Jun 28, 2015

Journey to the Beginning of Time

During the late 1960s, our local afternoon kid's show, Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat, played a serial called Journey to the Beginning of Time, about four boys on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York who find a secret passage leading to a mysterious river. They paddle down the river through different geological eras, rescuing each other from mastodons and dinosaurs, learning to survive in the prehistoric wilderness.  

Finally they pass the Precambrian Era and see the dazzling psychedelic fireworks of the Earth's creation.

The serial made no sense.  The boys' costumes and hair styles changed; they got taller and shorter; the voice-over narration didn't match the action; no one wonders how they're going to get back home again; and where did boys visiting a museum get a boat, anyway?

Still, it became one of the iconic images of my childhood, maybe because it made no sense.  It was a puzzle, a mystery to be unraveled, and that puzzle involved boys facing the world together.

  In a pivotal scene, Doc (Josef Lukas) loses the diary with his scientific notes of the journey, and Jo-Jo (Victor Betral) fights off a dinosaur to retrieve it.  Their subsequent moment of emotional intimacy reverberated through my childhood.

Turns out that in 1966, producer William Cayton took the river sequences from a Czech movie, Cesta do Praveku (1955), then filmed new opening and closing segments in the United States with different boys, figuring that the dumb kids in his target audience would never notice.  

 I noticed, but I didn't care. I was busy watching the boys bonding with each other through science fiction adventure.