Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sea Divers (Harold Minniear Productions, 1958)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2014 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

When Charles finally got home from work I ran a half-hour unsold TV pilot from 1958 which I’d downloaded from Sea Divers, a pretty obvious knockoff of the successful syndicated series Sea Hunt, which had starred Lloyd Bridges as a freelance ocean diver who got mixed up in various adventures. “Created” by Harold Minniear and Lamar Boren for their own production company, written by Charles Maxwell and James Benson Nablo and directed by old RKO “B” hand Leslie Goodwins, Sea Divers wasn’t bad. Alas, it wasn’t very good, either; whatever interest it has now lies mainly in the absolutely gorgeous body of series star Rhodes Reason as Tom Gorman, who spends most of the show blessedly clad in nothing but a pair of super-tight swim trunks that show off a quite enviable basket. Charles joked that had Minniear and Boren been able to pitch it to a Gay TV executive, they probably could have got it sold just on the basis that it featured a really hot guy wearing almost nothing! Alas, Sea Divers was an all-too-obvious ripoff of Sea Hunt (a show that wasn’t any great shakes, either) and the only really interesting aspect aside from Reason’s bod was the ambiguous character of Hilda Thayer (nicely played by Joyce Holden), who gives a series of increasingly preposterous reasons for wanting to hire Gorman and his boss and business manager, Mike Gilbert (John Smith — not the same one as Pocahontas’s boyfriend, surely!), to salvage a mysterious canister from the wreck of a small boat called the Katy. (It might have had more of a name than that, but “Katy” is what we get to see.)

At first she tells them her father was an oceanographer and had left an important scientific secret aboard the Katy and she wants them to salvage it so he can be properly credited with its discovery. Later she tells them her dad found the location of the legendary wreck of the Spanish treasure ship San Salvador and had started to salvage it when the Katy sank (or was sunk by hostile parties also after the fortune) and took him down with her. There’s also a fishing boat with its lines out where there aren’t any fish to be had — obviously the inhabitants are spying on Hilda and Our Heroes for some nefarious purpose, but we’re not told precisely what. Later it turns out that Hilda and the two divers aboard the mystery boat are jewel smugglers — though why Hilda felt a need to hire two more divers to go after the sunken loot when she already had two divers for that purpose is a mystery — and Hilda tries to shoot Our Heroes with a gun they gave her for protection against the bad guys (“Haven’t you guys ever seen a movie?” I joked. “You never give a gun to a morally ambiguous woman!”), but they’re able to escape surprisingly easily and end the situation decently by shooting a harpoon gun at Evelyn’s sleeve, thereby pinning her to their boat and preventing her from firing her gun. (Huh?) There’s also a comic-relief character named Marty (Jeanne Vaughn), an 18-year-old girl who specializes in making herself obnoxious as she tries to horn in on the divers’ adventures and drink alongside them even though she isn’t yet 21. Sea Divers takes place in San Diego and at least some of the exteriors are quite recognizable (including the outside of the Bali H’ai restaurant), which made the piece a bit more fun for San Diegans like Charles and I, but mostly this is pretty dull, with lots of shots of divers chasing each other either on the surface or underwater, and such is the nature of SCUBA equipment that one deep-sea diver looks pretty much like another deep-sea diver and it’s not always easy to tell who’s who or what side they’re on.