Saturday, July 17, 2010

BJ and the Bear – A Coffin with a View – review (TV Episode)

opening credits
Director: Ray Austin

First Aired: 1979

Contains spoilers

Remember me saying that vampires get everywhere… well here they are in the super-cheesy, wonderful BJ and the Bear. The show is part of my childhood, I couldn’t remember much about it – other than feeling a warm fuzzy glow of childhood glee whenever it was mentioned and that memorable chorus, stuck in my head for all time, “I’m BJ McKay and this is my best friend Bear.”

I’m BJ McKay and this is my best friend Bear.Actually the third episode proper (not including the pilot) BJ (Greg Evigan) made his way to a dock in his truck whilst Bear, the chimpanzee – in case you didn’t know who Bear was, played with playing cards. It was a dark and stormy night and, at the docks, we see a poster for vampire film in production… Fangs. A fog descends upon the dock.

Pamela Hensley as Holly Tremaine
All of which is perfect for publicist Holly Tremaine (Pamela Hensley, who would go on to play the wondrous space slattern Princess Ardala in Buck Rogers) as the ship has brought two coffins the film company found in a Transylvanian castle, which they have shipped over as a publicity stunt for their film. Their lead actor, however, is an old sot, which does not make Holly’s job that easy (he managed to get his cape stuck ion an elevator earlier).

As the coffins come down from the ship (and lightning flashes) Holly suggests that these were found in a catacomb under Dracula’s castle. She says that in 1456 there was a real Count Dracula (okay, Tepes was alive then, indeed his main rule of Walachia started in 1456 but he was no Count) and that he died in 1472 – Tepes died in 1476. Also, as we well know, Stoker only borrowed a name but, hey, this is BJ and the Bear so we can forgive it.

John Carradine gets everywhere
One coffin had his remains, she says, and the other was filled with Transylvanian Earth. They look to open the coffin but the caretaker of the castle (John Carradine, whom we could also declare seemed to get everywhere in his day) has travelled with the coffins and he says no, they must never remove the lid as they risk antagonising the forces of the dead! It is clear that the caretaker believes that the coffin contains a vampire – the coffins are BJ’s cargo.

Christopher Carroll as Det. Grimes
We see a man in a car park, he seems nervous and has a gun. He is grabbed from behind by a man (George Lazenby) with a large signet ring and chloroformed. Detective Grimes (Christopher Carroll) is called to a crime scene by Detective Stinson (William Kux). The man they have found – from the car park – has, it seems, bled to death but there is no blood and two punctures are on his neck.

George Lazenby as Paul Desmond
BJ is on the back roads, heading for a freeway, when lightning strikes a tree causing him to swerve. He goes to check damage, leaving Holly and Bear in the cab and he is approached by a man in a tuxedo who claims his car has broken down. He wears a distinctive signet ring and calls himself Paul Desmond – but somehow he isn’t wet. He offers to ride in the back of the truck, with the caretaker who was knocked out in the crash. As they drive to find a garage for repairs, Holly realises that the name Desmond is like Desmodontidae (the vampire bat sub-genus). When they are stopped at a roadblock they open the truck but Desmond has vanished… could it be that he is a real vampire?

This was hokum, absolutely and utterly, but it left a big old smile on my face as I relived my childhood. Okay, it wasn’t brilliant but, due to the benefit of rose-tinted glasses, I’ll give it 5.5 out of 10. The episode's imdb page is here.


Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

Ha! Sounds fun.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

you can't beat an affable trucker who travels with his ape!

Anonymous said...

OMG -- I never realized this gem of a show made it across the pond!!!! (and I sort of have mixed feelings about that -- please don't think that US truckers regularly travel with chimps as their best friends!). I so remember this show when I was a kid (so dating myself there!), but I never realized (or perhaps forgot) that there was a vampire episode. Thanks so much for posting this, Taliesin! (This reminds me of the time The Dukes of Hazzard had a shark in their lake, kinda like Jaws!).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Nicole - don't you be telling me that all affable US truckers don't travel with chimps as their best friends... the entire fabric of my childhood rests on the idea that they either have chimps (or orangutans) with them! lol ;)

Glad I could spark some childhood memories.