1966: Lone Ranger adapts WWW, Batman

Lone Ranger and Tonto in the 1966 cartoon series that aired on CBS.

There have been many versions of The Lone Ranger, but a forgotten one aired on CBS in the fall of 1966.

That was a cartoon series, produced by Format Films. The series apparently was influenced by The Wild Wild West series that aired on CBS and the Batman  series that was broadcast on ABC.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto, as depicted in the cartoon, very much followed the Clayton Moore-Jay Silverheels model that debuted on television in 1949 and starred in movies in 1956 and 1958.

However, the villains the heroes confronted in the 1966 film were different.

The Iron Giant, built by Tiny Tom to menace the Lone Ranger in a 1966 cartoon.

In a number of the cartoons, the Ranger and Tonto faced Tiny Tom, a a very short scientist, sometimes aided by a giant assistant named Goliath. That was similar to Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) and his extremely fall assistant Voltaire (Richard Kiel).

Beyond that pair of villains, other of the Ranger’s foes had familiar capers to viewers of The Wild Wild West.

In particular, a Ranger cartoon titled Quicksilver had a villain who, after consuming a formula, moved so fast he was practically invisible. This was practically the same plot of the first-season episode of The Wild Wild West titled The Night of the Burning Diamond.

Format Films, the maker of the Ranger cartoons, had earlier produced the title sequence for I Spy.

One of the company’s principals was Herbert Klynn (1917-1999). Klynn was an alumnus of UPA, the cartoon operation that produced Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing theatrical shorts as well as a memorable adaption of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, with James Mason as the murder-narrator.

Meanwhile, Format’s version of The Lone Ranger featured villains with elaborate lairs, similar to the Batman television series with Adam West and Burt Ward that debuted in January 1966.

One of the Ranger’s foes in the cartoon series, the Black Widow (in the episode titled Cult of the Black Widow), had thugs in outfits similar to the henchmen in a typical Batman outing. The Black Widow was voiced by Agnes Moorehead, who would later win an Emmy for an appearance in The Wild Wild West.

Today, there’s a term, “steampunk,” definted as “a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.”

The Wild Wild West featured steampunk. So did the 1966 version of The Lone Ranger.

Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi meet Boris Karloff

Even the most dedicated 007 fan probably won’t spend $100 or so just to catch two of the most famous Bond women of the 1960s as guest stars on a TV series. Still, if said 007 fans are considering buying a DVD box sets for other reasons of the 1960-62 horror/crime anthology series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff, they can also watch Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi starring in separate episodes.

Andress was the lead in La Strega, playing a young 19th Century woman whose grandmother is, well, a witch. She’s trying to separate herself from granny, who’s having none of it. The episode originally aired on Jan. 15, 1962, early in the production of Dr. No. So it was probably filmed in late 1961. The episode was written by Alan Caillou, who penned early, influentical episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and directed by Ida Lupino.

Paluzzi starred in Flowers of Evil, which was originally broadcast almost two months later. We haven’t had a chance to check it out fully, but murder is definitely part of the proceedings.

Karloff, besides hosting, also acted in a handful of Thriller episodes though not either of these. The complete series was originally priced at around $150 but has been marked down to just under $100.

As we said, it’s not a Bond collector’s item, but 007 fans who have other reasons to purchase (for Karloff, for the fine scores by Jerry Goldsmtih and Morton Stevens, for adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard among others), they may want to give it a look.

UPDATE: The video’s not that good, but here’s the start of La Strega: