Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Victor Buono

Oh, Victor Buono, how do I love you? Let me count the ways.

Funny, campy, witty, clever, a man whose presence was more than his size, this lover of Shakespeare dedicated himself to his craft in a way that let him fully embody a character, even take it over the top (and in some cases way over the top), yet never take himself too seriously nor lose credibility with the audience in the process.

Obviously, if Batman was the only rerun I’d ever seen Victor Buono in, that would be enough. His King Tut is my favorite Batman villain and with good reason. He embraces the camp of the show, revels in it. He bellows, he insults, he bosses, he throws tantrums. He goes from joyful to angry and back again. He thinks torture is good clean fun. He is royalty. Every line is quotable and so much of it is in King Tut’s delivery. My personal favorite is “My queen is disloyal, my handmaiden is a traitor, and everybody’s being mean to me!” It’s delivered as only Victor Buono can.

Though he never made it onto The Green Hornet, Mr. Buono did guest start in two other short-lived series starring Van Williams, Burbon Street Beat and Surfside 6.

And Batman wasn’t the only show in which he was a recurring character. He also did six episodes of the short-lived (I’m sensing a theme) series Man from Atlantis and six episodes on the longer-lived series Vega$.

He also did a couple of episodes as Count Manzeppi on my beloved The Wild Wild West (including an episode with Richard Pryor in one of his first TV acting appearances), however, Victor Buono also appeared in the pilot episode of the series in the bizarre role of a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man. I will repeat that because it bears repeating. White Victor Buono played a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man.

The ’60s were wild.

Speaking of the ’60s, those were busy guest star times for Mr. Buono. He appeared on Westerns Sugarfoot, The Rebel, and Daniel Boone; had some watery fun on Seahunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; went undercover on The Man from UNCLE, The Girl from UNCLE, and I Spy; found himself on various sides of the law in Hawaiian EyeThe Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, and Perry Mason; and  he found time to thrill on Thriller and visit The Flying Nun.

Lucky for me, Mr. Buono graced Hawaii Five-O with his presence, playing a European master criminal after a rare Liberty head nickel. I believe this is also the episode that features the husband and wife in charming matching outfits. Only that could challenge the presence of Victor Buono and Jack Lord together onscreen.

Though he never made it on The Love Boat, Mr. Buono did manage to board Super Train and land on Fantasy Island. He also browsed The Night Gallery; again tangled with the law on The Mod Squad, Mannix, and Ellery Queen; and generated more than a few laughs on Here’s Lucy, The Odd Couple, and Alice.

One of his more memorable sitcom turns was on Taxi, playing Reverend Jim Ignatowski’s father, Mr. Caldwell, despite being only 8 months older than Christopher Lloyd. It was a naturally funny, but also sweet role, one that Taxi acknowledged in a later episode. After Victor Buono died of a heart attack in 1982, Reverend Jim’s father did, too.

 

 

 

Though Victor Buono died tragically early (only 43), we are left with a wealth of guest spots on some great reruns to enjoy. An immortal gift if there ever was one.

Rerun Junkie–Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Oh where would I be without my LSD nigh nigh show?

Where the weird shit lives

Where the weird shit lives

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a 1960’s Irwin Allen television show based on an Irwin Allen film of the same name. The show features the crew of a submarine called the Seaview which is headed by Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) and his right-hand man Captain Crane (David Hedison) and all of their wacky hijinx.

Okay, they only seem wacky because this was ’60s sci-fi and the first season (in black and white) was much more serious in tone, featuring mostly Cold War-inspired espionage and foreign baddies along with some sub-in-trouble episodes and only a few really weirdo episodes. Most of the sci-fi came from the submarine and the tech that everyone was using.

When the series went to color in the second season, that’s when things really started getting fantastic and stayed that way until the end of its four year run. In that time, the poor crew of the Seaview dealt with ghosts, werewolves, clowns, wax men, lobster men, a literal fire man, frost men, shadow men, a leprachaun, and my personal favorite, sentient seaweed, among other wild things. The crew, which included Chip (Robert Dowdell), Chief Sharkey (Terry Becker), my favorite crewman Kowalski (Del Monroe), Curley (Henry Kulky, who sadly passed away after the first season), Patterson (Paul Trinka), and Doctor (Richard Bull, aka Nels Oleson from Little House on the Prairie), always managed to come out victorious (though many nameless crew members often bit it in the course of victory, though no one ever seemed to mind) and probably could have used a pay raise, extra leave time, and maybe some PTSD therapy for the shit they’d seen.

"Sir, there's something on sonar."  "Probably some science experiment gone wrong. Let's poke it with a stick."

“Sir, there’s something on sonar.”
“Probably some science experiment gone wrong. Let’s poke it with a stick.”

And they saw a lot. They ended up inside whales and jelly fish. They disappeared. They went back in time. They transported murderous gorillas and mermaids with not much better temperaments. They diffused bombs and battled saboteurs. Everybody got kidnapped at least once and Chip ended up on Venus (sometimes I think he probably wishes they left him there).

They also saw a lot of people for a crew that spent most of their time on a submarine that always seemed to be on fire. Guest stars included: John Banner and Werner Klemperer before they went to work at Stalag 13; James Doohan and George Takei (this was probably great training for their Star Trek journey); Ed Asner; Tom Skerritt; James Brolin; Jill Ireland; Batman heroine Yvonne Craig and Batman villain Victor Buono; my horror movie love Vincent Price; Paul Fix, Jacques Aubuchon; June Lockhart, who didn’t have to do laundry for a change; John Fujioka; Brooke Bundy; Irene Tsu; John Dehner, John Hoyt, Nehemiah Persoff, John Anderson, Kevin Hagen, and Peter Mark Richman because I think it was required by law for those guys to be on your show in the ’60s and ’70s; Michael Constantine, who worked under the same law, but for more decades; Michael Ansara; George Lindsey; Leslie Nielsen; Robert Duvall as an alien (this is when I knew the series was going to really be something); James Frawley; Victor Mature; Nicholas Colasanto long before Cheers; Frances X. Bushman; James Darren; Patrick Wayne; John Cassevettes; Michael Dunn, whom I immediately recognized under his clown make-up the second he smiled; and if you pay attention to the crewmen in the background, you’ll see our old friend Marco Lopez (Emergency!) in about twenty episodes of the last two seasons.

This is one of those shows where it was probably absolutely amazing to the viewing audience at the time, especially after the show went to color, but now is pretty hokey looking with some really far out storylines. I mean, the lobster man was something to behold because it didn’t quite look like either. And I’m not joking when I say the Seaview was always on fire. It seems like something in that sub is always on fire. Even the Garvey’s barn didn’t burn this much.

But it’s a super fun show.

I couldn’t get to sleep on Saturday nights without it.

Really, what IS that?

Really, what IS that?