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Sunday, August 4, 2013

'Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels:' Mel Blanc's Awesome Neanderthal Impression

Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels: The Complete Series
Warner Archive's DVD release of the complete series, including the segments during "Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics," of "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" is Archive's latest gift to children of the '70s who spent every Saturday morning watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons, drinking Tang, and eating Quisp cereal.

The below clip courtesy of YouTube of the opening credits of "Caveman" explains the show's concept of a trio of mystery solvers known as the teen angels teaming up with a frozen neanderthal who they stumble across in their travels. This origin story is very similar to the concept of Hanna-Barbera's earlier "Scooby-Doo" clone "The Funky Phantom" in which teens rescue a American Revolution era ghost from a grandfather clock.

The incredibly prolific and unbelievably talented cartoon voice actor Mel "Bugs Bunny" Blanc does an awesome job with "Cavey's" trademark battle cry of "Caaapppptttaaaiiinnn Caaaavvveeeeemmmmaaaan" and that character's other mumblings and prehistoric utterances. "Ooga booga" is a personal favorite.

"Caveman's" format is a pair of two roughly 10-minute cartoons that typically begin with our heroes arriving to visit a well-heeled friend whose father owns a glamorous business such as an airline or a circus, attend a festival of some sort, or just to enjoy time in Miami or another vacation destination.

Mayhem predictably ensues within a few minutes when an expensive necklace, a military missile, or other valuable item is either stolen or disappears or a menacing creature appears. Memorable creepy creatures include a mummy and the ghost of a Confederate Army general.

"Caeveman's" formula then calls the fear-prone Brenda to become frightened before anything nerve-wracking even occurs, brains-of-the-operation Brenda to not realize the significance of their first clue until discovering the second one a few minutes later, "Daffy" Taffy donning a disguise in earlier episodes and trying to pull off hilariously lame stings in later episodes, and the gang sicing their pet caveman on the suspect of the moment and the ultimate bad guy, who may or may not be the same person.

Cavey's oft malfunctioning super powers included flying, super-strength, and exceptional speed. Super intelligence is never on the table.

"Caveman's" pilot episode is an especially fun homage to "Scooby Doo" by opening with the angels driving their van-like motor home and Cavey snoozing away in his cave on the roof ala Mitt Romney's family dog. A frightened young woman stops the gang and disappears seconds after giving them a mysterious key for safe keeping.

This encounter leads the gang to a creepy old house where the young woman and her fellow heirs are scheduled to gather. The mayhem then kicks into high gear and justice prevails. Alas, no bubble gum music accompanies the chase scenes.

The fact that all 40 "Caveman" adventures follow the same pattern does not detract from their value. Predictability often adds to the enjoyment of a show, and the talents of Blanc and the "Caveman" writers keep things entertaining. We often do not know what creature or device that Cavey will pull out of his fur, and the surreal antics never disappoint.

Virtually all the humor relates to Cavey's bumbling, aforementioned nonsensical utterances, and "Flintstonesesque" use of prehistoric creatures and devices. Hearing the prehistoric bird who emerges holding a candle from the end of Cavey's club when he needs a light utter "it's a living" would not have been unexpected. 

The historical fact regarding this rarely syndicated gem is that allowing Blanc and the animators to go all "Encino Man" pays off. Cavey truly is both the world's first superhero and the oldest everyman.

Anyone with questions regarding "Caveman," "Scooby-Doo," or any Scooby clone is welcome to email me. Teen sleuths who want to track me can follow me under @tvdvdguy on Twitter.