Vintage Television

Vintage TV: Speed Racer

My parents splurged (at $2.95 a month) on cable in 1972 so Dad could watch his beloved White Sox on Channel 44 from Chicago. This opened up a whole new world of TV entertainment for my brother and I. Ray Rayner on Channel 9 got us off to school every day (“Ten minutes to eight, don’t be late!”) and the Three Stooges and the Little Rascals were waiting for us on Channel 32 when we got home. And Channel 44 had a whole bunch of great cartoons, including many of the Marvel superhero series from the 1960s.

But the best of Channel 44’s cartoons, the one my brother and I went nuts for, was Speed Racer, an early anime about a young race car driver. (You probably haven’t escaped the trailers for the movie, opening this month, based on this show.) Speed Racer had a style and intensity missing in the cartoons that filled our Saturday mornings. We were taken in by the mystery surrounding Racer X, a driver who always arrived at the right moment to give Speed advice or save his bacon, but then disappeared – and Speed didn’t know that Racer X was actually his older brother, Rex, who ran away from home some years before. Nobody at Hanna-Barbera was writing cartoons like this.

This 40-year-old series is available on DVD today, and I own the first volume. A few changes were made to the opening and closing sequences as the films were remastered, so today I share with you what they looked like when I first saw them in the early 1970s.

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11 thoughts on “Vintage TV: Speed Racer

  1. Ray Raynor! Who was the guy on Bozo? And what show was it that had the big glob of clay-was that Ray Raynor? I loved these shows. I remember being allowed to stay up and watch the Honeymooners on WGN and the occassional Charlie Chan and Marx Brothers movies. Good stuff.

    Can I link your site on my blog?

  2. The guy on Bozo was either Ringmaster Ned or Frazier Thomas, depending on how old you are. The big glob of clay was Blob on BJ and the Dirty Dragon or, later, Gigglesnort Hotel.

    For way more vintage Chicago TV clips than you can handle, go to http://www.fuzzymemories.tv. He has some Ray Rayner there, but when I was there yesterday some of his videos were down for maintenance. You can buy Gigglesnort Hotel DVDs directly from Bill Jackson, the creator, at http://www.dirtydragon.com. I ordered one once, and Bill drew Dirty on the box, snorting out my address! He even personally answered my e-mail!

    I’d be pleased if you’d link to me!

  3. If you’re a fan of the original (like I am), you should enjoy the movie. I’ve yet to see it, but I read the script last year when I wrote movie novel. Judging from that and the previews I’ve seen, it seems as if the Wachowski Brothers really kept the fans in mind when they made this (and/or they were major fans themselves). They even have Spritle and Chim-chim hiding in a trunk at one point. You can’t beat that!

  4. ANT, I’m sure my 9- and 11-year-old sons can be convinced to go see this film with me! They’ve watched all eleven episodes of the cartoon that I have on DVD, so they should be primed and ready!

  5. The trailer totally turned me off. It didn’t seem like it had anything to do with the cartoon, but then I only recall that I liked it and wanted a car like his. Sawing your way through a forest while driving at high speed could come in handy someday. ;)

  6. The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer… the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

  7. Michael: Unless somebody’s booby-trapped the forest! :-)

    patrick: What I can’t get past is how every review calls this movie a stinker!

  8. I never saw Speed Racer. He had a brother named Rex? There’s an ep of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends where Mac, in a Speed Racer pose, declares himself “Rex Carsalot” (it was a couple of minutes before I got the joke)… I wonder if this is a two-tiered homage to the series.

  9. LP, wow, I haven’t seen an ep of Foster’s Home since I got rid of cable a few years ago. One of the best things about having children, btw, is that you get to keep watching cartoons!

  10. I just watch them ’cause I’m a schlub. :) Older stuff mostly from when I was a kid, but also some of the rougher, funnier, edgier stuff like The Venture Bros.

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