Series: Tales of the Gold Monkey
It had the romance of the 1930s, the bigger-than-life hero with the leather jacket, and the elements of intrigue of that time period. It was a lot of fun. That plane [the Goose] was a magic carpet and it could take you anywhere.
— Director Donald A. Baer on the show
Tropical islands, high-flying adventure
, political intrigue, "talking" dogs and legends come alive
! This is the world of Tales of the Gold Monkey, a one-season adventure series that aired on ABC in 1982. Set in the mythical South Pacific island of Bora Gora (in the equally mythical Marivellas archipelago) in The Thirties
, it follows the adventures of Jake Cutter, pilot of a Grumman Goose flying boat named Cutter's Goose
, his one-eyed canine sidekick
Jack, and his various allies and associates
as they battle the villainous schemes of Princess Koji
and other ne'er-do-wells. Jake, a former Pan Am pilot and former member of the Flying Tigers American Volunteer Group, just wants to settle in to a quiet life as a legitimate pilot-for-hire. Needless to say, adventure tends to find him.
An early Belisarius Production
, it shares many of the traits common with his works, such as action/adventure, Camp
, Rule of Cool
, and a former military protagonist (Jake Cutter, former Flying Tigers AVG pilot) who narrates his own life through an inner voice. It ran for but a single season (Sept. 1982-July 1983) for a total of 21 episodes, counting the 2 hour pilot, but built up a large cult following that kept circulating the tapes
for decades before it finally made its way to DVD in 2009 (UK/Australia) and 2010 (US/Canada). While many assume the show was a Spiritual Successor of Indiana Jones
, Bellisario originally pitched the idea in the late 1970s and always claimed the inspiration to be the 1939 film Only Angels Have Wings
While short-lived, Tales of the Gold Monkey
was critically acclaimed (winning several Emmys) and had a notable influence on future shows, including the animated Spiritual Successor
. The cast included:
- Stephen Collins as Jake Cutter, our Ace Pilot and main protagonist, pilot of Cutter's Goose
- Jeff MacKay as Corky, Jake's alcoholic mechanic and occasional co-pilot
- Caitlin O'Heaney as Sarah Stickney White, an American spy undercover as a bar singer and Jake's quasi-Love Interest
- Roddy McDowall (Ron Moody in the Pilot) as Bon Chance Louie, French magistrate and owner of the Monkey Bar
- John Calvin as Rev. Willie Tenboom, a Dutch priest and German spy with more devotion to his libido than to the Reich
- Marta DuBois as Princess Koji, half-Japanese Dragon Lady and main antagonist
- John Fujioka as Todo, Koji's samurai henchman
- Les Jankey as Gushie, Louie's wheelchair-bound partner and The Bartender
- "Leo" as Jack, Jake's impossibly intelligent one-eyed bull terrier
This show provides examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Jake, of the Plugger variety (rather necessary in an unarmed flying boat). He was also a literal Ace, having scored five confirmed kills against the Japanese while with the Flying Tigers.
- The Alcoholic: Corky
- All Myths Are True
- Anachronism Stew: mostly averted (save for the hairstyles and other giveaways of its 1982 origins) but has a few notable anachronisms:
- Though set in 1938, it features Japanese Zeros (not developed until 1939 and not operational until 1940)
- Jake is a former member of the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers), which didn't exist until 1941.
- Samurai in full O'Yoroi armor (possibly justified as ceremonial)
- Animal Athlete Loophole: Jake is told he can't fly without a co-pilot, and attempts to claim that Jack is his co-pilot, using Ain't No Rule. While there isn't a rule saying a dog can't be a co-pilot, there is a rule saying that your co-pilot has to have two working eyes, regardless of species.
- Artifact Title: The monkey statue isn't relevant to the series past The Pilot.
- Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Todo's Samurai armor
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Jake and Corky go into this routine during a brawl in a Philippine bar.
- Badass Preacher: The one time Reverend Tenboom involves himself in a brawl, he shows himself to be very good at it.
