Shout! Factory’s handsome new box set release of Tales of the Gold Monkey, a one-season series, has as much to say about the state of early ’80s TV as it does about a yen for old-style adventure movies. The 1982-83 series starred Stephen Collins in the kind of role Tom Selleck played in 1983’s High Road to China — and, more aptly, the kind of role Harrison Ford played in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.
That huge hit surely propelled both of those creations about an intrepid explorer/flyer in far-flung locales between World War I and World War II. But Monkey’s makers insist their inspiration was more along the lines of ’30s adventure films. Of course, those also were among Raiders’ inspirations, so why quibble? At any rate, it’s safe to say neither Gold Monkey nor High Road would have gotten financing and existed without the lucrative emergence of Indiana Jones — and if you don’t believe that, I have a slow boat to China to sell you.
In terms of production values, Gold Monkey tries valiantly to sell itself as a period piece in exotic locales, but production values don’t stretch quite that far. Yet that doesn’t mean the cast can’t charm if not captivate, including Collins (formerly of the first Star Trek movie) as the good-guy adventurer, Caitlin O’Heaney as his songstress accomplice and one-eyed Leo the dog as Jack, the one-eyed dog of Collins’ Jake Cutter. (Well, he’d have had two eyes if Jake hadn’t lost his valuable false eye in an unwise poker bet early in the saga).
Along with 21 episodes, including the double-length pilot, the DVDs sport inviting extras. These include a making-of featurette with recent interviews of Collins and O’Heaney; a stills gallery; and several text features such as character bios and cast member bios. These features are grouped on Disc 6. Audio commentaries for five episodes are spread out on three different discs. There’s also a slick 24-page booklet.
Fans should not be disappointed in this loving release of a show that came and went too quickly. Yes, they don’t make ’em like this anymore. But on DVD, it can live forever.