Wonder Woman vs Gargantua

Series: Wonder Woman (Season 1)
Country: United States
Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Starring: Linda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Richard Easham, Beatrice Colen, Robert Loggia, Gretchen Corbett, John Hillerman, Tom Reese, and Mickey Morton as Gargantua
Music: Artie kane
Title Song: Charles Fox / Norman Gimbel
Based on characters created by Charles Mouton

Wonder Woman was one of the most amazing shows on television in Australia. I know it was successful all around the world, but let me explain the impact in Australia. You see, we only got television in 1956, and that was to coincide with the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. But that was only black and white. Australia didn’t have colour television until 1975.

Sure we had a lot of English and American shows before then, presented in black and white. I remember as a kid, with my crayons drawing Batman. As Batman was in black and white, I had to guess the colour of his costume. At the stage I didn’t know what it was. I was probably too young to read properly, and didn’t have comics, so I drew Batman in red. What I am alluding to, in my clumsy way, is that there were a lot of great TV shows, that to a whole generation of Australian’s existed only in black and white. Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, Get Smart, and H.R. Puff ‘n Stuff only existed in black and white.

Then colour television came along. Now, not every household up-graded over night. It took a while for the technology to be appreciated and brought into the individual households. To my mind, and this is just a personal thing – remembering I grew up in rural Australia, not in a big city – there were two shows that leaped off the screen because they were colourful, action packed, and hit at just the right time. One, was The Six Million Dollar Man – and believe me, Steve’s red track suit was dazzling. The other, and certainly more eye-popping was Wonder Woman, which was like a day-glo, fluorescent cartoon on our screen. Wow!

So I have a soft spot for Wonder Woman, even if the series hasn’t aged as well as some of its contemporaries. All I see is colour and excitement – and now that I am older, Linda Carter in a ridiculously skimpy costume.

This episode opens in a Nazi held section of Africa in May, 1942. Wonder Woman is forging through the jungle, when she comes across a German half-track. Before she can react, she is attacked by a giant ape. The ape scoops her up in his arms and lifts her overhead. Just as he is about to throw her down and shatter her spine, she reaches for a whistle around her neck, and blows. Confused, the ape lowers Wonder Woman to the ground gently. Then Wonder Woman peels off her face – it’s a rubber mask – and removes her wig.

The woman masquerading as Wonder Woman, is a Nazi scientist named Erica Bellgarde, who intends to prove that her Pavlovian Response Theory research, controlling animals, can be of use to the Reich.

The ape is named Gargantua, and as you have no doubt guessed, he is being trained to attack and kill Wonder Woman.

Watching from the sideline, are a group of Nazi big-wigs who are appraising the experiment. Among them is Hans Addler (Robert Loggia). He is impressed enough to allow the experiment to move on to the next level.

The story skips forward five months to September 1942, and to Turner Circus, which has just set up on the outskirts of Washington D.C. As you would expect, Erica and Gargantua are part of the circus troupe. And they have a mission, which is to rescue a Nazi spy who has been captured, and is being interrogated.

Gargantua is too strong for the MPs assigned to guard the spy. He overpowers them, and then scales the wall of the building where the spy is being held, and enters through the window. He knocks out a few more guards, then belts the spy, rendering him unconscious. Gargantua slings him over his shoulder, and then exits the way he came in, climbing down the side of the building.

News of the spy’s disappearance is a blow to Steve Trevor (Lyle Wagonner) who was interrogating the spy. However, his assistant Diana Palmer, has a secret identity, and that is as Wonder Woman (Linda Carter). She starts piece down the clues, tracking down Gargantua and the Nazi spy ring.

However, if you were expecting one of the best TV smack-downs ever, between Wonder Woman and a giant ape, as the title of this episode Wonder Woman vs Gargantua would imply, then you would be sadly disappointed. Wonder Woman is an animal lover, and as such, she refuses to fight with the beast, choosing instead to show it kindness, and win it over that way. I guess, anything else would be out of character.

The effects in this episode are rudimentary at best – and Gargantua is clearly a man in a monkey suit (Mickey Morton). Watching it today, it is almost laughable, but it was probably aiming at the same level of believability as The Planet of the Apes movies. It didn’t succeed. But I am a Wonder Woman fan, so I overlook the flaws that would drive most people to distraction. However I would suggest, if you do not have the same in-built affection for this show, you would most likely think it is childish and cheesy. And you’d be right. But that is just what I love about it.

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