Saturday, November 05, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam!: "The Past is Not Forever" (December 7, 1974)

In “The Past is Not Forever,” The Elders contact Mentor (Les Tremayne) and Billy (Michael Gray) and warn Batson of a vulnerable spot he may have; a vulnerability not of the body, but of the mind.

Meanwhile, in a nearby town, a boy named Jackie (Greg Mabrey) who once committed a robbery is accused of robbing a gas station.  In fact, he has been framed by his girlfriend’s (Carol Anne Selflinger) brother, Vinnie (Jack McCulloch).

Billy and Mentor attempt to clear Jackie’s name, but Vinnie is determined for the young man to be sent to jail.  He arranges for Jackie’s fingerprints to get on the stolen lock-box.

Fortunately, Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick) arrives to save the day, as a fire starts.  Vinnie is apprehended by the police, but Mentor and Billy decide to hang around in town for a while, just in case anything bad happens.

“The Past is Not Forever” sets up a two-part arc culminating in the story “The Gang’s All Here.” The narrative involves someone with a criminal record who cannot live down that record. Every time there is a crime, Jackie is suspected of being guilty. In other words, Jackie can’t get a fair shake.

This story points out the necessity of giving people a second chance, and not assuming the worst of people just because of past history. 

In truth, Vinnie is a horrible guy, and he’s out to hurt Mellie, and Jackie.  There are a couple of moments in the episode where Billy and Mentor are menaced by Vinnie and his gang, and these interludes feel, oddly, pretty suspenseful.  Most episodes of Shazam! are pretty innocuous, but this one actually feels a little disturbing because Vinnie is so malevolent. He isn’t even really bothered by the presence of Captain Marvel.  He's a sociopath. Ya dig?

The "You dig" joke there arises from the episode's dialogue. Vinnie uses the phrase to silence his enemies, and then Captain Marvel uses it, when blocking Vinnie from attacking Jackie.  

This episode (and the last one too…) have also featured a bit more comedic bantering between Billy and Mentor, and certainly, the back-and-forth makes the narrative feel a little less preachy. 

Here, Billy and Mentor fight over what to watch on TV. Billy wants to watch a movie. Mentor wants to watch a baseball game. When Billy turns into Captain Marvel -- the first time we have seen him undertake this transformation on a whim, or for a joke – the argument is settled.

A superhero always wins, right?

Next week: "The Gang's All Here."

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