What Would Schrodinger’s Cat Watch, If He Possessed a Remote Control?

tumblr_na3tp0Vuuu1rt7mhqo1_500By James H. Burns: This falls into the realm of films and shows that you know you’ve seen, but that don’t seem to exist….

They can be sequences that live just on the fringes of memory, but which no one else can recall!

When I was a boy, in the mid-1960s or so (perhaps a couple of years later), I was a tremendous fan of cartoons. (Did I yet know the word “animation”?  Happily, some joys only endure, whatever their nomenclature!)

In New York, we were in the midst of a Japanese animation renaissance, although we didn’t realize it at the time. Astroboy and Gigantor and Eighth Man and Kimba and Speed Racer had joined our happy pantheon of Bugs Bunny and the Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes gang, and Popeye, and Koko the Clown and George Pal’s Puppetoons  (the latter two only very early in the morning), and Gumby and other newly produced, syndicated fare.

One morning, I was changing channels, when I was suddenly taken in by the most dream-like of an Asian set, animated MOVIE. It was taking place in the time of the Samurai. and somehow, the good guy (as I recall), went to challenge a local bully in a tavern of some sort, only to – ultimately — fall into a type of bee-hive, which took him to some type of other-dimensional, and possibly hellish, locale…

I may have solved the riddle finally, of what this very surrealistic film was, and am hoping that someone here might certainly know the answer, but for decades, folks would look at me in astonishment, when I offered this scenario…

Other television presentations listed only as unaired pilots in some references must have gotten at least one network broadcast, or at least an airing on a local affiliate, because I can also remember seeing them in my youth.

Time, and the internet, has provided some other conclusions. Animation sourcebooks used to list 1969’s Taro Giant Hero of the Jungle as an unaired American import of another Japanese cartoon show (about a kind of science fictional Tarzan, apparently), but I would have sworn that I had seen at least a few episodes on local New York television. Cartoon databases now tell us that the show was indeed seen briefly, in the United States.

A few New Yorkers also had memories of a briefly aired weekend afternoon show about modern-day Ninja Super-Spies!  (Some recalled that certain broadcasts were actually hosted by New York’s legendary kids tv show host, Chuck McCann!)  Most had never heard of this obscure show, but the series, in fact, turned out to be an English dub entitled Phantom Agents!

VIDEO CLIP ONE, Phanom Agents Trailer

VIDEO CLIP TWO, Phantom Agents Opening

But other screenings in memory offer no conclusive paths…

My oddest tale along these lines involves the 1960 movie, Stop! Look! And Laugh!  The picture was an anthology film, combining sequences from several Columbia Three Stooges shorts. The wraparound sequences starred Paul Winchell and his famous puppets, Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. (One scene set in a diner, featured a cameo by another famous WPIX kids host, “Officer” Joe Bolton, who showed the Stooges films on the local station.) There was also a sequence with the Marquis Chimps, enacting Cinderella

Clearly, this was aimed at the old kiddie matinee market!

As a lifelong Stooges fan, and someone who had grown up with “Winchell and Mahoney,” I was happy to finally catch up with the movie, one afternoon, in the mid 1980s, over local broadcast television. Waking up from a nap, I was astonished by one sequence, where with Winch out of the room, Jerry Mahoney suddenly GETS UP and walks away!  It was a wonderful bit of magic, magic realism, really, easily performed, but nonetheless stunning, for one raised loving the characters.

But when the film was rebroadcast, a couple of years later, the enchanted sequence I so admired was cut.

When I watched a prerecorded edition of Stop! Look! And Laugh!, the scene was also gone.

Film buff friends had no memory of the scene, and suggested my mind was confusing a similar scenario involving Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist figure…

Of course, it’s possible I had been dreaming.

Yet, I knew what I had seen, some years before.

I wasn’t drunk, or hungover, and I don’t do drugs.

There was the remote possibility that somehow, at one point, the old Metromedia Station, WNEW, Channel 5, had acquired a rare print of the movie, containing the Jerry Mahoney showcase. We had had other examples of films on New York television having footage that was missing in other parts of the country. (For years, film fans insisted that parts of Laurel and Hardy’s Babes In Toyland (March of the Wooden Soldiers), were lost, when we had been seeing those elements for years, on Channel 11!)

On the other hand, there are still those insist they’ve seen the entirely missing spider-pit sequence, from 1933’s King Kong

Almost immediately, another possibility occured to me, one that I recognized, of course, as being fanciful.

(And I was also reminded of a couple of instances, where I’m convinced I’ve read the obituaries of folks who haven’t died, years before they actually passed.)

If someone knows they’ve seen or heard something that doesn’t apparently exist, isn’t it possible — however dimly — that for a moment, that person has passed into a parallel dimension — A dimension where the material has substance?

I was only mildly astonished when physicists began, a while ago, to suggest that our lives, and realities, may in fact constantly be shifting.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. One can only do the best one can do, and try to be the kindest one can be, no matter what you wake up to.

And hope, if one is so inclined, that there will be something good on, whenever you flip the channels!

20 thoughts on “What Would Schrodinger’s Cat Watch, If He Possessed a Remote Control?

  1. James H. Burns writes:
    > I was also reminded of a couple of instances, where I’m convinced I’ve read the obituaries of folks who haven’t died, years before they actually passed.

    You’re not alone, i’ve had the same experience. Sometimes i’m surprised to find that “X” is still alive, and sometimes i’m surprised to read “X”s real obit many years later. I can only ruefully describe the experience as Dead-ja Vu.

  2. FILMFAX magazine went through a long multi issue discussion on the “Spider Pit” sequence, and concluded that the edited was there, was seen by a few, but has vanished.

    KIMBA–otherwise known as the series that Disney stole from but won’t acknowledge (the LION KING).

    Of missing stuff, I’d like for someone to actually come forth and say that the last four episodes of THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT were misplaced, and not filmed…

  3. I think something about this post, possibly that .gif file at the beginning, is making my ipad browser freak out. Just about every time I try to load this page (or the main page where the post is currently at the top) it has to reload multiple times.

  4. Some of us here in the Montreal area swear we saw a scene in Star Wars, (the first one filmed) that no one else has seen, and it is not in the DVDs. This is a scene where Luke and his friend are talking in a bar.

  5. For years, I would tell my friends that when I first saw Star Wars and Our Heroes were running through the Death Star, a stormtrooper called out “close the blast doors! Close the blast doors!” and then the more famous (as they jump through) “Open the blast doors! Open the blast doors!”. The original video cut out “close the blast doors” and my friends all thought I was nuts. At the 20th anniversary re-release, we spent the day in the theater and I heard “close the blast doors!” for the first time in 20 years… and had a remarkably strong sense of vindication. Subsequent releases of the movie include this line. And every time I hear it, I grin sidelong at my husband.

  6. I am reminded of a Scott Edelman short story Fifth Dimension in which he sends letters to T.E.D. Klein asking why Klein hadn’t included a number of episodes in a retrospective on the series that Edelman was sure he had seen on his battered old Zenith.

  7. I believe the Charlie McCarthy bit was done on a few different occasions!

    Best, Jim

  8. I would be interested in seeing whatever you found out about “Taro, Giant Hero of the Jungle” or “The Mighty Taro”. What little I’ve seen about it lists it as a 1968 stop-motion production, which would fit with your seeing it on TV in 1969, but it was a theatrical feature, so you couldn’t have seen several episodes of it.

    There was also “Taro, the Dragon Boy” (“Tatsu no Ko Taro”), a 75-minute theatrical feature released in Japan on March 17, 1979.

  9. For many years I was positive that the final scene in Wizard of Oz was Dorothy in the bedroom, and as the scene closed the camera panned down to show the ruby slippers under her bed.
    This was long before the era of rentable videos, so I couldn’t check it out easily.
    I’m still disappointed that it was just my brain.

  10. Some of us here in the Montreal area swear we saw a scene in Star Wars, (the first one filmed) that no one else has seen, and it is not in the DVDs. This is a scene where Luke and his friend are talking in a bar.

    That’s actually one of the scenes that was cut from the final versions, but existed in the novelizations. There’s a short documentary about it and the reduced role of Biggs in general – Blast it Biggs! Where are you?!.

  11. I dug out my ancient dubbed-from-PBS tapes of Blakes 7 for my kids, and was stunned to discover Servalan does not walk in at the end of the last episode. Weirdly, my husband ‘remembered’ that scene the same way…

  12. There was a scene in “Close Encounters” that showed in Denver, but nowhere else (maybe one other place) and did not reappear until the “everything but the kitchen sink” outtakes version came out on video. Vindication!

    Cassy: I was sad when they cut “close the blast doors!” Why get rid of a joke?

  13. Caught a showing of The Martian this afternoon. Wow, that was great — funny and smart and compelling. I laughed repeatedly, I was clutching the arms of my seat during multiple tense moments, and I can’t wait to read the book (which I started reading while at the bar afterwards, as my husband was chatting up the people next to us. Oops. And yay for ebooks).

  14. Candice Bergen reported that her childhood was affected by her Father’s attention given to the dummies. Putting Charlie to bed in his own room and having long conversations with him at mealtimes…made her feel odd.

  15. The Charlie McCarthy sequence sounds a bit like a few “walking dummy” sequences from a few films that have said situations. The one that creeped me out as a kid was DEVIL DOLL.. No doubt an overload of input will cause someone to stitch these sequences together.

  16. I heard from MY good friend Tom Powers, this week. (Thomas V. Powers, that is!) Tom, who is a terrific film and pulp and pop culture historian (who’s written some pretty nifty fiction of his own, as well as been responsible for some nice film shorts, and other movie work), says:

    “There WAS a brief shot of Jerry Mahoney walking in Stop, Look, and Laugh. Maybe it’s been cut from remaining prints. (There was a lot of unusual business with a small person’s arms and gloved hands stuck into the dummy’s sleeves, so that Jerry could do things like light a match, handle a thermometer, etc.)”

    Tom’s also involved with the fun CREATURE FEATURE podcast, which you can check out here:


    And here’s another one of the STOP! LOOK And LAUGH! clips, that Tom references:

  17. Another fine amigo, T.E.D. Klein–luckily for me, another one of the nicest people I know (and my old editor, at TWILIGHT ZONE MAGAZINE!), writes:

    “Now you’ve got me wondering if that Scott Edelman story — “Fifth Dimension” — was precisely as described by your commenter (who certainly seems to have a superb memory). I do recall that it was a wonderfully clever little tale (Scott had dreamed up several very possible-sounding “lost” Twilight Zone episodes, each described in just a line or two, with a mention of their stars), but I don’t remember if the story actually consisted of letters to me.

    “What your piece also conjures up is one of the chapters in “The Magic Christian,” in which the prankster tycoon Guy Grand buys a downtown movie theater and, as a gag, splices salacious or shocking additional scenes into real films, then removes them so that the audience members who might see the movie again begin to doubt their sanity. For example, in the famous, extremely touching scene on the porch (or back steps?) in “The Best Years of Our Lives,” when the poor veteran with the hooks is seated beside his fiancee, trying to explain to her how difficult his life is with them, and what she’d be getting into if she goes ahead and marries him, they kiss, and Grand splices in a brief shot in which the camera dips down briefly to show his hooks ‘scrabbling beneath her skirt.’ “

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