Any day is Saturday with Korg and Bugs Bunny
The Warner Archive Collection helps make any day Saturday with the release of ‘Korg: 70,000 B.C.’ and ‘Bugs Bunny Superstar’ on DVD.
When I was a kid in the 70s, I lived for Saturday morning and my cartoons. You had to drag me out of bed during the week to go to school, but I was up at 7 AM on Saturday to get the day started. In 1974, we had favorites like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and The Bugs Bunny Show plus cartoon versions of live action, prime time sitcoms like Jeannie, Partridge Family 2200 A.D., The Addams Family and The New Adventures of Gilligan. Sid and Marty Krofft began to change the Saturday morning cartoon landscape with their live-action/puppet shows like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and Lidsville, and Hanna-Barbera decided to jump on the bandwagon — and compete with the Krofft’s hit Land of the Lost — by producing their own prehistoric Saturday morning series, Korg: 70,000 B.C.
Korg debuted in the winter of 1974 to a general disinterest among adolescent viewers who were busy with Land of the Lost and Hanna-Barbera’s own animated knock-off of that show, Valley of the Dinosaurs. The failure of Korg can probably be tied directly to the lack of one word: dinosaurs. Instead, Korg: 70,000 B.C. went for a more “realistic” tone in its depiction of Neanderthal man in a time when there were no dinosaurs, only wildlife very similar to what you would find in the wild today (okay, exactly the same as you would find today — deer, rabbits, lions and elephants), and the struggle of these early ancestors to just stay alive while battling the elements (fire, drought) and disease, as well as other aggressive tribes.
You have to give credit to Hanna-Barbera for trying something new, but with two other shows on the air that have people (modern humans thrust back in time, in fact) interacting with dinosaurs, kids couldn’t help but be disappointed in this new show. It’s moralizing tone, though not as sledge hammer to the head intense as Shazam!, and realistic approach to every day life for a Neanderthal tribe was more than enough to make kids flip the channel to more exciting fare (like Shazam! on CBS and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters on NBC). That’s not to say that the show is bad — well, there is one episode with a hilariously low-budget man-in-a-bear-suit moment — but it probably came off as just a little too earnest for youngsters at the time. (And while the bear suit is laughable, the Neanderthal makeup is quite effective.)
Today, the show could probably be appreciated more for its attempts at depicting Neanderthal life with some accuracy, even if narrator Burgess Meredith tells us at the end of each episode that there are no written records of the time, but the artifacts left behind have helped the scientific community assume what life may have been like at the time. Each episode puts the family into some type of dramatic conflict that is usually solved by sheer ingenuity. In the first episode, all but two of the Korg family are trapped in their cave by an earthquake. Earlier in the day, two of the younger boys just happened to invent the see-saw (an axis) which allowed the smaller boy to lift the older, heavier boy. Korg’s quick thinking put that device to use, instructing the boys to use their new game to lift a heavy rock from the cave entrance. Success! (The trapped members of the family also figure out how to build a bridge across some rocks with their spears.)
In another episode, the youngest member of the family is bitten by a snake, which Korg and his “wife” know to be poisonous, so they do their best to suck out the venom! The only way to save the child is to find some medicinal root, but a solar eclipse freaks everyone out — they had to venture into a forbidden valley to get the root — almost causing the girl’s death (and if they were keeping it real, it would have been crushing, surprising and even more admirable had they not resorted to a miracle cure that restored her health in the nick of time). One of the more interesting episodes centered on the need of the men to be able to hunt, and if you were a man who couldn’t hunt, you were useless to your tribe. All of the Korg men were either hunters or on the verge of being old enough to join the hunt, but on one of their excursions they come across another group of hunters with a boy who just does not have the heart for the hunt. But he does have a talent: he can make the ground talk with pictures. The boy’s father does not think this is an important trait and is ready to take the boy off to kill him (seriously!), but Korg’s mate feels that what the boy does could be of importance and pleads with the father to spare him. The dad says he’ll think about it and off they go … leaving us to wonder if the dad ever did accept his son and his talent. Seen today, this could be one of the first television episodes to actually deal with tolerance (not to imply that the boy was homosexual, but he was sensitive and artistic so to modern eyes, that could be interpreted as the episode’s message).
The Warner Archive Collection DVD of Korg: 70,000 B.C. — The Complete Series has not been remastered for this release, but as it was shot on film the episodes look remarkably good; not perfect, but very acceptable considering the source material’s age (and watching it upscaled to 1080p probably helped make the image even more sharp). The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack sounds well-balanced, while the film itself has the occasional scratch here and there, but nothing to really detract from the presentation. And as is to be expected, there are no extras, however if you do remember this show, it certainly makes for an interesting trip down memory lane.