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Saturday, August 26, 2017

FLIPPER: SEASON ONE -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

Even as a kid, I avoided producer Ivan Tors' "Flipper" because I thought it just another dumb show about a kid and his freakishly intelligent pet getting him out of trouble all the time.  Now, however, with the 3-disc Blu-ray FLIPPER: SEASON ONE from Olive Films, I've been binge-watching this show like there's no tomorrow.

It's basically the same sort of kids-and-pets premise as "Lassie" (a boy and his dog on the farm) or "Fury" (a boy and his horse on a ranch) or "Gentle Ben" (a boy and his grizzly bear wherever they were) only instead of a dog or a horse, the rambunctious young freckle-faced kid (Tommy Norden as Bud) and older brother Sandy (Luke Halpin) are having adventures on the Florida coast with their beloved dolphin while helping Dad (Brian Kelly as Ranger Porter Ricks) with his duties as a park ranger for a marine preserve.

The uncomplicated plots still manage to generate conflict and suspense, usually on the mild side (although Dad occasionally has to get rough with various poachers, smugglers, etc.) 

This is a good example of how they used to be able to cram lots of story into a half-hour episode without any filler and keep us sufficiently entertained the entire time.  It also takes us back to a more innocent television era when such stories were simple and fun.

The characters are surprisingly realistic, frequently engaging in sincere, understated father-son exchanges that ring true while teaching valuable lessons to both kid and adult viewers.  Moreover, their actions rarely strain credulity or descend into forced humor or bathos.

Even the fantasy element of Flipper seeming to understand and respond intelligently to Bud is done sparingly and with some subtlety (we only occasionally get the standard "Go get help, Flipper! Find Dad!" scene).

Dad's job as aquatic park ranger is fodder for a wealth of exciting stories.  In the pilot, "300 Feet Below", a shark-attack victim calls for help from his boat before passing out, and it's up to Flipper to make sure he gets needed plasma in time for a transfusion. (A young Jessica Walter appears as his wife.)

In another story, lobster trap poachers overpower Ranger Ricks during a nocturnal arrest and leave him stranded in the middle of the ocean to die.  (Andy Devine guest stars.) A hurricane threatens coastal inhabitants in "The Second Time Around", with an impossibly young Linda Day as a former water-skiing champion who loses the will to live after being confined to a wheelchair.

Stories such as this emphasize the human element that the series handles with ample skill.  Most are involved enough for adults but with a vicarious fantasy element that should appeal to kids as they watch Bud and Sandy living on the beach, constantly swimming and scuba-diving, having fun adventures with Flipper, etc.  It's enough to make me wish I were a kid again myself. 

Kelly is solid as the stern but easygoing Dad, with Luke Halpin ably portraying a likable teen on the verge of manhood while satisfying the "16 Magazine" readers in the audience. Red-headed Tommy Norden is ideal as the precocious kid who gets into trouble sometimes but is basically a model son.

The show benefits from colorful, simple, down-to-earth production values as well as the active participation of underwater expert Ricou Browning (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON).  Olive Films' three-disc Blu-ray (full screen, mono, English subtitles, no extras) nicely preserves the show's brightness and clarity despite some occasional wear in the original elements.

Even if you weren't a fan of this series the first time around, you may find yourself warming up to it considerably upon reappraisal.  It's great light viewing if you're in the mood for something simple and uncomplicated.  As for me, FLIPPER: SEASON ONE is the kind of easy-to-take family entertainment that I can binge watch till it's coming out of my ears.

Buy it at Olive Films

YEAR: 1964-1965
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio; COLOR

Read our review of Season Two


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