Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam: "The Athlete" (October 12, 1974)

In this first season episode of the 1970s Filmation live-action series, Shazam, Mentor (Les Tremayne) and Billy (Michael Gray) see a fishing trip derailed when two irresponsible high school athletes intentionally spook a horse and its rider, Kellie.

It turns out that these athletes are attempting to keep Kellie Owens (Stephanie Steele) off the all-boys track team…and are willing to do so by intimidation or even physical threat.  Later, the two boys frame Kellie for cheating on a school exam, an infraction which could also jeopardize a college scholarship.

Mentor and Billy intervene, and one of the athletes reveals the truth…just in time. Kellie goes on to win the scholarship, and a slot on the track-and-field running team.

This is another relatively undistinguished, small-potatoes episode of Shazam, made memorable almost exclusively by the fact that the “bad” athlete, Jack, is played by a teenage Butch Patrick, the cult-TV star of The Munsters (1964 – 1966) and Lidsville (1971).

Otherwise, “The Athlete” bucks the series format by featuring a first-act appearance of Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick), one which precedes the weekly tete-a-tete with Elders.  In this case, Captain Marvel saves Kellie and her runaway horse.  He also appears later in the episode, when Kellie nearly rides her motorcycle into a tractor on a dirt road.

As is par for the course, there’s an After-School Special vibe to the proceedings, although this week the Elders offer a nugget of wisdom that is indeed true, and describes the great sweep of Civil Rights in America:

“Even when change is right and just, there are those who through their attitudes resist it.”

Truer words may never have been spoken…at least on a Saturday morning superhero program.

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