- Bar Brawl: a staple of the show, naturally, along with a Running Gag of Louie doing up the bill for damages as the fight takes place.
- The Bartender: Gushie and to a lesser degree Louie
- Big Bad: Princess Koji
- Bigger Bad: Par for the course for the time period, Adolf Hitler.
- Big Damn Heroes
- Bottle Episode: Force of Habit. Half the episode takes place in the Goose's cockpit, and it was written to be an episode that could be filmed in half the time of the normal episodes, because they were behind schedule.
- Camp: volcanoes, Bigfoot, native rituals, samurai, and a "talking" dog
- Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Gandy Dancer from "Legends are Forever", convinced that James Hilton really did visit Shangri-Li and that H. Rider Haggard really did find King Solomon's Mines. The ending of the episode shows he might not have been far off...
- Chased by Angry Natives: African ones...in the South Pacific!
- Chivalrous Pervert: Rev. Willy Tenboom will sleep with any and all of the attractive female population on the island, but when one of those girls is coerced into prostitution, he responds by tearing down the pimp's tent and brawling with his enforcers.
- Clock King: Lord Hedriks from "God Save the Queen", whose watch is in perfect sync with the timer of the bomb he's planted. So Jake resets his watch.
- Cool Plane: Subverted by Cutter's Goose, a vintage Grumman Goose flying boat. She's temperamental, requires regular maintenance, and certainly isn't sleek and futuristic, even for the time portrayed in the show. But she'll surprise you. Note: while totally a cool plane in the subjective sense, the Trope itself doesn't really apply to the Goose. See the main entry.
- Creator Cameo: Donald P. Bellisario appears, along with his son, as a man and child being evacuated from Boragora when its volcano is erupting in the episode A Distant Shout of Thunder.
- Crew of One: Averted; Jake relies on Corky and others for repairs, co-piloting, emergency damage control, etc.
- Deconstructed Trope: Gandy Dancer is one for the Adventurer Archaeologist; he's always on the search for a legendary treasure or location that he never finds, has all but abandoned his daughter, and gets himself killed in search of King Solomon's treasure.
- The Dragon: Todo
- Dragon Lady: Princess Koji
- Dream Sequence
- Donald P. Bellisario
- Double Meaning Title and Pun-Based Title: Evoked in some episodes, ex: "Force of Habit", "Last Chance Louie", and "Cooked Goose"
- The original name for the series, "Tales of the Brass Monkey" applies as well...
- Everything's Better with Samurai: Todo
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Koji
- Expanded Universe: a short-lived series of comics, among others.
- Expansion Pack Past: Bon Chance Louie; for a single season show it's amazing how fast his Mysterious Past grew!
- Eyepatch of Power: on Jack (the dog)! Turns out the dog has a Glass Eye, but Jake lost it gambling. In one episode he gets it back, only to lose it again when he needs to pay for something.
- Femme Fatale: Koji, obviously!
- For the Evulz: The real murderer in " The Sultan of Swat" seems to have killed the native girl just to see if he could get away with it.
- The Gambler: in "High Stakes Lady". She's also a Femme Fatale.
- Good Guy Bar: The Monkey Bar
- Heroic Dog: Jack, of course!
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jake and Corky.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: In "Trunk from the Past" Anubis worshiping villain Ted Harrison gets himself sealed in the very same Temple of Doom he opened to sacrifice Jake and Corky.
- If It Swims, It Flies: Justified with Cutter's Goose...it is a flying boat, after all!
- Intellectual Animal and Talking Animal: Jack (barks once for "no", twice for "yes")
- He's even multilingual: "Speaks" Japanese ("The Lady and the Tiger") and Spanish ("The Late Sarah White")!
- Possibly also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot. To quote Jeff MacKay in a Cinescape interview, "That dog had more brains than any of us."
- Intercourse with You: Rev. Tenboom has his hands full giving "blessings" to the native women.
