DVD Review: Korg: 70,000 B.C. (The Complete Series)

Saturday morning TV shows of the ’70s mainly fall into two categories: shows you watched and shows you knew through the lunchboxes of classmates. There were chances to see the lunchbox shows since they only made around 13 to 15 episodes. Pretty much January marked the start of reruns. But even with such opportunities, there were shows that didn’t evade you. Korg: 70,000 B.C. was such a series of my youth. My folks were packing the station wagon for our big vacation trip while I attempted to wake up by focusing on TV. While barely awake on the sofa, I caught a few minutes of the live action Neanderthal series. I was intrigued, but never had another chance to see it. There was no way I was waking up that early on a Saturday. Korg ran before the local Explorer Scout show at 5 a.m. This was the era before DVRs or VCRs. But for quite a long time I pondered if I’d missed out on a really good show. The release of Korg: 70,000 B.C.: The Complete Series lets me know I should have been a morning person for 16 weeks.

Hanna-Barbera knew the power of cavemen in their programing. Their first massive hit was The Flintstones. They’d later follow it up with animated gems such as Mightor, Dino Boy, Valley of the Dinosaurs and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. Korg stood apart from these efforts because it wasn’t meant to be as sugary as a bowl of cereal. There would be no modern man time-traveling into the past or a defrosted caveman with super powers. This was all about the people of 70,000 B.C. and their theorized sensibilities. They didn’t force us to watch The Brady Bunch living in a split level cave.

There is a serious element to Korg: 70,000 B.C. rarely seen in children’s entertainment programming. Korg (Jim Malinda) is the father of an extended family of six Neanderthals that live in a cave. The actors have giant foreheads and wear animal skins to look like wax prehistoric figures found in natural history museums. The characters don’t make grunting noises. They talk with simple sentences. Burgess Meredith (Batman‘s The Penguin) narrates the action to give a little background about the family in their struggle to survive. They also don’t battle dinosaurs. They mainly tackle modern animals instead of lizards with fake horns and scales glued to them. The show focuses on how they discover things and not merely showing them being chased around the wilderness by man-eating beasts.

“Trapped” makes them figure out how to rescue part of the family during a landslide. “The Hill People” makes them cooperate with their neighbors. During a journey to find food, Korg and family meet “The Beach People.” This helps them understand life at the water’s edge. “The Picture Maker” involves them communicating with a boy from another tribe. “The Ancient One” has an old man fixing to die. Before he goes, he helps them with a hunting tip. “Ree and the Wolf” introduces the concept domesticating wildlife. Daughter Ree (Janelle Pransky) befriends a hurt wolf.

Korg: 70,000 B.C. ought to be considered one of Hanna-Barbera’s best efforts. It didn’t rip off a classic primetime series. It didn’t stick to their hit formula of a group of musical teens with a talking pet zipping around the country in a cool car while solving mysteries. At no point did a con man arrive doing a Phil Silvers impersonation. Korg is an educational experience as it explains how early man would have learned how to hunt, live and socialize. The best part about Korg: 70,000 B.C.: The Complete Season is that it can be watched when you’re fully awake.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer looks fine and not prehistoric. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can hear Burgess’s narration through the winding caves.

There are no bonus features.

Korg: 70,000 B.C.: The Complete Series is a departure from the normal mindless Saturday morning fare of the ’70s. The show is like watching a history museum’s reenactment of life in the post-Ice Age. Korg and his family learn how to survive in the wilderness. This is a fun series to show to 21st Century kids. Because this is from Warner Archive, the boxset is manufacture on demand.

Warner Archive presents Korg: 70,000 B.C.: The Complete Series. Starring: Bill Ewing, Naomi Pollack, Christopher Man, Charles Morteo and Burgess Meredith. Boxset Contents: 16 episodes on 2 DVD-Rs. Released: December 11, 2012. Available at Amazon.com