Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CLIFFHANGERS! (1979)

Anyone else (other than Dusty and I) remember Cliffhangers!, a short-lived (10 episode) attempt to revive old fashioned Saturday matinee adventure serials in prime time?

It was an ambitious 1979 production developed by veteran genre TV producer Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, Alien Nation) for NBC.

Each weekly installment featured 15-minute chapters of three ongoing serials – Stop Susan Williams, starring Susan Anton as a sexy reporter in constant peril, The Secret Empire, an unabashed rip of Gene Autry's 1935 Western/sci-fi serial, The Phantom Empire, but without the singing and with Mark Lenard as one of the heavies, and The Curse of Dracula, featuring Michael Nouri (The Hidden) as a romanticized King of the Vampires, teaching history at a California college!

It's another show that I, as a 16-year-old kid, loved, but its unlikely to ever see a legit DVD release.... but I think I know of a source where I can get copies of the show. If I do, I'm sure I'll get around to writing more about it here one of these days.

25 comments:

  1. Wow, what a flashback! I definitely remember this one.

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  2. I TOTALLY remember this series. My entire family was utterly addicted to it!

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  3. I liked the Secret Empire best. I loved how the show switched between the sepia tone above ground to full color underground.

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  4. Oh yes, I watched this one. My favorite was "The Secret Empire." The weirdest thing about the show was that two of the serials began in the middle, and only one (Dracula) reached the end of its story.

    It was a fun idea, but I can certainly see why it didn't fly.

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  5. I certainly remember Curse of Dracula, which I think must have been my first encounter with a sympathetic vampire. As I recall, Dracula was quite the piano player as well. I sort of recall Secret Empire; that is, I remember seeing Phanton Empire on Matinee at the Bijou soon afterwards and finding it very familiar somehow.

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  6. I loved the Curse of Dracula, it was the only Cliffhanger show I watched.

    I might have to see if I can find those; so I'll watch here and hopefully benefit from your success!

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  7. I remember it well -- though I'd forgotten about it till now. Thanks for reminding me. Like most of the other commenters, I like the Secret Empire best.

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  8. I remember enjoying all three segments, although, admittedly, I only paid any attention to "Stop Susan Williams" because Susan Anton was incredibly hot.

    "The Secret Empire" and "Curse of Dracula" were the real attractions, without question.

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    1. Universal Television has been churning out hit network TV sci-fi dramas since Comcast bought the Peacock Network last year. However, Cliffhangers! was a post-Six Million Dollar Man/pre-Shadow Chasers Kenneth Johnson's idea of bringing the old-time movie-theater serials of the 1930s, 1940 and early 1950s to series television for the first time.

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  9. I remember tuning in for the final episode, that should have wrapped up the "Stop Susan Williams" and "The Secret Empire" storylines. Never happened.

    Instead, NBC (Nothing But Crap) showed a rerun of Great Heroes from the Bible. BAH!

    Tex
    (killed what little faith I had)

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  10. I had a spontaneous flashback regarding this show about a year ago. I went looking around for it and came up empty. I'd love to see The Secret Empire again.

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  11. I too LOVED this show back in the day, and I think "The Secret Empire" is still the reason why I prefer weird westerns to straightforward ones. Anyway, TV Obscurities has some info and clips on each of the three segments, starting at http://www.tvobscurities.com/articles/cliffhangers.php and a chapter of "The Secret Empire" is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lltNyNEqxio and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIy-fmovZW8&feature=related

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  12. Yep...I watched it. And now you've got me wanting to watch it again. Haven't thought of Susan Anton in years....

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  13. I remember liking this around the time I was in 4th grade.
    All I can recall about it was being interested in the Dracula stories.

    Unrelated, but for some reason thinking of this show jarred another buried '70s TV memory... "Project UFO." I think all these old shows are stored in the same box back in the same dusty corner of my brain.

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  14. I remember watching it, I was a boy, I think it aired on Tuesday nights.
    SG

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  15. This is so strange - when I saw this post last night, I was at a game where we had been talking about this show only five minutes before!
    Yeah, the Secret Empire bit was my fave. I should really watch The Phantom Empire someday for comparison.

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  16. I do remember the Dracula part, but not the others. Strange as I loved The Phantom Empire.

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  17. Yes, I remember seeing this series but can only recall details from the Dracula segment. Like a previous commenter said, this was also the first time I saw a sympathetic vampire.

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  18. The Michael Nouri Dracula feature was so overwhelmingly better than the other two that it was edited together into a film release called “The World of Dracula.” He did a fantastic job - the scene Samuel Wilson refers to, where Dracula is playing piano in a bar and playing everything from Chopin to Scott Joplin - “I have had much time to practice” - is well remembered by those who saw it.

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    1. "I've had considerable time to practice " lol

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    2. "I've had considerable time to practice " lol

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  19. I have a clip here:

    http://evildm.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-vaguely-remember-secret-empire.html

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  20. I totally remember this show!

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  21. This show came out at the same time as I was getting into those old serials. I loved this show and mention it often to people when we talk about television of our youth. They think I made it up because nobody ever remembers it.

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  22. The strongest memory i have of this show isn't the show itself, but of a nightmare generated by the Dracula segment. I was attacked by a child vampire by the NAME "Cliffhangers". His mother, who was a teacher at my school sicced him on me. Sorry, really weird, I know, but that's the nature of dreams sometimes.

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