- Jungle Opera
- Kick the Dog: Those Wacky Nazis, naturally
- Knight in Shining Armor: Jake's childhood ambition. He admits it was largely for the Damsels in Distress.
- Knight of Cerebus: Colonel Villier and the other prisoners turned sadistic guards in "Escape from Death Island", making for an unusually dark and somewhat grim episode.
- Let Them Die Happy: Jake lies to Gandy about seeing Solomon's treasure in the Watusi cave.
- Local Hangout: The Monkey Bar; also at various times the Good Guy Bar, Bad-Guy Bar, and/or Wretched Hive. (Seeing as it's the only bar on the island they all have to share.)
- Loveable Rogue: Jake
- Love at First Punch: Jake's introduction to Sarah is her hitting him with a champagne bottle
- Moral Guardians: the reason the name was changed from "Tales of the Brass Monkey", since a Brass Monkey was an alcoholic cocktail.
- Certain "cold weather effects" to "brass monkeys" may have been another factor.
- Mr. Fixit: Corky
- Mysterious Past: Bon Chance Louie
- Noble Demon: Koji, who will go out of her way to help Jake out.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Jack (a one-eyed Jack Russell terrier)
- Non Indicative Name: The gold monkey at the bar is actually a brass monkey. The real gold monkey is still out there, though.
- Nubile Savage: One takes a liking to Corky in "Shanghaied."
- Pass the Popcorn: Louie and his patrons tend to take bets on the outcome of bar brawls.
- Penal Colony: In "Escape from Death Island". Subverted in that the inmates run the colony. The gang that seized control is pretending to be the commandant and guards to any visitors, while still treating the other inmates like crap, until the supply boat comes so that they can steal it, and get away.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: of Cutter's Goose, as required
- Punch Clock Villain: Rev. Tenboom
- Quicksand Sucks
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
- Rare Vehicles: A6M Zero fighters are pretty common for a fighter not even in prototype phase yet
- Religion of Evil: The cult of Anubis worshipers from "Trunk from the Past."
- Rule of Cool: pretty much runs on it
- Shoot the Dog: "Narrowly averted" literal example in "Escape from Death Island". Admittedly more of a Kick the Dog case, but yeah...
- Sinister Minister: Reverend Tenboom, sinner, womanizer, and German spy!'
- Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic: Fairly true to the time period with the occasional appearances of swamp monsters ("Once a Tiger"), ghosts ("Trunk from the Past"), killer monkeys (the Pilot), and, of course, Jack.
- Spiritual Successor: Only Angels Have Wings (1939) and other depression-era adventure and noir films (despite assumptions to the contrary, it was not a Spiritual Successor of Raiders of the Lost Ark, having been originally pitched and rejected in 1979...though the idea was finally accepted following the success of Raiders.
- Influenced its own Spiritual Successor in Disney's TaleSpin.
- Stock Footage:
- No, they didn't destroy their expensive main set in the dramatic conclusion of "The Distant Sound of Thunder", that was footage from the 1961 Spencer Tracy/Frank Sinatra film The Devil at 4 O'Clock, whose bar plans were copied when building the Monkey Bar!
- Some very conspicuous stock footage shows up whenever they showed the Pan Am clipper in flight — suddenly the show's in black and white.
- In one episode, footage that is supposed to be of the China Clipper in flight shows a plane with the distinctive humped tailfin of the Boeing B-17.
- The aerial combat footage from flashbacks to Jake's service with the AVG is from the pilot episode of Black Sheep Squadron.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: in "Black Pearl" Those Wacky Nazis make an atomic bomb, in 1938!
- Thememobile: Cutter's Goose
- The Thirties: 1938, to be specific.
- Those Wacky Nazis: "monocle guy" Fritz in the pilot and the scientists building an atomic bomb in "Black Pearl."
- While Reverend Tenboom is German, he is not a Nazi.
- Two-Fisted Tales and/or Diesel Punk
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Jake and Sarah, Jake and Koji...well, Jake and about any unrelated female
- What a Piece of Junk: Cutter's Goose