Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Valley of the Dinosaurs: "Smoke Screen" (October 5, 1974)

In “Smoke Screen,” the Butlers and the cave people from the nearby village, including Gorak’s family, are menaced by hominids called Gebos.  

Mr. Butler takes action to trap the leader of the Gebos, unaware that the villagers do not wish him to anger the primate-people.  In particular, they fear that the leader of the hominids will lead the Gebos on an attack against their homes.

Mr. Butler realizes that he can fend off an attack from the Gebos, and introduces the Villagers to bows and arrows. In particular, Gorak's people will use flaming arrows and baskets of fire to frighten the hominids, and send them scurrying back to their lands.

In a way, the fourth episode of Valley of the Dinosaurs (1974), “Smoke Screen,” is really about bullies.  The Gebos are cruel, mischievous creatures who often attack the village.  But instead of facing this menace -- for fear of facing even more monsters -- the people cower, and let the hominids have their way.

Butler interferes, which he readily admits may not be the right thing to do, but after apologizing, he sets about righting the situation.  Once more (and according to the formula I outlined last week), modern science helps to provide the answer to the dilemma. Butler teaches the villagers (and Gorak) how to be archers, and to repel the attacking Gebos.

Naturally (since this is a Saturday morning series), the Gebos aren’t killed in the climax, only sent packing.  The episode also doesn’t deal with the issue of whether it is right for Mr. Butler to introduce the cave men to a kind of weapon they have not yet developed themselves.  

However, the story is somewhat mature in the sense that it adds a villager here who clearly dislikes Mr. Butler and his answer to the problem.  Not all the villagers like or trust the strange Butlers, and this one villager (a bald man with a necklace) proves to be an irritant to the 20th century family in this episode.

Also, finally, I should add that one enduring value of Valley of the Dinosaurs involves the inaugural shots of each episode.  

Many times, before characters are introduced or the narrative begins, we get a montage of shots revealing the wild-life, and the landscape.  This contributes nicely to the cartoon's sense of place.

Next week: "Test Flight."

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