters commentary such as “DAMN!” “HOT DAMN!” “WHAT THE HELL?!” and “RIGHT ON!” Each week, some dastardly crime would be committed that only the streetwise black guy (played by Ice Pirates alumni Michael D. Roberts) was privy to. He’d drop the skinny on the blonde bimbo (played by Mary Hart look-alike Melody Anderson) and before you could say doggy style, Manimal would be hot on the case. Regardless of whatever crime was committed, the same action would no doubt go down.
1) Manimal would learn of their evil schemes by changing into a cat, rat, or small bird. His failure to drop bird shit on the villains when the opportunity arose was one of the reasons, in my opinion, that the show failed to find an audience. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my years of watching television, it’s that people love to see birds shit on unsuspecting victims.
2. Manimal, for reasons known only to himself (and perhaps Larson, who wrote half the scripts,) would try to thwart the crime in his wimpy human jizmop of a persona, which would without question get him in hot water (good thing he never chose to become a lobster, or any other edible crustacean, for that matter.)
3. When left with no option, Manimal would transform into a panther or hawk and let the feral asskicking commence. But even in animal form, Dr. Chase was a gentleman. He went for the non-violent approach, using his panther weight to topple his enemies to the ground, or using his hawk wings to distract the enemy, causing them to drop their guns. Never did you see Manimal chew the loins off a pain-stricken evildoer, nor did you ever see him fly up the ass of a villain and bite off his prostate. That just wasn’t Dr. Chase’s style. He preferred to keep his wild side under wraps, safe within the quiet darkness of his penthouse suite, where’d he’d spend hour upon endless hour not fucking the brains out of his female co-star, who practically begged him to get nasty with her favorite feline at least once an episode. Which brings me to another one of my famous deep thoughts. Much like Knight Rider, I feel there’s more going on here than we are led to believe. As much as Knight Rider was (in truth) the torrid love affair between a gay man and his talking penis, Manimal is the story of one man’s struggle with his vices, that being an undeniable urge to commit beastiality.
Manimal sprouts a full-on Garfield upon passing the Yarn Outlet mall
Oh sure, Jonathan and his buxom sidekick would throw innuendo back and forth until you were sick from it, but they never so much as swapped a single drop of spit. Of course, this may be because Jonathan was, by that point, used to only seeing the back of his lover’s head when in the heat of passion. On top of this was Dr. Chase’s unavoidable British accent, which had just a small trace of Cockney to it. This fact could suggest that he had a few Scotsmen in his family tree. So I think it’s more than fair to say that Manimal was most likely quite an accomplished sheep fucker. This transformation was never seen throughout Manimal’s eight episode run, but I have no doubts that Jonathan had, at least once in his past, gotten down with his bah-ah-ah-ah-ad self. And whatever you did, you never wanted to dangle a string in front of Jonathan. “Ahh! What’s that?!? What’s that string! AHHH! Gotta get that fucking string!!!”
Another thing you never wanted to do was go to Jonathan’s home. Knowing the tendency of animals to mark their territory, Jonathan’s pad most likely reeked of the piss he’d slung all over everything. And God forbid you ever be around him when he was sick to his stomach… Ever see a grown man eat his own shit? Oh wait, I already used a German scat film joke, didn’t I?
You gots ta do it, Stallion! ‘Cause if you don’t, I’m gonna eat your ass!
The not-so-special effects were conceived and designed by Hollywood f/x guru Stan “I’ve never heard of Predator 2” Winston. Suffice it to say, they weren’t exactly his best work. But considering the small budgets of television shows during this era, one can hardly blame him. Plus, it couldn’t have been easy trying to hold down the f/x budget when you were using 90% of your foam latex to cover up McCorkindale’s monstrous beak. That was probably the reasoning behind their “hawk” transformation technique, which amounted to nothing more than coating Simon with Winnie The Pooh brand honey and showering him with chicken hawk feathers. Believe me, it looks better than it sounds. The schnoz sells the effect. With a honker like that, I’d have no problems believing he could swoop down from the dark of night and peck out my eyeballs.
The panther effect wasn’t much better. In f/x goodness, it lay somewhere between Michael Jackson’s werewolf make-up from Thriller, and Apollo Creed. I don’t know if old Stan was taking the concept of a “black” panther to new extremes or what, but it certainly made me look twice. How racially inspired can you get? There he was, a white man trapped inside the morphing body of a large-lipped, black-skinned beast. I hadn’t seen a black panther with that bad of a British accent since Baghira from the Jungle Book. You might as well have named the character Bahnegro, and renamed the show Blackimal.
Doc, I said I wanted to look like the guy who played Frodo, not Quasimodo!
But really, this show is about a man’s identity crisis. It’s obvious that good old Dr. Chase just doesn’t know what he wants to be in life… a rich, influential gazillionaire who gets all the pussy… or just a pussy. And I think this was part of what led to the show’s demise. As stated before, never once did Jonathan and Brooke do the horizontal mambo. And it’s a good thing, since I read somewhere that certain breeds of male felines have sharp burs in the shafts of their penis. These burs latch on to the inside of the vagina to prevent the female from pulling away before ejaculation. Imagine the kind of pillow talk these two would’ve had after Brooke got stabbed a few dozen times in the fun pocket. I don’t imagine she’d enjoy what would no doubt be the oral equivalent of giving head to Mr. Ed, either. But then again, maybe she would have. After all, there’s people out there who like German scat films.
And this opens up a whole other avenue of thought. Perhaps Jonathan should’ve concentrated on learning to transform specific parts of his body rather than going for the whole shebang. He could have the tongue of an anteater, or the twig and berries of a South African elephant. The possibilities are almost limitless (insert sperm whale joke here.) It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “hung like a horse,” to be sure, and would’ve faired far better for him in the dating world than having lovemaking sessions that looked like they were downloaded from www.clubfarm.com.
And perhaps the worst aspect of the entire show was its narrator William Conrad. Does the name ring a bell? It should. He was the infamous narrator of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. So just close your eyes and imagine an opening narration such as this: “Last week we left our daring hero alone in his bedroom once again, saddened and forelorn by his lack of tail! Watch as he transforms into a giraffe and performs auto-fellatio in this week’s exciting episode!!” I’m not exaggerating by much here…
Manimal’s eight episode run went down in the history books as yet another Larson failure, then vanished. If you don’t blink, you may catch an episode on Sci-Fi channel every now and then, but that’s the best you can hope for. Years later, this man/animal connection was done with much greater success by Ron Perlman in the CBS underground hit Beauty And The Beast. It’s a sad commentary to say that Perlman’s Vincent character was twice the man that Dr. Jonathan Chase was. Sad, but true. We once again have Glen Larson to thank for this, a man who, to this day, continues to shower us with his fetid television spooge. Recent attempts at success such as Nightman show us that, no matter how much we try to avoid it, we are destined to be exposed to many, many Manimals to come. And not all of them will be house broken.